The Microwave Oven: Do You Actually Cook With Yours?

20071015microwave.jpgThe Minimalist, Mark Bittman, and the Curious Cook, Harold McGee, pose all kinds of interesting questions and provide answers about the microwave oven, the kitchen appliance we all love to hate, in today's New York Times.

Bittman's fundamental question: We all use a microwave, but can we make it cook?

His conclusion, one he came to through trial and error and by interviewing Microwave Gourmet author Barbara Kafka, is that microwaves are great for steaming everything from vegetables to puddings both sweet and savory.

What do Kafka and McGee have to say about microwaving?

From Kafka, the acknowledged microwave cooking expert, we learn we should not trust the microwave cooking times we see in older recipes because microwave ovens are now more than 50 percent more powerful than they once were. She says to check the label to see the wattage and "go slowly—you can always add, but you can't take away."

McGee tells us that putting metal in a microwave is perfectly safe. Just "don't put (metal) bowls or (aluminum) foil too close to each other, or the oven walls, since that can cause sparking. Metal fork tines are especially likely to spark."

I don't know, I've seen the sparking he refers to, and I for one do not plan on putting any metal in our microwave anytime soon.

McGee recommends using a microwave for popcorn flavored with spices, nonerupting polenta, and hot foamed milk for coffee.

What do you use your microwave for? Has your opinion about microwave ovens changed after reading Bittman and McGee?