Tips

Microwave Cooking

There are two types of rays, firstly IONIZING RAYS (like x-rays, gamma rays as also cosmic rays which being short build up in the body and are harmful), and secondly NON-IONIZING RAYS which do not build up in the body and hence are non-hazardous. Sun-light, radio and television rays and microwaves are all non-ionizing rays. Microwaves are high-frequency electromagnetic waves which release energy to food to cook or reheat without changing either the form or the colour. Microwave cooking isn't really so different from traditional cooking and the factors that affect the cooking time for conventional methods of cooking also apply here. However, the following factors need to be borne in mind.

One can use microwave oven to :

Defrost
Reheat
Cook

The microwaves generated by the magnetron are distributed uniformly as the food rotates on the glass plate. The food is thus cooked evenly.

The microwaves are absorbed by the food up to a depth of about 25 mm. (1"). Cooking then continues as the heat is distributed within the food.

Cooking times vary according to the following properties of the food :

Quantity and density
Water Content
Initial temperature (refrigerated or not)

As the centre of the food is cooked by heat distribution, cooking continues even when you have taken the food out of the oven. Standing times specified in recipes must therefore be respected to ensure both even cooking of the food right to the centre as also achieving the same temperature throughout the food.

Appropriate ARRANGEMENT of food in your microwave can help the food cook better. Arrangement with thicker, slower cooking pieces towards the outside edge usually works best. The food in the centre is generally the last to cook.

Using the proper UTENSIL makes a difference too. Food tends to cook more evenly in round dishes than others, and food spread out in a shallow dish will cook faster than the same food placed in a narrow deep dish.

Microwave Cookware
Modifying Microwave Recipes
Measuring Cups, spoons and jugs
Measuring Liquids
Emergency substitutes
Glossary of Cooking Techniques
Glossary of Ovenware
Useful Tips


Microwave Cookware


To cook food in the microwave oven, the microwaves must be able to penetrate the food, without being reflected or absorbed by the dish used. Care must therefore be taken when choosing the cookware. If the cookware is marked microwave-safe, you do not need to worry. To test if your glass / china / earthenware / plastic ware is microwavable, place it in a microwave oven filled with a cup of cold tap water. Microwave on HIGH for 1 minute. If the water is warm and the container is cool, the container may be used. Aluminum foil can be used with care in small quantities to protect areas against overcooking. Sparks can occur if the foil is too close to the oven wall or if too much foil is used. China and earthenware, Porcelain, pottery, glazed earthenware and bone china are usually suitable, unless decorated with a metal trim

Covers

Covering a container in which food is cooked helps to hold the steam, keeps the food moist, distributes the heat more evenly and contains splatters and spillage.

Here are a few handy hints to help you choose the best cover for your container.

Close fitting lids of microwave-safe material may be used Plastic wraps though more versatile may melt if they touch hot food. Hence always ensure that the plastic wrap you are using is microwave-safe.

When you want retain a minimal amount steam in the dish, cover the food loosely with wax paper or damp cloth.

A paper napkin when used as a cover absorbs the grease or excess moisture.

Rice and dals are cooked uncovered to prevent spillage of water due to boiling over.

Do not use air-tight or vacuum-sealed bottles, jars or containers as microwaving might cause increase of pressure inside them and in turn may cause them to explode.

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Doneness and Standing Time

Some recipes call for standing / resting time to complete cooking and to allow the heat to distribute evenly throughout the food. For this, you may place the container without removing the lid on a flat surface or simply leave it in the microwave with the power off. It is easy to overcook foods in a microwave oven, so if the food seems nearly done, let it complete its resting time and then check for doneness. If it is still undercooked, you may microwave it further.

Modifying Microwave Recipes

Doubling or halving a microwave recipe requires careful consideration

To double a recipe, you would have to increase the liquid content by 50% only and not double it as evaporation is slower. The cooking time also increases, so it is advisable to start with 50% more time

When you halve a recipe, keep the same sized dish but reduce the cooking time by half and then increase it as required.


Measuring Cups

For dry ingredients like flour and sugar, spoon ingredients lightly into cup, then level with a knife.

For cereal and breadcrumbs, pour into a cup and level with a knife.

For solid fats, spoon into a cup and pack down firmly with a spoon, it's easier to measure fat at room temperature.

For ingredients such as shredded cheese, grated coconut chopped nuts, spoon into cup and pack down lightly.

For thin liquids like milk, pour into a spoon until full.

For thick liquids and dry ingredients pour or scoop into a spoon until full and then level with a straight edged spatula or a knife.


Measuring spoons (nested)


Sizes: - Spoons used for measuring come in sizes ranging from 1/4 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon, i.e. (1/4 teaspoon, 1/2 teaspoon, 1teaspoon and 1 tablespoon).

Uses: - Spoons are used to measure liquids and dry ingredients.

Nested measuring cups sizes: Cups range in sizes from 1/4 cup to 1 cup. i.e. they are available in 1/4 ,1/3, 1/2 and 1 cup sizes. They are used to measure dry ingredients like flour, sugar etc. and solid ingredients like fats like butter.

Measuring Jugs

Uses - They are used to measure liquids. Always read the line on a measuring jug at eye level when checking the volume of liquid. Place the measuring jug on a level surface and slowly pour the liquid into the jug until it reaches the required mark.

Relationship between teaspoon, tablespoon and cups

1 tablespoon (15 ml.) = 3 teaspoons (5 ml. Each)
3 tablespoons = 1/4 cup
4 tablespoons + 1teaspoon = 1/3 cup
6 tablespoons = 1/2 cup
8 tablespoons = 2/3 cup
13 tablespoons = 1 cup
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Measuring Liquids

1/4 teaspoon = 1.25 ml
1/2 teaspoon = 2.5 ml
1 teaspoon = 5 ml
1 tablespoon = 3 teaspoons = 15 ml
1/4 cup = 50 ml
1/3 cup = 80 ml
1/2 cup = 100 ml
3/4 cup = 150 ml
1 cup = 200 ml

Emergency substitutes

Instead of 10 gms fresh yeast,
Use 5 gms dried yeast dissolved in lukewarm water.
Instead of 1 teaspoon baking powder,
Use 1 teaspoon baking soda plus 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar.
Instead of 1 cup self-raising flour,
Use 1 cup plain flour (maida) plus 1/2 teaspoon baking powder.
Instead of 1 tablespoon cornflour,
Use 1 heaped tablespoon arrowroot.
Instead of 1 tablespoon fresh herbs, chopped (for example parsely, basil etc.)
Use 1 teaspoon dried herbs.
Instead of 1 cup salad oil,
Use 1 cup refined oil.
Instead of 1 cup desiccated coconut,
Use 1 whole fresh coconut, grated.
Instead of 1 tablespoon parsley,
Use 1 tablespoon fresh coriander.
Instead of 1 cup sour cream,
Use 1 cup cream plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice or 2 tablespoons thick curds

Glossary of Cooking Techniques

Baking

To cook by dry heat in an oven.

Basting

Moistening meat or poultry with pan juices during roasting, baking, cooking - by dry heat in oven.

Batter

Any mixture of dry ingredients and liquid that is stirred or beaten and can be poured.

Glossary of Ovenware

Baking beans

These are ceramic or metal beans that help to weigh down pastry in its pan when baking blind without a filling.

Baking sheets

These are thin, metal, rectangular sheets, sometimes with lipped edges. Good quality heavy sheets are essential for even conduction of heat and to prevent buckling.

Cake pan

These are metal, square, round or rectangular pans used for baking cakes. They can be deep or shallow. Decorative shapes are also available. Some pans have loose bases, which help in removing the cake easily.

Cake racks

These are round or rectangular footed open metal grids that enable air to circulate beneath the food during cooling.

Casseroles

These are cast iron, earthenware or china cooking pots that are deep, lidded, single or double handed cooking pots. Some of them are flameproof and can be used on top of the stove as well.

Cookie and pastry cutters

These are thin, metal straight-sided cutters in geometric and naturalistic shapes and in varying sizes. They are sold individually or in sets.

Decorative moulds

These can be used for making breads, steamed or baked desserts, jellies, mousses, icecreams and bombes etc.

Flan pans

These are round and shallow pans often fluted and with removable bases. They are generally made of tinned steel, black steel or ceramic and used for baking tarts, flans and quiches.

Flan rings

These are plain or scalloped metal hoops used with a baking sheet for tarts, flans and quiches. They can also be used for layering cakes.

Gratin dishes

These are wide and shallow with straight or sloping sides and handles. They are usually flameproof so that they can be used under the broiler too.

Jelly roll pan

This is a shallow rectangular metal pan designed specifically for cooking sheets of whisked sponge.

Loaf pans

These are plain, deep rectangular pans used for baking bread and pates. Long narrow baguette pans for French bread are usually made of tinned or blued steel.

Metal skewers

These are long and thin rods with a sharp pointed end to cut through chunks of meat and vegetables. Generally used for making kebabs, piercing potatoes for baking and for testing for doneness.

Pastry wheel

This is a wooden handled cutter with fluted wheel, used to trim edges of pies decoratively.

Pie pans

These are shallow, slope sided round pans that are made of glass or metal or porcelain. They can also be used for serving at the table.

Racks

These are cradle shaped or rectangular footed grills primarily used to allow fats and juices to run free from roasting poultry and meat into the pan kept below.

Ramekins

These are individual sized souffle dishes that are also useful for baking custard and cold or hot desserts.

Ring mould

These moulds are used when baking heavy battered cakes where the central hole ensures that the heat reaches the center of the cake. The ring supports the cake on rising.

Roasting pans

These are rectangular or oval, flat based metal pans with straight or slightly sloping sides, used for cooking meat and baked dishes. Deep pans usually have integral racks.

Souffle dishes

These are straight sided, round dishes of glass, porcelain or stoneware, these are traditionally fluted. An unglazed underside allows heat to penetrate quickly.

Spring form cake pan

This has a removable base and a spring clipped side that make extraction easier.

Tartlet moulds

These are small, decoratively shaped metal moulds often with fluted sides that are ideal for petit feurs and small pastries. Cupcakes, muffins and other small buns can also be baked in pans that contain multiple moulds.

Terrines

Generally made of earthenware, they are usually oval and lidded with air vents on the top. These straight-sided containers are designed for cooking ground and chopped meat mixtures.

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Useful Tips

Caring for your Microwave
Handy tips and Quick fixes
Effective Use
Tips for Eggless Cakes
Baking Tips
Safe cooking Tips

Caring for your Microwave

Always keep your microwave oven clean and handle it gently. Do not bang the microwave doors when shutting them.

Do not cover the ventilation slots with cloth or paper. The cloth or paper may catch fire as hot air is evacuated from the oven.

Never operate the oven when empty to avoid damage to the oven walls.

Do not use metal containers, non-microwaveable plastic containers, chinaware with metal rims and recycled paper. Details given in section on Microwave cookware.

For quick microwave clean-up, heat about 1/2 cup of water to boiling point. The steam will help any spills or stains to come off more easily.

If your microwave is damaged in some way and there is leakage of the microwaves, stop using it immediately and have it checked by a professional microwave serviceman.


Handy tips and Quick fixes

Dried Mint : Just place one cup of fresh mint leaves in a glass dish and microwave on HIGH for 3 minutes. Remove and crush them lightly.

Popcorn : Just place half or cup of popping corn in a glass dish covered with a lid and microwave on HIGH for 3 minutes with 2 tablespoons of butter and salt.

Roasting : Half a cup of cashewnuts or almonds when microwaved on HIGH for 1 minute and 30 seconds make crisper nuts. Papads and spices can be roasted by microwaving for only a minute.

Blanching Almonds : Just combine 1/2 cup of almonds with a quarter cup of water and microwave on HIGH for 3 minutes. Allow to stand for 2 minutes, drain and then peel the skins.

Zero Fat Potato Wafers : Slice the potatoes thinly, soak them in ice cold water for about 10 to 15 minutes, drain and pat dry on an absorbent cloth and microwave on HIGH in a flat plate for 5 to 6 minutes or until crisp. Salt and spices may be sprinkled over later.


Effective Use

Use heat resistant glass, ceramic, china or thick plastic containers to cook in.

Cut the food into equal sized pieces to ensure that it cooks quickly and evenly.

Covering the food, holds in the steam to keep the food moist, distributes the heat evenly and causes less splatter. Use close fitting lids or microwaveable plastic film.

Some foods such as cakes and food with a crumb are cooked uncovered to promote a dry surface.

Stirring curries, rice and vegetables during cooking is most effective in distributing heat.

Whole vegetables like potatoes should be pieced before microwaving, as the heat generated during cooking creates pressure in the potato causing it to explode in the oven.

If the recipe has standing time, be patient. It is important for complete cooking.

Cook only one dish at a time, you will get better results and the flavours of each dish will be different.

Always use oven mitts while removing food from the microwave.


Tips for Eggless Cakes

Always preheat oven to the required temperature before placing the cake in the oven. Prick with a knitting needle or skewer to check if done. The needle should come out clean.

Never keep the batter to thicken. The cake will turn out hard and dry.

The cream used should always be chilled and beaten in sharp upward strokes to in corporate air. Never over beat.

While making butter icings, beat the butter well to make it light and fluffy. Then add sieved icing sugar and beat again. Add 2-3 drops lemon juice; color and essence as required, and beat again.

Turn the cake tin around between baking if the oven is not distributing even heat and the cake is baking unevenly.


Baking Tips

For perfect shaped cakes , first grease the pan, then line it with greased waxed paper. After baking, invert pan and peel off the waxed paper. No more broken corners or edges!

Muffins will slide right out of tin pans if the hot pans are first placed on a wet towel.

Cracked Cake : Cracks and uneven surface may be caused by too much flour, or too hot an oven.

To prevent nuts and fruits from sinking to the bottom of a cake during baking, warm them a bit in the oven and toss them with flour. Shake off excess flour before mixing them into the batter.

Line baking pans with foil so that they're a easy to clean.

To prepare Self Rising Flour - Mix 4 cups of flour, 2 teaspoons salt, 2 tablespoonsof double acting Baking powder . Store in lightly covered can or jar and use soon.

Put the appropriate amount of baking powder or baking soda to make a bread as too much of it may give bread a crumbly, dry texture and a bitter aftertaste. Worst come worst the batter over-rise, causing the bread to fall.

To check if your baking powder is still active, add 1 teaspoon to 1/3 cup of hot water. If it bubbles rises it's men it is still active and will give good baking results.

For decorating cakes - Use a clean, squeezable mustard bottle .To work it on the cake just fill it with the desired color & then screw on the pointed tip.

To cool a cake that has just come out of the oven, place the pan on a wet towel. The cake won't stick to the pan if it's cooled this way.

Baking cakes - All the ingredients should be at room temperature and, when a choice is made between wet and dry ingredients, use the dry ones. Always use large eggs. Use Unsalted butter as it is far superior in taste and in quality. Never go according to the receipts for the Oven Temperatures as the temperatures vary.

Peaked cake- Because of too much gluten being developed in the mixture or due to oven temperature being too high or by overbeating

Sunken cake - Due to too much sugar,or due to too much of baking powder or undercooking in a low temperature oven.

Stale cakes or pound cakes - Don't throw it as they make a great trifle, or strawberry shortcake.The fruit juice of the pudding will moisten the stale cake.

Cake in Microwave - Add a little less flour and a little more liquid to the batter.

Line baking pans with wax paper to prevent sticking.

For baking keep two kinds of white flour on hand, one with high gluten content for bread and one with low gluten content for cakes and cookies.

Always preheat oven to the required temperature before placing the cake in the oven.

Never keep the batter of the cake to thick. The cake will turn out hard and dry. Always prick with a knitting needle or skewer to check if done. The needle should come out clean.

Add 3 tbsps. dissolved gelatin (any flavor) to your favorite plain cake mix. You'll get a fruity surprise.

Don't fill cake-tins more than 3/4th full with batter, leave space for the cake to rise.

To give a pie glossy finish just brush a beaten egg white over pie crust before baking.


Safe cooking Tips

While cooking OR baking something in the oven, every time you open the oven door to check something, the temperature drops about 25 degrees.

Never use metal containers, foil, or dishes with metal trim in the microwave.

Don't plug too many appliances into the same outlet.

Use unbreakable bowls and utensils for cooking.

While cooking on the stove, make sure all pot handles are away from the edge of the stove.

Do not wear loose clothing when cooking and if you get any spills clear them from the clothes by cleaning up right away.

Wear an apron or old clothes to avoid staining good clothes.

Remember to always have an adult supervise you when you are cooking or baking.

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