It’s time to revisit our fear of the microwave
When “I don’t have a microwave” he began to convey the same cultural cache as “I don’t have a television? We are all so proud to run away from those little ringing boxes that somehow manage to heat food unevenly … and yet, according to some experts (including the superstar chef David Chang, the microwaves may be late for a return).
But first, a bit of a myth: microwaves aren’t going to make you sense… nor are they going to give you cancer.
Microwaves work by stimulating molecules in food, especially water molecules, making them vibrate. This energy turns into heat. And yes, microwaves use radiation to make this happen, but it’s low-frequency non-ionizing radiation, reports the BBC, just like light bulbs and radios. As additional protection, microwaves are fitted with metal guards and screens on the windows, which prevent radiation from leaving the oven.
The bottom line? When used correctly, says the World Health Organization, microwave radiation is perfectly safe.
When should you avoid the microwave?
That said, microwaves aren’t perfect – at least not in all cases. There are a few times when you should avoid using the microwave.
1. With plastic
On-the-go plastic containers, food safe storage boxes, and even plastic wrap are big bans in the microwave. Microwave plastic causes endocrine disruptor phthalates break down and turn into food (a little less than ideal, don’t you think?) a 2011 study this showed that the majority of over 400 different food safe plastic containers tested for phthalates leached into food when microwaved, even when only the lid is plastic due to the formation of condensation and drops on your leftovers.
Instead, transfer your food to glass before you put it in the microwave (or, better yet, avoid plastic in the kitchen altogether). Need advice? Check out our guide to the 15 plastic alternatives for all your kitchen storage needs.
2. With too much water
A common mistake when microwaving is heating the water on its own, which can bubble out of its container, forming a messy (and potentially dangerously hot) problem to solve. But that’s not the only time you should be wary of microwave water.
When vegetables arrive in our kitchens, they are full of health potential; it is our cooking method that degrades these rich nutritional benefits. Eating raw or lightly steamed vegetables is the perfect way to maintain these health benefits; boiling or microwaving in too much water can have a negative effect on their flavonoid content, according to Xianli Wu, principal investigator of a 2019 study on the effects of various forms of cooking on the flavonoid content of broccoli.
3. Cook the meat
Microwaves are a lifesaver for reheating, but not great when it comes to cooking from A to Z (despite what some TikTok recipes would have you believe). Due to the way they work, microwaves often heat unevenly and lack the ability to brown meats like steak and chicken, giving the table that nice caramelization that a good skillet does. to fry brings. At best, raw meat in the microwave leaves you with something chewy and far from palatable. At worst? It cooks unevenly, opening the door to pathogens.
In short? Better not.
When to use the microwave
Those cases aside, however, microwaves can actually be your best friend in the kitchen. Recent converts include Ken Albala, professor of history at the University of the Pacific and co-author of “The Lost Art of Real Cooking”.
“I grew up with this fear, thinking that you shouldn’t stay in front of the microwave,” he says. “I used to tell people I thought it was the devil’s work.”
But more recently, he’s discovered that there are certain kitchen tasks that “microwave really well,” and this inexpensive kitchen appliance can be a huge time saver.
1. Cook some vegetables
Microwaves’ quick heating ability means that some vegetables, especially those you want to enjoy lightly steamed, cook very well in the microwave – and research shows this approach is very healthy to boot.
While some research indicates that microwaves could eliminate 97% of flavonoids in broccoli, Wu’s study digs holes in this argument, claiming that cooking broccoli al dente (just a minute in the microwave) leaves the nutritional content of broccoli uncompromising. In fact, the researchers write, microwaving broccoli for such a short time might even preserve flavonoids better than steaming.
And that’s not just for broccoli. A 2010 A study found that microwaved Brussels sprouts increased their polyphenol content by 90 percent.
However, other vegetables do less well in the microwave: study discovered that microwaving and steaming lead to a loss of phenol content in squash, peas and leeks.
One vegetable that certainly doesn’t suffer in the microwave is the potato, one of Albala’s favorites for its ease and speed. Potatoes cook much faster in the microwave than in the oven or on the stovetop, which means a “baked” potato or sweet potato is only minutes away.
Albala also uses the microwave to pre-cook the potatoes, frying them at the last minute for a golden glow.
“It would take you an hour to make a crispy fried potato, unless you have a deep fryer,” he says, “but if you microwave it, cut it into wedges, then put it on. it in olive oil in a nonstick skillet, and that’s the best.
2. Cook bacon
While the microwave isn’t the ideal way to cook most meats, bacon is an exception. Bacon usually forms harmful nitrosamines when cooked, but a study indicates that microwave cooking is the method that forms the least of these carcinogenic compounds. (Of course, since nitrosamines are a byproduct of nitrites and nitrates, opting for bacon devoid of artificial nitrates is an even better option.)
3. To reheat cooked meals
Whether you’re reheating your own leftovers or pre-cooked meals, the microwave is a lifesaver.
“The microwave makes it easier for people to prepare meals and minimize the some is the arduous task of a cooked meal every day, ”says Mike Wystrach, CEO and Founder of Freshly, a Nestlé brand that offers healthy, ready-to-eat meals that can be reheated in just three minutes.
Just be sure to reheat any microwaveable meals or leftovers! While dishes like stews and sauces heat up nicely, other foods like French fries, bread or pizza lose texture, food scientist Nick Sharma says. The spruce eats has to do with how microwaves work. By vibrating the water molecules, the pizza crust becomes both soggy and cardboard. And at high temperatures, the sugar in bread and pizza crust melts, briefly softening before recrystallizing into a hard, chewy mess. Not super appetizing!
But for the right kind of leftovers or microwaved meals, microwaves can be a real time saver – and unlike urban legends, a completely safe option for you and your family.
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