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Ever since I started working in this company I'm taking my lunch (leftovers of the dinner last night) to the office in a microwavable container, because we have a small kitchen including a microwave. I'm sure a lot of you also do this.

I figured out that microwaving for the exact same time results in different warmth of the food. I know that a microwave heats the food up with radio waves which are extremely efficient on liquids. That's why the plastic of microwavable containers / plates don't melt / get extremely hot and only the food is being heated. Ergo soup heats up faster than rice (without sauce of course), for instance. So I know why my food doesn't get equally hot every time.

But how can I estimate the time my microwave needs to heat up my food to an eatable warmth? Of course this is depending on the power of the microwave. The one I'm using has a wattage of about 700W (if I remember the manual correctly), so maybe a scale for time & wattage would be helpful (does double wattage result in half the heating-time?).

To get the hacky part into this:

  • Is there a special hack when it comes to the food itself?
    • Does mixing the dry & moist parts of the food affect total microwaving time? Or does it just heat more evenly? I usually just mix after microwaving.
    • Does it matter where I put my container in the microwave?
    • Does the position of the food in my container affect microwaving-time?
  • Is there any hack (not technical) that I can use on the microwave?

I know there are some rather technical questions here, but I'm pretty sure there are some hacks you can use when microwaving. If you're not a microwave expert just ignore the technical questions and share the experience you made when it comes to microwaving as fast as possible.

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Does the position of the food in my container affect microwaving-time?

Yes. If you can shape your food into a torus (think donut) it will heat more evenly and you won't have to mix it up and put it back in.

There are some suggestions at wonderhowto for improving on this 'hole in the middle' such as placing larger items on the outside and smaller on the inside, and flattening out the food to provide more surface area; obviously if you're heating in a container this last one isn't really relevant.

  • What if you place the item near the outer edge of the turntable, instead of in the center? – Dan Dascalescu Jun 26 '17 at 20:02
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Well like you says it completely depends on how much food is there and the density of said food. I find that if you have rice or something that can be moved around easily - making a 'well' in the middle of the container and spreading the rest evenly will help giving you an even heat over all of the food.

  • Placing the container in the middle helps greatly as well as this is where most of the microwaves will 'hit' so it'll warm up quickest here.
  • I found out the other night after trying to heat up an indian takeaway with rice, meat, sauce, saag aloo all on the same plate - some of it took no time at all (rice) but the meat and sauce took ages ( >5 minutes) and to be honest I have no idea why, so I would imagine mixing everything together would also aid in getting an even heat across the food.
  • There is no real rule in guessing how much time something will take, not that I am aware of anyway, but I tend to go for 3-4 minutes for anything not bread-like and then stab a fork in and touch to the tip of my tongue. If I come away thinking, I shouldn't have done that... It's normally done, if not - stick it in for another minute or so. (when I say non bread-like I mean like not bread or something quite light in terms of density as these things take like 10-20 seconds)

Hope some of this helps in some way.

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    "to be honest I have no idea why" Thermal conductivity. Meat and liquids absorb much more energy to raise their temperature by the same amount than rice absorbs. – Mooseman Feb 26 '15 at 20:51
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Not completely solving the problem, but if your container is small enough, place a glass of water with the container in the microwave. The glass will stop the food from becoming soggy because the water takes in all the moisture coming from the microwave (moisture also can cause loss of heat) in the process of such, makes it warmer.

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    I'm not sure I understand this answer. How does adding a glass of water help the food "microwave as fast as possible?" And how does adding a glass of water keep the food from getting soggy? Can you explain how this hack works? – Robert Cartaino Mar 3 '15 at 19:48

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