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Microwave Versus Convection Ovens

 

Microwave Oven:

A microwave oven uses microwaves to heat food. Microwaves are radio waves. In the case of microwave ovens, the commonly used radio wave frequency is roughly 2,500 megahertz (2.5 gigahertz). Radio waves in this frequency range have an interesting property: they are absorbed by water, fats and sugars. When they are absorbed they are converted directly into atomic motion -- heat. Microwaves in this frequency range have another interesting property: they are not absorbed by most plastics, glass or ceramics. Metal reflects microwaves, which is why metal pans do not work well in a microwave oven.

In microwave cooking, the radio waves penetrate the food and excite water and fat molecules pretty much evenly throughout the food. No heat has to migrate toward the interior by conduction. There is heat everywhere all at once because the molecules are all excited together. There are limits, of course. Radio waves penetrate unevenly in thick pieces of food (they don't make it all the way to the middle), and there are also "hot spots" caused by wave interference, but you get the idea. The whole heating process is different because you are "exciting atoms" rather than "conducting heat."

In a microwave oven, the air in the oven is at room temperature, so there is no way to form a crust. That is why microwavable pastries sometimes come with a little sleeve made out of foil and cardboard. You put the food in the sleeve and then microwave it. The sleeve reacts to microwave energy by becoming very hot. This exterior heat lets the crust become crispy as it would in a conventional oven.

 

Microwave Convection Oven:

Microwave convection ovens are higher priced than most microwave ovens. However, they can roast, brown and crisp food like a conventional oven (with temperatures ranging from 200 - 450F) as well as cook food quickly with microwaves. New cooking methods are required with this appliance. It is possible to cook food with either the convection or microwave method separately or to combine them. A conventional oven still gives the best results for most broiling and baking.

 

Tips About Cooking In a Convection Oven:

Most recipes can be adjusted for convection oven use by decreasing the temperature by 25 degrees F and decreasing cooking time about 25%. Dishes with cooking times over 45 minutes, and that might dry out too much (like lasagna, or meatloaf) you should cover for the first half of the cooking time, and then remove the cover.

 

Submitted by Mike Sundberg - 2/02/06
 

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