Microwave ovens heat food using microwaves, a form of electromagnetic radiation similar to radio waves. Microwaves have three characteristics that allow them to be used in cooking: they are reflected by metal; they pass through glass, paper, plastic, and similar materials; and they are absorbed by foods.

A device called a magnetron inside the oven produces microwaves. The microwaves reflect off the metal interior of the oven and cause the water molecules in the food to vibrate. This vibration results in friction between molecules, which produces heat that cooks the food.

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