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I have an 800-Watt microwave. Cooking instructions for a certain product say to cook on HIGH for 4 minutes in a 1,100-Watt microwave.

How do I properly adjust the cooking time so that my microwave will properly cook the product? Is it simple math (such as 4*{1100/800}=5.5, or 5 minutes, 30 seconds), or are there more factors involved?

For the purposes of my application, presume altitude is at or near sea level.

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2 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

1100 Watt means 1100 Joules per second (energy over time). 1100 Watt over a period of 240 seconds therefore is 264000 Joules. To deliver 264000 Joules of energy with only 800 Watt takes 330 seconds (5.5 minutes), as you expected.

As KatieK noticed, there are some additional concerns. A good recipe will tell you to let the cooked product stand for a while. This allows heat diffusion, so all those Joules of heat will be distributed well. But if you cook at lower power, then the heat will already be diffused more. I.e. at lower power, you don't need to rest the product as long.

Another difference might be that you're not just heating the product, but you're relying on a secondary effect such as killing germs. For that, you'll need to have the entire product above a critical temperature for a certain time. This in general means that you don't need to adjust the times as much as you'd expect by the simple formula.

On the other hand, a warm product will lose heat to the environment over time. I.e. not all of those 264000 Joules will stay in the product you're heating. And with more time spent at medium temperatures, there's more heat loss in a low-powered microwave.

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There is no simple math equation that will always get you the proper cooking time. Each 800W microwave may differ, even within the same models, due to hotspots.

You can estimate that a 800 W microwave will be 72% as effective as a 1000W model, and that you want to increase cooking time to about 5 minutes. But since you can't fix over-cooked food, check your food early, and check often.

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Good answer. Thankfully microwaves don't work like conventional ovens, where more power = burned exterior, underdone interior. –  BobMcGee Aug 25 '11 at 4:18
    
The 1100W microwaves also have hotspots, and hopefully the 4 minute cooktime reflects that. In fact, at only 800W the effect of hotspots is less: the extra minute will allow more time for heat diffusion. –  MSalters Aug 25 '11 at 13:12
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