Microwaves – we’ve all heard of the health concerns, but would our lives really be the same without them?
Whether it’s microwavable packet rice you’re sneakily using for your dinner party, or reheating a coffee you were too busy to drink, microwaves definitely come in handy.
They may be convenient, but that’s not to say we should use them all the time. Most of are aware of the supposed detrimental health effects that go hand in hand with microwaving food. The process of microwaving can reduce nutrients, increase carcinogens and even cause fires.
Some things are pretty safe to microwave, but others can be a real danger to both our own health and surroundings. Here are 15 things you should absolutely, NEVER, microwave.
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1. Are Microwave ‘safe’ dishes really safe?
This one may come as a bit of a surprise. It turns out microwave ‘safe’ dishes may not be all that safe at all. Frederic vom Sall, a world expert on Bisphenol claims that, ‘there is no such thing as safe microwaveable plastic.’
This is because when you heat plastic, it releases chemicals – also known as ‘leaching’. These chemicals are released into food, making them toxic.
The best way to reheat food, therefore, is by avoiding plastic completely, microwave safe or not. Stick to microwaveable plates and bowls to avoid toxic chemicals.
2. Don’t microwave eggs
One of my favourite cooking hacks for high-protein breakfasts on rushed mornings is making scrambled eggs in the microwave. Zap the mix for a minute or so, and you’ll get great results.
The same should not be tried with boiled eggs, however. Try and cook an egg in its shell in the microwave, and you could get a nasty surprise. The pressure can build up inside the egg, causing it to explode. While this will save you mashing it ready for egg mayo, it will also make a mighty fine mess!
3. Dry sponges should never be microwaved
If you’re a regular reader of Expert Home Tips (and you really should be), you’ll know that our favourite way to kill germs on your kitchen sponge fast is in the microwave.
One KEY thing to note, however, is that the sponge must be dampened first. Microwaves are extremely powerful, and the dry texture of a sponge can easily catch alight.
4. You shouldn’t microwave frozen meat
The best way to defrost frozen meat is, of course, to let it thaw naturally through the course of the day. How many times do we forget to do that, though?
Throwing frozen meat into the microwave to make up for this morning’s blunder may not seem like the end of the world, but it could end up a disaster. Microwaves are designed to cook food quickly – defrosting requires a slow increase of temperature.
The power of the microwave could end up actually cooking the meat, which can lead to a multiplication of bacteria.
5. Take-out dishes should never be microwaved
You may think there’s no harm in quickly reheating your Chinese takeaway – how wrong you’d be. Most takeaway containers are made from or contain metal – a big no-no if you’re using the microwave.
Unlike food, metal cannot absorb the radio waves emitted by a microwave. Instead, they reflect them. This is all well and good when the metal is flat (microwaves are actually lined with metal to prevent radio waves from being emitted), but when it is irregular in shape, they are unable to withstand the levels of energy and heat up until they ignite.
It looks like there is some reasoning behind the ‘no-metal’ myth after all!
6. Don’t microwave this unless you want to get scalded!
I’ve already mentioned microwaving forgotten coffees. Despite them being water-based, water alone reacts surprisingly differently.
Water can be heated to the boiling point in the microwave without actually bubbling. This is particularly common in very smooth containers, where bubbles have nothing to attach onto. Unable to release heat energy, the water will become, ‘superheated’. Then, when something is added, such as a teabag or coffee granules, there will be a rapid and forceful eruption of energy, causing the water to blast up.
Watch this YouTube video to watch it happen in real life.
7. Why breast milk should never be microwaved
You want to give your baby nothing but the best, right? Then you should really avoid heating breast milk in the microwave.
The Journal of Pediatrics found that breast milk heated in the microwave showed 18 times higher E-coli growth than that heated using another method – yikes!
8. Microwaves ruin broccoli’s benefits
Broccoli is a truly wonderful vegetable. Full of vitamins K and C, potassium, folic acid and fibre, it’s a great food source to include in any balanced diet.
Make sure you reap the benefits of broccoli by cooking it strategically. Steaming, which is considered the ‘healthiest’ cooking method by most of us, still causes a loss of around 11% of nutrients.
Microwaving, however, does much more damage. The Journal of the Science of Food & Agriculture found microwaving broccoli with a bit of water resulted in a loss of 97% of its antioxidants – a truly astonishing result.
It seems like steaming is worth the extra effort, after all.
9. Hot peppers are fiery – literally!
Can you stand spice? The microwave certainly can’t!
This YouTube video shows a Jalapeno pepper being microwaved, and the subsequent fire – yes, fire. So there really is some reasoning behind sticking to mild and creamy curries after all.
10. Don’t microwave processed meats
We know processed meats aren’t exactly ‘good’ for us. Add the effects of a minute in the microwave to that, and they become even worse.
Processed meats contain cholesterol oxidation products, which are linked to the development of coronary heart disease. In a study by Food Control, it was found that microwaving processed meats increased the number of COPs present.
11. This is why cling film should never be microwaved
Can you or can’t you microwave cling film? Similarly to plastic containers, some cling film is deemed ‘microwave safe’.
This means no kind of dreaded, microwave explosion will happen – the cling film will not melt or set alight. Just like ‘safe’ containers, however, it doesn’t guarantee that chemicals from the plastic film will not leach onto food.
12. Don’t microwave fresh herbs for this reason
Fresh herbs are better than dry, right? Perhaps for flavour, but definitely not as far as microwaves are concerned.
Fresh herbs contain very little water. The low water content and dry nature of herbs mean they’re at risk of igniting when microwaved on high power. To stay safe, ensure to immerse yours in liquid – be that sauce or water – before exposing to radio waves.
13. Microwaving nothing is perhaps the biggest mistake of all
We’ve all done it – accidentally pressed ‘go’ on the microwave without actually putting our dinner inside.
If you correct your mistake quickly, chances are no serious damage will happen. Leave it for more than two minutes, however, and the microwave won’t be able to absorb all those radio waves designed for food.
In a well-made microwave, this could result in a fuse breaking. In a poor-quality microwave, the plastic may actually ignite and burst into flames.
A reason not just to check your microwave contents, but invest in a decent appliance too.
I’m glad I found out about some of these before it was too late. Have you ever had any bad experiences when using the microwave?