A Food Scientist Explains Why Everyone Is Definitely Using Their Microwave Wrong

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Microwaving food is the easiest way to cook a meal, bar none. You throw your cold entree on a dish in the middle of the glass plate, punch a few buttons, and wait the painfully slow minutes until you hear the glorious ding indicating that your food is ready to eat. It doesn't get much simpler than that. There's only one problem: Rarely does microwaved food taste as good as if it was cooked in the oven.

Maybe lackluster microwaved food is something you've learned to live with. Sure, your nuggets are somehow both burnt and frozen in the middle, but that's the price you pay for a meal that's ready in under two minutes. Friends, guess what. The problem isn't the microwave; it's you. Or more accurately, it's all of us. An already-viral TikTok video shows us that the best way to microwave food isn't actually just placing your food in the middle of the plate, punching in the time, and pressing start. It's actually better to place your food (or drink if you're heating up a bev) on the edge of the plate.

@crippledbutcute#duet with @onlyjayus I was TODAY YRS OLD WHEN I LEARNED HOW TO USE A MICROWAVE PROPERLY?#NeverStopExploring #LiveFlowSweatDuet #MicroRaveWithRoni♬ STAY - The Kid LAROI & Justin Bieber

Experts In This Article

Mind blown? Food scientist Makenzie Bryson Jackson, MS, says there is a scientific reason why heating food on the edge of the plate is better than in the middle. To better understand, she explains that it's helpful to know a bit about a microwave's technology. "A microwave works by bombarding what's within it with electromagnetic radiation. The waves excite water molecules and create heat," she explains.

But here's the thing about microwaving: Jackson says that there's a phenomenon called "runaway heating," which leads to uneven cooking. "[With runaway heating], spots that are warm will heat up even more quickly once they begin to warm up. This is why you can have lava-like spots of a Hot Pocket while it's still frozen in other places," she explains. "The waves bounce around the inside of the interior box of the microwave unit until they come in contact with something they can transfer their energy to."

To counteract this, Jackson says most modern microwaves design the interior plate to rotate around so the waves bounce more uniformly off it. And placing your food on the edge of the plate ensures it is heated as evenly as possible. While Jackson says the improvement won't be super dramatic (we're just talking about a couple of inches here, after all), she does say it will help slightly. She says something else that can help heat food evenly is stirring it partway through heating. She actually says this works even better, although this trick obviously only works for certain types of foods or drinks.

Whatever type of microwave you have, Jackson has a little trick for identifying its individual hot spots: Layer marshmallows on a plate and cook 'em for 50 seconds. "The ones that puff show where your microwaves hot spots are so you can place food in those areas for faster heating," she says.

That's a whole lot of microwaving hacks that were just dropped. Who knew it could get so scientific, right? Now that you have this insider knowledge, your microwaved food will (finally!) taste just as good as if it was cooked in the oven. Now if only there was only a way to make the minutes you're waiting for your food go by faster...

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