Each Sunday at CookingManager.Com, I highlight a different kitchen appliance or utensil.
This is the second part of a short series on microwave ovens.
Part I: Microwave Myths (and disclaimer)
Choosing Utensils for the Microwave
To reheat or defrost in the microwave, you may use paper or an ordinary dinner plate. But for more serious cooking you need special equipment. Metal used for conventional cooking deflects microwaves instead of allowing them to pass through, although it’s safe to keep one metal fork or spoon in the bowl.
Paper, styrofoam, silicon, glass and tempered glass (Pyrex), ceramics, and certain plastics are all options. Some china has metal trim, and some plastic and ceramic dishes absorb microwave heat. Commenter microwaveguru claimed that some utensils marked safe fr microwaveshave been measured at 300° C, so always use potholders.
Here’s a simple test for determining whether utensils are safe for the microwave:
Place a glass measuring cup filled with water in your microwave. Place the dish you want to test next to it, but do not allow the two to touch. Heat on high (600-700 watts) for one minute. At the end of that time, the water will be warm and the utensil should be cold. If the dish becomes warm, it means it is absorbing microwave energy and is not microwave-safe. [Note: Many modern microwaves use 900-1000 watts or more, so adjust the time accordingly.]
–The Great Microwave Dessert Book by Thelma Pressman
Choose microwave utensils by size and shape
Since most modern microwaves have a turntable, round utensils work best. Keep the dimensions of the inside of your microwave in your wallet, to have when shopping. Look for the largest size that will turn around without touching the edge.When measuring, include the handles and the cover. A deep casserole dish with straight sides, like a soufflé dish, maximizes the space in your oven.
Other useful items are a round cake pan with a whole in the middle and a shallow pie or quiche dish. I often use regular china and glass soup bowls to cook small amounts of vegetables, but large bowls are better for foods like rice, fruit and oatmeal that can boil over. Since most plastic utensils made for the microwave cannot go in a conventional oven, it’s more practical to choose glass, ceramic or the new flexible, silicone utensils.
Covers for Microwave Dishes
I use an ordinary dinner plate or a glass cake plate to cover the large mixing bowl in which I cook fruit, soups, and legumes. Covers should allow some heat to escape.
For heating liquids, I use a large Pyrex measuring cup. Its handle stays cool, but always check! You can buy special utensils for cooking rice, muffins, pasta, and much more. They are a good investment if you make those items frequently, but in general it’s better to have fewer, more versatile utensils.
What utensils do you find most useful for microwave cooking?