A variable frequency microwave heating apparatus (10) designed to allow modulation of the frequency of the microwaves introduced into a furnace cavity (34) for testing or other selected applications. The variable frequency heating apparatus (10) is used in the method of the present invention to monitor the resonant processing frequency within the furnace cavity (34) depending upon the material, including the state thereof, from which the workpiece (36) is fabricated. The variable frequency microwave heating apparatus (10) includes a microwave signal generator (12) and a high-power microwave amplifier (20) or a microwave voltage-controlled oscillator (14). A power supply (22) is provided for operation of the high-power microwave oscillator (14) or microwave amplifier (20). A directional coupler (24) is provided for detecting the direction and amplitude of signals incident upon and reflected from the microwave cavity (34). A first power meter (30) is provided for measuring the power delivered to the microwave furnace (32). A second power meter (26) detects the magnitude of reflected power. Reflected power is dissipated in the reflected power load (28).