Microwaving Pipe Tobacco

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cajomu

Member
Jul 15, 2018
124
0
A couple of weeks ago, someone posted a video about drying tobacco in a microwave. The production values weren't very good and a lot of people made fun of the guy, but it got me thinking that there might be something to it. So ...
For the past few weeks, I've been experimenting with using my microwave to toast tobacco to improve its flavor (recall the old Lucky Strike slogan, "It's toasted") or to dry it out in order to rehydrate it with flavorings. Guess what? It works!
I've found that rather bland VAs (Sutliff Virginia Slices, for example) are much improved when toasted for about a minute on 50% power (30 seconds, then mix, then 30 more seconds). Also, aromatics that haven't lived up to the hype (for me, some Amphora Full Aroma that I purchased a few months ago and that had very little flavor) or that have gone flat can be dried to near crispiness (using long microwaving times and very low microwave power level) then bought back to life with different natural casings like distilled spirits, flavor extracts (vanilla, orange), strong coffee, etc. The one category of pipe tobacco that, IME, can't be improved in the microwave is high Latakia content English blends.
I'm curious if others have tried this and, if so, what they've learned. If you decide to try this, be aware that different microwaves have different power levels, so start out using low power settings and short microwaving times and then increase these as necessary to get the effect you desire.

 

cosmicfolklore

Preferred Member
Aug 9, 2013
18,206
600
It was also ironic that most of us who were poking fun at the guy were firm believers in using the microwave to dry their tobaccos. I don't do it as a regular practice. Mostly, I will dry out my entire tin or jar slowly before starting to smoke from it. But, in a pinch I will put in one bowl's worth and nuke it for 8 seconds. I will then let it set for a few more seconds. Any longer and it gets a nasty taste.
YMMV
Yeh, the problem was mostly the video, and the fact that the guy didn't clean up anything before filming, ha ha. Mrs. Cosmic would skin me if I made a video and posted it of my dirty microwave and messy kitchen.

 

rdavid

Preferred Member
Jun 30, 2018
654
0
Milton, FL
Yeah... definitely a touchy subject around here.
I never tried the "toasting" method but I frequently dry small amounts for 10 seconds at a time on high. Works very well if I can't wait on a lengthy drying time.
Never considered longer times on a lower setting. Interesting. Will try this and report back. Thanks.
Be prepared for the naysayers to show up soon!

 

eaglewriter1

Member
Sep 22, 2018
172
3
In the End a Microwave does the same thing as an oven so, I guess its worth a shot. Certainly an interesting post and idea.As a mostly Latakia smoker maybe I can find a blend that wins by being subjected to a quick heating before smoking.

 

sablebrush52

Preferred Member
Jun 15, 2013
9,743
434
Whatever works well for you. We've had several members here post their techniques for nuking tobacco, and when I'm in a hurry and not fussy about flavor, I'll nuke the occasional bowl.

 

crashthegrey

Preferred Member
Dec 18, 2015
2,836
21
a Microwave does the same thing as an oven
They do incredibly different things. Not even close to the same thing. I'm not saying don't microwave your tobacco, as I support whatever makes you happy. But they are not the same way of heating things, and fundamentally alter the tobacco on a molecular level in very different ways.

 

cajomu

Member
Jul 15, 2018
124
0
They do incredibly different things. Not even close to the same thing. I'm not saying don't microwave your tobacco, as I support whatever makes you happy. But they are not the same way of heating things, and fundamentally alter the tobacco on a molecular level in very different ways.
You're right, they do involve different methods of heating food, but there is no greater danger of a microwave oven altering the chemical composition of tobacco than of any other means of heating it. All methods of cooking involve imparting energy to the molecules in the food so that they begin to vibrate more rapidly. This causes friction, which has the effect of dehydrating the food, breaking down starches, denaturing proteins, carmelizing sugars, etc. Under high heat conditions, more complicated chemical reactions can occur (e.g., the Maillard reaction, which is responsible for much of the flavor of grilled and roasted meats and vegetables).
So there is no reason to be afraid of microwaving tobacco other than, if you over do it, you may burn the tobacco and ruin it.
Here's a good description of how a microwave oven works:
How Do Microwaves Cook Food?

 

jpmcwjr

Preferred Member
May 12, 2015
13,969
995
Monterey Peninsula
Microwaving is a great way to get tobacco nicely dried in a hurry. I did it Monday when I opened a new tin of something I hadn't tried in a long time (Gaslight). But if your climate is such that you can open a jar that's moist and let it dry over days, all the better. It's easier for me to use a tiny hygrometer to give me feed back. Otherwise I wouldn't be comfortable drying several ounces at a time.

 

timt

Preferred Member
Jul 19, 2018
1,035
4
My microwave gets used all the time for freshly opened tins or jars. FVF (rubbed out) gets 13 seconds while using our 1000 watt microwave, then a couple minutes to rest. Most other cuts can do with less time. Perhaps a tobacco drying cookbook could be compiled. Favorite recipes we can share...

 

cajomu

Member
Jul 15, 2018
124
0
One other thought. If you do use your microwave to toast or really dry out a tobacco, be aware that the microwave will smell of tobacco when you're done. Easy to fix by wiping it down with a damp paper towel, but best to do it before the wife goes to use the microwave and smells tobacco.

 

5star

Senior Member
Nov 17, 2017
406
1
I’m not a fan of most incense or scented candles. But take one of your favorite blends and stick it on a High in the microwave till flames occur. Mmmmm . . . now That’s some good potpourri !
(Yes, I’m just kidding )

 
Nov 27, 2018
270
1
I've always had a bit of distrust in the microwave ("what gives you the right to heat so quickly?") but I have used it a few on the few very moist blends that simply will not dry for days. Usually, I'm happy just to let my tobacco relax on a little plate for as long as it needs to get ready for the pipe.
I do understand where anti-microwave folks are coming from. Microwaves are kind of scary when you start thinking about them. People are very prepared to take the general feeling that they have about something, couple it with random things they've heard from other people, and cement it in their mind as absolute fact. The microwave is a perfect example of this, it's a very opinion-garnering machine. It's both very scary and incredibly convenient, so obviously we stick a fence between that and pick a side. Occasionally somebody will come along with some facts copy pasted from google, and even more occasionally someone will appear with some knowledge grounded in proven science and history, but that can take so long to read and we like our heels dug in just fine where they are, thank you. :puffpipe:

 

pipestud

Preferred Member
Dec 6, 2012
1,731
40
Robinson, TX.
A year or so ago, I decided to simply try a personal taste test. I put 25g of a tobacco that I am very familiar with (Murray's era 1997 tin of Dunhill Royal Yacht), in a microwave shortly after popping the tin. I also put 25g of that same tobacco in an oven heated to 450 degrees. With the microwave on high, I zapped the leaf for one minute. I had the tobacco spread out on aluminum foil for 45 minutes in the oven. I had checked both tobaccos periodically until I felt they were dried just right. I then smoked a bowl of each with 4 hours between smokes and used the same pipe. The true flavor of the tobacco was MUCH LESS pronounced with the microwave zapped tobacco. It may have been because the microwave system took away every bit of the casing that Royal Yacht has in it and the oven did not. I'm not a chemist and I'm not a baker, so I have no idea why I got the results I did... I just know that's what I got out of the test.

 

cajomu

Member
Jul 15, 2018
124
0
Occasionally somebody will come along with some facts copy pasted from google, and even more occasionally someone will appear with some knowledge grounded in proven science and history, but that can take so long to read and we like our heels dug in just fine where they are, thank you.
For some, "ignorance is bliss." I prefer to base my opinions, whenever possible, on facts and logic.

 

wolflarsen

Member
Jul 29, 2018
233
41
Heathens...

Next someone will probably tell us to try washing our pipes under running water in the sink.

 

cajomu

Member
Jul 15, 2018
124
0
@pipestud,
Yours was an interesting experiment, albeit, not conclusive for a number of reasons. For one, based on your description, it appears that you failed to control for end temperature, so there is no way of knowing whether one of the two samples was "cooked" more. Also, unless someone else presented the tobacco samples to you unidentify (sometimes called a "blind study"), your experiment was subject to selection bias.
Nevertheless, I don't necessarily dispute your conclusion. Microwaving and baking can produce startlingly different results, even when the foods are cooked to the same final temperature. For example, if you've ever tried to cook a steak in the microwave, you know that it produces a much tougher and less flavorful piece of meat, even though the desired degree of cooking is achieved. Conversely, reheating mashed potatoes in a microwave produces something closely resembling the original item, where as reheating them in the oven results in a dried out product. The point being that microwave ovens are great for doing some things and lousy at doing others
Mmy experience is that a microwave, properly used, is a great tool for drying tobacco. However, I could well imagine that there may be better albeit more time consuming ways of doing it.
For what it's worth (which is probably not a lot), I am a trained chemist and an experienced baker.