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Food & Drinks

Can food be cooked in a microwave oven? You bet – and hey, it’s easier and safer than cooking the traditional way

Contrary to popular belief, cooking food in a microwave won’t ruin it or cause your house to blow up, argues Andrew Sun. In fact, it could save you a lot of time and energy in the kitchen. But don’t you dare reheat pizza in one, OK?

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 July, 2018, 9:02pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 July, 2018, 7:51pm

It’s not uncommon for my friends to say to me: “What the hell is wrong with you?” The latest episode of Andrew Is Weird was when I mentioned that I sometimes steam fish in the microwave.

Yes, you read that rightI sometimes prepare Cantonese-style steamed fish using that most belittled of kitchen appliances. The more paranoid among us still consider it a radiation death trap. But my working mom discovered she could cook fish this way and now I do the same thing. Done properly, it tastes just as good as cooked the traditional, and more dangerous, way.

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Hear me out. With the nuker, you take your fish, cling-film it on a dish, poke a couple of holes for steam to escape and set it to cook for five to seven minutes at medium heat (timing depends on the oven). Easy-peasy.

Alternatively, you can engage in the heavy work of getting out the wok, filling it with water, wait for it to boil, then delicately crane the plate on top of the bubbling water while praying your oven-mitted hands don’t slip, drop the fish and splash scalding hot water all over. Fish definitely tastes much better immediately after cooking it than after spending several hours in the hospital emergency ward.

For 50 years, microwaves have been in our kitchens, but there’s still a lot of lingering concern about their dangers and hazards. The next time your colleagues nuke a cup of tea in the office pantry, watch how they’ll instinctively take a couple of steps back.

As a cooking tool, it’s dismissed by very cheffy people. If the sous-vide machine is now the cool guy in high school, then the microwave remains the smart nerd who people only go to when they need help cheating a test.

The fact is, microwaves are used for everything from drying plywood to curing rubber and resin to cooking crisps. In these eco-conscious times, it’s worth noting it’s one of the most energy-efficient ways of heating and cooking food.

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There are even studies that say the microwave retains more of the vitamins and minerals in food because it is cooked more quickly, and without water diluting its nutrients. But in the back of a lot of people’s minds, they still worry a mini-Chernobyl will happen anytime they nuke leftovers a bit too long and some piece of food pops from overheating.

Irrational fears are hard to overcome. Most Hong Kong people still don’t trust tap water as being safe for drinking. People still believe MSG causes headaches. Americans think immigrants are lazy, shiftless, on welfare and stealing all their jobs at the same time.

There’s no explaining ignorance and there’s no way to prevent the technology snowflakes who worry microwaves are emitting voodoo rays. That plate of noodles I am reheating too long is going to get very dry and crusty, but it’s not going to explode and bring down the building.

To be fair, I don’t always use the microwave to steam fish. For one thing, it’s way too easy to overcook. But it is great for making popcorn and cooking vegetables. One of my fancy cooking friends uses it to make perfect cauliflower risotto.

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Like any technology, you hope its powers will be used for good instead of evil. So to steam fish, yes, but stop using it to reheat pizza and turning the slices into a soggy mess. For that? Be civilised – use the toaster oven.