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How Microwave Ovens Work

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How Microwave Ovens Work by Omar Davison The microwave oven is one of the great inventions of the 20th century - millions of homes in America have one. Microwave ovens are popular because they cook food incredibly quickly. They are also extremely efficient in their use of electricity because a microwave oven heats only the food - nothing else. 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). ...read more.


What does that mean? Here's an explanation to help make sense of microwave cooking. Let's say you want to bake a cake in a conventional oven. Normally you would bake a cake at 350 degrees F or so, but let's say you accidentally set the oven at 600 degrees instead of 350. What is going to happen is that the outside of the cake will burn before the inside even gets warm. In a conventional oven, the heat has to migrate (by conduction) from the outside of the food toward the middle. ...read more.


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 foods like "Hot Pockets" come with a little cardboard/foil sleeve. 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. ...read more.

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