Mastering the Oven: Guidelines for Cooking Microwave-Only Ready Meals
Many of us have been there: you’ve picked up a delicious-looking ready meal, only to find that the instructions are for microwave cooking only. But what if you don’t have a microwave, or simply prefer the taste and texture of oven-cooked food? Fear not, because with a little know-how, you can easily adapt these meals for oven cooking. Here’s how.
Understanding the Basics
Firstly, it’s important to understand that microwaves and ovens cook food in different ways. Microwaves heat food by producing radio waves that excite the water molecules in the food, causing them to vibrate and produce heat. Ovens, on the other hand, heat the air around the food, which then cooks the food. This means that food cooked in an oven tends to be drier and have a crispier texture than food cooked in a microwave.
Adjusting Cooking Times
Because ovens and microwaves cook differently, you’ll need to adjust the cooking time when using an oven. As a general rule, oven cooking takes about twice as long as microwave cooking. So if the microwave instructions say to cook the meal for 5 minutes, you’ll need to cook it in the oven for about 10 minutes. However, this is just a guideline and the exact time will depend on your oven and the specific meal.
Checking the Temperature
It’s also important to ensure that the meal is cooked to a safe temperature. The USDA recommends a minimum internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) for reheating pre-cooked meals. You can check this with a food thermometer.
Choosing the Right Cookware
Not all containers are safe for oven use, so you may need to transfer the meal to an oven-safe dish. Glass or ceramic dishes are generally a good choice. Avoid using plastic containers, as they can melt or release harmful chemicals when heated in the oven.
Using the Right Oven Settings
Most ready meals are best cooked at a moderate temperature, around 350°F (175°C). If your oven has a fan, use it – this will help to cook the meal more evenly. And remember to preheat the oven before you put the meal in, to ensure that it cooks properly.
With a little practice, you can easily adapt microwave-only ready meals for oven cooking. Just remember to adjust the cooking time, check the temperature, use the right cookware and oven settings, and most importantly, enjoy your meal!