Chef Mike is a term for the common every day microwave oven. And they're older than you may think. American engineer Percy Spencer is generally credited with inventing the modern microwave oven after WWII from radar technology developed during the war. Spencer, while working with an active radar in 1945, noticed that a candy bar in his shirt pocket had melted. The high-powered microwave beams created a heating effect that was ideal for cooking. Spencer deliberately tried making popcorn. That came out perfect! next, he tried to cook an egg. That wasn't so perfect...it exploded! The early oven was named Radarange and was sold in 1946. Raytheon employed Spencer to experiment with different methods of heating food safely with microwaves. The company later licensed its patents for a home-version of the oven that was first introduced in 1955 by Tappan. These units were very large and very expensive making them unrealistic for most homeowners. In 1967, the first countertop microwave was introduced by the Amana Corporation and before long, their use in both residential and commercial kitchens became more common.
Microwave ovens are popular for reheating previously-cooked foods and for cooking a variety of foods. They are useful, as you now, for rapid heating of otherwise slow-to-heat items like water, butter, fats, and chocolate. One of the biggest drawbacks to Chef Mike is that "he" doesn't directly brown or caramelize food like conventional ovens since microwaves rarely attain the temperature needed to produce Maillard reactions. For you non-cooks, this French term means the chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that gives food that browned color and distinctive flavor. exception occur, of course, where the oven is used to heat frying-oil and other very oily items like bacon which attain a fr higher temperature than that of boiling water.
In the professional kitchen, Chef Mike generally plays a more limited role. Why? That's because the boiling-range temperatures produced in "especially hydrous foods" (foods containing water) impede flavors produced by the higher temperatures of frying, browning, or baking. And did you know that there are additional heat sources that can be added to the microwave?
Okay, so might be asking yourself why I am writing about the humble microwave? Tomorrow, 6 December has been set aside each year to honor this home appliance. celebrating national Microwave day is fun...and tasty too! All you need do is prepare your favorite meal with the help of Chef Mike. And don't forget to use #MicrowaveOvenDay on all your social media.