Microwave and induction electromagnetism – innovational techniques for cooking food

What huge differences are between our (grand) grandmother’s kitchens and ultra modern cuisines.
And I don’t especially refer to the kitchen’s design, as many of us can create a retro atmosphere in our today’s kitchens. No. I think about the differences that lay in the devices that ‘populate” these modern kitchens.

The kitchen today is a food processing plant in miniature, a place where we find different types of innovative devices that are designed to facilitate and accelerate the possibilities of food preparations.

Induction cooktops and microwave ovens are such modern appliances that make our life easier. In this article we are going to take a closer look to their features, pros and cons, way to use and possible risks.

A) Microwave oven

This is a very popular unit among people today, yet so controversial even if it has been known since the ’70s. At the basis, it has a complex technology.

microwave

The discoverer Dr Percy Spencer has noticed during his research for RADAR (Radio Detection and
Ranging) that the chocolate in his pocket that was around the magnetron (the microwave generator) had melted. The experiment was confirmed by a quick preparation of popcorn and an explosion of an egg.

One thing is for sure: today microwave ovens are among the most sold appliances worldwide along with TVs and some statistics say that there are over 90% of American homes that have a microwaveoven in the kitchen.

1. How does it work?

Heating occurs simply by involving molecules in a vibratory motion which obviously leads to raising the temperature of the food. Microwaves are electromagnetic waves issued by a magnetron, which converts the electricity into ultrashort radio waves.

Microwave oven allows you to cook food very fast, in some minutes. Some say this prevents the vitamins to be destroyed. There is no need to cook meat or vegetables for an hour because a fish or a chicken can be prepared into the microwave oven in some minutes.

2. Pros VS cons

a) Advantages on microwave ovens

– short time for preparation
– small sizes
– little energy consumption
– affordable price
– according to Harvard Medical School vitamin C which is destroyed at high temperatures is
better preserves by cooking on microwave instead boiling it for a long time
– FDA, Food and Drug supreme authority in the United States, says: “microwave cooking reduces
the nutritional value of foods no more than conventional cooking. In fact, the food prepared in
a microwave may preserve much better the content of vitamins and minerals”.

b) Disadvantages:

– microwave ovens are banned in some European areas because the food cooked with a microwave can
cause impotency and can affect human health on long term (it modifies the structure of the food)
– the temperature does not rise evenly in food (it is less intense on points with high density such as bones or fats) SO you must be careful that meat is well cooked.
– microwaves tend to dry the food, so you need to use a lid for the cookware
– food may not look very appetizing and crispy
– according to California Childcare Health Program: irregular heating of milk for children may predispose to bacterial exposure through unheated areas or burns
– the introduction of plastics in the oven, unapproved microwaveable food may lead to passage of certain toxic chemicals

Beyond the advantages or disadvantages, the microwave is a very useful device in modern kitchens. You can use it for warming meals or boiling water.

3. What are the risks?

While some specialists say that exposure to microwave does not make the food radioactive and does not lead to toxic substances, there are also some persons that are definitely against this device and strongly militate against using it. Microwaves should not alter the chemical structure of the food or to produce new compounds. These assumptions were, however, prevented by some researchers

However, it seems the scientific world is still waiting for arguments about the safety of food cooking on the microwave oven. Although some authors are categorically against microwaves, it depends on us weather we choose to use them or not. Surely if we have alternatives that we think are best or handiest we will use them instead.

B) Induction cooktops

According to Bosch, one of the most popular manufacturer of induction cooktops, induction cooking is the surest and safest of any other alternative. And this is so true.

Fagor IFA90BF

Fagor IFA90BF

1. How does it work

Let’s take a closer look on how this technology works.
– Electricity fuels a coil that produces a high-frequency electromagnetic field.
– The electromagnetic field penetrates the magnetic material of the cookware and leads to a circular electricity which generates heat.
– The heat generated in the cooking pot is transferred to the content.
– Nothing from outside the cookware is affected by the electromagnetic field. When the pan is removed from the hob or when induction hob is off, the heat generation immediately stops.

Using induction, the cookware becomes itself the main source of heat.

2. Pros VS cons

a) Advantages on induction cooktops:

– induction cookers heat faster and the heat is distributed evenly
– induction cooktops are extremely easy to clean
– are energy efficient
– have programmable temperature/ power buttons
– one of the great advantages of induction cooking is that you can adjust the temperature almost exactly (+/- one degree Celsius). This is essential for a healthier cooking and perfect results.
– have compact sizes, are slim and come in a variety of ranges from 1 to 5 burners
– can be portable (easy to remove) or dropped in countertop
– the heat does not get wasted because the surface cools immediately as you shut it off.
– they are very safe because they heat only when they detect a magnetically compatible pan; Plus there are no open flames.
– modern design (some models have integrated touch controls)

b) Disadvantages:

– they need specific induction cookware (from steel or iron). So you must buy new sets of pans and pots.
– they have a higher price than conventional cooktops
– need flat, clean bottoms of cookware
– most of them are not suitable for slow cooking (just a few of them have this feature and this is not a real “slow cooking”)
– if the power supply is not as needed, the cooktop will not work
– you may notice that heat is concentrated in the middle of the cookware while on the edges it may not cook as desired.

3. What are the risks?

Induction technology works by generating a field of electromagnetic energy. There have been some
concerns whether these fields may present risks for human bodies. But different studies have shown they are not bad for our health.

However there are some things to point out:

– according to an important European Union study there is “no consistent evidence” of any problems that may arise because using induction cooktops, however “this cannot be taken to mean that microwaves do not pose any hazard to human health.”
– some persons with implanted cardiac pacemakers or defibrillators should verify if their devices are affected by induction radiation
– persons that have a special degree of sensitivity to high-frequency energy must be cautious

C. Summary

The 20th century brought us ingenious methods and modern appliances to cook food. One, the microwave oven uses high-energy radio waves in order to heat food fast in some minutes. The other, induction cooking, uses electromagnetism to transform cooking vessels into cookers (because it creates heat energy inside the cookware itself, instead of firing it in from outside) and cooks faster and safer will less energy. While microwaves are more controversial and banned by more and more people, induction technology is a newer, more sure and safe alternative.

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