May 27

Microwave Without the Mush

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by Julie Baker

A microwave is a fantastic and quick way to prepare a meal. Unfortunately, the results of the microwaved meal can vary. Some meals, such as soups, heat to a perfect temperature and consistency. Other meals, like chicken tenders, become mushy on the outside and dry or rubbery on the inside.

The convenience of the microwave is what keeps it a household staple. Thankfully, there are ways to reduce microwave mushiness.

Why Do Microwaves Make Crispy Things Mushy? 

Microwaves cause molecules within foods to vibrate. The friction between the molecules causes them to heat up, cooking the food.

The drawback to microwave cooking is that it occurs in a closed space. With nowhere to go, the moisture from the food and cooking process cannot escape. When the heating or cooking is complete, the moisture returns to the top of the food item, soaking in. As the water molecules absorb back into the food, they create mush.

How To Reduce or Eliminate Mushiness in the Microwave 

There is no way to eliminate the production of steam or moisture in the microwave. However, there are several ways to reduce the amount of moisture that seeps back into food. Essentially, you will need to focus on precise cooking over speed. Additionally, you will need to create a barrier between the food and the interior of the micro. Finally, it would help to focus on cooking only food items that do well in the microwave oven.

1. Use Medium Heat

People turn to microwaves for rapid cooking. Unfortunately, fast results rely on higher temperatures, causing the quick release of moisture.

Part of the mushy food problem occurs when cooking food too fast on high heat. You can improve the texture of your food by reducing the heat settings on your microwave. For crispier or not soggy food, you want to cook items on medium heat. Medium heat reduces the rate water escapes the food, resulting in fewer mushy results.

2. Use a Paper Towel

Part of avoiding mushy microwave results is understanding the problem of unavoidable moisture. When you realize that condensation will occur during the cooking process, you can plan for excess.

Paper towels are your best friends when it comes to microwave cooking. By placing a towel underneath and on top of the food item, you allow a barrier for absorption.

3. Check Food Temperature

Microwave ovens can heat beyond the desired temperature for a food item. Foods that become overheated in the micro will release excess moisture, becoming soggy. You can avoid overheating things by checking the temperature throughout the cooking process.

4. Avoid Certain Batters

Microwave ovens are also not suitable for all foods. For instance, tempura batter — a light, thin batter for Japanese-style cooking — is impossible to microwave. The batter always comes out soggy or mushy no matter what tricks you use. You can use cornflake or breadcrumb batter for better results.

Microwave ovens are helpful appliances. Unfortunately, like most kitchen gadgets, the tool has its quirks. When using a micro to reheat or cook meals, you want to focus on temperature, barriers, and food that work best. The right combination of heat, moisture barrier, and food can resolve any mushiness.


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