For convenience in cooking, a microwave oven can be tough to beat. The common kitchen appliance, introduced for residential use in the 1950s, can cut down on the time and the electricity necessary to cook or reheat food. And lately we seem to be unduly focused on them. (See our article 5 Reasons People Still Refuse to Own a Microwave.)
But despite its many benefits, can a microwave oven match its other cooking counterparts in all ways? Frozen dinners and revitalized oatmeal are one thing. A prime cut of beef, often considered a paragon of traditional cooking methods, is quite another. On a stovetop? Sure. In an oven? You bet. On an outdoor grill? Mais oui. But can a microwave oven cook a steak to a perfect medium-rare?
A discussion on the online food forum ChefTalk spans six years, with little consensus aside from a shared sense of outrage, disgust and perplexment. Though other precision- and science-based cooking techniques — sous vide and various molecular gastronomy approaches, for instance — have captured the imagination of professional cooks, microwave cooking has not.
"I have never attempted to cook a steak in a microwave," says EJ Hodgkinson, the executive chef of King + Duke, a meat-focused restaurant in Atlanta, Georgia. "I did once witness a chef use a microwave to cook a steak to well-done, after removing it from the grill. I promptly resigned from my position with that restaurant."