How Do Microwave Ovens Work?

How Do Microwave Ovens Work?

Microwaves are great appliances. For quick meals and easy reheating, it’s hard to think of a machine that does the job so efficiently. However, most people don’t fully understand how they work, or what repair is needed to fix them.

Today, we’re going to focus on how microwaves work, and in another blog we’ll discuss how to take care of the pesky turntables that cause problems in the machine itself.

So, how do these contraptions work? Well first off, it’s called a microwaves because it cooks food with electromagnetic waves that fall in the microwave range. This is just a specific frequency range within the electromagnetic spectrum.

These radio waves operate at a specific frequency (2.45 GHz range, if you’re curious)  which causes the water molecules in food to vibrate and move around. It’s the friction of these water molecules moving against each other that creates heat. The longer a microwave runs, the longer the molecules will vibrate. The stronger the frequency, the more severe vibration.

So, by definition, if something has little to no water in it, it can’t really cook in a microwave. If you put a piece of completely dry spaghetti in the microwave, not much would happen. This is also explains why the handles of a plastic bowl don’t get hot when you make Spaghetti O’s, but the areas touching the food get just about as hot as the food itself. It all comes down to science.

This brings us to a common question: “Why can’t I put styrofoam in the microwave?”  Well, being that styrofoam is a very light plastic, it has a very low melting point. The heat from not only the oven itself, but also just from the food it’s touching, is hot enough to melt the styrofoam. Being plastic, the slightest bit of heat above its melting point has the potential to release harmful (potentially cancerous) toxins into your food, and then into your body.


So, your Guinco science lesson is done for today, and hopefully you now know more than your friends and family about the inner workings of microwave oven technology. Check back soon for our turntable tips and fixes. For anything else you need, check out the new, or give us a call at 844.3.GUINCO for all of your appliance service and repair needs. Thanks for letting our family help yours!

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