3 Useful Tips About Your Microwave Power Levels

The microwave revolutionized home cooking. First taking off in the late sixties, microwave sales skyrocketed during the next two decades. Today, almost 90% of homes have one.

For all that success, most food purists look down their nose at it. Why?

They claim microwaves make food soggy, rubbery, and inedible. They’re right. Sort of.

Microwaves, by default, cook on the highest power setting. That’s what causes the sogginess. But if you adjust the microwave power levels, you can make a flavorful meal in less time than a conventional stove.

Want to learn how? Keep reading for some useful tips for microwave cooking.

There’s More Than One

The first microwave was over six feet tall and weighed 750 pounds. Thankfully, it shrank over the years. It also became customizable.

How customizable depends on the unit, but most have settings like “defrost” or “medium.” Some even have settings for specific foods, like popcorn or corn on the cob.

These shortcuts are examples of your microwave’s varying power levels. You can use them or adjust the level manually. Most power levels range from one to ten.

What Happens When You Change Power Levels

Magnetrons emit the microwaves that cook your food. However, they only have two settings: full power and no power. When you change the power setting, the microwave cycles on and off over the duration of the cook time.

For example, let’s say you want to cook at a power level of five. For a 1,000 watt unit that’s 50% power. After you press start, the magnetron blasts your food for a few seconds, then shuts off, repeating the cycle until the time is up.

Lower settings have longer “off” periods, while higher settings have longer “on” periods. When you use full power, there are no “off” periods.

Know the Math

Remember that percentage? A power level of 5 on a 1,000-watt unit equals 50% power? Wonder where it comes from?

Microwave power is measured in watts. You can find your unit’s maximum output either on the inside door or the unit itself.

Why does this matter?

Think of it like a conventional oven. Different foods cook at different temperatures. The same is true for wattage.

Let’s say you want to fry something. You need 800 watts of power but what level do you use? To find out, divide the 800 by the total wattage of your unit and multiply by 100.

Let’s say it’s 1,000. So, 800 divided by 1,000 equals 0.8. 0.8 multiplied by 100 equals 80. Your appropriate power level is 8.

Once you know the math, you can adjust your microwave’s power for every recipe. But how do you know which foods need which wattage?

Have a Cheat Sheet

Many microwaves can adjust power with shortcuts for a specific food. If yours doesn’t, you can use this cheat sheet for quick reference.

  • 100% power (High) – good for ground beef, poultry, fish, bacon, most veggies, hot beverages, non-cream soups, pasta, and boiling water
  • 70% power (Medium High) – good for cream soups, leftovers, casseroles, and cheesy foods
  • 50% power (Medium) – good for pork, eggs, and melting chocolate
  • 30% power (Medium Low) – good for simmering chili, sauces, rice and hot cereal. Usually your “defrost” setting
  • 10% power (Low) – good for defrosting large meats and keeping food warm

Most microwave recipes will tell you what level to cook on. But it’s often best to do it yourself since unit wattages vary.

Microwave Power Levels are Your Friend

Who needs convention? In today’s busy world, time makes all the difference. Microwaves can give you all the taste of the stove (if not more) in half the time. Learn about microwave power levels and prove the food snobs wrong.

And if you want even more information, we’ve got reviews, cooking tips, everything you could want to know about microwaves.

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