New Infrared Microwave Lets You See Food Cooking—Inside and Out

Burned popcorn and undercooked burritos might be a thing of the past if this invention makes it to stores.
Feb 12, 2015·
TakePart fellow Jessica Dollin studied journalism at the University of Arizona. She has written for the Phoenix New Times and HerCampus.

Microwave chefs—be they college students or bachelors—can breathe a sigh of relief, because someone has finally solved one of cooking’s greatest mysteries: How long does it take to evenly heat food in the microwave?

Mark Rober, a former NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineer, came up with the idea to add infrared cameras and screens to a product that he calls Heat Map Microwave, which films food while it’s cooking.

By turning the heat-seeing camera on food as it nukes, Rober has figured out a way to save time, energy, and taste buds. The infrared camera connects to a screen that shows frozen macaroni and cheese, for example, changing from blue to orange to red as it heats. Once the dish turns completely white on the screen, it’s fully cooked.

The software design would allow the user to switch from thermal to standard viewing. “You should see your food bubble in 1080p HD,” Rober told Gizmodo. “Hell, maybe you could even zoom in.”

Contrary to what your mother may have told you, standing in front of the microwave isn’t cancer-causing—that leaves the machine’s tendency toward uneven heating among its biggest drawbacks. Declining microwave sales could use a bump, and this new technology, one of the few improvements being made to the favored kitchen gadget since its debut in 1955, could help provide that.

Rober is hoping that will be the case: He has a patent on his design and is asking people to sign a petition pledging that they would buy the microwave if it were reasonably priced.