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I've also been surprised by how fast asparagus heats up in the microwave. Is there a particular reason for this?

My understanding is that microwaves heat by transferring energy into the "polar" molecules (like those of water, oils) of a food. Is there something about asparagus that lends itself to this in a way that, say, peas/beans or certainly not potatoes, do not heat as fast?

Other reasons I could see this being the case:

  • I coincidentally happen to add oil or some other additive to asparagus more often when microwaving, and this is the real cause of the difference
  • There's no particular heat-transfer difference, but rather asparagus simply cooks faster given the same amount of heat generated

Does any one know the definitive answer(s) here?

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A couple things... Yes the microwaves excite polar molecules. Water happens to be a very common polar molecule. So the first thing I would expect would make a major difference would be the ratio of polar to non-polar molecules or the percentage of water in most cases. Asparagus has a high percentage of water at roughly 93%. Peas on the other hand have about 79%. Potatoes are also about 79%. Assuming to objects of the same shape and density, the one with more water will likely heat up quicker.

The second thing to consider is the shape (or more importantly the surface area). A potato is much thicker, and the surface of the potato will absorb most of the microwaves, causing the inside to stay cooler, much longer. The heating will be much less efficient and effective than heating the asparagus.

Edit: As Jefromi pointed out, there is also the fact that asparagus is always going to cook faster than a potato in absolutely EVERY cooking method.

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    And of course, regardless of cooking method, asparagus simply cooks much faster than plenty of vegetables, and definitely a lot faster than potatoes! – Cascabel Feb 14 '15 at 0:38

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