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So I like to eat a cooked lunch, but my work break room only has a microwave - incapable of producing the Maillard reaction and only good for reheating decaying food into a disgusting, soggy pap.

I understand that oil doesn't warm up in a microwave because the electrons don't resonate at the right frequency, unlike water.

However... a mixture of water and oil would transfer the heat to the oil, right? So all I need do is mix together water and oil in a cup, microwave on full power till all the water is gone and the oil is at 100C, then add my stir fry ingredients.

Has anyone tried this? Will it work?

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    As that water boils do you think it might cause the oil to splatter? You should test at home in your own microwave first if you need the job. And even then there is this problem of 100C is not hot enough to stir fry. – paparazzo Jun 4 '18 at 20:55
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While creative, this sounds like an especially poor idea, fraught with disaster.

  1. If the water turns into vapor at 100 C, it certainly would not transfer all that heat to the surrounding oil before leaving as steam, so I'd think you would never reach your desired oil temperatures if your goal was 100 C. Plus, as pointed out, in another answer, your food would be in this cold soggy mixture of oil and water until it reached it's maximum possible temperature. And then, once the water is gone, the oil would immediately start losing that peak temperature as it heats the food and gives up it's own energy, with no way to replenish it, except maybe the container getting very, very hot.
  2. If it did heat the oil to a hot enough temperature, and the water wasn't instantly evaporated, which seems physically impossible..... well, what happens when even a droplet of water hits any amount of hot oil? That kind of volume of water and hot oil seems explosively dangerous. Plus, it would make an awful mess out of the microwave, potentially.
  3. If you can get the oil heated to 100 C..... then what? Even a "low" frying temperature is going to be well in excess of 150 C. At 100 C I'd imagine the result would be a soggy, greasy, inedible abomination, not much better than the decaying pap you are trying to avoid.
  4. You're going to deep fry in a microwave at work? Aside from the mess, is your breakroom really set up to manage the waste oil after you are done? This all seems to be somewhat inconsiderate to your co-workers. Wouldn't it be better to re-heat leftovers or made-for microwave meals instead of trying to cook raw foods?
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    The oil would heat to close to 100C in my opinion. It is at 99C before 100C and LOTS of natural mixing going on. – paparazzo Jun 4 '18 at 20:58
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    @paparazzo - I disagree, because the water would be heated, first, to 100, before the oil would, which would mean it would leave. But I'm not certain about that, by any stretch of the imagination. I guess we'd have to ask a physics or engineering S.E. about the speed of energy transfer to water from microwaves, vs the rate it can be diffused into the interspersed oil. And would you get pockets of superheated water, because the thicker oil is trapping some of it longer than the vapor would escape if it was just water? – PoloHoleSet Jun 4 '18 at 21:01
  • Ask over there if you like. I have a BS in chemical engineering. Diffused is not the right word. – paparazzo Jun 4 '18 at 21:25
  • @paparazzo - Fair enough. Like I said, my certainty factor was very low. It doesn't fundamentally change my answer, though. – PoloHoleSet Jun 5 '18 at 14:32
  • What's also interesting is if you look at all the chemical engineering papers where they talk about heating oil and water mixtures, the process is usually for separating an emulsion, so if the separation speeds up with temperature, that means the ability to transfer that heat is reduced because of that separation. In a very practical sense, I'd think you're going to run into problems with the container overheating before you'd get there, as well. – PoloHoleSet Jun 5 '18 at 14:40
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It won't work. Water doesn't heat past 100C for one thing, which it too low for frying. Yes, if water boils it can impart a lot of energy due to the latent heat of boiling, but it's also going to want to vaporize, taking that energy with it. If you have the oil mixed with the water well then the oil comes with it and makes a huge mess.

Also, the water is your enemy when it comes to crispness. Imagine if you put water in the pan when you try to make a grilled cheese sandwich, the water is going to soak into the bread and make it nasty. You wouldn't get good results if you put water in the pan with bacon either.

Your best bet is to choose food that reheats well in a microwave, and there's plenty of that. Soups, stews, chili, pasta dishes, curries, most Chinese/Thai/Vietnamese leftovers. Anything that's been fried previously is a bad choice though, breaded chicken or french fries come out soggy.

There isn't much you can cook (as opposed to reheat) that well in the microwave, but there are opportunities. Potatoes bake in minutes, and you can supposedly cook bacon as well, although I've heard varying stories of success there.

  • Cooking streaky/American-style bacon in a microwave is the only way I've done it for well over 30 years. It comes out just fine and with less grease spatter than in a pan on the stovetop – Cynetta Jun 5 '18 at 12:14

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