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An infrared microwave is a type of radiant cooking device that cooks foods faster than a conventional oven and is similar to a microwave oven in that it uses radiation energy to heat food. Microwave ovens generate electromagnetic waves called microwaves to cook food. The infrared microwave, on the other hand, produces another type of energy wave called infrared waves. The primary difference between these types of energy is that microwaves cook food from the inside out, but infrared waves cook from the outside in. This difference will greatly affect the taste and texture of the food that is being cooked.
Individuals who are hoping that an infrared microwave has the same fast-cooking convenience of a traditional microwave may be disappointed to learn that food generally takes longer to cook by infrared radiation than by microwave. This is because the infrared waves cook from the outside in, much more like a traditional oven. While this takes longer, however, it also allows the food to become brown and crisp on the outside and juicy on the inside. The food will definitely cook faster than in a conventional oven and will not have the rubbery texture and nonuniform heating often caused by microwave heating. Due to the way in which an infrared microwave cooks from the outside in, it is even possible to use it for baking, something that could never be successfully attempted with a microwave.
Most infrared microwaves use only infrared waves to cook, but there are several models available that offer combined cooking methods, utilizing infrared, microwave, and convection technologies. Infrared waves do generate heat, and items such as plastic cookware, paper towels, or waxed paper cannot be used in an infrared microwave. As a general rule of thumb, if an item would not fare well in the heat of a conventional oven, it will probably not stand up to the heat generated by the infrared waves. Also, infrared waves will not defrost food any faster than a regular oven, so an infrared microwave generally will not have the convenience of a defrost feature.
Traditional microwaves and infrared microwaves do not look the same. Most look more like toaster or convection ovens. An infrared microwave does not require preheating, and if it does not use a combination of cooking methods, it is generally safe to use metal pans or tinfoil when cooking. As a result of the way the infrared waves cook, the interior cooking chamber typically gets hot, and the food should be handled with the same care exercised with a conventional oven.