Some of us may wonder what is a convection microwave oven. Yeah it cooks or heats up food, we all know that. But there is a significant difference between a convection microwave oven versus a microwave oven, which we commonly use.
This article will hence give you an insight into what is so special about the convection microwave oven, including the pros and cons, particularly safety precautions you must take when using this common, modern-day cooker.
The Microwave Oven We Commonly Use
In a country where productivity is emphasized and workaholics are aplenty, the microwave oven is often used to prepare meals. And it’s not uncommon to use this all-in-one appliance for a quick dinner fix to heat up or cook food in a short period of time. Given the limited time available, the microwave oven has been our best friend in what would provide us with a quick, simple yet satisfying meal after a long day’s work.
How A Convection Microwave Oven Works
Using a microwave oven to heat up or cook food involves subjecting food to electromagnetic radiation— emitted microwaves (in the frequency range of 300 MHz to 300 GHz) that jump up and down, left and right and all around and come into physical contact with food. This subsequently causes the water molecules within the food particles to energise and generate thermal energy, which then proceeds to heat up or cook the food quickly.
How Hot and Fast A Convection Microwave Oven Can Cook
Temperatures at which the food is heated up or cooked vary from 35°C to 600°C. And how fast the food is heated up or cooked depends not only on the power (wattage) of the microwave oven, but also on the portion of the food, the surface area exposure as well as water content in the food. For example, a whole chicken will be cooked more slowly than just a chicken wing or than the same portion of meat but diced.
Microwave Oven vs. Convection Microwave Oven: What’s The Difference?
We know by now that a microwave oven allows one to heat up and cook food quickly through radiation. However, the fact that ‘excited’ water molecules heat up or cook food means that areas which have higher water content would heat up or cook faster. This brings about uneven heating up / cooking.
And the surface of the food would not usually achieve the browning or crisp that one would like, particularly that of meat skins (like golden brown chicken wings) or bread crusts (like croissants or pizzas). Cooking by convection allows otherwise!
So as the name suggests, the convection microwave oven has convection as an additional form of heat transfer. Through a heating element and a fan that circulates the air inside the oven, heat is more evenly distributed around the food. This is on top of electromagnetic radiation which has been explained in previous segment. So the convection microwave oven is the combination of both a microwave oven and a convection oven.
The Pros and Cons of A Convection Microwave
Surely there must be some good and bad about the convection microwave. If not, why isn’t everyone (like every single person in the world) using it today? Why are some professional chefs bent on not using a microwave, or a convection microwave for that matter? You are one smarty pants aren’t you? You are right again.
The pros generally revolve around that fact that your oven is now a dual function cooker. This flexibility means that It can play the role of the common microwave oven and heat up or cook food in a really short period of time, or achieve the baking, browning or crisping that a convection oven can achieve, or both!
Users of the convection microwave oven are now able to cook a larger variety of food in a variety of ways, be it defrosting, heating up food, grilling or even roasting and attain their customised, desired result
Money is saved since one can do the work of two for the cost of one. Space is also saved since you now don’t need space for a microwave oven and a convection oven.
Depending on the model, some convection microwave ovens also have pre-programmable multi-stage cooking. This means it is a one-stop, cradle to grave solution for cooking a whole dish, while avoiding over-cooking and destroying precious nutrients. Gone are the days where you have to stop the oven, check on the food, adjust the power and turn on the timer/on-switch again.
So for example, if you just want to reheat food, or heat up some nuggets, choose the microwave-only mode. If you want your food to have a browned exterior like roasted potatoes or vegetables, select the convection-only mode. And if you want your food to be cooked quickly and also achieve that crisp or browned exterior, select both modes to operate concurrently.
The cons of a convection microwave oven are very similar to that of a microwave oven. For example, for most microwave ovens, only one dish can be cooked at a time. So while food can be cooked as a faster rate, one may take a longer time to prepare food compared to another who could be cook several dishes simultaneously over the stove.
Also, the typical convection microwave oven has a limited size, thereby restricting the size of food to be cooked. For example, a large turkey may not be able to fit into a convection microwave oven.
Because food can be cooked really quickly, one would also need to monitor the food to make sure it doesn’t cook out of control. This is especially so if one is not experienced in cooking a particular dish with the convection microwave before. Subsequently however, one could counter this by making use of a timer or pre-programmable functions.
As much as the convection microwave oven is very useful, there are some precautions we must take to avoid accidents and injury.
First, avoid using putting metal and especially sharp metal objects into the convection microwave oven. Such will cause sparks or arcing, hence a fire hazard. This includes metal forks, spoons or even foil that happened to be folded with a pointed end.
Second, make sure that the container or plate used to hold the food in the convection microwave oven is certified microwavable. Not all materials are microwavable. Metal is out of course. Some plastics are also not microwavable and risk melting and producing hazardous gases. Porcelain or glass is generally used. If in doubt, ask. Or use a different plate or bowl altogether, preferably one that you are sure is microwavable.
Last but not least, do not cook your food in a closed container or vacuum. For example, you may cover the container with a lid but do not close it air-tightly. The excitement of water molecules create a sudden high pressure which might result in a minor explosion of the food in the oven. This includes cooking unbroken eggs, which trap steam inside its shell. In fact, December 2018 saw a teenager left permanently blind in one eye after an egg she microwaved exploded in her face upon taking it out.