You want to eat something. Let’s say some noodles. You can put water in a pot, set it over the stove, light the fire and wait for it to boil. Or, you could just put it in an appropriate container and throw it inside the microwave, press a couple of buttons, and let it a spin. In around one minute water is boiled and ready to be used. But is it safe? How do microwaves even work? We will make our research and come back with the results soon enough.
Well, that was fast. So, is it safe to warm up or cook products in a microwave? Yes, it is!
Microwave radiation works somewhat like light rays. It is reflected by most metals (that’s why you must never forget the spoon inside the cup!). It passes through most plastics and glass, and it is absorbed by materials that contain water, like your food.
A regular oven works by convection. The food heats because it is surrounded by hot air, which transfers some of the heat to the meal over time.
In the microwave, the food doesn’t receive any heat. Instead, it is bombarded with radio waves. These radio waves penetrate the food and make the water molecules vibrate and friction between these molecules produces the heat that cooks the food.
There are no residues left, the radiation is present only when the microwave is working. The radio waves used are strong enough to heat the food but not enough to alter the molecular structure of your food. So it is safe.
Nutritionally it is the same as cooking inside the oven, the only difference is the time that the food takes to cook. That’s because microwave radiation goes through the food faster than heat. Take potato for example. It takes more than 45 minutes to bake a potato in a regular oven while in the microwave it only takes about 10 minutes. And that’s a potato which is one of the slowest foods to cook. You will be definitely saving some time with the microwave.
The only downside to this is that if you cook some thick piece of food, like meat, it might be undercooked near the bones or in the centre. To avoid this you should let this kind of meals rest for some time after you take them from the microwave.
Sometimes food can heat up unevenly and you end up with cold spots on your plate. I hate when that happens.
Also, bread and other flour-made products can get dry very fast before other ingredients warm up. Therefore, when reheating bread or pizza put a cup of water with it to prevent the water from the dough to evaporate, giving that soggy feeling to the bread and that floppy pizza.
Dangerous Microwave – Things to bear in mind
It is not dangerous to cook food in the microwave. What can be dangerous is the microwave itself, or rather the way you use it. Some things you have to remember:
Do not put metals inside the microwave:
They reflect the microwave radiation, causing all kinds of bad things. The waves will bounce causing arcing, that is rays hitting the walls of the microwave. However, there are exceptions with some models. For example, I owned a microwave that came with a metal rack to heat up two plates at the same time, so make sure you get familiar with the instruction first.
Check if what you are putting in is a microwave-compatible:
If you buy a bag of cold frozen burgers with a package, check for an inscription that says if it is apt for the microwave. Some bags may be made of or contain aluminium, which also refers to the point above.
Beware of hot liquids:
And of hot things in general. They tend to cause burns, especially hot liquids just taken from the microwave. Since water vapour can’t escape from the microwave, the boiling water won’t bubble, causing what is called “superheating”. When water gets a sudden change of temperature, it makes the water bubble up and can cause serious injuries. Just let it chill a bit.
Keep an eye for radiation leaks:
You will see a green glow coming from your kitchen. Just kidding. Radiation can’t leak or escape from the closed microwave. It only radiates when it is working and it shouldn’t work with the door open. If yours does, please do not use it. Also, make sure that the sealed parts are not damaged and do not penetrate the microwaves’ heat.
To make sure that the message is clear:
YES, IT IS SAFE TO COOK IN THE MICROWAVE. There will be no radiation left in your plate, and the food will not lose nutrients or flavour because of it. Cooking your food in the microwave is as healthy as doing it in the stove or the oven.