Microwave cooking: browning meat

If you’re a long-time reader, you’re probably aware that in my house, the microwave oven serves two purposes only: reheating leftovers and making popcorn. I tried cooking chicken curry in a microwave years ago, I had to open the door and stir the stew every few minutes, it was too much bother and the chicken still turned out raw inside. I never tried microwave cooking again.

Then, my daughters moved to a condo near the university. Every meal, I set aside portions for them, freeze the portions and they bring frozen meals back to the condo every week which they reheat with a small microwave oven which I bought for Sam when she first moved to a condo almost two years ago.

When Alex went off to college too, we had to get a larger condo. To help her settle in, I stayed for a night, just as I did with Sam a year earlier. That was when I tried cooking rice in the microwave and made a horrible mess. The liquid bubbled, spilled out of the covered pot and cleaning the inside of the microwave made me think we should have bought cooked rice from any of the restaurants in the area. I had no idea that when cooking rice in the microwave, the bowl should be uncovered.

That was more than six months ago. At home, our (American Home) microwave conked out after less than two years, repairs and all the trouble of bringing it to the service center would cost more than a new one. Yesterday, I bought a new microwave oven. Not because I consider it an essential but because the girls who have gotten so attached to their microwave in the condo look for a microwave when they’re home on weekends.

Early this morning, when I was fixing coffee, I looked at the still boxed microwave on the kitchen floor and wondered if I had been under-utilizing the microwave oven. I went up to my study with my coffee and started Googling and reading about microwave cooking. Ah, the things I learned in half an hour. To all those who had been asking if the baked mac can be cooked in a microwave… sorry, my answer is still the same — the cheese topping won’t brown in a microwave oven. I did find out, however, that it is possible to brown meat (bacon, burgers, chops and even steaks) in the microwave.

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There’s this CorningWare piece that I inherited from an aunt about 12 or 13 years ago. I knew it could be used on the stove top but, until today, I did not understand why it has feet and why there’s a pattern underneath. I watched a video which explained it all. It’s a browning skillet and the pattern underneath is tin oxide.

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The cookware is heated in the microwave for about a minute to activate the tin oxide. Then, the meat is placed in the hot cookware and cooked on high in the microwave.

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Presto, browned meat. That’s crumbled sausage in the photos above.

So, you can guess where I’m going with this. I’m thinking of all the things I can now do with the microwave. I am aware of all the alleged health hazards attributed to the microwave oven but no one really knows what’s true and what isn’t. If we believe everything we read and hear, it is a health hazard to eat red meat, butter, shellfish… Heck, breathing polluted air 24/7 is a health hazard. So, whatever. I cooked my first microwave dish today and I’ll be posting the recipe in a while.