Can Some Classy Cookware Zap the Microwave’s Bad Rap?

It’s probably a good idea to offer a micro refresher here. Microwave ovens generate microwaves that create heat by exciting the polar molecules, notably water, in the food. Things like fans and turntables in microwave ovens help the waves come in contact with as much of the food as possible, resulting in more even cooking.

I asked Chris Young, one of the authors of Modernist Cuisine and founder of smart-thermometer company Combustion Inc., about why people would opt to use a microwave to cook something in the first place.

“Microwaves are best at cooking foods that are relatively thin and that don’t mind a bit of unevenness in the cooking temperature,” he says. “Many plant foods are ideal in this regard, and speedy heating often preserves natural aromas and sweetness in ways no other cooking technique can.”

Since I had his attention, I also asked why some metal products spark (or “arc”) in the microwave, something I was a little wary of, considering the big metal ring on the edge of each Anyday lid.

“Arcing occurs if you have two metal points close enough where the RF energy can create enough of a voltage difference to create a spark, just like a spark plug. So, the tines of a fork are bad, but a spoon is fine because there is no gap a spark can jump across. Crinkled foil can create a spark gap, a smooth metal bowl won’t.”

Lacking a gap, the metal rims on the Anyday lids don’t spark. Though if your microwave is cavernous enough, the company specifies not to put two bowls in the microwave at the same time to avoid arcing between lids.

Course Correction

After the kimchi stew, I made Anyday’s poached salmon recipe where you wilt chard leaves in coconut milk with ginger and lemongrass, then nestle the filets on top and let it cook for a few more minutes. While I wish you could print the recipes on the website (technically you can, but practically you won’t; they aren’t displayed in a printer-friendly format), I did appreciate the way you can plug in your microwave wattage and the number of courses you’re making and then see customized time settings and advice about which size bowl to use. Once again, I cooked a pleasing, not-too-complicated dish that came together in a short amount of time, perfect for a weeknight. That little voice popped up again though.

Not to get all debunk-y, it said, but couldn’t you poach the salmon or make the kimchi tofu stew in a pot on the stove in about the same amount of time? Couldn’t you also keep a better eye on it—especially delicate, easy-to-overcook protein like seafood—on the stovetop?

The company’s shrimp scampi with its garlic, butter, lemon juice, and red pepper flake combo came out very well, but also demonstrated this dilemma. The shrimp itself was just the tiniest bit tough, something I found much easier to police a few nights later, when I cooked the Shrimp Louie from the New York Times’ Five Weeknight Dishes newsletter. With the latter, I could hover over, watch, and poke the shrimp, pulling them from the hot, salty water in the lidless pot a few moments before they were done, something you can’t do when food is sealed inside a bowl in the microwave, essentially robbing you of your cooking senses. Still, the Anyday scampi recipe was great and we had it over lemony noodles, reveling in our garlicky dinner.

social experiment by Livio Acerbo #greengroundit #wired