Guide to Using Microwave Safety For Beginners
Roughly 90 percent of US homes have microwave ovens but a lot of people still don’t know how to ‘safely’ use them. There have been lots of grave warnings revolving on the internet that has made large masses worry about the use of this kitchen appliance. However, safety begins on how ‘properly’ you use your microwave. This means it’s not really a threat as long as you use it right. The following microwave safety guides are your best bud in making yourself knowledgeable on how to use a microwave right.
Myths About Microwave
It seems that not all things are stated in the oven’s manual alone. You might want to check these interesting myths regarding this product and find out whether they’re true or not. One or more of these insights might be in your head for a long time. Now it’s time to answer them.
Microwave is just a simple machine that can heat food up.
- NOT true.
A lot of people (probably including you) only know one thing – that you can heat and cook food by using a microwave. Well, understanding deeper will make you realize it’s more than that. Ovens are created to produce electromagnetic energy (microwaves, hence the name) that manipulates food’s water molecules to vibrate in astounding speed to the extent that they produce heat, consequently ‘heating’ or ‘cooking’ the food.
Though the process is also known as “nuking” you don’t need to worry as microwaves don’t make your food radioactive, and it is absolutely not related to nuclear energy.
Microwave can destroy food nutrients.
- NOT entirely true.
Nutrients can be destroyed but don’t put all the blame to microwave ovens. All types of cooking can terminate nutrients depending on some degree. So even if you use pots and pans, nutrients can still be eliminated. And the same goes for microwave ovens, but it’s A LOT better.
Since microwave ovens only take a short time to cook, and most microwave recipes use little-to-no water, this method of cookery preserves more nutrients than any other types of cooking available today. Matter of fact, the microwave is the ideal way to prepare vegetables and other kinds of foods. Other types like baking, for instance, requires long cooking time. Boiling also destroys a lot of nutrients.
Not all materials are safe for microwave, so beware.
You can’t just put food in any container and heat them in a microwave as you please. Careless use of materials may lead to serious health problems, and it’s the actions to blame and not the microwave. You must only use ceramic and glass that are microwave safe. You can also use plastic containers, but not all of them are safe to use. Look for labels that say “microwave friendly” or any label that says it’s harmless to be utilized for a microwave.
Things you must avoid include tubs yogurt, margarine, and other products of the like. It’s also a big no to use plastic grocery bags, takeout containers, and any material that can melt under high heat. This type of materials contains a significant amount of damaging chemicals that you don’t want to enter into your system.
You should also know that trays from microwaveable frozen foods can only be used once. Papers that are microwave-safe include wax paper, parchment paper, oven cooking bags, white paper towels, and paper plates. There are also papers that should not be used for microwave purposes such as any recycled papers, brown bags (like those grocery bags), and newspapers.
Microwaves can leak out and harm you.
- NOT entirely true.
It greatly depends on the brand that you have or whether or not your oven is defective. But don’t worry. Most microwave ovens pass federal safety standards that require ovens to stop microwave production once the latch is released right before you open the product’s door. Standards state that only minimal amount of leakage is permitted; levels that are far below the ‘harm’ line.
If you want to know your part; your role is to make sure that your oven has no damage whatsoever in the seals, latch, and door hinges. When you’re oven is in tip-top shape, then you have nothing to worry about. And to ensure further safety, move away from the oven when it operates. Even a few meters away from it already means significant welfare.
I can use plastic wraps.
- YES but not all the time.
Harmful chemicals called “plasticizers” present in old plastic wraps can melt and penetrate into your heated food. However, new plastic wraps no longer possess these chemicals, making them safe for microwave use. Glad Cling Wrap and Saran, for example, are polyethylene wraps that have no plasticizers and can be used in ovens.
Be vigilant to the type of plastic you’re using and always look out for labels saying “microwave-safe” or better yet, refuse from using any plastics at all. Plastics are still plastics as other like to say it. A wise alternative for plastic wraps, should you don’t want to use them, are a microwave-safe plate or lid or a paper towel.
Metals and aluminum foils are good in microwave.
- NOT true.
One thing you should know about microwaves is they tend to bounce off when they come in contact with aluminum foils and pure metallic dishes. These two materials are not recommended for microwave use because the food will not cook properly. When microwaves bounce off the said materials, they can cause too much heat, consequently damaging the oven and can even cause a fire.
You might also be fond of using glass plates because they are recommended ones. However, make sure that they don’t have metal or gold rims. Even if the dish used is not pure metal, as long as they have metallic features, they can still disrupt microwaves. This is called “arcing” – a sparkling sensation caused by the charged ionized air due to disrupted microwaves.
Microwaves can cook at safe temperatures.
- YES but it requires careful attention.
Microwaves can expose food to safe temperatures. However, microwaves tend to focus on the center part and so cook unevenly. The undercooked parts can remain cold, possibly giving way to bacterial growth. To prevent this, cut your food into equal pieces and evenly arrange them in the dish.
Most microwave ovens nowadays have a turning panel where the plate is rotated for uniform distribution of heat. If your microwave doesn’t have that feature, you can rotate the dish yourself by setting intervals so you can turn the dish then activate the microwave once again.
You must also stir halfway. For instance, if the recipe requires 20 minutes, you can first set the timer for 10 minutes, stir or rotate the meal, then turn the oven for another 10 minutes.
You can also use meat thermometers when you’re trying to cook meat. In this case, boneless is the most recommended. Another thing: don’t ignore the “standing time” suggestion for most recipes. This can help in heating up the temperature to needed parts and can also help in even heat distribution.
There is a way to know the dish is microwave-safe aside from labels.
Reading labels is not the only way to know whether a dish is microwave-friendly or not. One trick is to:
Put the said dish (must be empty) in the microwave along with a glass container that holds one cup of water
Turn the microwave oven on high for a minute.
Observe the said dish after it’s done.
The dish is okay to use if it stays cool even after exposed to microwave under high for a full minute. If not, then it’s probably not safe to use. However, note that there are microwave-friendly dishes that can still absorb heat especially when the recipes requires a lot of time to prepare.
Foods like carrots can catch fire inside the microwave.
- NOT true.
However, it can cause some sparkling. Remember the reaction of metallic objects to microwaves? Not only carrots; hot dogs can have the same reaction too, and the same goes for other foods that possess certain minerals. Foods that are structured in a tight shell or skin can explode due to expanding molecules of the water they contain inside. Examples include eggs, winter squash, potatoes, and common frozen packaged goods.
So how can one avoid this? Quite simple. Vegetables like winter squash and similar ones can be cut in half before microwaving them. When it comes to potatoes, prick the skin first. For frozen and packaged goods, you might want to poke some holes first in their plastic wraps. Eggs must also be taken out of their shells they have its yolk pierced.
Water can explode inside the microwave.
- NOT true but it can explode OUTSIDE.
Water can indeed explode, but it’s a rare phenomenon. You can carelessly microwave water beyond its boiling point (called superheating) to the extent that it doesn’t actually ‘boil’ but hides a big danger inside. Though the surface may look smooth, once you disturb the liquid after microwaving (like by jiggling or stirring the cup), it can erupt and cause harm with the super-hot water coming in contact with your face or hands.
To avoid this grim scenario, do not exceed the suggested heating time when you’re heating water. You should also place a wooden stick or wooden spoon in the cup while heating.
Microwave ovens consume too much energy.
- Not true.
Microwaves are actually more energy-efficient especially when compared to conventional stoves and ovens; with proven stats of up to 80 percent energy savings compared to other cooking methods. Though there are other factors involved, it’s undeniable that microwaves can cook faster and more efficiently.
When it comes to general electricity consumption, microwaves can help lessen your energy bills because it heats the food ‘inside it’; meaning the surrounding air and temperature is not affected. Thus, your air conditioners will not use more energy in cooling down the room temperature to a desirable state. On the other hand, stoves can produce heat of up to 1000Btu which puts your air conditioners into a challenging situation of beating down the room temperature.
Microwaves produce dangerous compounds to your food.
- NOT true.
Microwaves are as safe as ordinary cooking methods. This type of oven doesn’t manipulate nor produce dangerous compounds to food molecules. Put in mind that microwaving is simply “heating”. There are a lot of misleading rumors online that claim microwaves are unsafe. But if you’ll notice, the same sites are those sites that promote other cooking products. One can easily infer they’re just making black propagandas as a fuel to their marketing strategies. Bottom-line, microwaves are safe and does not produce any toxic substances to your food.
Microwave Safety Guides
Basic Microwave Utensil Safety
- When microwaving, refrain from using aluminum foil and metallic dishes. They have properties that can either harm you or the oven itself.
- Microwave-friendly materials include glass-ceramic cookware and glass.
- Do not use plastic grocery bags, brown paper bags, thin plastic storage bags, newspapers, whipped toppings bowls, margarine tubs, carry-out containers, cheese containers, foam insulated trays and Styrofoam.
- Safe-to-materials include oven cooking bags, wax paper, white microwave paper towels, and parchments papers.
- When using wraps, make sure to put it loosely over your food.
Safety Measures In Defrosting Food
- Food that has been in a refrigerator and finally taken out must be consumed within two (2) hours after being exposed outside.
- After thawing, immediately cook poultry and meat in your microwave.
- Before defrosting in the microwave, ensure that you’re able to remove food from its store wrap.
Safety Measures In Reheating Foods
- It’s not safe to eat if the food is not reheated to proper temperatures.
- You can heat foods to any temperature as long as they’re cooked and stored in a safe manner.
- As much as possible, refrain to microwave your baby’s formula or baby food. Microwaves can unevenly heat so it can scald your little one’s mouth. But there can be a trick behind.
- When you really need to microwave your baby’s food, make sure to test the temperature at different parts of the food, shake the bottle well, or stir the food after microwaving.
- To cook food evenly, simply cover the food. Covers can lock moisture inside, so heat is distributed evenly. Furthermore, covers are enough to defend food against harmful contamination.
Safety Guides In Microwaving Poultry And Meat
- To make sure that all parts of meat have been cooked evenly, you can use a food thermometer and examine different parts of the food. See if they have approximately the same temperature. If not, you might have to microwave the food again.
- The recommended minimum temperature for cooking eggs, poultry, and meat is 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- After microwaving, the dish must stand with a corresponding cover for about three minutes first.
- To cook large foods evenly, make it a habit of turning the meat upside down half way the recommended cooking time.
- Large pieces of meat and poultry must also be microwaved on medium power for longer times. This ensures penetrated heat as opposed to exposing the meat on high temperature for shorter periods.
- It is not advisable to microwave meat pieces that have a lot of bones in it. If you still wish to cook that particular meat, you might want to debone the meat first. Bones are proven to block heat and do not allow the meat surrounding it to cook uniformly.
- When the recipe partial cooking in microwaves and a follow up to another cooking method, make sure to transfer the dish immediately after microwaving and place it on another heat source without letting it sit still.
- Stuffed poultry that are in holes is not recommended to be microwaved.
Rules For Microwaving Safely
- Always allow steam to escape by covering the dish loosely.
- Cover the dish with a microwave-safe plastic wrap or lid.
- Before microwaving, arrange the items in the dish in an even manner. This allows equal heat transfer to the food/s.
- As mentioned above, some foods could ‘explode.’ Remember to pierce foods (like potatoes and hotdogs) before microwaving them.
- Don’t forget to remove the food immediately after microwaving but it’s not necessary to eat them right after. They could still be quite hot.
- Microwaves can unevenly heat foods with liquid properties (soup, etc.). To prevent this, always rotate the food or stir it midway.
- When microwaving large foods, you also have to flip them upside down to heat evenly.
Microwaves are undeniably convenient. However, there will be times when cooking using this method can be quite a challenge. For instance, cold spots could remain untouched in some parts of the food because the microwave is not able to reach that particular spot. Careless handling in heated soups could also lead to a stingy pain on the tongue when you immediately sip that steaming hot food. Furthermore, bacteria could survive when the food is not cooked evenly.
Fortunately, you now know a lot of microwave safety guides that could come in handy whenever you heat food with your beloved microwave. You would also want to know how to use a microwave rice cooker to broaden your knowledge further with microwaves. Want to try something else? You ought to check the best three portable induction cooktops in the market today. With this modern tech, cooking is boring no more!