Thursday, March 7, 2013

How To Use A Convection Microwave For Baking

When I started writing the series for beginners, this post should probably have been the very first! Very naturally of course as buying an oven or knowing how to use your existing microwave (if suitable for baking) is the foremost step in getting one started with baking. Some of us have purchased microwaves when they first hit the market, been using it for heating and cooking a few things. Now you suddenly have the urge to see if you can bake in it too! If you are like me, most likely the manual is misplaced, if you have a hubby like mine, there is at least some hope of retrieving it. In any case, knowing the oven type, the accessories that came with it or trying to replace them is a good start. So shall we get started on this rather rather lengthy post? Sorry, could not help it!

Please note, I use an LG  convection microwave (MC8040NSR), and the information I have given below is mostly with this one in mind, though I have included a bit about Samsung too. This again is just sharing my personal opinion from my experience in using a convection microwave for about 2 years.

  • Basic microwave functions : There are three basic functions a microwave can perform - cook, bake, grill. 
  • Microwave function for regular cooking, de-frosting, re-heating and even some instant mug cakes (more below). 
  • Convection function to literally bake anything - from cakes, cookies, breads, pizzas - I mean everything!
  • Grill  for grilling vegetables, meat and the kind.
Microwave Accessories : You get these along with your oven depending on the type of the microwave you have (given below) : A glass turntable, a short metal rack for baking, a high metal rack for grilling.  You sometimes also get a non stick large round tin for baking pizzas.

Microwaves fall in 3 basic categories, a  basic microwave, microwave cum grill and then the convection microwave. There are more too, but to that later.

1. A solo microwave / a basic microwave - All of us know how to use this, but bear with me . One which comes with a microwave mode only. Allows you to set the time and the power level of cooking - high, medium, low power, defrosting food and some auto menus. Comes with a glass turntable on which you place your dish.

This kind of microwave can be used for re-heating, cooking and defrosting frozen food. Period. But no you can't bake anything in this, but can certainly cook some kinds nice instant microwave browniecinnamon crispsfat free potato wafers  and even some types of regular cakes and brownies. These get cooked really fast, as in a minute or two for single serve portions and around 8-10 minutes for other kinds of cakes and brownies, depending on the size of the pan and quantity of batter.

Be aware that  instant versions of brownies and mug cakes are good consumed immediately though some cakes and brownies may keep well.  But yes, you can very surely try these, I do quite often as they are life-savers! Am not crazy about using this mode for the regular cake kinds etc or maybe I haven't tried the right recipe. If I do, you will surely find it here !

What you could use : Any good quality microwave safe containers, your coffee mug, Borosil kinds of glassware, Tupperware. You can't use metal tins and pans as it will cause arching.

How to use : By default, your microwave will set on the highest power, you can see it as either HIGH, MEDIUM, LOW etc or 900 (watts), 700, etc. Set the time and power levels as needed. You will need to consider the 'standing time' i.e, the time after the microwave is turned off, but during which the food continues to cook with the internal microwave energy in the food. Useful to keep this in mind while cooking instant cakes and brownies. Overcooked food tends to burn ..sometimes along with your Tupperware!

2. Microwave cum grill : Apart from the basic microwave functions above, this type of microwave has a grill function also, allowing you to grill vegetables, cottage cheese and meat, sometimes with the combination of both modes working simultaneously. Apart from the glass turntable, this must come with a tall circular metal rack on which you place the food to be grilled. Has function knobs or buttons indicating Microwave and Grill, and a combination of both.

3. Convection or combination microwave: Now, we talk baking! Microwaves in this category come with it all! Microwave, grill and convection modes. It has function knobs indicating microwave, grill, convection, a timer, temperature setting buttons and power setting buttons for use in microwave mode. This microwave comes with the glass turntable, a low circular metal rack for baking, a taller one on which you grill food and a motorized rotisserie for cooking meat again. Irrespective of what mode you need to use, the turntable and the roller wheel beneath it need to remain in place at all times, except of course when you clean the microwave.

Microwave mode : So when you have this type of an oven, you normally keep the metal racks under the table till you need them for baking. Otherwise use the microwave for mundane but essential purposes. Using this mode in a convection oven is the same as given above.

Grill mode:  To use this, place the tall metal rack on the turn table and the food on the grill, press 'Grill' (you can’t set the temperature here, at least not in mine) and set the timer.  If you do not grill a lot, this rack can still be put to use as a cooling rack.

Convection mode : This is the mode used for baking where you need the low metal rack to place your baking tray on. 

In this mode your microwave works just as an OTG works. So you can use aluminum baking tins and pans, glassware,silicon and ceramic ware like ramekins and other oven safe bake-ware.

My oven sets at a minimum of 40 degrees C and a maximum of 250 degrees C. The temperature in your convection microwave sets in certain intervals say 10 degrees, eg, 180 C, 190 C, 200 C and so on as in LG microwaves or in intervals of 20 degrees eg, 180 C,  200 C, 220 C and so on as  in Samsung microwave ovens.

Pre-heating:  You need to pre-heat your oven just as you pre-heat an OTG. Pre-heating is getting your oven to the desired temperature before you put your cake pan with the batter / cookie sheet  in it. For example, the recipe says, pre-heat oven to 200 degrees C. Your microwave takes about 5 minutes or less to pre-heat as compared to the 20-25 minutes in an OTG. So you can pre-heat the microwave even when you are just 5 minutes away from getting your cookie dough/ cake batter ready.

  • Place the short metal rack inside the oven on the turntable, make sure its stably placed in the center (hold on, you will not place the cake tin inside right now), close the door, press ‘Convection’.  The display will show 180 degrees temperature by default. 
  • Your oven will have buttons to increase and decrease the temperature. So you now keep pressing ‘Increase’ till you see 200 degrees (in this example) in the display. Now press ‘Start’. The turntable will start rotating and your oven begins to heat, the display shows as “PRH’ meaning pre-heat. 
  • Once the oven reaches 200 degrees , it will sound a beep (a series actually) and the display shows 200 C. Now, do not press ‘stop’ or do anything other than just opening the door of the oven. Put your bake in, close the door. Set the timer as needed, say 30 minutes. Press ‘Start’. Now your bake cake is baking at 180 degrees for 30 minutes. 
  • I prefer to write down the time and the duration for which I have set my oven in my recipe book - just in case of power failure or re-setting the timer by mistake - when you lose track of how long the cake has been baking.

If you need to pre-heat the oven to a temperature less than 180 degrees C, then use the decrease button to set the temperature needed. In case you press “stop’ or leave the oven turned off for more than a minute,  start the pre-heating process all over again as given above.

In my friend's Samsung oven, you press Convection, then press the pre-heat button. The same pre-heat buttons allows you to move the temperature up and down, once you see the desired temperature in the display, press ‘Start’. Your oven starts pre-heating and sounds a series of beeps when heated.

Please note, the microwave once pre-heated will automatically turn off after a certain point of time if you do not proceed with baking. Microwaves don't like being ignored!

Changing the temperature while baking: Some recipes need you to change the temperature while baking, that is, bake say at 190 C for 20 minutes and then at 160 C for another 20 minutes. In this case, pre-heat the oven to 190 C and bake for 20 minutes, then press Stop. Immediately press the convection button, set temperature to 160 C , set the time for 20 minutes and press ‘Start’ again.

Always remember to take the cake /cookies / bread out from the oven once the baking is done.  Do not leave it inside the oven (though the oven turns off by itself, the heat still remains, over baking your cake) unless the recipe specifies you to do so.

After you bake, and the timer goes off, the oven switches off and then does 'cooling'. Wait for sometime if you wish to use it on microwave mode before you use it again.

Capacity of your microwave :  Your microwave, could be anywhere around 20 and 38 liters depending on the brand. Knowing this helps to have a rough idea about the sizes of tins that can fit in your oven and gift yourself a new bigger one if needed!

  • If you own neither an OTG nor a microwave and just begun baking, it makes sense to buy a convection microwave as you could use it for both cooking and baking. Helps economize on space too. Buy a big OTG too later (like me).
  •  Convection microwaves come with a fan for even circulation of hot air inside. My old 14 liters Morphy Richards OTG does not have a fan, but my new 40 liter one does.
  •  A microwave pre-heats in about 5 minutes as compared to an OTG which takes 15-20 minutes. Really useful for quick small batches of baking, seriously useful when you have your batter waiting and there is a power cut!
  • Microwaves also come with digital settings for the temperature and time, so more accuracy and less guess work here.
  • If you are an occasional, small batches only baker, this will work very well for you! When you turn an obsessed baker wanting to feed all you know, think about buying an OTG too!

  • Even microwaves with higher capacity,  say 38 liter ones can't fit in big trays and tins as the turntable needs to rotate as it bakes and the sides of the tin touching the walls of the microwave will cause a lot of disturbance or the turntable may not turn at all. But a 40 liter OTG will be more accommodative as the tray remains in place as it bakes.
  • Also you can use only one level of the microwave for baking whereas you can use both the top and bottom racks of an OTG simultaneously.  If you bake for commercial purposes, a microwave is not for you as you will not be able to bake in big batches at one go.
  •  When you place heavy pans its a little tricky as the light weight metal rack may tilt with the weight of the pan. Even worse when you place a pan with ramekins surrounded by hot water for baked custards and the kinds!
  •  My microwave sets at the lowest setting of 40 degrees and then next to 100 C. An OTG will be more lenient here.
  • The space inside a microwave will allow you little room to put your hands in and do anything like re-distributing your granola for example as your hands will touch the hot walls or the top element.
  • If you melt your chocolate in the microwave, then learn to melt it on the stove top too as you can't melt chocolate while your oven is pre-heating!

 Buying a microwave: Choosing a good brand first naturally -  I use an LG microwave and its worked really well for me, no complaints on the quality. IFB and Samsung (except for the temperature interval constraint) is supposed to be good too, though I have no idea about the after sales services. Check if your city has good after sales facilities for the brand you choose. A brand new in the market is not very likely to have great after sales services.

Check if the highest and lowest temperature you can set your oven to and the intervals its sets at, 10 degrees is fine, but 20 is a little hard to digest! Also most ovens here come with a maximum temperature setting of 250 degrees C which in itself is low for baking pizzas, so make sure the maximum temperature is at least 250 degrees C.

I would personally prefer microwaves with digital settings as compared to the analog ones for greater accuracy and consistent results.

Having used an OTG first when I started to bake, I had my own reservations about using a microwave for baking. But I must say, I have not found a great deal of difference between the bakes done in either.


Archana Kumar said...

This post is great, you have a ton of patience to write so much ! Very useful post, will send this link to a lot of my friends who have such questions.

Rajani said...

Superb, well analysed, well strucutred post. Trust you to comeout wiht such a brilliant piece.
My two bits about my Panasonic microwave. Just to add to the knowledge bank here -
1.32L capacity, has the widest turntable -350 mm. This helps to place larger trays or cake pans while baking.
2. Preheats in 7-8minutes.
Has minimum of 100 C with 10 C increase till max of 250 C.
Grill has 2 variants - grill 1 and 2 with different heating. Garlic bread, grilled SW at grill 1. Have not tried grill 2 so far.
3. MW - max power is 1000 W -I love that because veggies get cooked that much faster.A cup of peas cooks in 2 minutes.
Keep up the great work Suma, you rock.

Hasna said...

ths informative...going to share this in my page

Rafeeda AR said...

oh wow... that's a very information and exhaustive post... i also have a MW Convection oven but apart from my muffins and bundts, my normal cakes dun seem to get cooked in the centre bottom... even with lowered temperature, the top gets burnt and the inner is uncooked, please advise what should i do in this case...

Priya Kumar said...

This is a very comprehensive write-up Suma, very useful for beginners! I had doubts over my recent purchase of convection microwave. But I went ahead with it due to space constraint. Now your post reaffirms the same :)

Shubha said...

Thabks for the info suma...its very helpful...

divya said...

wonderful post..

Tummy Delites said...

Indeed a very helpful post for all the new bakers!!

Pawan said...

One of the most useful post I have read in recent past. Very well written and equally informative.

Pawan said...

Lovely post. Very informative and precise. Will keep coming back.

rozz said...

Appreciate you patience and effort

Small open question
I ahve an IFB conveection oven.It came only with a tall wirerack..Any idea where can i get a shorter wirerack for baking purposes?

rozz said...

Appreciate you patience and effort

Have a small open question

I have a IFB convection oven which came with a tall wire rack.Any Idea where can i procure a shorter wire rack as you mentioned?

Suma Rowjee said...

@ Rozz- Thank you! Yes, I think you must get a short rack for baking..

Suma Rowjee said...

@Rafeeda - Think your oven is fine. Are you sure you are using the pan size recommended in the recipe? Try again and let me know..

Suma Rowjee said...

@Rozz - Sorry, missed the question, check with IFB service center or try online..

shailaja said...

hi suma very interesting and informative post . iam also using lg convection oven, and is it necessery to put turn table while baking till now iam not keeping turntable while baking and iam just using only lower middle rack and my bakes r coming well

Suma Rowjee said...

@Shailaja - have never really tried without a turntable, does it rotate without it? :)

M D said...

Excellent writeup Suma. Love the extensive writeup. I read through it, admiring the honesty and patience with which you have written this post. Like you know, I too use my micro with convection a lot and have faced issues for larger bakes. Again, kudos for this detailed writeup.

Shopaholeo said...

Hi Suma,

Thank you for an Extremely useful write up(perfect timing too, as I was seriously considering buying a Morphy Richards OTG in addition to my LG Mw/Grill/Convec!)

I have a question though, Sometimes while baking only in the convec mode, when I open the door of the oven to check if the cake/cupcakes are done, it causes a Disaster and wrecks the entire rising of the cake. Can you help me sort out this issue please? Thank you.


Suma Rowjee said...

@Shopaholeo - Am glad! The cakes could be sinking if you have tried opening the door much earlier than they are baked. Avoid opening the door too often. If you have just begun baking, stick to the recipe measures, recommended pan sizes and open the door only towards the end of the specified baking time range.

RashmiSethi said...

Thank you so much. A very informative post. I have used my Samsung convection oven only for microwaving and grilling pizzas!
I was planning to but a 30-40 lts OTG for baking - but looks like I do not need it!
Rashmi Sethi

nitya said...

Thank you for your effort.I recently bought an Lg microwave n as a beginner your blog was sum thing I was searching for.
I would appreciate if you would tell me if I can use a metal tray on a low rack to grill fish etc. While using low rack alone stains my glass turner inside.
Also can a silicone bake wear be used for grilling/ crisp mode?

Prachi Mishra said...

excellent..thanks a lot..

Erika said...

Thanks for the information, but I was wondering how the microwaves combi with grilling uses the metal rack, has anyone tried it? I feel a bit nervous trying to grill and microwave at the same time as using the metal grill rack, even though the instruction say I can, I am confused though!

amu said...

Hi, this was a wonderful read for someone like me who has been wanting to bake, owns a convec microwave but doesnot know a single thing about microwave baking. One question that I would like help with is what kind of containers can we put in? I have a highwire rack that I got with my IFB so should I buy a tray?

razina abulkalam said...

very informative post suma, i''ve got a whirlpool convection oven and whenever i bake cakes, it gets burnt, suppose if the recipe calls for bake at 175c for 30-35 minutes, but i do at 120c only for 10 minutes, then also it gets burn, can u let me know at what temp and timing shud v bake in convection ovens, thnx

razina abulkalam said...

very informative post suma, i''ve got a whirlpool convection oven and whenever i bake cakes, it gets burnt, suppose if the recipe calls for bake at 175c for 30-35 minutes, but i do at 120c only for 10 minutes, then also it gets burn, can u let me know at what temp and timing shud v bake in convection ovens, thnx

Anu H said...

Thanks, as a beginner the information provided has been really helpful. I have rarely used the convection mode on my microwave. While baking, Is it necessary to put the baking tray on the low metal rack, Can the baking tray not be directly put on the glass bottom of the microwave in convection mode?

Roshan Kapoor said...

i also have a MW Convection oven but apart , my normal cakes dun seem to get cooked in the centre bottom... even with lowered temperature, the top gets burnt and the inner is uncooked, please advise what should i do

Suma Rowjee said...

Forgive me for the really late response.

@Nitya - Not sure if the food would get properly grilled as it would be away from the grill on top. Guess you can use silicon, have not used the grill mode much. Use the tall rack for grilling.

@ Erika - Not tried, but if your manual says you can use, try it!

@ Amu - Have mentioned the kinds suitable for baking, hope you find ur answers above!

@ Razina - Please get your microwave checked.

@ Roshan - Your oven seems to be setting at higher temperatures than it indicates. Have it checked, a good oven thermometer can tell you the exact temperature.

Meghna Mukherjee said...

your post is awesm. thnaks a lot for the post as i made my first cake in my LG microwave after geting proper guidence from the post. cud u pls tel me how to set the power level in difrnt mode i.e high, medium, low? n do i nid to set the power level in stead of timer , while normal heating???

Prabash R. Sahoo said...

Thanks for such a great article. Really I learned a lot from it. Thanks again.

dr.gomatthi chinnaswamy said...

Great tips for baking !
Thank you.

saima shaikh said...

Great information..thanx so much..I always scared to use microwave.

saima shaikh said...

Great information..thanx so much

Apple Flower said...

How can i use the microwave to bake cheese cake??

Pls advice

Azhar Mulla said...

g8 post !!!!!!
you explained it really well.

Cleared all confusions.. keep up the good work.

Happy cooking.

Suma Rowjee said...

@Apple Flower - Yes you could! All baking on Convection mode.

lavanya K said...

Hi I am having Whirlpool brand.It doesn't display any temperature and it not even having preheat option i am just a beginner in baking.Please help me

Suma Rowjee said...

@Lavanya - If its a basic microwave, there wont be options for pre-heat and temperature. Please make sure its a convection microwave.

prakash chauhan said...

Very Nice's very nice blog and this is very useful for me thanks. I use to do online ifb microwave as its time saving.

Vidya said...

Hi Suma,

Thanks for the information I am going to buy my first MW so looking for information and came here. It solved all my queries and now I am going for LG MW, have a question, Is the auto-cook menu useful? should I go for more auto cook menus? also found some features like Indian Bread Basket, Healthy Fry etc. are they really useful?

Also what is Motorised Rotisserie is it useful? should I go for it?

Your suggestions will help me to buy a good product, I hope you will help me to buy a good MW so I can make delicious cakes like you :) waiting for your reply :) Thanks

Min said...

Hi, I have a National Microwave/convection.Dimension 4 "the Genius". It has a function called "convection bake" and
"2-level convection bake" I am always confused which to use for baking cakes and which for cookies and which for pizzas. Can you help me on this. Thank you.

Suma Rowjee said...

@Vidya - I do not use the auto functions, don't do much by way of cooking in the microwave. Motorized rotisserie is mostly for cooking meat.
@Min - Sorry, no idea about this.

Riya said...

This is exactly the kind of post I have been looking for after my purchase of Samsung microwave. Very informative post. Write more posts for beginners. Thanks.

Piyal said...

thank u...... this post is just what i needed..... i use samsung 21L convection microwave.... i am a beginner..... can u tell me how much temperature and time is needed to bake a medium sized cake after pre-heating for 5mins in 200C

Farzana Yusuf said...

Thank you sooooo much, this post has been so helpful... I m a new baker with the constriction of having a micro-wave, was thinking I will have to bake only if I have an OTG but your post helped me a lot n saved my money too;) lolz

Suma Rowjee said...

@Piyal - The baking time depends entirely on the recipe, the pan size etc. So please pick a reliable recipe from a good source and bake as it instructs you to - give or take 5 minutes.

@Farzana - Am glad! :)

Priyanka Singh said...

Hi Suma,

Thanks for such nice post. I have tried baking white bread with my LG convection oven. The bread came out nice but the upper crust is not that brown as shown in videos I followed. Secondly it breaks while I cut it. Any suggestion will be helpful.

viji said...

hi suma...great post...have a few doubts...used to make pizza on an OTG with prebaked base..the base used to be crisp. Now i have bought a convection samsung microwave(28l) and when i make a pizza on it the base remains soft. i use the high rack and grill that where i am going wrong?

Heba Said said...

Great information
thank you very much
i kinda have some question, I've just bought LG microwave/convection oven it came with the glass plate of course, low metal rack for convection, high metal rack for grill and a metal plate
the manual says put the metal plate between the glass plate and the rack during grill mode , i didn't try it yet
but it doesn't seem right to me to put the metal right over the glass then the rack over the metal
and in the convection mode should i do this also??

and what about the combination modes?? isn't it wrong to use metals during microwave so how can we put the metal rack

Suma Rowjee said...

@Viji - Try baking the base on convection mode. Better still bake your oven pizza from scratch!

Suma Rowjee said...

@ Heba- Sorry, haven't used the combination mode at all.

namrata kadam said...

Thanks for the excellent information.

Anushma Ghosh said...

Thanks Suma for insights into the functioning of microwave ovens. I have a query.. What can be a roast-equivalent (as in roasted vegetables,etc) in such 3 mode microwave ovens. I tried the Grill mode (I have LG) but was not quite satisfied with the results.

Suma Rowjee said...

Anushma - I do not like grilling in the microwave either. Try baking them on convection mode.

The liked Pioneer Woman's potato parcels(here on the blog), try that way too.

Vivek Singh said...

Awesome post thanks for sharing. Now i will follow these tips while baking food in my microwave oven.

jaya said...

i really worried about my microwave
.now i wll ur tips and share it