Believe it or not you can cook chestnuts in a microwave oven. And they taste pretty good provided you get the cooking time just right. Microwaves are powerful, so there’s little room for error. Too few seconds and they’re virtually raw; too many seconds and they’re rubbery or hard. The table below shows the cook times I arrived at through trial and error for chestnuts in batches of two, three, four, and five. These results were derived by using medium-to-large fresh chestnuts in a 1000-watt oven that has a turntable. (I also carved an “X” into at least one side of each chestnut with a sharp knife prior to cooking.) Chestnuts were stored at room temperature.
Now to the Algebra part. Suppose you wanted to use the data above to create a “recipe” for microwaving chestnuts – a formula that you or someone else could use for cooking batches of six, seven, eight chestnuts or more (theoretically).
Think of the left column as your x-values and the right column as your y-values. Notice how for each additional chestnut the number of seconds added increases each time, it’s not constant. So we know this would not be a linear function. Let’s assume that it is an exponential function, that it follows the form y = ab. How could you use this data to create an exponential function, and what would the resulting “recipe” be?
UPDATE: After more trial and error, it is now clear that perfecting this formula will not be possible without microwave ovens that can be programmed to the nearest tenth of a second. Turntables that have a built in scale would be nice, too.