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Time to put this turkey to rest

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I wanted to know: Why can’t I microwave a 20lbs. turkey. Lets walk through turning this into a topic suitable for a science fair.

Being clear about what I mean

In previous posts I talked about getting the help of the “Well, actually…” guy to make sure our questions are precise and less likely to be misunderstood. For example, I know what I mean when I say “Why can’t I cook a 20lbs. turkey in the microwave?” but is it safe to assume you know what I mean? Lets see what the “Well, actually…” guy makes of this.

🤔 Why can’t I cook a 20lbs. turkey in the microwave?
Well actually, you can cook a 20lbs. turkey in the microwave.

I know you can technically cook a 20lbs. turkey in the microwave, what I really meant was why does it work so poorly? In this case, my question wasn’t precise enough – maybe not everyone knows or agrees that you shouldn’t cook a turkey in the microwave.

🤔 Why does a microwave do such a bad job at cooking a 20lbs turkey?
Says who? If your microwaved turkey isn’t cooked well enough, leave it in longer!

Again, this isn’t what I meant! I mean Why is the result of cooking a turkey in the microwave so unappetizing? So the next question I could pose to the “Well, actually…” guy could be: “How likely are Canadians to enjoy the taste of turkey cooked in the microwave?” or “Can a microwave bring an entire turkey to a food-safe temperature?” But I need to make sure that what my question has turned into still matches what I meant to investigate in my original question.

When I stop to think I realize that, when I asked my question, what I was really interested in was why a microwave cooks food so differently than an oven and maybe – now that I’m thinking about it – if there is a way to cook a turkey in a microwave that results in an appetizing result, because who wouldn’t want cooked turkey faster?

Knowing the original goal of my question was to investigate how microwaves cook food I would probably go with this question:

“Why isn’t a microwave as suitable as an oven for cooking a turkey to an even, consistent temperature?”

Thanks “Well, actually…” guy!

Is it a science-compatible topic?

Last week I said science was great for questions that could be investigated by:

  1. Measuring
  2. Observing
  3. Experimenting
  4. Analyzing

How well do these four methods of investigation work with my new question, “Why isn’t a microwave as suitable as an oven for cooking a turkey to an even, consistent temperature?”

Can it be measured? A consistent (or inconsistent) temperature can be measured by simply placing a thermometer at different points on a turkey.

Can it be observed? Microwaves on their own can’t be easily observed by our eyes, but there are tools and tricks that can be used. As mentioned with measurement, we can observe temperature variation with a thermometer.

Can we experiment? For sure – fire up the microwave! Of course, we might want to consider turkey stand-ins, as buying lots of turkey’s for experimenting could get expensive.

Can we use analysis? This means “can we look at the information we gathered or that is available to us to try to reach some conclusions.” The information we’ll get from measuring, observing, and experimenting should tell us lots about how well a microwave cooks a turkey, helping us a reach a conclusion. So ‘check’ on this one as well!

Off to the science fair!

With some careful thinking and fine-tuning, I think this question is ready for the science fair! In the next couple of weeks we’ll start to talk about the next steps once you have a science fair question you like.

Until next time!
Chris