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History of microwave-cooking?

I was recently skimming my mom's cookbook collection, and I found a few interesting books (mostly published by microwave companies) from the late 1970s about "microwave cooking." I was shocked at what they suggested cooking in the microwave -- everything from scallops in white wine sauce to bouillabaisse to entire cornish hens (with aluminum foil wrapped around certain parts (!!) to keep them from burning).

I'm curious to know -- was this "trend" only the result of microwave companies peddling their products, or did people *really* try to cook things like clams and lobsters in the microwaves back then? Did any of it work? I always assumed people today use their microwaves primarily for defrosting items/reheating food because microwaves don't "cook" food that well... but am I mistaken? When did this microwave cooking-everything trend die down?

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  1. I think about 90% of it was the advent of a new cooking technology, and the companies trying to make up exciting new ways to use it.

    What I suspect happened what that a lot of people tried a few of the recipes, realized that either it produced food that wasn't that good, or wasn't that much easier and faster than using a pot or the oven, and their microwave usage subsided to near modern levels. For time scale, I'd guess mid to late 80s, by which time having a microwave was pretty standard.

    Scientifically, microwaves cook by heating liquid water (the frequency of the radiation is just to the edge of one of the water lines). So microwaving works best when the effect you want is closest to steaming or boiling, and the liquid is well distributed through the food. So something like steaming green beans in the microwave will give you a good, fast result.

    It's bad for anything where you want the food to be browned, carmelized, or crispy, because you don't get the application of heat directly to the surface. It's also a problem where the water is distributed unevenly, as you'll get some parts heating up faster than others.

    2 Replies
    1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

      I was a radar systems engineer, maintaining two of the four radar lines across Canada and the north, in the 50's. The description of how they cook is a bit off. It's not that the radiation is near a "water line". Rather, the radiation will be absorbed by, and therefore heat, any conductive portions of the food -- which happen to be water that has even a trace of impurities in it. Do NOT, for example, try to melt rendered bacon fat in it. Butter melts unevenly -- to put it mildly -- because the first few micro-encapsulations of the water that is present melt form a puddle and that puddle has a higher microwave absorption cross section than the micro-encapsulations in the remaining solid. But most foods are mostly water all the way through.

      BTW, the belief that microwaves penetrate deeply immediately so foods cook all the way through with constant uniformity is false. They are absorbed as they penetrate, and the outer layers get the first share. Just that items such as beans and broccoli are small enough that the difference doesn't matter. Never tried a large vegetable, would be curious how cold the center of a large squash would be when the surface had just reached steaming hot.

      Regarding stray radiation: I -- and thousands of others -- have worked in the dome of a rotating search radar dish radiating peak power levels of half a million watts -- at 0.2% duty factor, but that's still 1,000 watts average -- and didn't even get warm. Of course, that's a huge dish so the power is spread, even though I was only a few feet from its perimeter. But by way of demo, we once threw a piece of steel wool directly in front of the feed horn (the dish was stationary) and there, in the concentrated radiation, it burst into flame!

      Other than the natural change in the absorbing object from it being cooked, microwaves present no health threat. The idea that cell phone radiation -- similar frequencies, but radiation level in milliwatts -- is harmful is absolutely ludicrous.

      But back to topic: The microwave is perfect for anything needing to be steamed. Inside a plastic bag with a few drops of water, for example, broccoli comes out better than from a conventional steamer, less color, flavor, or nutrient loss. I get mixed results from my combination convection/microwave unit, probably because I've not experimented enough to find the right balance of cycles.

      1. re: NeverLift

        NL: thanks and love the idea of tossing steel wool in to the dish, somebody was a Boy Scout fire bug once.

        but I have to say in 1973 there was a conventional oven in my classroom (huh?) and some kid for show n tell had his mom drag in their microwave (thing was the size of a dog crate made for a hefty Lab) to do a blueberry muffin bake-off. the MW version was moister. (but who knows, maybe the kid's dad worked at an appliance store)

        and many years later at art school a classmate taught us through example tossing a chunk of wood to see what happens will ruin the oven and worse, the results aren't interesting. (she had domestic fire issues)

    2. Yeah, we *did* try to do actual cooking in the microwave. How many of us old fogeys have a microwave probe rattling around in a kitchen drawer somewhere (raises hand)? (the probe went into roasts and whole birds; the other end plugged into a socket in the wall of the microwave and *supposedly* monitored the temperature to ensure it was properly cooked...the reality was considerably less sure)

      The first microwaves were frigging *enormous* and *expensive*, so people were also trying to get actual use out of something that represented that much of an investment in counter space and cash. There was a huge market for years in "microwave carts" -- the things were too stinking big to put on your regular countertop, so you'd buy a special piece of furniture just to store it on. (my mom's microwave STILL sits on a cart in her dining room, even though she's long since moved to a small micro)

      For years, there were all kinds of crazy dishes JUST for microwave use, and all kinds of bizarre recipes where you'd brown it on the stovetop first, then put it in the micro. Then came a mini-craze of a funky kind of paper that you wrapped your food in that would caramelize/brown the outside of whatever you were cooking. None of it ever took hold.

      Eventually we realized that the microwave is pretty crap at cooking and pretty good for reheating leftovers, boiling water, and making popcorn, and we quit trying to make it do something it really isn't all that good at doing....I'd say by the late 80s and early 90s most people had quit cooking with their microwave.

      (and I'm trying not to gag at how old your post makes me feel)

      12 Replies
      1. re: sunshine842

        I had to look hard to find a microwave cart. Our kitchen has so little counter space that if we put a microwave on it, there's no room to cook. And we've got it double stacked - microwave on the bottom, toaster oven on top.

        1. re: sunshine842

          A friend's Mom had a combo microwave/convection oven and it was a wonder! She did use it to cook, bake, you name it, and the results were delicious! Made by Amana for years, hers lasted 25 years and she finally had to replace it. She had one hell of a time hunting one down but finally found one somewhere on the Mainland and had it shipped to her. I think the company was the only one that made a combination like that, and I'd never heard of convection ovens before, either. I suspect they've gone out of business.

          1. re: sunshine842

            I hate to tell you this, but I'm an old fogey (59) I had an Amana Radarange with a touch pad. I had 3 microwave cookbooks. One was by a famous female chef. I cooked pot roasts, smothered chicken, an Easter Ham, many side dishes etc. in my microwave. If you took your time, you can cook in your microwave. I do more than make popcorn or reheat leftovers in my microwave.

            1. re: raywil3

              are you referring to the barbara kafka microwave cooking book?

              1. re: raywil3

                I was in high school when we got our first Amana Radar Range but it had dials that you turned, not touchpads. As I recall, they cost between $500 and $700 back then. My father had an advertising promotion in which he was giving away cut, wrapped, and frozen pork (I grew up in a big pork production area). Meanwhile, he knew a guy with an advertising promotion in the city in which they were giving away microwave ovens. My dad traded a half a hog (about $200) for a microwave.

                About the same time, late '70s, we got a microwave in the lunchroom at a place where I worked in high school. In 2008 I was in my hometown, stopped where I used to work and that big, old Amana was still in the lunchroom and was still working.

                My mother once put a whole spaghetti squash in the big Amana and set it for high for ten minutes. She had cooked squash like this before with success however this time, she forgot to poke holes in the skin. I don't know how long it took before it exploded, but it did. There was spaghetti squash stuck to the walls, ceiling, and cupboards of the kitchen. The door blew open, the hinges were on the bottom of the door instead of the side, and cracked the formica.

                I just thought of a question. Are all microwave oven doors right-handed? That means you open them with your left hand because the plate/cup/whatever is in your right hand. Are there any microwaves out there that open left to right?

                1. re: John E.

                  huh. the whole left handed microwave thing has me wondering. I've never SEEN a microwave that opened to the right. You'd think that would be something you could order, or something. I can't imagine them being on the floor in a store, but maybe in a catalog or something?

                  1. re: kubasd23

                    Open with left hand, insert/remove food with right, control panel on right - all sorta makes sense.

              2. re: sunshine842

                I held off on getting my first microwave until 1983 -- although my mother and then mother-in-law both had them and used them often to cook full dinners. My first one (Magic Chef) came with a probe and I actually turned out a pretty decent small roast beef a few times using brown-in bags and the probe. I still use ours everyday (we have both a regular Sanyo and a combo convection/micro that my husband bought for the convection so he could do frozen pizzas in it...) to cook veggies, rice, heat soups and gravies, reheat dinners, and -- don't laugh till you try it -- fish in white wine and butter sauce, which is fantastic!

              3. A friend had a Radarange at her house which was the very first microwave I ever encountered (must have been early 70's and their Radarange was probably several years old then) It was huge and had a solid (windowless) door. Her mom had some microwave skills but we mainly used it for hot dogs. I don't recall it being especially fast but it was cool to use a heatless oven.

                14 Replies
                1. re: ferret

                  I remember renting a summer house about 25 years ago with a group of friends and it had an old Radarange in the kitchen, an antique even then. Made great nachos, though (which is about the only thing other than potatoes I ever cook from scratch in a microwave).

                  1. re: BobB

                    When we want baked potatoes and I don't have a full hour to do them in the oven, I start them in the micro and get them between 1/2 and 3/4 cooked, then transfer them to a 500 degree oven for the remaining 15-20 minutes. They come out great!

                    I'd forgotten how good microwave nachos can be...thanks for the memory!

                    1. re: MaineCook

                      I do a similar thing when grilling - I parcook potatoes in the microwave, then slice them 1/2" thick, toss with olive oil and salt, and finish them on the grill. Never thought of doing that with the oven though - thanks for the tip!

                      1. re: BobB

                        You can also parcook French fries in it - I do it for game chips too.

                          1. re: MaineCook

                            you were joking Maine... but I really did have to google it, and still had to sift thru pages of poker chip descriptions, histories, and advertisements.

                            1. re: KaimukiMan

                              I just looked it up myself (but, yes, I was joking) and now I hope buttertart will share his/her recipe for them...they sound yummy! How about it, buttertart??

                              1. re: MaineCook

                                Potato chips by another name. You just peel and slice potatoes very thinly (a snap with a Benriner or other handheld mandoline), rinse them in water, cook them in batches in the mw say about 1 min, then deep fry them. They're called that because they were traditionally served with game (my husband is always after me to make them if we have duck or goose).

                  2. re: ferret

                    Those Radaranges must have cost a fortune! Microwaves were quite expensive (and still big) even when I got my first one, in 1987. The cooking ideas were probably intended as inducement for people to buy them, since they could use them for more than what I certainly use mine for (as the world's largest electronic timer, although I do boil water, melt stuff, and cook the very occasional veg from time to time in them).

                    Best use recently discovered: poppadums 1 min on high - fully cooked and all puffed up.

                    1. re: buttertart

                      I believe my former inlaws paid around $600 for their Amana Radarange, although it may have been as much as $1000 (which seems to stick in my head) back in the late 1970s. That was a big chunk of change to match the equally big chunk of countertop appliance it paid for! And you could barely see what was inside it through all the protective shielding!

                      1. re: buttertart

                        My BF in college in the mid 70s got one from his parents...I recall that he said it had cost $750

                        He was a food-as-fuel engineer, so was happy to nuke eggs or whatever. It was perfect for him.

                        He was so indifferent about his food that I had to bring my own salt and pepper to his house!

                      2. re: ferret

                        I attended the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University, graduated in 1962. We did some of the original experiments with the Amanda Radarange (as it was called then) to determine what could be successfully cooked in it, and if it had any uses in a commercial kitchen. Two of the uses I remember were baking potatoes when you had run out of the ones prepared for the evening, and to precook your fried chicken before actually frying it so that it was done before it was burnt.

                        1. re: jfcronin

                          The problem with "baking" potatoes in a microwave is that they don't bake, they steam. Texture is all wrong, they come out wet. Similar result from baking potatoes foil wrapped: Ugh!

                      3. Barbara Kafka wrote 2 volumes on microwave cooking in the 1980s.
                        This is still one of the best sources on the topic.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: paulj

                          I agree! She even has a microwave deep-frying method that actually works.

                        2. This brings back a lot of memories. My family got our first microwave around 83-84 & my mother went bananas buying all sorts of microwave cookbooks & trying out recipes. It was her baby that thing. While I don't recall what she made or if it was good--she was such an amazing cook I can only remember one bad meal that's off topic. BUT I do remember a very funny story-

                          It so happened my friend up the street was a horror fanatic who had all sorts of masks and gory rubber toys. It also happened to be Passover and we had a lot of leftovers. Well, he had this rubber rat that looked like his guts were hanging out & a lightbulb lit up in my head., I borrowed the rat after school, took it home and promptly stuffed it with a big pile of chopped liver. Then I placed the rat in the microwave, closed it and waited for her to get home.

                          It wasn't too long after she came home that she started cooking dinner and I waited in anticipation of her reaction in the next room. Soon enough I heard her scream loudly from the kitchen! "What is this! Oh my god, oh my god" and I ran into over to microwave to feign concern, and damn if I just cracked up immediately. Luckily she had a good sense of humor! May she rest in peace.

                          Also on the topic of microwaves, I remember when Orville Redenbachers first came out, I am not 100% certain and too lazy to google, but I am pretty sure that it was the first microwavable popcorn.

                          In college I had one that was heavy as a television! I also recall lots of people freaking out about them causing cancer, that you shouldn't stand near one. Mine's on top of my fridge, but I still do that in the breakroom at work.

                          Now I just use mine for tv dinners (I never say "frozen dinners",)reheating, defrosting, and a stuff like instant grits & oatmeal.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: RaleighRocker

                            Ooooh, yeah...totally forgot how great grits come out when microwaved! Even the long cooking type.

                            1. re: MaineCook

                              I don't normally use the microwave for grits or polenta, but Kafka has a good recipe for sweet polenta - marbled with cooked berries. Obviously the dish could be made on the stove top, but she effectively demonstrates that the microwave works for puddings like this. She also has a great chocolate pudding recipe.

                          2. My mom had some microwave cookbooks in the 80s too. She was a single mom and used the microwave a lot, mostly for sides. She got a recipe out of one of the books for steamed rice that she used every time she made it. I also remember a couple of failed experiments from those books, mostly meats. She tried to cook a meatloaf in it once and I can still remember the smell! lol - I didn't eat it so I can't comment on the taste.

                            I was only allowed to cook unsupervised in the microwave for a while and I had my own microwave book, but it wasn't anything like hers. I just made "kid food" like nachos, hotdogs, etc. from it.

                            1. When I took Home Economics in middle school, around 1985 or so, we'd just gotten microwaves installed in the classroom kitchen. They were huge metal things with yellow glass windows. Our teacher had us use them to cook eggs, make cake (?) and melt butter.

                              I vividly remember our teacher having us place large beakers of water in front of each microwave while in use to "absorb the stray radiation that leaks out of the window".

                              10 Replies
                              1. re: Boston_Otter

                                ROFL at the stray radiation.

                                Middle school? I was already in college by 1985. And stay off my yard.

                                    1. re: thew

                                      My mom was in college in '81 and she said the common kitchen in her dorm had a microwave, but that she was too nervous about radiation and whatnot to use it. Our first microwave was huge and had that yellow door.

                                  1. re: Boston_Otter

                                    Oh, I forgot about eggs. I used to microwave scrambled eggs from my little cookbook too, with cheese. They were ok (to my 8 year old palate) but if I wasn't careful they turned into nasty-smelling rubber, or exploded... What is up with microwave cooking bringing out bad smells? Is it just me?

                                    I second the LOL at the beakers of hot water. I wonder how effective it was...

                                    1. re: elysabeth

                                      I remember reading "gently pierce the egg yolk with a toothpick 2-3 times to keep it from building up pressure inside the yolk before microwaving. HA! The only thing that explodes harder in a microwave than an egg is a chicken liver, no matter how many times you 'gently pierce' them. You can whip the hell out of them and they'll still explode. At least mine always did.

                                    2. re: Boston_Otter

                                      I remember 'warming up' my previously cooked hard boiled egg (in the shell) at work back in the mid-70s...all went well until I pulled it out and gave it a whack to crack the shell. The thing EXPLODED all over me and my coworkers!

                                      1. re: MaineCook

                                        I remember that happening at the employee's cafeteria at Lazarus in Columbus, Ohio when I worked there in 1975. Was that you??!!
                                        Egg shrapnel was everywhere. It was hilarious.

                                        1. re: jmcarthur8

                                          Nope...1976 in a bank in Woburn, MA. The bang was deafening! Sadly I didn't get much to eat that day.

                                        2. re: MaineCook

                                          I had to clean the microwave many, many times as a result of my first cooking experiments. Either they exploded or spilled over and made a big sticky mess in the bottom of the microwave. "Egg shrapnel" is a perfect, hilarious description, and those tiny pieces of egg and shell stick to everything; microwave, walls, clothes, hair, etc.

                                          My mom must have had the patience of a saint! I was allowed to conduct my experiments as long as I cleaned up the mess and didn't waste too much food. I cleaned up as well as I could but she was usually behind me with a cloth. :) I guess it paid off for her eventually, because I was a latch key kid and took on dinner responsibilities very early.

                                      2. They were big, they were expensive. In the mid 1960s they 'dropped' to around $500 ($3,500 in 2011 dollars.) You have trouble selling a popcorn popper at that price, so the manufacturers did everything they could to build up the market. Somehow it took them a long time to figure out that people would pay dearly for the convenience of being able to reheat food instantly, without having to stand there making sure it didn't burn on the stovetop for a half hour.

                                        1. This is really interesting, thanks for all the posts.

                                          sunshine842, sorry to make you feel "old" ! I remember people using microwaves for actual cooking/baking, too, I didn't mean to make it sound as if I couldn't actually fathom the concept! Like someone else mentioned, when I was young in the 80s, I was allowed to "bake" unsupervised with a microwave, so I remember doing some zucchini breads and cakes in the micro, but they (surprise, surprise) never turned out to be very tasty.

                                          I don't remember my mom ever cooking anything at all complicated in the microwave, though.

                                          A few weeks ago, I was browsing Indian cookbooks online, and I came across a "microwave cooking" cookbook, published in India in the 1980s, with all Indian recipes. I REALLY wanted to buy it, but with shipping it came to some ridiculous amount. If I ever get it, I will find out what microwave recipes the appliance companies were pushing in Mumbai, and let you all know :)

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: anakalia

                                            Forget buying one from India, check this out - I have it and it's a very good book.

                                            1. re: anakalia

                                              Do you (or anyone else) remember the microwave box cakes from the 80s? They came with a little cardboard "pan" you mixed the cake in, nuked it to bake and then put frosting on. They were great after school snacks because even my little sister could make one without fear of kitchen injury. I remember them as being not bad, but it might be the delusion of time and youth.

                                              Found a link! Betty Crocker Stir n Frost.

                                              1. re: LisaPA

                                                Yes, I do now that you've brought them up! I don't think I ever bought one (I didn't own a microwave for another 5 years from that 1978 ad), but I seem to recall my mother or mother-in-law making brownies or cake from one of those mixes. I remember them as being not bad...of course the frosting was to camouflage the lack of normal surface consistency that would be achieved in a standard oven. But, like school cafeteria food back then, they were delicious in their own 'special' way. :)

                                            2. I only knew one person who actually cooked entire meals, course by course, in his microwave. The dinner I had at his house is memorable only for the dedication to this technique.

                                              I was working in a department store in the early '70's. They had one very chic woman who did nothing but demonstrate how to use a microwave and sample out the food. There was always a huge crowd around her. It was such a new process and seemed quite strange. Rember too that this was around the same time period as the "energy crisis", so the thought of cooking quickly & efficiently had a good amount of appeal.

                                              I frequent thrift stores a bit. The majority of the cookbooks they have for sale are microwave cookbooks from that time period. Most do not look particularly well used.

                                              Almost forgot the carousels! Initially you had to stop, turn or stir, and restart a dish multiple times. Then someone came out with a windup carousel you could place in side to keep the food rotating. Now it's built into just about every microwave.

                                              1. 1974. High school Spring Break.
                                                Annie's mom had a new microwave and we experimented... nuked potato? Check.
                                                We would sit transfixed watching the item cook through the little window. "So fast"
                                                Our grand oeuvre was Green Cupcakes (it was around St Patty's Day). I remember the color (billiard table green) more than the taste.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: ambray

                                                  Anakalia, you had me feeling pretty old when I read your post! As I scrolled through the replies though, you all brought back a lot of laughs. When someone on our block got a microwave it was a pretty big deal. We were lucky, we didn't have a built-in dishwasher, so it could double as the microwave cart! Boy were they heavy...
                                                  My friends dad refused to eat anything cooked in the microwave (thought it would kill him), so her mom 'finished' everything in the oven. She would time it to finish as he was arriving home, she probably put more energy into tricking him than into cooking the meal. She was a lousy cook, so no one knew the difference!!!

                                                  1. re: bakerbear

                                                    Too, too funny! I can actually picture the whole thing unfolding! Do you suppose he ever found her out?

                                                2. This makes me feel ancient. I had an Amana Radarange, which cost me about $650 Cdn, and for a while I used it all the time. I tried just about everything in it, including cakes (ugg -- revolting!). The Radarange was huge, and took two people to move, and used a couple of dials to control the cooking time. (There WAS a defrost feature, though.)

                                                  For a while I worked as a writer for a food magazine in Toronto, and one of my tasks was to watch cooks prepare food in a microwave, then write articles about their efforts and the "fantastic" results. It was fun while it lasted.

                                                  The Radarange cooked food very unevenly, and you had to stop it and stir every minute or so or some spots would be overdone while others would be raw. Generally speaking, it was more of a nuisance than a pleasure, especially as the results were usually less than noteworthy. Eventually, it was relegated mostly to the task of reheating foods (with care).

                                                  The Radarange was beautifully made, though. In fact, it continued working in its erratic way until about four years ago, and finally, sadly, it died a quiet death. RIP Radarange.

                                                  1. i believe this link is pertinent:
                                                    voltaggio making bread in the microwave http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gAcL9...

                                                    1. microwaves are fine for cooking in. just not everything. anything you poach or steam works. no you cannot roast a chicken. but you wouldnt try to cook a roast chicken in a steamer either - doesnt mean a steamer is useless.

                                                      vegetables are brilliant in the MW, fish comes our beautifully, and poached chicken is a dream.

                                                      1. People really did cook (not try to cook) all kinds of food. I used to teach microwave cooking. And, "NO" I didn't work for one of the microwave companies.
                                                        If you only use your microwave to defrost things, you shouldn't bother having one! I live in Arizona and when it is 118 outside, I don't want to warm the kitchen by turning on the oven! Another item I use to bake with is my grill...then I get the browning that I usually can't get with my M/W unless I'm using a browning skillet.

                                                        1. Something I discovered by accident when working a night shift in a lab many years ago. Corn on the cob tastes better when done in the microwave. Just leave the corn in its husk and cook on high for about 5 minutes. The corn comes out very full flavored and tastes less watery than boiled corn.
                                                          It's really just a variation on steaming corn under coals, etc.

                                                          5 Replies
                                                          1. re: ssen

                                                            Thank you! I'd forgotten that, been boiling them of late.

                                                            1. re: ssen

                                                              With vegetables, a microwave is effectively a steamer. The husk, covered dish or plastic wrap traps the steam generated within the vegetables themselves, cooking the whole.

                                                              1. re: ssen

                                                                I just remembered another great thing to do in microwaves: "ripen" avocados! I heard about this on a cooking show -- maybe Alton Brown -- that if you really need a ripe avocado and don't have a day or so to ripen it, place the whole, unpeeled thing in the micro and nuke it for a minute on high. Of course, you need to know the strength of your micro...the one I'm used to doing it with it about 750 watts (and forgive me if I am using the wrong power measurement, I'm too lazy to go see if it's microvolts, hyperwatts, etc. LOL). It doesn't make it quite the same as a naturally time ripened one, but it works well enough for when I make guacamole or want a few slices for addition to a salad. It doesn't have as rick a taste, but with salsa, lime, or salad dressing to help it out, it passes muster.

                                                                1. re: MaineCook

                                                                  I've done that with peeled halves, and I find that if you chill it briefly in the freezer once it's softened and mashed the taste is much improved.

                                                                  1. re: buttertart

                                                                    I'll have to try your method next time...easier than trying to peel and seed a rather warm whole one post-micro.

                                                              2. Do please note that Julie Sahni has a book on microwave Indian cookery, and it's worth checking out if you like to actually cook with yours: "Microwave Moghul" - available used for very litle.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: buttertart

                                                                  That's an excellent big/meaty book.

                                                                2. I steam most of our vegetables in the MW. I'll do it on an auto Veg setting, and if I just want the blanched, I'll take them off as soon as it beeps mid-cycle and rinse them under cold water.

                                                                  I start baked potatoes in it, and recently after reading a thread here, I bought this plastic thing called a Fasta-Pasta which allows you to cook any type of pasta in the MW in a few minutes. That cost $9 and change, and in the few weeks since I've had it I have not cooked pasta any other way. Here it is summer, and there's no need to have a big pot of water steaming up the kitchen to cook 4 1/2 oz of macaroni, what I cook for the two of us. Thin spaghetti cooks in 8 minutes start to finish, penne 14 minutes.

                                                                  Of course, like everybody else, I do use it to thaw and reh

                                                                  1. I've had some fun reading here and some funny memories similar to the ones posted here, but the big reminder is to go look on my shelves for Barbara Kafka's "Microwave Gourmet" . I need to find the brownie recipe, and try it again to see if it is still as good as we thought it was in the early '80's. Dark, rich and fudgy.

                                                                    1. So... 2 years ago my husband and I moved into a new house, and didn't even notice that there was no microwave. Every place we have lived for the last 10 years had a built in, so it was almost like a dishwasher in our minds - we just expected it to be there, lol.

                                                                      After trying to figure out where to put one and which one to get, we realized that we had lived without it for a month or so and didn't really miss it. We have an electric water kettle which seemed to cover about 90% of what we used the micro for, and realized that food actually tastes better when it's warmed in a saucepan with a bit of water if necessary.

                                                                      Long story short, we don't have one. And we don't miss it. In a way, it keeps us honest and healthier. The common thought is that microwaving is so much faster, but in reality, it's only faster for processed foods. By not having a microwave we have much more incentive to just cook from scratch, which tastes better and is better for us.

                                                                      Does anyone else not have a microwave? I am curious now!

                                                                      30 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Jaz Cooks

                                                                        I use mine mostly for prepared foods - that is, foods I prepared the day before or before that.

                                                                        1. re: paulj

                                                                          personally, I think bacon is best done in the MW; I have a very elderly 'bacon rack' made by Anchor-Hocking at least 20 years ago - I've never 'fried' bacon on the range top since we got it; I just add the drippings to the skillet w/ a tab of butter and fry/scramble the eggs.
                                                                          in fact, we're doing BLT's for dinner tonight with LOTS of MW bacon - and it won't heat up the kitchen!

                                                                          1. re: ksmith51432

                                                                            Oddly enough, we had a cat who loved bacon but would NOT touch it if it had been cooked in the microwave. I have no idea why.

                                                                            1. re: ksmith51432

                                                                              I have a microwave bacon cooking tray that I hadn't use in a decades, decided to cook some bacon in the microwave and another few strips from the same package in a cast iron skillet. I like my bacon crisp, no flabby fat -- I'll sort through 20 packages in the grocery store to find that with the most lean. There were two differences:

                                                                              (1) That in the pan cooked much quicker, even counting the time it took to come up to heat.

                                                                              (2) The lean part of that in the oven was beyond crisp by the time the fat part was to my liking. Scientific explanation: The lean part has a much higher proportion of water than the fat part, the fat part barely started cooking until all the water had been cooked out of the lean.

                                                                              They tasted the same, but the texture -- microwave lean was rigid, beyond crunchy. Also, draining, then cleaning the drip rim and crevices in the microwave device was a bit of the chore, the skillet needed only draining the fat (I save it -- another topic) and a wipe with a paper towel.

                                                                              1. re: ksmith51432

                                                                                In our house, bacon in the oven is the overwhelming favorite -- lay the bacon on a rack set onto a cookie sheet and bake at 190C/400F for about 15 minutes -- less shrinking, no spattering, and tends itself while you move on to the pancakes.

                                                                              2. re: paulj

                                                                                I do the same. I have a disability, live alone, and have some dietary needs that limit my intake of processed foods. The microwave is great for heating up self-prepared frozen meals. It's more efficient and economical for me to cook multiple servings of meals that freeze well. On my bad days it's great to open up the freezer and have a hot home cooked meal, ready in a few minutes with a minimum of effort.

                                                                                Like some other posters noted, the microwave does work quickly and well for certain "whole" foods; like steamed vegetables, poached meats, rice and other grains (if you don't have a rice cooker, and cooked grains freeze beautifully in a zip-loc).

                                                                              3. re: Jaz Cooks

                                                                                That it tastes better . . . for most foods excluding those to be steamed, fine, I'll go with that, still a personal judgement, not an issue. Healthier? nope. All the microwaves are is a method of heating; no molecular changes other than those that arise just because the food has been cooked.

                                                                                1. re: NeverLift

                                                                                  i won't swear to it, and im too lazy to google in my mood this morning, but i seem to recall using the MW leaches out fewer vitamins and minerals than boiling or steaming

                                                                                  1. re: thew

                                                                                    Old Wives Tale. Right up there with milk in waxed cardboard being unsafe. If anything, MW preserves them, especially the otherwise steamed vegetables. To leach something, it has to be dissolved into a liquid. Steaming leaches: The water in the pan from steaming broccoli will be green when done. But then the percent of nutrients removed is still trivially small.

                                                                                    Overcooking, by any method, changes nutrients -- but by changing them chemically, not removing them (other than boiling -- leaching . . .).

                                                                                    1. re: NeverLift

                                                                                      As far as I know, B12 is the only nutrient that suffers a greater loss from MW cooking than other methods. This study cites a 30-40% loss from heating pork, beef and milk in the MW: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/j... For animal foods, MW cooking might not be the best choice. A lot of people are deficient in B12.

                                                                                      For vegetables, the amount of additional water needed to steam in a microwave is much less than on the stove, so in most cases I would think it's true that they retain more nutrients, especially if they are only lightly cooked.

                                                                                      1. re: elysabeth

                                                                                        In another study, ordinary cooking methods, such as broiling, caused a B12 loss of 25% compared to the 40% cited above, but where the cooking time wasn't given (at least in the free abstract). The former study broiled the meat for 45(!) minutes, which probably reduced it to shoe leather edibility.

                                                                                        Another article claims, "Vitamin B12 is unusual with respect to its origins. While most vitamins can be made by a wide variety of plants and specific animals, no plant or animal has been shown capable of producing B12, and the exclusive source of this vitamin appears to be tiny microorganisms like bacteria, yeasts, molds, and algae. " Wikipedia confirms that.

                                                                                        So much out there is wrong. One long and seemingly well constructed article used the microwave study to claim that infrared cooking would simlarly degrade the B12! Huh? Any cooking where the food is not in direct contact with the heat source -- grilling, roasting, baking -- cooks by infrared. (But not convection ovens.) Good thing I like raw beef . . .

                                                                                      2. re: NeverLift

                                                                                        It appears you may have misunderstood thew's post. thew said the microwave leaches out FEWER vitamins than does boiling.

                                                                                        By the way, I've never heard the one about milk cartons being unsafe. I have heard of people that PREFER milk cartons over plastic jugs however.

                                                                                        1. re: John E.

                                                                                          Re Milk cartons: You're not old enough. They came out when I was preteen, 1950 or so, most of my community was 2nd generation Canadian, grandparents escaped from Eastern Europe, the idea of milk not in sealed glass was abhorent to them.

                                                                                          BTW: I misread the posts I "replied" to. We agree, mostly, I paid attention to the B12 comment, not the rest. Sorry about that.

                                                                                          1. re: NeverLift

                                                                                            i didnt mention b12

                                                                                            (why is replied in quotes?)

                                                                                            1. re: thew

                                                                                              This whole thing is out of hand. "replied" is in quotes as self-critical sarcasm because I didn't, I read the post wrong. B12 issue was described by elysabeth, and I was just both agreeing but pointing out the difference was small and, incidentally, describing where the B12 actually is found. And plastics were still novel in 1950, the switch that the traditionalists worried about was from glass to cartions. I understand they were replaced earlier elsewhere but we didn't even get live TV feeds where I grew up until the late 50's

                                                                                              OK, new topic.

                                                                                            2. re: NeverLift

                                                                                              I guess you're right. I thought you were comparing milk cartons to plastic milk jugs, not when cartons were first replacing plastic bottles. I vaguely remember milk bottles, but only from when I was quite young.

                                                                                          2. re: NeverLift

                                                                                            reread what i said: using the MW leaches out FEWER vitamins and minerals than boiling or steaming

                                                                                        2. re: NeverLift

                                                                                          For the record - I didn't mean that microwaving foods makes them less healthy - I meant that eating the processed foods that are associated with microwaves is less healthy.

                                                                                          1. re: Jaz Cooks

                                                                                            Jaz I get ya, last week I was doing some freezer stocking for an elderly relative and DAMN it was hard to find anything with less than a full 25% RDA of fat and sodium. I do make her casseroles and what-not for heating up, but it seemed like a good idea for some kinda backup. anyway the best thing I found were shrimp scampi and grilled fillets (no sides) from a certain frozen fish purveyor starting with a G.

                                                                                            1. re: hill food

                                                                                              I used to do the same for an elderly client with diabetes. She wasn't allowed to use sharp knives to prep food, confessed to forgetting when things were on the stove heating up, couldn't have salt or sugar, didn't like spices...I would make her a week's worth of food from scratch (she also liked those "G" purveyor's items) and freeze them in separate, portion-sized containers with item and dates taped on. She could microwave them and it helped her remain in her home rather than move to assisted living. Go Microwave!

                                                                                              1. re: MaineCook

                                                                                                oh yeah after the stroke and a useless left arm, there was no other feasible solution short of meals on wheels (due to geography I can only make it in about once a month, hence the stock-up)

                                                                                            2. re: Jaz Cooks

                                                                                              Even if you did say that microwaving food makes them less healthy, there's no issue there.

                                                                                              It's a known fact that microwaving creates damage at a base, molecular level, turning food into something not quite usable, and often dangerous. There's a good reasn that breast milk isn't be microwaved.

                                                                                              1. re: JReichert

                                                                                                I think you'll find that the reason that it's not recommended to microwave breast milk (or formula, or cow's milk in a bottle) is because the microwave heats unevenly and creates hot spots that can burn an infant's tender mouth tissue.

                                                                                                Considering the length of time that the microwave has been around, and the number of households worldwide which have a microwave, it could be that a claim of "not quite usable, and often dangerous" should be accompanied by some citations.

                                                                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                  McDonald's has been around decades, too; doesn't make safe, though millions partake. Then again McDonald's wasn't originally designed for warfare either.

                                                                                                  When I get off work I'd be glad to provide some links.

                                                                                                  1. re: JReichert

                                                                                                    mainstream, peer-reviewed journals, please.

                                                                                                    And while you're at it, citations as to the dangers of eating McDonald's **in moderation**. Don't give me Supersize me - give me the dangers of eating McDonald's once or twice a month.

                                                                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                      I don't have links to the exact studies, though if I ever have time I'll run down to the University of Notre Dame library and see what I can find there.

                                                                                                      Here are just a few examples, citing studies:


                                                                                                      And something a bit more mainstream:


                                                                                                      But it's not my job to convince anyone. If people want the truth, they will seek it.

                                                                                                      1. re: JReichert


                                                                                                        I'm a PhD EE, worked in depth with microwaves at every power level conceivable.

                                                                                                        That Huffington Post article is total hogwash, cites NO peer reviewed studies, muckraking at its worst.

                                                                                                        So microwaves heat water molecules to their boiling points? Actualy, that is pseudo-science. You can heat a liquid to its boiling point, but individual molecules don't have a "boiling point." Boiling of a liquid is a function of temperature and pressure. Remember pressure cookers? By restraining the vapor generated from water to increase the pressure, the water did NOT boil.

                                                                                                        But that's beside the point. Steaming does the same, and then sends the "boiling" molecules into contact with the foodstuffs. Microwaves do the same thing -- just internally, more efficiently, and without loss of flavor or nutrient components. Even that incredibly stupid Huffington article grants that.

                                                                                                        Just why am I bothering to debate this? It's futility, science versus unsupported and unsupportable beliefs. And the more unsupported a belief is, the more dogmatic is the believer in ignoring the science. I can only answer, "Eppur si muove".

                                                                                                        BTW: The "science" supporting PET as having any remotely significant deleterious health effects is also pure trash, right along with the alar on apples scare. For the latter: Check http://www.acsh.org/publications/pubI....

                                                                                                        [I still say to myself: just why am I bothering?


                                                                                                        [Becausae I'm bored.]

                                                                                                        [I'm unsubscribing to this thread, to avoid the temptation to waste more time.}

                                                                                                        1. re: NeverLift

                                                                                                          So despite the studies, you're saying it's untrue that microwaves cause reverse polarity at high frequencies, damaging the molecular structure? I thought it was the fact that microwaves cause immense amounts of molecular friction in an unnatural manner that 'heats them up' but at the same time, tears them down?

                                                                                                          I've only seen studies cited - if I can get my hands on the full reports I will gladly post them.

                                                                                                          1. re: NeverLift

                                                                                                            First of all, it's not a Huffington Post article, it's the widely-touted quack Mercola who posts all sorts of uninformed sensationalistic claptrap about stuff that's obviously way over his head. The article is a bunch of regurgitated garbage:

                                                                                                            Microwaving foods in containers that contain BPA is dangerous!!
                                                                                                            -- Assuming BPA in the trace amounts that may transfer from microwaving poses ANY risk - then don't use plastic containers. It's not a microwave FAULT.

                                                                                                            Using microwaved blood for transfusions is dangerous!!!
                                                                                                            -- How many times have we all pulled our packets of blood from the refrigerator only to find that we don't have time to warm it through conventional means so we pop it in the microwave? Basing any generalization about microwaves on this isolated incident is nutty. AND IT'S NOT A MICROWAVE PROBLEM, the issue was that the user overheated the blood in a standard microwave (that was not approved for this purpose). The study that resulted showed that the "cooking" of blood created clots which led to the death. The same thing would have happened if they warmed in a hot bath on a stovetop for too long.


                                                                                                            MISUSE of a microwave does not equal a risk in using it properly. People start fires with turkey fryers - doesn't mean that fried turkey is a health risk. The only real danger in that Mercola article is that gullible people will assume he's knowledgeable.

                                                                                                            1. re: NeverLift

                                                                                                              oh the HuffPo has never been the most reliable source (maybe more than some, but still sorta slippery) it's just a big name blog.

                                                                                            3. Miy amana radarrange, top of the line, dual programing, cost 900, in 79, we were not told that the microwave would replace the cooktop not the oven recipes. All the extras like browning pans, what a lot of work it was to heat the pan, than add the pork chops to brown, browning sauces, what were we thinking?????

                                                                                              1. I was born right after microwaves were invented and my father was one of the executives at an electronics conglomerate who were among the first to come out with the microwave. I remember the microwave cooking cookbooks that would litter my house which came packaged with the microwaves to direct consumers on how to use this new equipment. Back then the microwave was supposed to be an alternative for the oven and not for just reheating food. It's funny when I think about the kinds of recipes that were included in this cookbook--lasagne, beef stroganoff, everything! But of course, the first models of microwaves did not have a turning wheel so you would have to stop the cooking every couple of minutes to turn your food so that it heats evenly. Oh, and the microwaves then were honkin' huge. I still had one of the first models forever and even brought it with me to university. My friends would get scared that the old-school radiation was technologically-inept and hence a danger.

                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                1. re: looosia

                                                                                                  Not sure why you didn't mention the name of the conglomerate, Litton Industries. I worked for a different division and bought one of their first models because employees got a discount. They went into the business because one of their companies made the part that produced the microwaves. In the end they couldn't compete with cheap ovens from the far east and they sold the business.

                                                                                                2. I can add some to the history - My father ended up taking over the commercial microwave group at Raytheon when it was first invented. Dad was doing something outside of Percy Spencer;s area (Percy invented the thing) when he got hit on the head with something. Percy brought him into his lab and heated up a cup of coffee for him in the origional (HUGE!) microwave unit. They got to talking, and Percy was complaining about there being no market for it. Dad went to Charlie Addams (then the head of Raytheon) and asked to take over the group and re-focus it. Charlie agreed, and things like the french chef who was trying to develop recipes for it (the focus they thought was for high end eateries at the time). Dad realized that the microwave was good for heating things - he had three installed at diners where there was a rush in Quincy, Mass and let the places experiment with having food already prepped and just heated in the microwave units (remember - these things were huge and expensive). All of a sudden they were selling LOTS to bus stations/diners/train stations/diners/etc. My mother was best friends with Julia, and she often joked about what she would like to do to dad for making a market for the thing. Oh - it has been said that the chocolate bar that melted started Percy on the microwave oven. Dad claimed that Percy told him that it was an apple that had gotten heated up.
                                                                                                  Dr. Tappan was the one who made the first home unit if memory serves. Dad left Raytheon to be one of the founders of Microwave Associates.

                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: exvaxman

                                                                                                    I'll add some to the history too - I have an old Radarange in the closet (Grandma's) and in it a cook book entitled: " Introduction to Cooking With The Amana Radarange Cookbook." (Copywright 1977, 1980.) Anyway, there's a chaptercalled "Are you curious???" and in it they say the first microwave oven was produced in Raytheon Company laboratories in 1945. It goes on to say:

                                                                                                    "In 1945, the late Dr. Percy L. Spencer of Raytheon, while testing a radar vacuum tube, realized that the microwave energy it generated produced heat. He thought it might cook food. He sent out for a chocolate bar, it was said, and put it in front of the radar tube. The chocolate immediately melted.

                                                                                                    "So Raytheon developed and patented a microwave oven which it trademarked 'Radarange." The microwave oven was designed for hospitals and other mass-feeding situations. These first microwave ovens were large and expensive to build."

                                                                                                    Later on it says Amana (a subsidiary of Raytheon) "Working with Raytheon engineers, Amana introduced the world's first 115 volt countertop domestic model in 1967, the Amana Radarange Microwave Oven."

                                                                                                    Soooo, this book is just over 300 pages and is replete with recipes for such things as Stuffed Duckling L'Orange and Chicken Liver Stroganoff, Cherry Crumb Coffee Cake, Rye Bread, and Hawaiian Ham Balls (just to mention a few LOL).

                                                                                                    1. re: clamscasino

                                                                                                      From an article on Percy:
                                                                                                      In 1947, Raytheon demonstrated the world's first microwave oven and called it a "Radarange," the winning name in an employee contest. Housed in refrigerator-sized cabinets, the first microwave ovens cost between $2,000 and $3,000. Sometime between 1952-55, Tappan introduced the first home model priced at $1295. In 1965 Raytheon acquired Amana Refrigeration. Two years later, the first countertop, domestic oven was introduced. It was a 100-volt microwave oven, which cost just under $500 and was smaller, safer and more reliable than previous models.

                                                                                                  2. What ever became of the TV microwave cook who had several going in front of an audience and told terrible jokes. The potato family joke is a favorite of mine.

                                                                                                    7 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: wolfe

                                                                                                      I don't remember the cook but now that you've mentioned it, you have to post the joke.

                                                                                                      1. re: John E.

                                                                                                        Please realize that I am already subject to abuse on other boards and this is not going to help but you asked for it. Shaggy vegetable joke short form.
                                                                                                        The daughter spud comes home from New York to her blue ribbon winning father, a russet, and her gold medal winning mom, a yukon gold, and tells them the good news.She loves her job, she loves her apartment and she is engaged to marry Dan Rather.Her father explodes, "We are potato royalty, there is no way our daughter is going to marry a commentator.

                                                                                                        1. re: wolfe

                                                                                                          a...HAH! oh you deserve abuse.

                                                                                                          seriously though the idea of a Russet and a Yukon having spuds together must have seemed a bit 'edgy' for even as late as 1975.

                                                                                                          1. re: hill food

                                                                                                            How do you stand on interphylum dating?

                                                                                                          2. re: wolfe

                                                                                                            That joke should be taken out and shot.

                                                                                                            But for fun veggies, here's Veggie Girl dressed up for dinner:

                                                                                                            1. re: wolfe

                                                                                                              Hah! That's pretty good. Maybe somebody should start a food joke thread? What did the girl melon say to the boy melon when he proposed? "We're too young, we cantaloupe".

                                                                                                              1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                That's adorable. I like the photo, too. There have been a few threads on food jokes - viz: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/615160 for your reading plasure.