Nuked nutrition: microwave primer: the machines and the means to make healthy food almost instantly - cooking with a microwave oven

This is a great article on microwave oven and tips in cooking with it. I find it really helpful and most importantly to cook healthy meal. Please share with your friends and loved ones too.

This is an article by Mark Thorne.

Next to the bottle opener and the toaster oven, the microwave is the closest thing to heavy machinery you get to operate in the kitchen. But once you're done reheating yesterday's coffee or nuking one of those instant frozen dinners, you're at a loss as to what to do when you step up to the mic. Well, fear not: You're about to make the transition from microwave tyro to seasoned pro.

Our guide to the kitchen's most versatile appliance presents a trio of microwaves ranging from mighty mite to tower of power. We've also consulted the grand dame of microwave cooking herself, Barbara Kafka, author of Microwave Gourmet, to provide you with tips on getting the most zip from your zap.

We know you like your electronics with ample bells and whistles, but at mealtime your microwave needs only the capacity to deliver 600 watts at full power. The three machines here offer up all the standard basic features, as well as a slew of other convenient functions such as the preprogrammed popcorn button (hold the salt and butter, naturally). They run the gamut in size, power and price. Kafka suggests buying one larger than you think you need, especially if you plan to do some serious cooking in it.

Chicken: Cooks quickly and evenly in the microwave when covered. If you're cooking with the bone in, use liquid; if you're cooking a boneless piece, cover it with plastic wrap.
* Two boneless chicken breasts, about a half-pound of meat, covered tightly on a dinner plate, cook in 3 1/2 minutes.

* Two breasts with the bones in, steamed in a quarter-cup of broth on a round, eight-inch plate, cook in 5 1/2 minutes.
Fish: Heats up like a champ. When cooking with the skin on, cut the fillet across the width so it doesn't curl. Fold over thin tips to keep them from overcooking. When steaming on a tightly covered plate just large enough to hold the meat:
* A one-inch boneless steak, about six ounces, cooks in three minutes; together, two similar slabs cook in 4 1/2 minutes.
* A one-inch-thick fillet, six to eight ounces, cooks in three minutes.
* A 12-ounce whole fish, gutted and steamed in two tablespoons of liquid, cooks in two minutes.
Eggs: Temperamental. Never cook them in the shell unless you're fond of explosions. Yolks must be pricked once or twice with a sharp knife or they will burst as well--don't worry, they won't fall apart.
* A single egg in a 3 1/2-inch by 2-inch ramekin, covered lightly with a paper towel, cooks in one minute; two eggs in separate ramekins cook in a minute and 45 seconds.
Beef, Pork and Lamb: Your microwave won't do a good job of roasting, and it won't cook an edible steak, either. However, meat dishes such as meat loaf, chili, stew, and pasta sauce can be cooked successfully.

You've probably cooked food in the microwave with mixed results, producing a tender and delectable chicken breast one time and something about as edible as a Yokohama tire the next. "The trick is to understand how different foods, spices and herbs respond to microwaves," says Kafka. "Even your cooking time depends on the protein, fat, sugar and liquid content in the meal." To get a grip on the basics of microwave cooking, follow Kafka's sage advice:

1. The key to evenly cooked, moist meat is to cover the container tightly with microwave-safe plastic wrap. (Kafka recommends plastic wraps made from polyvinyl chloride, such as Reynolds.)

2. The plastic wrap will balloon if properly sealed; this lengthens the cooking process. Puncture before unwrapping.

3. Because most meats have a high liquid content, covering them tightly during the cooking process creates a steaming effect.

4. Unlike stovetop cooking, which heats from the center out, microwaves heat from the outside in. So when preparing meat, always fan out your cuts around the dish like spokes on a wheel, with the thickest part of the meat on the outside.

5. Microwaves heat protein and fat quickly, greatly reducing cooking time.

6. Vegetables are best when cooked in the microwave, losing fewer of their vitamins and nutrients and less of their color.

7. Fold over the thin end of fillets to prevent overcooking; cover tips of thin strips of meats with aluminum foil for the same protection.

8. Aluminum foil is the only metal suitable for microwave use.

9. You don't need to add fat to keep food from sticking to dishes; food doesn't stick in the microwave.

10. The size of your dish will affect cooking times. Use dishes just large enough to hold your food.

11. Because all foods respond differently to microwaves, closely follow the recipe directions. Portions have been calibrated to cook together at the given times.

12. Big hunks of food aren't microwave-compatible because they cook unevenly, and hollow cavities should also be avoided because they take time to heat, thus throwing off cooking times.

13. Microwaves can't roast meat, and they won't make good souffles or edible bread. Stick to traditional methods for these items.


Vegetables: Arrange slow-cooking vegetables near the outside of the plate and quick-cooking ones toward the inside. (For a list of slow- and fast-cooking vegetables, see page 553 in Kafka's Microwave Gourmet.)

* A half-pound of broccoli stalks in one tablespoon of water, covered tightly in a dish just large enough to hold them, cooks in four to six minutes.

* Six ounces of broccoli florets, covered tightly in a dish just large enough to hold them, cooks in two minutes. Arrange both stalks and florets in a single layer.

* A half-pound of tightly covered, fresh whole green beans cooks in 4 1/2 minutes.

Salt: Use sparingly. The minimal liquid requirements in most recipes means that when evaporation occurs, the salt flavor will intensify. Don't put salt on vegetables that are cooked without liquid; it will leech moisture from them.

Pepper: Generally, use a quarter of your normal amount of pepper, as microwaves really bring out its bite.

Garlic: Becomes soft and sweet and loses much of its bite after eight minutes of cooking. So for longer-cooking meals, use about twice the recommended amount. For stronger flavor, add the garlic during the last three minutes of cooking or after you remove the food from the oven.

Herbs: Use fewer herbs when they're dried; use more when they're fresh, or add them later in the cooking process to ensure the best flavor.


You'll need a small selection of microwavable containers before you get started. Pyrex and Corningware make some of the best. Start here, then expand your collection as needed. You can also use dinner plates and glass measuring cups.

1. Corningware Creations 24-ounce au gratin dish

2. Corningware Creations 7-ounce ramekin

3. Pyrex 1.5-quart bowl with lid

4. Pyrex 2.5-quart baking dish

5. Corningware 23-ounce oval dish

6. Microwave Gourmet by Barbara Kafka

7. Corningware 22-ounce mug

8. Pyrex 9.5-inch pie dish

9. Corningware Creations 3-quart oblong dish

10. Corningware French White 4-quart dish

Men's Fitness, March, 2003 by Mark Thorpe
COPYRIGHT 2003 Weider Publications
COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group

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