In previous articles we’ve discussed the unique science behind cooking, the process of taking heated energy and transferring it to the food source, changing it in such a way that we can manipulate flavors, textures, and the overall outcome. This heated energy transfer can take place in three major ways: Convection, Conduction,and lastly, Radiation, which we’ll talk about here. Radiated heat, which uses electromagnetic energy waves to cook food, is one of the most popular and prevalent heat methods in our day. The two distinguishing types of radiant heat are Infrared and Microwave which we explain in detail below.
Infrared The first type of radiant heat energy is Infrared, which is used in many different types of equipment from salamanders, to charbroilers and toasters, all of which are equipped with either a glass, metal or ceramic heating element. When heat hits this plated heating element, it is absorbed and emitted or ”radiated” as a high temperature infrared wave that will brown and cook foods to a crisp on the outside, juicy on the inside result.
Pros? High temperature Infrared cooking delivers heat energy to the food faster than a typical convection process and is ideal for browning, searing and other high temperature tasks.
Microwave Much like the Infrared heat model, a microwave oven also uses radiated energy to heat food quickly. However, there are a few key differences between the two. One main difference is that the energy in a Microwave is in the form of micro-waves (go figure), a type of electromagetic energy, which is used to cook food from the inside out, as opposed to infrared waves which cook from the outside in.
How does food cook from the inside out? This happens when the radio waves penetrate into the food and absorb thanks to foods high and natural moisture content, causing activity and vibration within the molecules which generates heat from the inside out. Note that the air around the food in the microwave oven is never heated- in fact no external heat is needed. Pros? You can cook food in a fraction of the time!