The microwave is a useful device and is here to stay in the modern kitchen. Its ease of use to cook and heat food without using too many dishes is appreciated by many! Many office goers can enjoy hot home cooked food for lunch, it helps heat food quickly, especially liquids like milk or soup. So, you can enjoy bliss a hot beverage in a jiffy when you reach home in the evenings or that warm cup of milk before you leave home in the morning.
However, the debate with microwaves hovers around the appliance not being safe, due to the radiation that it emits. Another point of contention is that this method of cooking can destroy nutrients from the food. To put these points in perspective, let us consider the following. We are surrounded by devices, from our wi-fi routers to cell phones…. Computers…. Laptops etc. Each of these emit radiation that we are exposed to. The microwave is not being used the whole day just during specific intervals. It is also one of the fastest methods of cooking or for food prep.
Regarding nutrients being destroyed. High heat cooking does the same thing, especially when foods are cooked for a long time. The microwave heats or cook’s food faster than other methods. The time and temperature can also be adjusted accordingly so that you do not end up losing too many nutrients in the bargain. It is also important to ensure that the food is thoroughly cooked or heated. Microwaves make use of water molecules in food, on exposure to heat they vibrate and generate heat to other food molecules. This may cause nutrient losses to an extent but can happen with any method that uses heat to cook food. On the other hand, foods like tomatoes when cooked, actually helps increase the nutritive value.
Which brings us to- what are the foods or things that we need to completely avoid putting into our handy microwave?
Here we list a few:
1. Raw Eggs in their shell:
If you have ever tried this, you may recall the ‘eggsplosion’ that happened leaving a lot of mess to be cleaned up (not very pleasant smelling either). When a whole egg is placed in the microwave, the heat builds up steam. Being enclosed and not having anywhere to go, the entire egg cracks leaving you with a messy microwave. Even hard-boiled eggs don’t fare well in a microwave for the same reasons. If you ever need to put a hard-boiled egg in the microwave, slice it into quarters and place it along with other foods like rice to generate even heat distribution.
Microwaving bread changes its texture. It may come out soft and steamy, but on cooling becomes hard and chewy. A stove top or oven may be a better option, you can sprinkle a few drops of water to prevent your bread from drying out.
3. Whole Fruits
Microwaving fruits with their skin can also result in a mess. Like the eggs the steam is trapped and could result in the fruit opening and being splattered all over. You can chop fruit and place it in a microwave safe dish with some water to stew the fruit.
4. Leafy Vegetables
Cooking spinach the old-fashioned way may be better. Thin leaves may burn and catch fire which could be dangerous. Even herbs like mint and coriander should not be dried using a microwave for the same reasons.
You may think it’s a good idea to heat up leftovers in their Styrofoam containers. But the heat can cause Styrofoam to leach toxins and chemicals into food. Even coffee cups made of Styrofoam are not a good idea.
6. Chillies and Capsicum
Whole chillies and capsicum can heat up with steam trapped within, this can then explode and release capsaicin (the active ingredient in chillies). The vapours could cause smarting eyes and a lot of coughing thereafter.
7. Popcorn Paper Bags
While this seems like a convenient way of popping those kernels, think again. The heat could cause the paper to burn. In addition, the waxy coating of the bag could leach toxic chemicals into the popcorn. For this same reason, food in brown paper bags should also not be microwaved.
8. Plastic Containers
Unless marked microwave safe/ microwave suitable, avoid heating food using plastic containers. The heat can cause chemicals to taint your food.
This is more of a precaution than something to avoid. Heating soups or milk in the microwave is designed to save us time. However, while doing so, ensure that there is even heating. Some pockets in your beverage may be cold and this can lead to burns if one is not careful. Before serving, stir your soup or beverage to ensure that the heat disperses evenly.
Have you microwaved any of these foods before? Well now you know better! Use the microwave safely, for your convenience and enjoy its benefits.
With inputs from: