Microwave ovens are handy to have around the kitchen for defrosting and reheating food, as well as cooking things quicker than a conventional oven.

However, actually cooking in a microwave isn’t as easy as it seems. The two key factors to cooking food in a microwave are keeping the moisture in, and ensuring even cooking time.

1. Some Foods Take Longer to Cook Than Others

Larger, thicker foods need more time to cook than smaller foods, so you should separate the foods according to how much time they need to cook.

As a general rule, starchy veggies like potatoes and sweet potatoes need the longest cooking time, then meat, and then smaller vegetables.

2. Cut Food Up to Reduce Cooking Time

You can reduce the amount of time foods need to cook in the microwave by cutting them into smaller portions. Big chunks of meat will cook faster if you cut them into smaller pieces.

Potatoes (unless you want them baked), other large veggies and big cuts of meat can be cooked quicker this way.

3. Foods with Skins Need Piercing

When foods have skins, they can hold in steam which can then cause the foods to explode or splatter in your microwave. Poke a few holes in foods such as sausages, hot dogs, potatoes, and sweet potatoes with a fork or sharp knife.

4. Spread Food Out Properly on a Microwave-Safe Dish

Always use a microwave-safe dish or bowl for cooking in. Spread the food out evenly, with the thickest part of the food at the edge of the dish. This helps with even cooking time, because food at the edges always cooks faster than foods at the centre.

Glass and ceramic dishes are usually safe to use in the microwave, but never use metal containers or utensils to cook in the microwave.

5. Cover Food Before Cooking

If you have microwave dishes with lids, put the lid on the dish and leave one part open for steam to escape. If you don’t have lids, cover the dish with a damp towel or a paper towel.

Covering food helps to ensure it cooks evenly, as well as keeping it moist and preventing splatters that you will have to clean later.

6. Stir Regularly, and Cook in Short Bursts

Close the microwave door, and set the timer. Press start. Cook small vegetables in one-minute intervals, larger ones in two-minute intervals, and meat in three minute intervals. Stir well between cooking intervals to spread the heat around the dish evenly.

7. Leave Food to Stand Before Serving

Once your food is done, leave it in the microwave to rest with the door closed. This gives the food time to finish the cooking process. Meat should stand 10-15 minutes, and veggies and casseroles 5-10 minutes.