How does a microwave work

How do microwaves work?

Since the 1940s and 50s, microwaves have been speeding up the food preparation process, giving households piping warm foods in just a few minutes.

They’re great for reheating food to make the most of leftovers, getting ready meals hot and on the go and giving you back the time you’d otherwise spend putting together a tasty dish. At Candy, we’ve got a complete range of microwaves that do all that and more, with a choice of handy features to make things even easier.

So they’re important appliances to have in the home, but it’s always a question that gets asked: how do they actually work? What are the functions that help heat the food so quickly?

In this guide, we’re going to answer these questions and more, finding out how microwaves do what they do.

How do microwaves heat up food?

When the microwave was first invented, it must have seemed like a magical contraption. Gone was the need to light a fire and wait for pans to heat up, all you had to do was place your dish in a metal box and it would mysteriously heat up after a few minutes.

But the answer, as you might expect, was based in science. When you put your food in the microwave, it gets heated up by way of what we call microwaves. These microwaves are actually radioactive energy, a form that sits on the electromagnetic spectrum somewhere between radio waves and infrared waves.

What happens in the microwave is that microwaves are created and sent around the box exceptionally quickly, shooting through the food you’ve got inside. As it does this, it fizzes up all of the molecules in the food which is what causes the heat – first on the outside, and then by the natural transfer of the heat, on the inside too. 

The microwave produces these microwaves through what we call a magnetron and you can also find them in radar systems around the world. Magnetrons transform electricity into microwaves by running the electricity through an artificially created magnetic field – this works as an oscillator to produce the waves needed to cook the food.

What features do microwaves have?

Microwaves, including those in the Candy range, boast a collection of features to make microwaving food safe, reliable and efficient. Here are just a few of those features and how they work:

Cooking power

Most microwaves give you the option of raising or lowering the cooking power. This is measured in wattage, and the higher the wattage the faster it’ll get your food heating. However, these models which offer adjustable cooking power are often the more expensive models – compared to 800 watt models for example.

Child lock

Child locks, like those on all Candy Microwaves, are especially handy functions for families with young kids. These locks are easily usable by adults, but kids won’t be able to work them out until a parent comes along – it’s all to prevent children from getting their hands on hot food that might scald them when held or eaten.

Shortcut keys

Many advanced microwaves will feature shortcut keys that are tuned to the timer. Pressing one of these keys will instantly set the time that shortcut is linked to. For example, you might have a shortcut for warming up soup – instead of keying in the seconds you need, you can just press the designated soup shortcut key and the time will automatically be put in. Candy’s built-in MW-Combi has over 13 automatic cooking programmes that can do just this.

Defrost program

Whereas previously, defrosting certain kinds of food could have taken hours and hours, with microwaves like those in the Candy range, you’ll have a dedicated defrosting program which will cut down the defrosting time significantly – so you can enjoy your food quickly. Be careful however – always check the label of your food to be sure it doesn’t need to be defrosted in a certain way. Foods that aren’t defrosted correctly can contain harmful bacteria.


Most microwaves have a sound they make when they’re done cooking the food. This can be very handy when you’ve got food in the microwave but want to get on with something else in the background. A ping or a chime signifies everything’s cooked and it’s time to get stuck into your meal.

Integration or freestanding

With many microwaves you can choose either freestanding or integrated models – both of which are available from Candy.

Freestanding microwaves are ones you can place anywhere in your kitchen that has a power source. You just plug them in and you can put them down on counters, tables or in cupboards. They’re great for flexibility, and easy to install and remove as you need.

Integrated microwaves are appliances that are built into your kitchen or home. They must be installed and can’t be removed easily, but they are excellent for saving space and for completing established aesthetics.

Looking to buy a new microwave? Here at Candy we’ve got a fantastic choice of appliance just waiting for you. Find them on our website here.

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