In the past year, propane cost has inflated so much that our bills do not decrease even when we conscientiously use less fuel. So Penelope and I have learned that it is more efficient to heat water in the microwave before using it to cook on the stove or other appliances. Because a microwave oven heats water much faster than other means, we can cut the costs of cooking with our stove, slow cooker, or oven by taking this step.
In cooking rice, for example, we start with microwaved water which comes to a boil in less than a minute, allowing us to turn the stove to low for the remainder of the cooking process. Usually, a large pot of rice takes five to ten minutes to come to a boil–or longer if it contains chicken and vegetables (our dogs’ food).
Our new slow cooker also takes several hours to bring a pot of chicken to a boil. If we had thought to begin with heated water, it would have cost very little to maintain that temperature, whereas heating is the most expensive use of electricity.
A microwave oven works by exciting water molecules to motion and the water produces heat. This is significantly more efficient than other appliances which produce heat and then transfer it to your food by diffusion, losing much energy along the way. Water is especially resistant to temperature change, making heating by diffusion very expensive.
A water molecule has a positive end and a negative end (like a magnet). A microwave is an electromagnetic wave which causes the molecules to turn—like passing a strong magnet over a group of weaker magnets.
While some people have concerns about potential health risks associated with microwave ovens, the levels of radiation emitted by a microwave during operation is rated by the FDA as being safe for humans. It is also a non-ionizing form of radiation which is not associated with cancer risk. Microwaves are also used for wireless internet access, broadcasting, cable TV, and mobile phones. Like television and computer screens, which we all know to emit radiation, I definitely think the benefits of using microwave ovens outweigh the risks.
Some Non-Pecuniary Benefits of Using a Microwave Oven
- Less risks of burns—A microwave oven only heats the food it cooks and not its own parts, so you do not have dangerously hot surfaces to mind during and after cooking. Cookware in the microwave is heated by the food they contain and are not as hot as cookware removed from stove or oven.
- Less risk of food poisoning—A microwave is the fastest means of bringing food temperature from the safe cold zone (below 40˚ F) to the safe hot zone (above 170˚ F). By reducing the time your food spends in the in-between temperature which germs love, you consume less bacterial toxins (which may remain in the food even after the bacteria are killed).
- Less cancer risk—A microwave oven cooks by heating water contained in foods and so does not form carcinogens from charring as cooking on stove or oven.
- NEVER EVER cook with the microwave door open. Most ovens don’t allow it, but there may be a rare exception or old model. You might end up cooking yourselves. Make sure your kids know this.
- Never allow small pets near or in the microwave oven.
- Metal utensils in the microwave may cause sparking, changing normal air into harmful gases. Check teabags for metal staples before putting in the microwave. Also Watch out for foil-lined packages and metallic paints on ceramics.
- Beware of excessively heated water and liquids. Overheated contents may explode when surface tension is broken. Always hold microwaved containers of water far from your face (and other people) and drop in your first spoonful of coffee at an arms length. If you think you have heated something too long, let it sit and cool undisturbed in the oven for a minute or two.