Sue’s Kitchen – Introduction To Microwave Cooking
In my opinion, the microwave is one of the most useful and versatile pieces of kitchen equipment that you, as a blind or visually-impaired cook, will ever own.
There is little that a microwave can’t tackle, it can do anything right from just simply warming up a hot drink for you, or cooking a complete meal if you want it too.
Hot puddings and cakes can be made and cooked in record time! Don’t panic if you forget to defrost the bread or what’s needed for the evening meal, because your trusty microwave can do it all quickly, due to its variable power and heat settings.
Please don’t feel pressured into using your microwave to cook hundreds of intricate or fascinating dishes, it will be just as happy heating up a ready meal or simply helping you out, speeding up the completion of dinner when the hob and oven are in full use.
Sue’s Kitchen – How Does A Microwave Work?
A microwave oven has several main parts, inside the strong metal box there is a generator called a magnetron. When you start cooking, the magnetron takes the electricity from the power outlet where you plug it into the wall, and converts it into high-powered, 12- cm radio waves.
It blasts these waves into the food compartment through a channel called a wave guide. The food sits on a turntable, spinning slowly round, so that the microwaves cook it evenly.
When the microwaves reach the food, they penetrate through it. As they travel inside they make the molecules vibrate more quickly. As most food contains moisture in the form of water or fat, these vibrating molecules react with the moisture, causing heat.
The faster the molecules vibrate, the hotter the food becomes, rapidly heating it up. The microwaves can’t be transmitted on to the metal interior compartment of the oven, that’s why it doesn’t get hot. Neither can they get out through the screened door as they are too tiny to pass through the fine mesh.
Microwaves have several safety features and locking mechanisms to contain those radio waves and it will not work if the door isn’t closed properly or the oven develops a fault.
The microwave is very useful as you don’t have to wait for it to heat up before cooking. It heats food very quickly due to the molecular reaction, therefore speeding up cooking time tremendously.
Sue’s Kitchen – Choosing and Buying the Right Equipment
Choosing Your Microwave
First of all you are going to have to decide which type of microwave you’ll need, according to your requirements, i.e. will it just be a straight forward microwave oven with the ability to defrost, heat and cook, , or one which also has the capacity to brown or grill food too, in which case choose a combination microwave oven with grill and fan assisted oven settings. this doesn’t mean that it has separate compartments for each, just the ability to change from one type of cooking to another, via the control panel.
Decide whether you are going to need a small capacity model or a large family sized microwave, all this means is that the interior is larger. it could be that you simply don’t have the room in your kitchen for a conventional cooker with its hob, grill and oven, so your microwave must work for its money.
Which Type Of Microwave Is Best?
There is a talking microwave available from Cobolt Systems, at the time of writing in early 2010 there are two models available, a microwave only and a combination microwave oven. Please get in touch with Cobolt Systems for more information.
Before buying your microwave, please visit as many retail outlets as possible so that you can examine the construction, controls, buttons and interior compartments on a wide selection. By doing this you’ll be able to decide on the right type and size for your needs and know that it will fit into the space in your kitchen that you’ve allocated for it.
If it is to be wall mounted, make sure it comes with its mounting bracket and fixings. If worktop space is at a premium and there just isn’t a permanent place for it, a microwave trolley can be purchased, so it can be stored underneath a kitchen unit safely out of the way when not in use.
Unfortunately, as you’ll find when you come to physically examine them, there are many microwaves which are completely unusable by blind or visually-impaired cooks, they are models with absolutely smooth, flush control panels so that its impossible to even feel the buttons, let alone to be able to tactually mark or set them.
Although some have fairly flat push button controls, it is possible to mark these as long as they stand proud or can be easily distinguished by touch . Most microwaves have buttons which beep when they are pressed to select time and heat settings, this is of enormous help if you’re totally blind. Some microwaves automatically revert to one setting after use, for example, when you finish cooking and come to use your microwave again, you’ll always know that it is on that specific power setting.
There are still some microwaves available with separate rotary controls to set temperature and time which can be easily marked with sticky clear bump-ons or coloured glue dots. Some microwaves have a push button to open the door, with others you pull the handle, whichever you choose, ensure that that model is durable, sturdy and stable when you pull on the handle or press the button to open it, you don’t want the microwave to slide toward or away from you. It needs to be stable when you operate the controls or take food dishes in and out.
How Much Should You Pay?
Prices vary considerably, from the small basic microwave that simply defrosts, heats and cooks by microwaving only, costing around 25 to 30 pounds, through to those which have the ability and versatility to defrost according to weight, change the way they cook throughout the preparation of your meal, by microwaving, grilling, baking and roasting with fan assistance, or even remembering the settings for your favourite dishes. These could cost anything from 70 to 200 pounds depending on internal capacity and outer finish, a model with a stainless steel facia may cost a little more.
Before You Buy
Once you’ve decided what you want your microwave to do, spend time examining various sized models carefully. Pay special attention to their external size, physical construction, their controls as well as each interior capacity.
Examining Your Microwave
Stand in front of each model, place both hands on the front at either side of the door to see how wide the microwave is. Locate the buttons or knobs, check how easy it is to identify and operate them, taking note of the feasibility to mark key features or settings if its going to be necessary. Press the button or handle which opens the door allow it to open fully, then close it gently but firmly.
Stand in front of each microwave, span the exterior to check the size. Feel the top to locate the ventilation panel. Examine the rear of the microwave to find where the power cord comes out. You will also feel a perforated grill for air circulation.
Feel underneath at the front below the door. There will be ventilation holes and four non-slip feet to raise the microwave so that it stands proud of the worktop.
Now, open the door and put both hands inside, span the whole of the oven’s interior, noting where the turntable sits. The turntable may be made of fairly heavy glass or ceramic or even a lighter weight plastic or specially coated metal. whichever type it is it has to be positioned correctly inside the microwave so that cooking is uniform. In some models it sits on a removable plastic ring with little wheels which ledge onto small indentations on the underside of the turntable. Some microwaves have this assembly already attached to the turntable or even as a permanent fixture on the base. Lifting it in and out might seem a bit fiddly to start with, but with practice and a bit of jiggling around, you’ll feel it slot or drop into place.
To remove the turntable, stand in front of the open microwave, use both hands, slide them up and over the front lower edge, then separate them out so that their backs touch either side of the cavity, bringing them in a little until your fingers find the front edge of the turntable. Slide your fingers a little way around the sides of the turntable then hook them well underneath on either side gently lifting it out toward you. Grip and support it with your thumbs on the top to give added purchase. Holding it securely, bring it right out and lay it down on a clear flat work surface. Examine the inside of the microwave and feel where the turntable should fit when its in its correct position.
Now, to put it back in again, make sure that the door is wide open, pick it up and hold it firmly in the same way that you did when you lifted it out. Carry the turntable over to the opened microwave door, slide it up and over the front edge of the base of the interior. As the backs of your hands touch the sides of the oven, you’ll be able to steady the turntable and judge the approximate correct position as you lower it into place. You’ll probably find that if you lower it roughly into its position and jiggle it a little bit, it will slot in quite easily. You’ll soon become adept at doing this. You won’t have to remove the turntable all the time, just when it needs washing or to clean the microwave. Please don’t ever remove it while you’re cooking. Most turntables have a very small lip or raised edge, meaning that if its tilted or tipped, food items or dishes could slide off with a risk that hot food could spill causing burns or scalds.
If the turntable isn’t positioned properly when the microwave is switched on, it will usually bump as the motor tries to turn it, giving a good audible clue that it isn’t sitting correctly. Another good indication that something isn’t right is that the food isn’t heating through evenly. The turntable does exactly what the name suggests, turns around when the microwave is cooking to give even heat distribution throughout the food.
Open and close the door several times making sure you’re familiar and happy with its position when fully open and to check that it will stay well back out of the way when the microwave’s in use.
Open the door, put both hands inside the oven, spread them apart to span the internal width and depth of the cavity. Now, take your hands in and out several times until you are familiar with its shape and size. Turn completely away from the microwave, then turn back to face it again, finding the open door.
Practice opening and closing the door, then putting your hands inside the oven. Feel the width and breadth of the turntable. When examining the inside of each microwave You will feel various textured surfaces for ventilation and an interior light. Please take note that this lit area may always feel slightly warm when the microwave is plugged in to the electric wall socket with the power switched on, even though it isn’t being used.
I would suggest, when looking at microwaves, you either buy or take along a microwave jug, bowl or container of the largest capacity that you’re likely to want to cook with at home.
Take with you or buy a pair of good quality oven gloves, one for each hand but not those that are joined together. They should either be gloves with separate fingers, or be a mitt with a separate thumb position.
Once you are familiar with the layout and controls on a particular
model, stand in front of it, open the door, check that the turntable is in place.
With both oven gloves on, put the jug inside using both hands
to lift and support it properly, holding the handle with one hand and supporting
the jug with the other. By doing this you can make sure that there is
plenty of room for you to slide your hands safely between the jug and the interior
of the microwave while your wearing oven gloves. Leave the
jug on the turntable, take your hands away then remove the jug from the microwave
using both hands again. If you have any difficulty locating
the handle or cupping your hands around the outsides of a container to steady
it as you try to lift it in and out, or you can’t lift it up far enough or high
enough for the bottom of the jug or container to clear the front rim of the
turntable without catching it, or you knock your hands against the top of the
ovens interior, that particular microwave will be too small for your needs.
Remember that although the interior of your microwave is cold now and
the jug or container empty, when your cooking, the microwave’s interior will
only get slightly warm but the jug or container will get hot as the food in
it heats through or cooks. You don’t want your hands to feel restricted
or cramped or the container may tip, spilling very hot food as you lift
it out during or after cooking.
Sue’s Kitchen – What Can You Cook In Your Microwave?
There are no limitations on what a microwave can cook for you. What
you have to decide is what you want to use it for! Many people prefer
to cook with one to save time. Once you start microwaving you’ll
realise just how convenient it really is and never look back! you
might like the convenience of defrosting, heating hot drinks and cooking food
quickly, but still use your hob or top of the cooker to prepare other things.
Meat can be cooked in the microwave fairly quickly but, unless you heat
up a microwave browning dish to sear and brown the top surface or you’re using
a model with combination settings which will brown food for you, it won’t look
or taste quite the same as it does when its cooked in a conventional oven. There
won’t be anything wrong with it nutritionally and as long as its microwaved
until thoroughly cooked through, it will be tender and full of flavour, its
just that some people simply don’t like meat cooked this way. Consult
the recipe book which comes with your microwave to give you ideas and suggestions.
Cooking times very considerably and this mostly depends on how much liquid
is used in a recipe, or how dense or hard whatever you’re cooking happens
to be. Generally, the more liquid there is, the longer it takes. For
example, you might think that rice or pasta will cook more quickly but this
isn’t the case as they need to be covered well with water and cooked in a large,
deep, covered dish. Casseroles still take quite a while too as they contain
meat, hard root vegetables and gravy. Scrambled eggs will cook quickly
in 2 or 3 minutes, a jacket potato takes longer 6 to 8 minutes, depending on
size, due to the hard raw potato.
It isn’t possible to give exact cooking times, your microwave’s instruction
manual and recipe book will do that but I can give you some general helpful
Sue’s Kitchen – Before you Start Microwave Cooking
The first thing I’d like to say is please don’t lose heart. Microwave
cooking is very easy but so completely different from cooking with your conventional
gas or electric oven or hob. Your microwave has several power settings
recommended for different tasks but it will take a little time and patients
before you get the hang of things. This is due partly to your individual
microwave’s capabilities and how you like your food cooked and the fact that
you’re going to have to learn to prepare food a little differently. Your
microwave will be invaluable, cutting down the time spent in the kitchen without
compromising on flavour.
What’s amazing is when microwaving only, you can open the door to check the
food at any time, without the risk of burning your hands on the inside of the
oven. As soon as you stop the cooking process by opening the door or cancelling
the time it is safe to put your hands inside, the oven cavity will only be slightly
warm, but any warmth or heat will be coming from the food itself. Any
containers will either be warm or very hot, depending on the length of time
they’ve been cooking due to the temperature or setting used. The lower
the temperature or setting, the more slowly the food heats up, the higher the
setting or temperature, the more quickly the food cooks, and the hotter the
food and/or container gets. Studying the operating instructions and user
guide will give you detailed information on recommended cooking times and temperatures
for different foods. Many microwaves have general guidelines printed
on the front panel. Most ready meals and microwaveable foods have specific
cooking instructions on the packaging, relating to power rating or wattage,
shown as letters or symbols. These may be subject to change by manufacturers
so please ask someone to read them for you.
Don’t ever put your hands inside a combination microwave without the added
protection of oven gloves if cooking food on the grill or fan assisted oven
All microwaves have a fan to distribute air flow, so when the cook button
is pressed and microwaving begins, you’ll hear it humming. You’ll also
hear the motor moving the turntable round.
Most models click on and off as the microwaves are pulsed through the food,
this is perfectly normal. its most noticeable on the lower power or heat settings.
Some later models have one continuous sound and don’t click on and
off at all. As soon as you press the start button, air will be sucked
in and passed through the microwave, then back out again. At first it
will feel like a cool draught if you’re standing near the oven, but as the food
heats up the air will get warmer.
Sue’s Kitchen – Which Type of Microwave Cookware is Best
Once you’ve chosen the right type and size of microwave, you’ll need to buy
some dishes, bowls and containers to cook with. As long as you don’t use
any cookware that is metallic, unless specifically designed for a microwave,
or put in plates with gold rims, there is no reason why you shouldn’t utilise
those you already have. Something which must be borne in mind though is
that ceramic pottery or earthenware containers will get very hot in the
microwave and all glassware should be shatterproof or be safe to use in a conventional
oven. Its important that you select those that are going to be large enough
for your needs. Don’t buy any that are too small or not deep enough, some
may be too big or too heavy to lift, others won’t fit comfortably inside your
microwave. Try to find cookware with either small handles or lips at each
side or with easy to grip rims, remember you’ll definitely be wearing oven gloves
to take them in and out, particularly if they are heat conductive. Choose containers
which allow for some space or headroom at the top, as food will still boil or
bubble up as it would if you were cooking conventionally on the hob or cooker.
Some recipes require deep sided covered bowls, but please don’t be tempted
to make do with your old round pudding basin with a plate resting on top, it
will be awkward to grip to lift in and out, with the added danger of the plate
sliding off and the hot food spilling. There are far more practical and
durable alternatives. Always ensure that your plastic cookware is
recommended for the microwave. Don’t use flimsy, pliable bendable plastic
containers or plates, they will have a tendency to go out of shape when hot.
Don’t pile large amounts of food into small shallow dishes or heap food
on small plates. Never overfill any plates or containers. I’d like
to specifically recommend the specially designed, lightweight plastic stain
proof microwave cookware, available from Lakeland Limited online and from their
high street outlets. many other stores and supermarkets may sell similar
Gone are the days when most microwave cookware was fragile and didn’t last
five minutes. The modern, to my mind, indispensable microwave lidded saucepans,
bowls and casserole dishes, sold in various sizes, from the outlets listed above,
are amazing. Not only are they lightweight and easy to grip, they are
sturdy and durable too, much less likely to become too hot to handle safely,
what more could you want! You can also buy a plate cover to protect
your meal when heating it on a dinner plate. Omelette makers and bacon
crispers are available. Microwave steamers are good too, when you need
to cook several vegetables at once. Very little water is added when
cooking vegetables, most can be cooked in a microwave saucepan or covered dish.
Smaller items that don’t need to be cooked in containers are easier to handle
if placed on A plate, then put into the microwave, The plate can be easily and
quickly located and lifted in and out, then food can be carried straight to
the table. Dinner plates are useful as added support underneath larger
dishes too, making it easier to lift them in and out. A whole
meal can simply be heated through on a plate in your microwave then taken straight
to the table. A more flimsy ready meal container will need the support
of a plate underneath it to prevent it sliding around, bending or tipping.
Sue’s Kitchen – Cooking in the Microwave
All estimated times given are based on an 850 watt, category E, microwave,
they are for guidance only, adjust power settings and times to suit your
own model. Please see the instruction manual and recipe book that comes
with your microwave for more detailed information.
Sue’s Kitchen – Defrosting Food
The beauty of having a microwave is that if you should forget to take food
from the freezer to let it defrost naturally prior to cooking, there’s no need
to panic as its never too late
Defrosting is done on a specified very low setting, your microwave’s
user guide will give helpful suggestions and times for various foods according
to their type or weight, the more food you want to defrost the longer its going
to take, the denser or harder it is the longer it will need to be defrosted
for, but if microwave cooking is new to you, start very simply by perhaps
defrosting a few slices of bread, ready to make sandwiches.
Put the bread on a plate on your worktop near to the microwave, open the microwave’s
door, put the plate in so its sitting centrally on the turntable, then close
the door. Follow the correct procedure for setting the time
and controls (see your instruction book for more details), by selecting defrost,
setting the time and activating the cook or start button. Don’t
allow the bread to defrost for too long initially, set the timer for a minute
or so, then, when it stops, you’ll be able to open the door to feel the
difference in texture and temperature as it defrosts and softens. Set
the timer for short increments until its completely defrosted. Don’t forget
that even though the timer is set you can open the door to examine the bread
or check its progress at any time, just close the door and press the start button
again and the timer will continue to count down from where it left off.
Defrost meat for your main meal by taking it straight from the freezer, placing
the bag or container its in on a plate, then piercing or making some
holes in the top to allow the air to circulate through and around it. Remove
any plastic ties or wire twist ties from the top of the bag. Put
the plate into the microwave and set the controls to defrost for several minutes,
don’t forget that you can open the door at any time to see or feel how its getting
on. then close the door and press the start button again to continue the
defrost, giving it more time if need be. The softer the meat gets the
more defrosted it is, you might feel it getting a bit warm around the outsides
or on thinner areas, this is quite normal as obviously any exposed, flat or
less dense areas will defrost more quickly. The meat will continue to
defrost for a few minutes after you take it out of the microwave. If you
think its getting a bit warm simply remove the plate and leave it on one side,.
The meat can then be rewrapped and stored in the fridge for later or be cooked
straight away. Never leave meat out at room temperature for any length
of time, (please see my section on cooking meat for more information).
Generally the less dense or hard something is, the faster the defrost. A
portion of cake may only take a minute or so, a whole chicken 15 minutes or
more depending on how large or heavy it is. Don’t forget that with most
microwaves you’ll hear regular clunks or clicks while defrosting takes place.
Sue’s Kitchen – Heating Food in the Microwave
Your microwave will have several heat settings, from low to high. The
user guide will give general guidelines for different foods but it will be up
to you to choose how quickly you want something to heat through. Every
food has its own unique density and texture. The denser the food or the
more liquid it has, the longer it will take and there will be foods that you’ll
prefer to cook differently from the recommendation in your user guide.
Sue’s Kitchen – Heating up a Hot Drink
I’ll hazard a guess that your trusty microwave will be used an awful lot
for making or re-heating hot drinks. If you’ve let that cup of tea go
cold, don’t worry, just pop the mug on the centre of the turntable and set the
time for 30 seconds on the high, or cook setting. Some models have a quick
heat control for this where the timer doesn’t even need to be set. If
its still not quite hot enough, just heat it for a further 10 seconds
or so and check it again. Give the mug a stir or allow it to stand for
a few more seconds to even out the temperature.
Another good way of finding out how quickly each heat setting works is to
put a mug of cold water on the turntable, then set the timer for a minute on
one setting, to see how hot the water gets. Empty that water away then
repeat with the same amount of water on each heat setting. Remember
the higher the temperature is, and the longer the time is set for, the hotter
the water will get. The outside of the mug will get warmer to
the touch as the water gets hotter. A large mug full of water will take
longer to heat than a small cup.
Heat settings are variable and adaptable. For instance, your instruction
book might say that you should cook porridge for so long on a high setting ,
but you may want to cook it for longer on a lower one, preferring the texture
of the cooked oatmeal. One thing that is very important to bare in mind
though is that if you heat or cook a food with any type of liquid in it, be
it tinned baked beans or tomatoes, it will still bubble up, or over if left
in the microwave for too long or heated through on too high a setting. Never
heat food in a container dish or plate that’s too small for it. Don’t
fill a dish or container right up to the top.
Sue’s Kitchen – Heating up Tinned Food
You’re small microwave lidded saucepan is ideal for holding the contents
of a tall tin, approximately 400-to 450 G, of baked beans, tomatoes, spaghetti,
meat in gravy etc. Open the can or tin and tip the contents
into the saucepan and put the lid on. Now put the saucepan on the centre
of the turntable, set the heat to medium and time for 4 or 5 minutes. If
your tin is smaller, set the time for less, if you’re heating a larger amount,
use a bigger saucepan or dish and set the time for a couple of minutes longer.
If you’re heating a canned meat containing a sauce or gravy, remember
its important to stir it regularly.
Sue’s Kitchen Warming Soup
Fresh, chilled or canned soup can be tipped into individual bowls or
poured straight into mugs which saves dividing it into portions when its hot.
Set the heat to medium and warm for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring to remove
any cold spots and even out the temperature. Heat for longer if needed,
stirring regularly until hot.
Sue’s Kitchen – Cooking Frozen Vegetables
Unlike cooking vegetables on the hob, very little water is needed to cook
them in the microwave. Tip the required amount of frozen peas, sweet corn,
carrots, green beans, etc., into a microwave dish or saucepan and add just a
few tablespoons of cold water. Put on the lid. Place the dish on
the turntable, set the microwave on a medium high setting and time for 4 or
5 minutes for peas or sweet corn and a little longer, between 7 and 9 minutes
for slightly larger chunks or slices of frozen carrots, onions, whole
baby corn, and French or green beans. Remember you can open the door at
any time to check on them. Carefully uncover the container, remembering
that steam will escape and rise as you lift the lid. Please use oven gloves
when handling heat conductive cookware. Insert the tines of a fork to
feel if the vegetables are cooked to your liking. When they
are just soft, drain carefully into a colander standing in your sink. You’ll
discover that some vegetables will absorb the water more than others. Frozen
vegetables will take longer than fresh vegetables cooked from room temperature.
Sue’s Kitchen – Cooking Raw Mushrooms
Fresh raw mushrooms can be wiped, broken into bite sized pieces, put in your
saucepan or dish, covered and cooked on medium for 4 or 5 minutes, by which
time there will probably be some natural juice in the bottom and your mushrooms
will be moist yet still firm and full of flavour. Adjust temperatures
and cooking times to suit your taste. If they dry up too much shorten
the cooking time, if they don’t get hot enough or are still a bit crunchy, lengthen
the time by a minute. If you simply don’t like their texture on one setting,
alter it, adjusting time and temperature until you’re completely satisfied.
Add several tablespoons of cold water to a casserole dish with shelled peas,
sweetcorn kernels etc and cook on high power for 4 or 5 minutes or until just
soft when tested with a fork. Don’t cook for too long, check them regularly
to prevent overcooking.
Sue’s Kitchen – Heating up Ready Meals
Your microwave will be categorised according to its power rating, e.g. category
C, D, E etc. Always follow precise instructions on each meal,
remember that they are there for guidance only. Remove and discard
outer packaging if stated. Pierce film lids and lift or ventilate food
covering if necessary. Adjust cooking times accordingly. Make sure that
all food is piping hot throughout before serving. Allow food to stand
if stated. Remember to add on more time when following the instructions on a
chilled meal when you’re cooking it from frozen. Stand the ready meal
container on a dinner plate, then when its heated through, carefully remove
the film or lid, remember that steam might rise, turn the container upside down
over the plate using a spoon to make sure all the contents has been tipped
out, then its ready to take straight to the table. Try some of the ready
meal accompaniments or snacks, like microchips, burgers in buns plus many world
cuisine starters and accompaniments.
Sue’s Kitchen – Cooking Porridge
I’ve often been asked how I cook porridge in the microwave. This, of
course, very much depends on the type of oatmeal used. The instant ready
breck or quick oat cereals work perfectly if packet instructions are followed
and are ready to eat in a couple of minutes but “proper” porridge as I call
it, made with porridge oats does take longer and is a little more tricky to
get right. Again, results will vary according to your microwave’s power
rating, the time its cooked for, the amount of liquid added and the coarseness
of oatmeal used.
I make my porridge in individual portions. Its very important to get
the shape of the dish right. I use a wide, fairly deep traditional soup
bowl that’s about 7 to 8 inches 17 and a half to 20 cm wide and 3 or 4
inches, 7 and a half to 10 cm deep.
Stand the dish on a plate that’s just a bit wider than the base of the dish
this makes it easy to lift in and out of the microwave, particularly when
it gets hot.
Use the quarter cup measure from your set of measuring cups and fill it right
up to the top, (a heaped cup) with porridge oats and tip them into the dish.
Now add cold water. Depending on how thick you like your porridge
to be, between 2 and a half to 3 times as much, i.e. to your one full
cup of oats, put in either 2 and a half or 3 cups of cold water. Give
it a quick stir and put the dish on its plate into the microwave.
Cook on a medium heat for 7 and a half to 9 minutes or until the oatmeal
has thickened and is piping hot. Lift out, holding on to the plate, not
the dish which will be very hot, then add your chosen sweetener or flavouring
and/or a little cold milk, I add a small spoon of set honey and stir in until
dissolved. You can make your porridge with half milk half water but its
unnecessary as porridge has a lovely rich creamy texture and flavour.
If adding dried fruit, remember to put in a little more cold water as the
fruit will absorb it during cooking.
Sue’s Kitchen – Microwave Settings
The highest, or cook setting, is used for jacket potatoes, fresh vegetables,
meat, cakes, puddings, scrambled egg, boiling milk, cooking rice or pasta. In
fact, Any foods which aren’t cooked at all or food which needs a high setting
or temperature in order to boil or cook through thoroughly. Recipes containing
larger quantities of liquid are often set on high to ensure that the meat or
vegetables are cooked properly. This power setting
is also excellent for quickly re-heating a meal on a dinner plate, or heating
up a hot drink.
To get an idea of what the highest setting on your microwave can do, start
by cooking a jacket potato. Choose a medium sized one, give it a wash,
prick it with a fork in several places then put it on a large plate. Put
the plate on the turntable and set the time for 7 or 8 minutes and the
power to high. After 2 or 3 minutes you might hear the potato begin to
hiss and smell it as it starts to cook. Open the door, feel the potato
and use the prongs of a fork to gauge how its getting on, it’ll still
be quite hard at this stage. Close the door and press the start or cook
button again to continue cooking and timing, check it after another couple of
By this time your potato will be softer, when the fork goes right into the
potato easily and smoothly, its ready. Amazingly you’ve just cooked
something which takes a good hour or so in a conventional oven which really
just shows and proves a microwave’s worth. Unfortunately the skin won’t
be crispy, unless you have a convection setting to finish it off for you, alternatively
it can be baked in a conventional oven for half an hour afterwards to crisp
up the skin.
Scrambled egg cooks like magic. Lightly grease the inside of your microwave
casserole dish, break 2 or 3 eggs into it, add a few tablespoons of cold milk
and beat well. Set the microwave to high or cook. Put the dish on
the turntable and time for 2 and a half 2 3 and a half minutes or until the
eggs are firm to the touch and you can’t feel any liquid in the bottom of the
dish after you’ve let it rest for 30 seconds. If you could see the eggs
cooking, you’d notice that they rise up in the dish which apparently looks amazing!
The eggs deflate and drop down when the microwave stops. Eggs cook
quickly so don’t time them for too long at first.
Hot milk which has to come to the boil to obtain the right flavour can be
poured into a fairly large mug filled not quite up to the top, put on the turntable
and microwaved on high for 1 and a half to 2 minutes. Larger amounts
for 2 or 3 mugs, should be measured into a large plastic jug, placed onto the
turntable and micro waved for 4 or 5 minutes on high. You can buy a No
Boil Over jug from Lakeland which prevents milk from boiling over, its special
design funnels the boiling milk back down into the jug. Please don’t ever
heat milk for too long, if you think it may have overheated, leave it to cool
in the microwave for a couple of minutes. Like many sauces and custards
it forms a skin on the top when it reaches a certain temperature, sealing in
the hot liquid below. If this skin should burst as you move the mug or
jug and stir the contents, it has the potential to burst, showering you and
the microwave with boiling liquid.
Sue’s Kichen – Cooking Fresh, Raw Vegetables
Prepare your fresh vegetables in the usual way, add enough cold water to
cover the base of a microwave casserole dish or saucepan, and put in the vegetables.
Cover and microwave on full power for 8 to 12 minutes according
to the amount you’re cooking. Consult your microwave’s recipe booklet
for guidance. Generally the smaller the amount of vegetables, the less
water you’ll have to add and the less time they’ll need to cook for. There
will be a time difference, depending on the size of chunks or slices. For
example, sliced carrots, potatoes, or whole baby corn will take longer than
sliced green beans. You may need to experiment with some vegetables adjusting
times and temperatures before you get the best results to suit your taste.
For example, my recipe book says that I should cook 3 portions of sliced
carrots on full power for 8 or 9 minutes, but I prefer them cooked on medium
high for 11 or 12, they seem to keep their flavour and crunchy texture best
cooked that way. My sliced green beans are cooked more slowly with more
water for several minutes longer than it says in my book. It really is
a matter of trial and error and personal preference. (Please see my section
on Preparing Vegetables for more detailed information).
Sue’s Kitchen – Cooking Rice, Pulses and Pasta
Rice, pulses and pasta have to be cooked in a large, deep sided dish. Measure
out the required amount, tip it into the container and add just enough cold
water to cover well. Cover the dish and set the microwave to high for
10 to 12 minutes depending on How much you’re cooking. Test
with a fork, when the prongs slide into the pasta or pulses easily, they are
cooked. You will find that rice will absorb the water, scoop a little
up into a slotted spoon, let it cool for 30 seconds and then test the grains.
Alternatively, buy pouches of express microwave rice. Cut a slot in the
top of the pouch and stand it on the turntable, cook for 2 minutes and its ready
Sue’s Kitchen – Cooking Meat
Uncooked (raw), whole chickens, or chicken portions cook well, remaining moist
and succulent. Discard all wrapping. Make sure that the bird does
not have any giblets inside its cavity. Wipe over with damp kitchen paper.
Put the chicken into a large covered dish or container, legs downward.
Add several tablespoons of cold water. Cook on high power
for between 12 and 15 minutes for portions or 20 to 30 minutes for
a whole bird. Consult your microwave book for precise cooking times and
Add more time if cooking from frozen.
To see whether its cooked, test it by inserting the point of a small sharp kitchen knife into the chicken, it
should go in easily, leave it to stand for several minutes then make sure that
there are no cool areas underneath the bird and that any juices run clear. If
you’re in any doubt at all, re-cover and cook for a further few minutes and
check it again.
ready-Cooked chickens available from the hot food section of your supermarket
reheat brilliantly on the high setting. Remove the bag or wrapping, stand
the chicken on a large plate legs facing down and cook for 7 to 10 minutes
depending on size until completely heated through. Leave to stand for
several minutes and check that there aren’t any cool spots, if there are, just
put the chicken back in for another couple of minutes and test it again.
I always keep a cooked chicken in the freezer too as its so versatile for
providing a Sunday lunch, a chicken stir fry or casserole or just to eat with
oven chips. Freeze on day of purchase then simply take it straight out
of the freezer when you need it. Remove the bag or wrapping, put the chicken
on a plate and reheat on high power for 9 to 12 minutes or until piping hot
throughout. Allow to stand for a few minutes to make sure that the meat
is a uniform temperature throughout before serving. Now, if you like your
chicken skin crisp, just pop it onto a deep-sided tin and cook in a medium hot
oven for about 15 minutes or until it feels crisp on top. Serve immediately,
never allow it to stand at room temperature for too long.
Never refreeze reheated or cooked meat for a second time. (Please see my section on cooking
meat for more precise information.
Mince and tender chunks of meat cook fairly quickly. The microwave
is helpful in warming through or partly cooking these, ready to add to a stew,
stir fry or casserole. I’ll leave you to experiment with them. Personally
I don’t think a great deal of cooking time is saved and the texture can easily
be spoiled if meat is overdone.
The same applies to lamb or pork chops or joints, I know people do cook them
in the microwave but I prefer the traditional oven to provide me with that lovely
lazy Sunday morning lunch aroma.
If you like your bacon sandwiches, buy a bacon crisper. It is a plastic
grid which sits on a plate letting the bacon cook uniformly and quickly on both
sides, while any fat drains on to the plate below. Cooked on high
power, 2 or 3 rashers of uncooked bacon laid out separately on the rack
are ready in just a couple of minutes or so. It won’t be very crispy though.
Cooked bacon heats through in about 1 minute, and if you time it just right,
it keeps its oven baked flavour and crispness. I always cook some in my
ordinary oven and freeze it. Perfect for an early breakfast or late night
Sausages, pricked with a fork, laid out on the bacon crisper to give all
round heat distribution, cooked on high power are ready in a few minutes and
you can also buy microwave sausages which are fairly successful.
Cooked sausages are even better, as, like bacon if cooked conventionally
first, they heat up quickly and successfully in the microwave. Again, why not
cook and freeze, calling on the fast action of your microwave to provide you
with a quick sausage sandwich.
Sue’s Kitchen – Cooking Stews and Casseroles.
Consult your microwave recipe book for specific directions and recipe ideas.
Personally, I still prefer mine cooked either in the oven or on the hob.
Its true that most can be cooked in about half the time but it’s a nuisance
to have to keep checking on them, stirring regularly and making sure that there
is enough liquid in the dish. I’m not going to pass judgement though,
try a selection and then see what you think.
Pre-cooked stews, casseroles, chilli con carne, bolognaise, shepherds pie
and other meals re-heat brilliantly. I cook them conventionally on the
hob or in the oven then freeze what’s left. Its so lovely to be
able to pull a meal, straight from the freezer and have it ready in a few minutes.
Remember that something containing a sauce or gravy is going to take a
fair time to heat through. Leave it in the bowl or dish that you froze
it in, cover with a lid, set the oven to high power and time for a few minutes.
Check it, stir it, and cook again for another few minutes, checking
and stirring until piping hot. Do not refreeze again.
Sue’s Kitchen – Cooking Fish
Most fresh or “wet” fish cooks well in the microwave on the highest power
setting. Cook in a covered dish with a few tablespoons of water
added. Two fresh skinless boneless salmon steaks or fillets put in a dish
with either a small amount of water or a knob of butter and perhaps a dash of
lime or lemon juice, then covered and cooked on high power, will be ready
in about 8 to 10 minutes. Add more time if cooking from frozen. Serve
when piping hot and soft when tested with the prongs of a fork. Try pressing
the top surface of the fish with a finger if its done, it should feel soft and
slightly ridged. The fish should flake or fall apart when its well cooked.
Please consult your own microwave’s recipe book and cook according to weight,
thickness and type of fish.
Crumbed, or battered fish doesn’t cook well in the microwave, it has a tendency
to dry out and won’t crisp up. However, unbreaded prawns and specially
prepared vacuum packed seafood such as mussels in a garlic butter dressing cook
well if precise instructions are followed. Remember to pierce packaging
before cooking. An individual portion of Pre-packed Fish in a cheese or
butter sauce will be ready to eat in 6 or 7 minutes from frozen, but don’t forget
to snip a hole in the bag first. Take extra care when tipping out the
fish as steam will come out of the bag.
Sue’s Kitchen – Cooking Cakes and Puddings
Home made Sponge puddings cook quickly on high power in the microwave. An
individual pudding 100 to 150 G, takes from as little as 2 minutes. Make
them in a lightly greased cup or small bowl. Follow recipes given in your
microwave cookbook for precise details. Larger sponge or suet sponges
filled with cooked meat or fruit, take longer, up to 8 or 9 minutes dependent
on size, refer to your microwave’s recipe book for precise instructions and
There are some lovely chilled or frozen cooked fruit, syrup sponge puddings
and fruit crumbles on sale in your local supermarket just ready to heat through
very quickly on high power. Most come packed in plastic pudding bowls
so all you need to do is remove foil lids and re-cover or slightly lift the
plastic film or lid before microwaving. Individual puds
100 to 150G, only take a minute or so on high power. Stand the pudding
in a dessert dish on the turntable, then when its hot, remove the lid, turn
the pud upside down in the dish and discard the empty container.
Serve with fresh or ready made custard, poured into a microwave jug then heated gently
for 1 to 3 minutes on medium power, depending on the amount. Stir custard
after each minute to prevent a skin forming on the top.
Portions of home made cooked puddings, fruit pies, crumble, etc., put into
a dish and warmed on medium heat, keep their texture well, just don’t
heat them for too long. Microwave in small increments checking regularly.
Add custard or cream and they are ready to take straight to the table.
In my opinion, having made them myself, right from scratch, home made sponge
cakes and light fruit cakes, cooked in the microwave just don’t have the unique
texture and flavour of those that I bake in the traditional way in the oven.
They do cook quickly, ready to be eaten almost straight away. I’ll
leave it up to you to decide, it is just a matter of taste and personal preference.
It will be very much a case of trial and error to get the cooking time
and the cake texture just right. Follow the precise advice given in your
microwave recipe book.
I always keep portions of cooked sponge and fruit cake in the freezer. Put
on a plate and microwaved on defrost for a couple of minutes results in a perfect
teatime treat. Frozen fresh cream cakes, scones, fruit tarts etc., reheated
gently on defrost for a couple of minutes and left to stand for a few minutes
afterward work out perfectly.
Cooked mince pies heat well too on defrost, but add a little more time if
heating from frozen.
Sue’s Kitchen – Useful Hints and Tips
Make sure you always use microwaveable cookware.
Never use metal or gold rimmed cookware in the microwave.
Never leave metal or stainless steel utensils, i.e. spoons, forks, etc
in a dish while its cooking.
Always remove metal or paper covered wire or plastic twist ties from
bags before defrosting, heating or cooking food.
Never use kitchen foil, foil dishes, or foil wrap in the microwave.
Always pierce plastic film lids on chilled food containers or snip a
small hole in bags to ventilate food before cooking.
Always cover food if stated in the recipe or as instructed on packaging
Make sure that Clingfilm used to cover dishes is suitable for
Always ventilate or pierce film covering.
Always follow recipe instructions which state that you should Stir food
regularly, sauces, custards, gravy, hot milk, or any food that
could form a skin on top could be dangerous if this isn’t done. If
a spoon is inserted into a very hot or boiling liquid which has set or formed
a skin on its top surface, could explode and splash exposed skin on hands
and face causing burns and scalds. This can’t happen if liquids are
agitated or stirred at regular intervals during heating or cooking.
Never run the microwave without anything in it.
Never run it with an empty container on the turntable.
Always follow a recipe carefully when it uses kitchen towel or paper
towel to wrap and cook small items, paper dries out quickly in the microwave.
Never add salt, seasoning, spices and herbs to a recipe unless otherwise
stated, adding too much to a dish containing very little liquid will spoil
Always leave food to stand if stated in recipe instructions, follow
manufacturers advice on food packaging too, this allows for even heat distribution.
Never use any abrasive or chemical cleaners on the interior of your
microwave, a wipe over with a soft damp cloth immersed in a solution of
mild soapy water then wrung out well, is all that’s needed to remove
any splashes or splatters. Get into the habit of checking the oven
every day, if you notice any bits of food on the turntable or sticky patches
on the inside, they can be wiped away very quickly and easily.
Remember that even though your microwave’s interior will only get very slightly warm during cooking, any containers, plates or bowls used
will get hot as the contents heats up.
Remember that you can open the oven door and check food at any time,
but be careful as containers and food may be hot.
When the door is closed and the cook button pressed, cooking will resume and the time will
continue to count down.
Care should be taken when removing lids or covers straight after cooking
as hot steam may burn your hands if they are unprotected. Steam will
also come out through vents, pouring spouts, lips or holes made in the top
of film covers and around the edge of lids as food gets hotter and also
at the time you lift food out of the microwave.
Always use oven gloves to lift out hot dishes and food.
Remember to add on more time if cooking food from frozen.
All cooking instructions on outer packaging of shop bought foods will
give an approximate rough guide to cooking times, all microwaves vary.
Depending on their power rating and the heat setting used.
Microwaves are categorized by letter, according to their power rating.
Remember to add on more time when your following the cooking instructions
on a shop bought chilled meal or food that you’ve frozen and are then going
to heat or cook straight from the freezer.
Make sure that all food is piping hot before serving, all cooking times
on chilled or frozen meals or given in recipes are for guidance only.
Always allow for standing time if stated on packaging.
To prevent food overcooking, set the time for a little less than estimated
and check the progress frequently until you know how long it takes
to cook a particular food.
If microwaving is new to you, begin by cooking a jacket potato, heating
up cold water, reheating a hot drink or defrosting sliced bread. This
will show you what the various settings on your microwave will do.
All cooking times depend on how much food is being cooked at once, and
How liquid, moist or dense a particular food is.
If your microwave retains cooking odours, heat a mug of water with a
few drops of lemon juice added, leave in the microwave until cold.
The interior top and sides of an ordinary microwave will never
Never put your hands inside a combination model when its cooking on
or has just been used on a grill or fan assisted setting, without wearing
Ensure that the ventilation grid or grill on top of the microwave is
kept clear and uncovered at all times.
Make sure there is room for the air to circulate all around the microwave
when its in position on your worktop.
All contact details and up-to-date product specifications can be found on their website. www.cobolt.co.uk.