How to Dry Tomatoes with Microwave
Yes, you can zap fresh tomatoes to sun dried! But when you dry tomatoes with microwave technology, there are some quirks.
Using a microwave to make dried tomatoes is considered to be the most unreliable drying method. If you’re aware of what to expect and what to do, you can still have success.
No matter what method you use, drying tomatoes requires two things: consistent heat and air circulation.
Both are tricky but not impossible to achieve in a microwave. Have patience and practice with a few batches to find out what works best in your microwave.
Tomato Drying Requirement #1: Consistent Heat
It’s difficult to measure heat in a microwave because the air in the oven isn’t heated – the food is. Plus, in a microwave, heat isn’t conducted through the food as it is in a traditional oven. Instead, microwaves penetrate the entire piece of food. Water, fats, and sugars in the food absorb microwaves. Their atoms “get excited,” creating heat, which cooks the food.
In other words, when you dry tomatoes in a microwave oven, you heat them from the inside out (rather than the outside in, which happens with other drying methods). Naturally, thick pieces of food take longer than thin ones. If cooked on high power levels too fast, tomatoes, particularly their edges, can burn in the microwave. They also can boil, leaving you a gooey mess.
The solution for drying tomatoes in a microwave oven is to use a very low power level, cook them for long periods, and turn them regularly – no matter how tempting it may be to zap them on “High” and leave them alone. But monitoring tomatoes is not that much of a chore. If you plan well, you can combine drying tomatoes in the microwave while doing other kitchen tasks, and you won’t notice any inconvenience.
Tomato Drying Requirement #2:
Tomatoes that are dried flat on a paper towel or plate in the microwave don’t fare well. Allow air circulation by using a microwave bacon rack or similar microwave-safe cooking tray with ribs.
Advantages when you dry tomatoes with microwave
- Microwave ovens don’t need sunny weather to dry tomatoes
- Microwave ovens are available in most every most kitchen
- Microwave ovens don’t heat up the kitchen
- Microwave ovens dry tomatoes in a much shorter time than any other method
Challenges when you dry tomatoes with microwave
- You must use a cooking rack with ribs (like a bacon rack) or tomatoes will dry unevenly
- You can only dry small amounts of tomatoes (7-10 Romas, for instance) at a time
- You must monitor tomatoes often
How to dry tomatoes with microwave
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- Use tomatoes of uniform size for most even results. Thicker pieces take longer than thin ones, so a uniform size will allow consistent drying. Roma tomatoes (paste tomatoes) or tomatoes with a meaty core are the best type to use because they have the lowest amount of excess liquid.
- Wash and dry tomatoes.
- Slice tomatoes in half lengthwise. To optimize microwave drying, scoop out seeds and excess liquid with a spoon or your finger. Blot extra juice on tomatoes with a paper towel.
- Place tomatoes cut-side up on microwave bacon trays, perpendicular to ribs, about ½” apart. Do not allow tomatoes to touch. Sprinkle tomatoes with salt, garlic powder, or fresh herbs (as desired).
- Cook tomatoes on Power Level 2 (out of 10 levels) for 45 minutes, turning every 15 minutes to turn them on the ribs. Adjust timing and setting as appropriate for your microwave.
- Cook tomatoes on Power Level 1 (out of 10 levels) in 5 minute increments, turning each time, until dried. Adjust timing and setting as appropriate for your microwave. Dried tomatoes will be reduced in size, shriveled and leathery, but not tacky.
- Remove tomatoes from the microwave and allow them to cool thoroughly.
- Pack tightly in freezer bags, vacuum sealed bags, plastic containers, or jars.
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