Microwave Do’s And Don’ts
Although most of us own one, and use it pretty much every day, and although they are very safe, there are still a few things that should never be placed in a microwave. The list isn’t restricted to foodstuffs, but also the containers you use as well.
Food and Drink
Overall microwaving your food is great, and can even help retain more nutrients in some cases. And while you can cook pretty much anything in the microwave, there are still a few foods that can be harmful to your health or cause accidents, and there are a few more you need to exercise a little caution with.
- Eggs (scrambled or poached)
- Desserts (like sponge cake and brownies)
- Frozen pizza
- Lemons and limes (to extract more juice)
- Potato chips
- Pretty much anything else, except the following:
- Eggs (boiled or in their shells – they can explode because the internal pressure can’t escape).
- Dried hot peppers (the capasaicin in peppers is volatile and can catch fire).
- Grapes (they can burst into flame).
- Sauces or dips without a cover; it’ll just make a total mess.
- Nothing – with nothing to absorb the microwaves, at best it will damage your microwave, at worst it will catch fire.
- Any foods that are likely to explode because of internal pressure: hot dogs, potatoes, sausages and the like. Always prick them with a fork so the internal pressure can vent.
- Boiling water in the microwave can cause it to become ‘super-heated’ and possibly explode. This can occur even after the microwaving has finished. A chopstick placed in the bowl can help prevent this. As an aside, unless you are boiling less than a pint of water, it is faster and cheaper to use your electric kettle.
- Likewise, the any containers you use should also be vented, so that the steam can escape.
Obviously we need to put what we’re cooking into or onto something to cook it. Some things work well, others not so well, and again some require a little caution to be exercised.
- Ceramics, porcelain and stoneware are recommended as opposed to ceramic dishes that may have been low fired as these could possibly explode. Check the back as most ceramics are labelled if they are microwave safe. Avoid also cookware with a metal trim or paint, sparks will fly, or worse.
- Glass containers are best, as there is absolutely no debate as to how safe they are in the microwave.
- Microwave cooking bags.
- Microwave safe plates, bowls, steamers, etc. While there is some debate over plastics in general, those products marked as safe for microwave use have meet statutory safety criteria.
- Paper towels, plates and napkins are invariably safe to use. However, some paper plates are coated with plastics, and some paper towels are made with plastic so always check that they are microwave safe.
- Wax and parchment paper are fine as well.
- Aluminium foil. Aluminium foil, reflects the microwaves back, thus preventing the food from cooking. They can also ignite causing a fire.
- Brown paper bags from the grocery store. The ink, glue and recycled materials make them unsanitary, they can emit toxic fumes when subjected to the intense heat, and also ignite resulting in a fire in the oven.
- Metal containers like canned food, which reflect the microwaves back as before.
- One time storage containers, like yogurt pots, or margarine tubs, and, this is one we’re nearly all guilty of, one-time containers like take-out containers
- Styrofoam containers.
- Plastics in general, and not just for microwave use, is the concern here. Some plastics can leach some chemicals into food. The FDA approves microwave containers based on the amount of chemicals leaching out: the maximum allowable amount is 100 – 1,000 times less per pound of body weight than that shown to harm lab animals over a lifetime of use. Containers that pass this test are approved for microwave use and can be labelled as such or display the microwave-safe icon.
We have limited ourselves to what should or shouldn’t be put into the microwave in regard to its intended use – cooking! The list of things you shouldn’t put into a microwave is somewhat exhaustive. Let common sense prevail, but if you feel compelled to experiment, we recommend heading over to YouTube first, as someone has almost certainly already tried it, you’ll be entertained, and will know in advance if you’re going to get a sparks and light show, a gooey mess, or even have a microwave left afterwards.
Finally, and at the risk of stating the totally obvious, please do not put any living thing into the microwave, we’ll say no more!