The microwave cooks food with energy created by microwave emissions at high frequency, which activate the water molecules in the food and the agitation created produces heat which cooks or reheats food.
It can be used to cook food in its entirety, partially, reheat food or even to defrost food. You can save up to three-quarters of the time taken by conventional methods, for his reason it is often called the refuge of the lazy and/or disorganised cook. This is because the microwave does nothing for the flavour of food and in many cases provides a far inferior tasting finished product to a conventional option, but it sure is quick. That said it does cut cooking odours and minimise the shrinkage of meats or fish and it is useful for small quantities of food.
The interior needs to be kept clean at all times. Metal or gilded containers should never be used. Also the door seal should be checked regularly, if it is damaged the microwave should not be used until it is repaired.
I’ll admit that our microwave gets a lot of use in our kitchen for three purposes, the first is for making porridge in the morning and this falls into the lazy/disorganised category as I just can’t be bothered with saucepans and watching when I’m still just waking up myself, mix the porridge in the bowl, bung it in the microwave and ninety seconds later I stir in some mashed banana and eat my breakfast. The second is for heating Elly’s “hotpack” that she uses instead of a hot-water bottle.
The final and most frequent use that our microwave gets is as a bread box, it’s big enough to hold 2 full loaves and it’s an airtight container, you just have to remember to let the oven cool before placing the bread inside and closing the door.
When shallow frying, the food is cooked in a small quantity of fat or oil. There are four different types of shallow frying.
Shallow frying where the food is fried on both sides in oil or fat in a frying pan.
Sauté where the food is tossed in hot fat or oil to cook quickly. A sauté pan is ideal but a frying pan can be used
Griddle fried where the food is cooked quickly on a lightly oiled hot plate or Griddle pan.
Stir-fried where the food is tossed in hot fat or oil over a very high heat, usually done in a wok but a frying or sauté pan can also be used in an emergency.
This is a quick method that can add colour, flavour (from the oil or fat) and a crisp finish to most foods as required.
It’s important to use a pan of a suitable size for the food that you intend to cook and not to crowd the pan as this can affect the quality of the result. As always care should be taken when moving hot pan and especially when tossing a pan with hot oil in it. Finally never leave a pan unattended as oil and fat can catch fire when too hot.
Grilling is a great way to cook small quantities of food by radiant heat. There are 3 types of grilling, grilling with heat from below (e.g. the barbecue); grilling with heat from above, what our friends across the pond in the U.S. call broiling (e.g. the grill in your kitchen); and grilling “toaster” style between heated bars or plates (e.g. the George Foreman-style grills).
Essentially the food is cooked on top, below or between the heat source(s). With the exception of the “toaster” style of grilling the food is visible and this makes it easy to see when the food is cooked. Any excess fat is usually lost in the grilling process which makes it healthier and it’s usually quick to adjust the heat level while cooking as well as get a good colour and crisp finish.
It’s important to prepare your grill well before beginning to cook on it, making sure to clean them regularly and remove fat and grease to prevent it starting a fire.
Steaming is my favourite way to cook green veg like Broccoli, French beans etc. as it retains so much of the nutritional value in the food, it gives a great colour to veg as well and it’s difficult to over cook food when steaming (not impossible, but you really have to try 😉 )
There are two types of steaming Atmospheric and High Pressure.
When atmospheric steaming the food is cooked by the action of the steam, so it’s important that the food is separated from the water, this can be done by using an atmospheric steamer or a steaming basket in a normal saucepan.
High pressure steaming requires specialist equipment in the form of a pressure cooker and is generally more suitable for cooking small quantities of food. Foods are cooked much faster by pressure cooking than by most other methods, so dishes can be ready sooner. Less energy is required than when boiling, atmospheric steaming or oven cooking. Since less water is necessary, the foods come to cooking temperature faster.
With all steaming it’s important to check the water level and temperature before you start and to be aware of the risk of scalding. When lids are removed there is going to be a cloud of steam rising and this can give a very bad burn so always protect yourself.
Also remember to time foods carefully when using a pressure cooker.
Poaching sounds like it should be really easy and it can be, however it’s also very precise in terms of cooking time and this is what catches a lot of people out when poaching food. The main advantage of poaching is that it allows fragile food to be cooked gently.
Just like boiling you can use water or stock, but you can also use milk when poaching but unlike boiling you don’t want the liquid to boil at any point during the cooking process. The ideal temperature is between 80C and just below boiling point.
There are three different methods of poaching Deep, Shallow and Oven poaching
Shallow Poaching is when food is lowered gently into the liquid and removed individually. e.g.chicken or fish
Deep Poaching is when food is placed into deep liquid, sometimes on a rack. e.g. eggs or Salmon
Oven Poaching is when food is placed in a shallow dish with minimum liquid, then covered and cooked in an oven. e.g. chicken and salmon
There are many specific utensils that can be used for poaching such as bratt pans and fish kettles but you can also use your regular saucepans on the cooker top and oven proof dishes for oven poaching.
Another plus of poaching is that the liquid can generally be used to make some great sauces to go along with your dish. Poaching fish in milk? Use the poaching liquid to make a bechamel sauce, add some tarragon and nyom!
When poaching you must be gentle when immersing the food in the cooking liquid, and it should be removed from the liquid as soon as cooked, for this reason I use a timer whenever I’m poaching anything. if I’m poaching fish, I’ll set the timer a little short and check the fish just to make sure it doesn’t get overcooked.