How Do Microwaves Work, Anyway?

For our fast-paced world, nothing beats the convenience, compactness, and longevity of a well-made microwave oven. They’re found in just about every home and office today, but at one time in the 1970s, microwaves were major technological marvels that dazzled (and intimidated) users, heralding a new and wondrous age of science that harnessed complex forces of radiation for domestic, everyday tasks. In a way, they are still marvelous devices — we’re just used to them now, and don’t often remind ourselves how special they really are!

One way to truly appreciate the microwave is to gain an understanding of how it works. A standard fire or oven cooks food from the outside in: heat passes from the exterior of an object toward the interior through conduction. Moisture evaporates more quickly on the outside than on the inside, so as we know, this means edges, skins, and surfaces of food are often more well done (or burnt!) while the inside is still soft and tender.

When you cook with a microwave, you’re shooting microwaves at the speed of light through your food. These invisible, short (approximately 5 or 6 inch) waves of energy fall between radio and infrared waves on the spectrum, and pass through the molecules of your potato or soup, spreading out to affect each part of the dish (more or less) equally and usually not burning or searing the outside. Fats, water, and sugars absorb the waves and convert them to heat, creating a situation of excited molecules rather than a slow conduction from outside-in.

This is why microwaves are encased in metal boxes — metal reflects (and traps) the microwaves. Ceramics, glass, and plastics don’t absorb the waves, which means we can use microwave-safe containers that don’t get as piping hot as the food they contain. It’s also why you shouldn’t place foil or metal trays into your microwave! As you can imagine, being exposed to microwaves is extremely dangerous, and can cause serious harm if a microwave oven were not constructed properly or suffered some malfunctions that jeopardized its integrity.

There are many places and situations where something could go wrong: say your microwave oven is not cooking food, or is only cooking it partially, or cooking it too much. It could not be turning on, or turning on during off while cooking. It might be causing sparks, or might have stopped rotating, or have stopped allowing you to program particular settings and heat levels. When faced with any of these situations, your best bet is to leave your unit alone, and realize that when you’re in need, you need to turn to the experts. By calling our operators, you’ll be soon be in touch with an appliance repair technician who can give you a full appraisal and prevent any unfortunate incidences from occurring. It’s the safe, responsible choice, especially when more than one person uses the malfunctioning item.

For more repair tips and advice for a whole range of appliances — refrigerators, stoves, freezers, dishwashers, dryers, washing machines, and more — keep coming back to our website. We’re committed to being your local repair team, from now until they keep appliances from breaking!