Microwave ovens can be found in almost any home. They are great for warming up snacks, thawing food or reheating leftovers. Thanks to their versatility, microwave ovens have become one of the favorite appliances of every home chef. But there’s a lot you don’t know about this incredible little machine. Here are 5 interesting microwave oven facts.
1) Accidental discovery
The heating effect of microwaves was discovered by accident. In 1945 an engineer from Howland, Maine called Percy Spencer, was working on an active radar set. After a while he noticed that a Mr. Goodbar in his pocket started to melt. The radar had melted the chocolate bar with microwaves.
So he decided to experiment with this technology. He created a high density electromagnetic field by directing microwaves into a metal box from which it had no way to escape. When food was placed in the box with the microwaves, the temperature of the food rose rapidly. That’s how the microwave oven was born.
2) First food to be microwaved
As I’ve mentioned before: the first food that accidentally got microwaved was the chocolate bar Percy had in his pocket. However, the first food that was deliberately cooked with microwaves was popcorn. The second food he tried, an egg, exploded in the face of one of the experimenters.
Btw: I found a list of things you better not put in your microwave here (might come in handy).
3) First commercial microwave
The first commercial microwave oven was called the ‘Radarrange’. It went on sale in 1947 for a whopping $5000. This machine was a lot different than the microwaves we know today: it was 1.8 metres tall and weighed 340 kilograms. The machine was cooled by water and consumed 3 kilowatts (three times more than today’s microwaves).
4) You can’t heat oils
Microwave ovens heat things by causing molecules to vibrate (and thus increasing their thermal energy, heating them up). Water molecules are most susceptible to microwave radiation.
Oils such as olive oil may contain small amounts of water, but generally not enough to cause any real heating effect. That’s why you can’t heat oils in a microwave oven.
Microwave ovens are one of the most popular kitchen appliances in the world. Did you know that 90% of American households owns a microwave oven? Nowadays they are produced in various sizes and colours to fit any kitchen.
Bonus: Fun facts about microwaves
Vitamins and minerals
Microwave cooking can retain more vitamins and minerals in food than boiling because the cooking time is shorter, reducing the amount of nutrients lost to heat and water.
The rotating plate inside the microwave was introduced in 1967 by Amana Corporation, which helps cook food more evenly.
In a microwave, food cooks from the outside in, contrary to popular belief that it cooks from the inside out.
Most popular use
Microwave popcorn is one of the most popular uses for microwave ovens. The popcorn bag has a susceptibility layer that helps concentrate heat in one spot to start the popping process.
Beyond the kitchen
The microwave is used in various fields, not just in cooking. It is used in telecommunications, weather forecasting, and even in the field of medicine.