Behold, the lowly microwave

Behold, the lowly microwave

It's no secret I love to cook and I'm a real gadget tech geek, so it's no surprise that I enjoy all the different kitchen appliances and gadgets. But there is one kitchen appliance that is probably in every single home that I admit I would not do without that I also think is the least capable for the cost and amount of space it takes up. That is the microwave oven.

While they certainly have their place in the kitchen, I am convinced that microwave ovens are the least capable among their counterparts.

The story of its invention is itself a cautionary tale of the microwave's unexpected effects on food, with Percy Spencer, an engineer at Raytheon, accidentally discovering the heating properties of microwaves in the 1940s. Legend has it that Spencer, while working with a magnetron, noticed a chocolate bar melting in his shirt pocket when he was exposed to microwave radiation. This serendipitous event led to his experimenting with other foods, including an egg in a tea kettle that exploded in a coworker's face. I can sympathize, which I will explain in a bit, but in the end it all led to the invention of the microwave oven as a consumer product.

Microwave ovens undeniably excel in their primary role as reheating equipment. They effortlessly warm up leftovers and frozen processed foods and provide a quick fix for those in a rush. But therein lies their main limitation -- they are one-trick ponies in the culinary realm. Beyond reheating, microwave ovens struggle to perform more complex tasks that other kitchen appliances effortlessly accomplish.

Then there's defrosting. While defrosting frozen food is one of the touted features of microwave ovens, it often leaves much to be desired. Defrosting meats and vegetables using microwave power can lead to uneven thawing, resulting in partially cooked edges and icy centers. This not only affects the quality of the food but also poses potential health risks. Sure, it's a lot faster than waiting for food to defrost in the fridge or not as bacteria-friendly as leaving meat on the counter, but it's almost impossible to manage defrosting a piece of meat that doesn't leave it half-cooked.

The true magic of cooking lies in the alchemy of flavors, textures, and techniques. Sadly, microwave ovens fall short in this department. From baking delicate pastries with a perfect rise to achieving a golden, crispy crust on dishes, the microwave oven simply cannot compete with the versatility and precision offered by conventional ovens or stovetops. Its lack of browning capabilities restricts the range of dishes that can be prepared, preventing home chefs from making meals that look and taste great.

While the microwave oven undoubtedly has its place in the kitchen, its limitations cannot be ignored. Sure, the convenience and time saved make it a necessary purchase for most, its limited scope of abilities beyond reheating and defrosting leave them as less capable and necessary than their cousins the stoves/ranges, refrigerators, dishwashers, and even toaster ovens.