Cooking Appliances Made Simple!

Here is a list of questions that I have often been asked by microwave users. For convenience we have divided them into product related and cooking related questions.

My microwave oven does not switch on. Why?

When your microwave oven does not switch on, please check whether it is plugged in securely. Remove the plug from the oven, re plug and switch on. If it still does not switch on check for tripped circuit breaker or fuse also check whether the socket is working properly and the voltage supplied to it is 230 V. In case these suggestions do not help resolve the problem call the authorized service centre.

My oven started to spark when I operated it accidently. Why?

Sparking / arcing may occur inside the oven cavity if operated empty. Always place a mug / bowl filled with water inside the oven cavity at all times to absorb the microwaves should your oven be operated accidently.

Food defrosted using the auto defrost function in my microwave oven often becomes hard / rubbery. Why?

The auto defrost function is pre programmed for foods frozen and stored at - 18° C. Defrosting foods that are stored at a lower temperature might begin to cook them during the defrosting cycle making them hard / rubbery. Remember to stir foods occasionally to distribute heat evenly. Throw away any liquids that might be accumulated in the dish while defrosting to prevent it from starting to cook.

Sometimes steam accumulates on the oven door and surface. Is this normal?

Yes, it is normal for steam to accumulate on the door and oven surfaces as food gives off moisture during cooking. While most steam is removed from the oven by the air that circulates inside the oven cavity, some steam may condense on the cooler surfaces like the oven door and walls. Wipe off the condensed steam after use.

Why do the oven floor and walls sometimes feel hot to touch after long periods of reheating or cooking?

Cooking food in a microwave oven for long may cause the oven floor and walls to absorb some of the microwaves. This is normal and not a cause for worry.

Why does my oven light not glow?

The oven light will not glow if the door is not properly closed or the light bulb has blown. Call for service.

Does microwave energy pass through the viewing screen of the door?

No, the holes or ports made on the oven door are to allow you to keep an eye on your cooking. The metal screen or wire mesh on the oven door does not allow microwave energy to pass through but makes it bounce back into the oven cavity instead.

Why does a beep sound when a keypad is touched on the control panel?

The beep sound is to assure you that the setting has been properly entered. A long beep however, in certain microwave could also mean incorrect settings.

Will the microwave oven be damaged, if operated empty?

Yes, never operate the oven empty or without the turntable securely placed in position. To avoid accidental operation place a microwave safe mug filled with water at all, times inside the oven cavity or use the child lock function.

Can I open the door while the oven is in use?

The door may be opened anytime during the cooking process. The microwave energy will be instantly cut off and the time and power settings will remain unchanged (for a specific period of time) until the door is closed again. Remember to press start after closing the door to complete the cooking cycle.

My microwave oven sometimes causes interference with my television. Is this normal?

Some radio and television interferences might occur if the microwave oven is placed too close to a radio or TV set. This interference is the same as that caused by small appliances such as mixers, vacuum cleaners, blow dryers etc. it does not indicate a problem with your microwave oven.

Why does my oven light dim?

When cooking at a lower power level, the microwave must cycle to obtain that power level. The oven light might dim during such cycling and clicking noises can be heard while the oven switches power levels from high to low.

When does the oven light switch on and off?

The oven light switches on when the oven is switched on and the door is opened or during cooking.

Why does warm air sometimes come out of the oven vents?

The steam given off by food during cooking heats up the air inside the oven cavity. This warm air is carried out of the oven by the airflow pattern. However there are no microwaves present in this air. The oven vents should never be blocked during cooking. Blocking of vents may lead to overheating which could cause a breakdown or fire.

Why does smoke sometimes come out of the exhaust on the back of the oven?

It is normal for a little smoke to come out of oven vents during cooking. Some of it may be produced when food is overcooked or charred. Clean your oven walls, floor and ceiling regularly to prevent such an occurrence.

My microwave oven does not start even after the oven light glows and the machine is programmed correctly. Why?

Check to make sure that the oven door is closed properly. In case your oven does not function even though the door is securely closed, contact the authorized service centre.

When I switch on my microwave oven why does a noise sometimes come from the glass tray during operation?

The noise occurs when the roller ring and oven cavity floors are dirty. Frequent cleaning of these parts will eliminate or reduce this noise. Also remember to wash the turntable and roller ring frequently after use.

Can the microwave oven be used with the roller ring and glass tray removed?

No the turntable hub, roller ring and turntable must all be placed securely in position prior to oven operation.

Is eating food cooked in a microwave oven harmful?

No, Microwave energy on penetrating the food results in agitation of water molecules present in food. This agitation causes friction which produces heat that cooks the food. Since all microwave energy is converted to heat energy no microwaves are retained in the food making it absolutely safe for consumption.

Why does my microwave oven switch off by itself?

The line voltage may have dropped below the standard operating voltage or your microwave oven may be improperly earthed. Restart your microwave oven after checking the voltage. If the problem persists please call the authorized service centre.

I have heard that it is a good idea to keep a cup of water in the microwave oven when it is not in use. Why?

It is a safety precaution incase the oven is accidently switched on and is a particularly good idea when there are children in the house. If the oven is accidently switched on and there is nothing to absorb the microwaves, they may bounce off the walls and floor of your microwave oven and may cause damage to the oven. A cup of water will absorb the microwaves preventing them from causing any damage.

Is cooking in a microwave oven cheaper than cooking in a conventional oven?

Microwave ovens are much more economical than conventional ovens. They cook food faster and there is often no need for pre heating the grill while using the convection mode. Also a part of the cooking takes place even after microwaving – during standing time – using no power at all.

How safe are microwave ovens?

All microwave ovens are designed with a safety mechanism that ensures that the oven cannot operate unless the door is shut and the start button has been pressed. Opening the oven door immediately stops the generation of microwaves which cannot be restarted until the door is securely shut and the start button is pressed again. While buying a microwave oven, check that the model you wish to purchase is approved by a National Electric Agency (BEE). This means that it has been subject to stringent tests for safety and microwave leakage. Microwave cooking is also safer, as the sides of the oven do not become hot like a conventional oven, though the floor of the oven may sometimes feel a little warm due to conduction.

What should I do if I suddenly realize that I have put a metal trimmed dish inside the microwave oven and it starts sparking?

Switch off the microwave oven immediately and the sparking will stop. As long as you turn off the oven from the main switch immediately, you are unlikely to do any harm to your oven. However if sparking is allowed to continue, the walls of the oven may become pitted. In extreme cases the sparking may even damage the magnetron. Incase of doubt have your microwave checked by a service engineer.

Why does food sometimes cook unevenly in my microwave oven?

Unevenly cooked food may be a result of using inappropriate cookware that is either too large or too small for the quantities being cooked. Also remember to stir food during cooking to promote uniform cooking / heating. Always thaw food completely before you begin to cook it.

Food does not brown evenly in my microwave oven. Why?

Use the grilling rack supplied with your microwave oven while using the grill, combination and convection mode to bring food closer to the heat source (grill element) located on the top of the oven cavity. Also use the crisp plate / crusty plate supplied with your microwave oven while using the crisp / crusty function in your microwave oven (for bottom heat) for cooking foods that require a crisp base like pizzas.

Why does food sometimes overcook in the microwave oven?

Overcooking may be a result of prolonged cooking times that may dry out certain foods and make them inedible. Also check that the cookware being used is small enough / large enough to hold the food. While following a recipe, ensure that the cooking times and power levels have been correctly entered.

Why do eggs sometimes pop in a microwave oven?

While boiling, frying or poaching eggs the yolk may pop due to steam built up inside the yolk’s membrane. To prevent this, simply pierce the egg yolks before cooking. Never boil eggs in their shells in the microwave oven as they may burst.

Why is standing time recommended after microwave cooking?

After microwave cooking, food continues to cook for a short time, due to the heat present in it. It is therefore important to allow standing time to finish the cooking process and distribute the heat evenly throughout the food mass. The amount of standing time depends on the density of the food product.

Is it possible to pop corn in a microwave oven?

Yes it is possible. Either use a commercially packaged microwave popcorn available in special microwave popcorn bags or use specially designed microwave popping cookware. Do not leave the microwave oven unattended while popping popcorn. In case the popcorn fails to pop after the suggested time given by the manufacturer, discontinue cooking as overcooking of corn may result in it catching fire. Also do not use a brown paper bag for popping popcorn and do not attempt to pop the leftover kernels.

Why does food in the microwave oven sometimes not cook in the recommended time as given in the recipe book?

Check your recipe book again to make sure that you have followed the instructions carefully to ascertain the causes for variations in cooking times. The cookbook times and power suggestions are suggestive to help prevent overcooking. The most common problem faced is getting used to a microwave oven. Incorrect measurement of main ingredients, variations in size, shape, height and dimensions of food as given in a recipe could affect their cooking times. Even voltage fluctuations and changes in ambient temperatures might be responsible. Use your own judgment along with the recipe book suggestions to cook food as per your taste just like you would in gas stove cooking.

Food heated in my microwave oven cools faster than food heated on the gas stove. Why?

Often the dish used to store food in the refrigerator is used for reheating in a microwave oven. So the cold dish also absorbs some of the heat from the food. It may therefore be necessary to heat the food a little longer.

Is it possible to make pizzas in a microwave oven?

Yes. It is possible to bake pizzas in a microwave oven using the convection mode. Place the pizza on the grilling rack provided with your microwave oven or use the crusty plate (if supplied with your microwave oven). You may even place a metal baking tray / plate on the grilling rack for better bottom browning. The crisp tray (if supplied with your oven) however must be placed directly on the turntable and preheated before use.

s it possible to bake cakes with a crust?

Yes but the crust will be formed only on top of the cake. However this is possible only in convection models.

I notice that the dish size is always specified in microwave recipes. Is the size more important than in conventional recipes?

Dish size is very important in microwave cooking. If the dish used for cooking is too large the food will spread out and may get overcooked at the edges before the centre is completely cooked. On the other hand, if the dish is too small or narrow, the food may bubble over the top or be squeezed into a dense mass and may not cook through to the centre. Always use the dish size recommended for best results.

I thought that dishes stay cool in the microwave oven, yet I find that I frequently need to use oven mitts when taking cooked items out of the oven. Does this mean that I am using the wrong kind of dishes?

Dishes frequently become hot due to the conduction of heat from hot food. As long as the food in the dish is cooking in the times specified in a recipe, it simply means that hot food is heating the dish. However if the food is taking much longer than the recipe states then test the dish to make sure it is suitable.

If you can sear and brown foods in a special browning dish why can’t you fry foods?

Frying is not recommended in a microwave oven since it is not possible to control the temperature of heated oil in a microwave oven. This could be extremely dangerous particularly while deep frying where a large quantity of oil is used. It may catch fire.

Is microwaving a healthier way of cooking vegetables?

Yes. It is the perfect way to cook vegetables as it keeps vitamin loss to a minimum. Water soluble vitamins such as vitamin C are easily lost in cooking water. Since very little (often nil) water is required in microwave cooking, this loss is kept to a minimum. Faster cooking times also mean that vegetables retain their bright colours and natural crunchy textures. Prepare vegetables just before you want to serve them. Foods cooked in a microwave oven require less / no fat for cooking. Since microwaved vegetables retain more natural flavours, also less salt is required to be added.

If my microwave oven has an auto defrost button, do I still need to leave food to stand during defrosting?

It depends on the food product being defrosted. For many products the auto defrost power levels are low enough to ensure gentle defrosting without switching off the machine during defrosting time. But with a dense food product like whole chicken, it is better to allow some standing time during defrosting. This helps in defrosting the centre without overcooking the edges.

Why is it possible to use aluminium foil for shielding food while using the microwave mode while metal dishes cannot be used for cooking?

Aluminium foil is used in very small quantities for shielding. The amount of food that is not shielded must be greater than the amount covered with foil so that there is plenty of food to absorb the microwave energy. This is not the case when metal dishes are used as the microwave energy does not even reach the food but gets reflected off the food by the metal dish.

Why do some sauces and hot drinks bubble over the rim of the container once they have been stirred?

When you microwave liquids in a confined space, particularly those with a high milk content, the temperature of the liquid above the surface is much higher than it is below. Therefore, when you stir this liquid the gasses produced by the heating process escape and spill over the edge. To overcome this problem, never allow a liquid to fill a container more than three quarters and stir at least once halfway through heating / cooking time.

Why was my cake hard and dried by the time it was cooked using microwave mode?

Drying and hardening of cakes is a result of overcooking. The cake should still look moist when removed from the microwave oven as it will cook through during standing time. Always aim to undercook rather than overcook in a microwave oven. Remember do not expect food cooked in a microwave oven to look cooked until after their recommended standing time. A cake is ready to come out of the microwave oven when the sides come away from the edge of the dish and a wooden cocktail skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

What does heat equalizing mean?

Microwaves only penetrate food upto a depth of 3 cm (1.5 inches) so foods / cuts thicker than 1.5 inches become hot on the surface while their centre remains cold / undercooked. During standing time the heat is conducted to the centre of the food and cooks it through.

Why do some cakes rise well in the microwave and then sink after being removed?

This could be due to overbeating while mixing the cake. Too much air is trapped in the mixture causing it to rise well in the oven but then the cake sinks on being heated as the trapped air is released during cooking.

Why do I have to extend the cooking time when I am cooking a larger quantity of food than specified in a recipe?

When microwaves penetrate the food, they have to spread themselves throughout the total mass of food required to be cooked. Therefore larger quantities of food would require larger amount of microwave energy to cook, thus increasing their cooking time. It is however recommended that microwave ovens should be used to cook moderate quantities i.e. 4 – 6 portions of food at a time.

Is there any way of recovering overcooked food in a microwave oven?

Since food cooks very quickly in a microwave oven it is always better to undercook the food rather than overcook it. However overcooked vegetables can be liquidized to make soups; fruits can be liquidized and strained to make purees and sauces; sponge cakes can be used for trifles; plain biscuits for biscuit crumbs etc.