Microwave reheating, compared to a conventional method, is notorious for lack of crust formation and severe toughening of flour and starch-based products. This review discusses how the typical thermal characteristics of microwave heating are involved in affecting the texture as well as the possible role of non-thermal effects. While low surface temperature is the well known mechanism why microwave heating is incapable of crust formation, the most severe toughening problems are caused by internal boiling. Beside moisture loss, the internally generated steam causes 2 main textural effects when it is vented out. The first is the replacing of non-condensable gases (air) in the product voids with a condensable one (steam). When the latter is condensed by cooling, a vacuum may be created in the voids causing their collapse and a formation of a more compact and tougher structure. The second textural effect involves amylose extraction from starch granules and its redistribution to eventually form a rich layer on the walls of the structural foam cells of the baked goods. Relatively fast crystallization of the amylose seems to be the main cause of toughening a short while after microwave heating. This mechanism is relevant mainly to products where starch is an important structural element. Structural disruptions by localize excessive steam pressure at hot-spots are also discussed in this review as well as methods of preventing or alleviating the most objectionable textural changes. The most effective ways of preventing these undesirable changes are by avoiding internal boiling and/or by manipulating the starch content and properties.
© 2011 Institute of Food Technologists®