"Why do my microwave meatballs overcook on the bottom?"
"Why does my barbecued chicken always seem to cook more slowly on the top?"
These are questions we're frequently asked by friends and relatives who suspect that the fault might be their own.
They're only partially right. One problem with microwaving is that it produces more meat drippings than conventional cooking. These, of course, tend to be fatty and fat tends to attract microwaves, so unless the meat is lifted out of the drippings, the submerged parts will overcook before the uncovered parts are done.
This problem is easily solved. All you have to do is elevate the food above the drippings with a microwave trivet or a rack designed to fit inside microwave casseroles or roasting pans.
These will enable microwaves to circulate as freely around the bottom of food as they do around the top and sides so that all parts cook at more or less the same speed.
The following recipes prove the point.
1 small yellow onion, minced
1 tablespoon butter, margarine or vegetable oil
1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground veal
1/2 cup fine dry bread crumbs
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon cold water
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Dash ground nutmeg
Mustard or chutney
Microwave onion and butter in wax paper-covered 1 1/2-quart microwave-safe casserole on HIGH (100% power) 2 1/2 to 3 minutes until onion is glassy. Mix in beef, veal, bread crumbs, egg, water, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Shape into 1-inch balls.
Arrange meatballs on ridged microwave roasting rack in casserole. Cover with wax paper and microwave on HIGH 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 minutes, rearranging meatballs at half time, until no longer pink in center.
Allow meatballs to stand on rack, uncovered, 30 seconds (standing improves both appearance and texture of meatballs because excess moisture evaporates).
Serve meatballs warm with mustard or chutney for dipping. Makes 2 1/2 dozen (1-inch) cocktail meatballs.
BARBECUED CHICKEN WINGS
1 small yellow onion, peeled and minced
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3/4 cup catsup
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup hot water
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 tablespoon prepared mild yellow mustard
2 tablespoons bottled steak sauce or Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
10 chicken wings (about 1 3/4 pounds), separated at joints (reserve wing tips for soup)
Microwave onion and garlic in oil in uncovered 6-cup microwave-safe measure on HIGH (100% power) 3 to 3 1/2 minutes until very soft.
Mix in catsup, vinegar, water, corn syrup, mustard, steak sauce, salt, pepper and chili powder. Cover with vented plastic wrap and microwave on HIGH 1 1/2 to 2 minutes until bubbling.
Stir, recover and microwave on MEDIUM (50% power) 3 1/2 to 4 minutes, stirring at half time, until flavors mellow. Marinate chicken wings in barbecue sauce overnight in covered container in refrigerator, turning occasionally.
Drain chicken wings, reserving sauce. Arrange wings on 11- to 12-inch roasting rack set in shallow microwave-safe casserole, making sure smaller pieces are in center.
Cover with wax paper and microwave on HIGH 9 to 11 minutes until chicken wings are tender, turning rack 90 degrees every 3 minutes. At half time, turn wings over, rearrange and baste with sauce.
When chicken wings are cooked, cover with foil and let stand 2 minutes. Meanwhile, microwave remaining sauce in 2-cup measure, covered with vented plastic wrap, on HIGH 1 minute. Pour sauce over wings or pass separately. Makes 20 pieces.
Note: For crisp chicken skin, transfer wings to broiler rack and broil 4 inches from heat of preheated broiler 3 to 4 minutes, turning wings over at half time. In ovens of less than 600 watts, increase cooking times about 15%.