Why don’t people use microwave ovens more?


Here is a recipe (the first of 10 readers’ recipes) from today’s Guardian’s Cook Supplement.

OK it’s called ‘traditional steamed syrup pudding’, but I’m sure that it could be microwaved in about 6 minutes with approximately the same result (the recipe suggests steaming for 1.5 hours!).



Image from things your mother would have told you

What’s wrong with using a microwave oven?

I have relatives and friends whom I might describe as ‘anti-microwave fundamentalists’. I had even been told that microwave ovens are banned in Russia – it does seem that this may have been the case during the Soviet era see Are microwave ovens banned in Russia?, but not since Gorbachev!

Are microwave ovens dangerous? Try Googling something like this and you get pages and pages of scare stories. It is difficult to find anything which mentions scientific studies on this question. I found two sources which looked credible: ‘Debunking An Internet Hoax: What Science Really Says About Microwave Ovens, Your Food And Your Health‘ and ‘MICROWAVE COOKING AND FOOD SAFETY‘ the first link attempts to deal with the “natural health “experts”” and conspiracy theorists, as well as quoting various scientific papers.

I’ve always wondered why Delia Smith hasn’t been seen (well not by me anyway) using a microwave for things like melting chocolate – so much easier than a pudding basin over a pan of simmering water! I investigated this, and to do her justice (while at the same time regarding her as a bit of a pedant) she says “This is a tricky subject, and one that causes a great dilemma for the cookery writer. As microwave ovens are not standard and the power levels vary, it’s difficult to give standard guidelines. The best course if you want to cook in the microwave is to follow the instructions in the manufacturer’s handbook“. I suppose my criticism is based on my own experience – Delia is great for people who can’t cook, because if you follow her recipes to the nth degree the result should be good; if you already have a lot of cooking experience then you may not need to such rigid guidance.

So assuming that you are happy to use a microwave oven, what can they do well? Certainly they seems to be the best option for heating baked beans and ready meals, and cooking frozen peas.

In some of my future blogs I’ll be providing ideas about slightly more exotic things you can do with a microwave.