It’s hard to imagine you could get something as simple as cooking a microwave meal wrong, but according to a recent and enlightening video on TikTok it seems like a lot of us have been doing exactly that (some people don't even know how a toaster works). Famous for its convenience, the microwave is a speedy way of heating up food but if you’ve been putting your meals in the middle of the spinning plate, we regret to inform you you’ve been goofing the tech all along.
“You know when you reheat food in the microwave and some parts of it are hot enough to burn your mouth and the other part of it is frozen?” begins the video. “Well that happens because you shouldn’t actually have your food in the middle of the plate here. It should be on the edge so it can actually rotate around and cook evenly.”
That’s right. Those lackluster Hot Pockets have been of your own making all along.
Now, if you’re feeling a little (unevenly) burned from such an accusation and questioning the authority of some random person on TikTok — congratulations, you’ve succeeded in possessing the kind of critical thinking that we so need in an era of pseudoscience and misinformation. Unfortunately, you’re still wrong.
In an article from Well + Good, food scientist and product development manager at Panaceutics, Makenzie Bryson Jackson, explains why asymmetric placement is the way to go when using a microwave. It all centers around the fundamental function of a microwave, which involves exciting water molecules using electromagnetic radiation as a means of generating heat.
It’s a snazzy and speedy mode of heating but can fall down when something called “runaway heating” occurs. When certain pockets of your meal begin to heat up, the warmest ones will get hotter faster resulting in uneven cooking. This is runaway heating and is precisely what is happening when, as the TikTokker phrases it, “you reheat food in the microwave and some parts of it are hot enough to burn your mouth and the other part of it is frozen”.
It turns out, that spinny plate isn’t just a feature so that you can enjoy a Hot Pocket lap dance while you wait, nose pressed up against the glass, for your food to be ready. The spinny plate is a feature intended to evenly distribute the microwave’s waves and putting your food at the edge of the plate instead of dead center will even out the cooking process as best as possible.
Monopolizing on evenness is the same reason why many saucy microwave meals instruct you to stir midway through cooking, as by giving the contents a quick whizz you dilute any scolding pockets of food.