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Use Power Settings on Your Microwave to Improve Results

Tired of rubbery chicken and dried out pasta? Here's a tip that will improve the texture of microwaved foods.

By
Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
2-minute read

microwave myths

A recent post on microwave myths got a lot of people talking on the Nutrition Diva Facebook page, including Gary, who wrote:

"I contend that food heated more slowly in the microwave (twice as long, but on half power) has better texture than foods heated at full speed in less time. My housemate thinks I'm insane. Who's right?"

I think your roommate might owe you an apology, Gary!

As explained in my post, most popular fears about microwaving foods are unfounded. But microwave ovens are certainly not the ideal tool for every cooking task. While it's my favorite way to make popcorn (click here for my chemical free recipe), I wouldn't want to attempt to nuke my Thanksgiving turkey!

Microwaves are notorious for uneven cooking—one little piece gets cooked to rubber while another piece only an inch away is barely warm. If you throw a pound of frozen hamburger meat in the microwave, by the time the last ice crystal melts on one corner, the other corner will already be cooked well-done.

That's why they use those revolving trays and suggest that you stir or reposition your food every few minutes. That's also why some microwaves have reduced power settings for things like defrosting meat or reheating bread.

When you use the low power settings on settings on most microwaves, you're not really reducing the intensity of the microwaves.  Rather, the oven will cycle the microwave power on and off every few seconds. This allows more time for heat to be transferred from hotter parts of the food to cooler parts ... effectively heating up the cool spots and cooling the hot spots before they get overdone.  Because it allows for more even cooking of foods, this could definitely result in better texture, especially for meats and frozen foods.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.