When you’re in a rush or simply don’t have access to an oven, microwaves are a huge savior. However, just because something “can” be microwaved, it doesn’t always mean that it should be. To help you make better heating choices, here are the Top 10 Foods You Should NEVER Microwave (Part 3).
Picture this: you’ve just had a cookout in your backyard with your friends. You had a blast, and the food was so delicious, you wanted to keep the fun going and saved some of it. Shrimp, scallops, crawfish, you name it – all kinds of sea creatures were at the party. While we understand why you might want to keep these tasty treats for later, you might want to refrain from reheating them – at least, not in the microwave. Why? Because these leftovers could be harboring a very nasty bacteria that can cause foodborne illness. Everybody knows that seafood is always best enjoyed fresh, but there are times when fresh isn’t an option. In those cases, it all depends on how the seafood was stored. If the seafood was immediately frozen, it should be safe to reheat, no problem, but the moment it spends some time at room temperature, that’s when the problems begin. The bacteria grows rapidly when the seafood, fresh or cooked, has been “outside” for a little while, and a simple round in the microwave will not be enough to kill said bacteria. The FDA recommends throwing away seafood that’s been out of the refrigerator for more than two hours in cool weather or one hour in warm weather. Plus, why would you want your microwave to smell like stinky fish anyway? No, some things are better enjoyed in the moment and not as leftovers.
9. Frozen Meats
Let’s be honest here, we’re all guilty of forgetting to take the meat out of the freezer like our better half asked us to. Sometimes more than once. The panic takes over, and as a desperate last resort, you quickly put the meat in the microwave for a quick minute. “No one will notice,” you think to yourself, and while yes, no one will know, they’ll probably all get sick a little later. The best way to defrost your meat? Just put it in the fridge and let it be. Don’t put it in hot water or on the counter to save some precious minutes: that’s even worse. The reason why putting frozen meat in the microwave isn’t the best idea is mostly because of the heat transmission. Most of the time, microwaves don’t distribute heat evenly, meaning that some areas get warm faster than others. This could lead to parts of the meat actually cooking while other parts remain frozen. By doing it this way, you run the risk of overcooking the meat, creating hot spots with still-frozen spots, and there’s the possible growth of dangerous bacteria. Not really what you want to take away from your taco Tuesday. The USDA says that thawing your meat in the microwave isn’t necessarily deadly, but it’s not recommended either. Because the heat can quickly bring meat into the “danger zone,” aka where bacteria multiply most rapidly, if you do thaw it in the microwave, you need to cook it immediately. If you do so, you should be fine, but still, microwaves should always be last on your list of options.
8. Oily Foods
Some of the best – and worst – foods in life have oil. Deep-fried this, deep-fried that, oily pasta, French fries – the greatest guilty pleasures usually come with their fair share of oil. While, technically, it shouldn’t be that big of a deal – except for your arteries – if you ever find yourself wanting to reheat some leftover oily foods, you should be extremely cautious. All oils can withstand certain levels of heat, whether it’s olive, canola, or even avocado, but after it passes a certain temperature point and that level is exceeded, things can get ugly. The oil can produces toxic fumes and hazardous substances called free radicals. According to many nutritional websites, radicals can cause important health issues like cancer. Oils can only take so much heat, and microwaves aren’t exactly the most consistent heat distributor there is. Another point on the con side, oils lack the polarity of water, which makes it hard for them to even heat at all. You’ll most likely smoke the place up with toxic fumes before your fries even get remotely warm. Or even worse, you’re going to heat them so much, they could get too hot to eat and burn your mouth, and honestly, that’s no way to enjoy your food. The moral of the story is this: if you have to reheat foods that are drenched in oils, it’s best to avoid the microwave altogether.
7. Anything That’s Already Been Reheated
Leftovers can really be lifesavers. You don’t feel like cooking, but you have a bunch of containers from 3 days ago? Hallelujah. However, as much as leftovers can be enjoyed, they also have a pretty strict life expectancy. Reheating your food in the microwave once or twice shouldn’t be that much of a problem, but when you start surpassing that amount, you might have an issue. According to the FDA, most leftovers can stay in the fridge for up to four days, depending on what it is. So, if you’ve kept something around for longer, the safest option is to dispose of it, or better yet, freeze the portions. That’s because every time you reheat the same leftovers in the microwave, they take a step down in quality. Also, once you’ve taken frozen leftovers out of the freezer, you should eat them within 24 hours. Another tip: you should never refreeze leftovers: once it’s out, it’s out. The more times you cool and reheat food, the higher the risk of food poisoning as bacteria multiply more easily when the food is cooled too slowly or not reheated enough. UK’s Food Standards Agency also says that you should be especially careful when microwaving things like cream and milk based sauces, cooked meats, lasagna, and casseroles. You need to ensure that everything has heated evenly to avoid hot spots. In other words, just trust your gut: if it smells a little funky and you’ve already eaten that twice this week, maybe order take out.
When you don’t have a kettle, and you fancy a cup of tea, putting your mug of water in the microwave seems like the most logical thing to do, right? Plus, it’s quicker and so much less of a hassle! But, as it turns out, it’s probably the last thing you should ever do. Putting water in the microwave could seriously be dangerous, as many studies have shown. You’ve most likely heard urban legends about “exploding” water in the microwave, and while some details are a little exaggerated, there is a hint of truth to the stories. If you place a mug of water in the microwave, it can superheat and become a danger for your mouth, face, and hands. If you microwave water in a smooth vessel, like a glass, there is not enough space for bubbles from the friction of water molecules to form. Without the bubbles, the water can’t release the heat that has built up, which means it could pass the point of boiling and go straight to superheating. Then, when you add a tea bag or stir in a pack of instant coffee in the mug, it boils rapidly all at once, and this is when the spills and explosions happen, which could result in some big-time burns. The best way to avoid these unwanted burns is to place a wooden stick or any other type of non-metallic stick in the water to help diffuse the heat and give the bubbles something to adhere to.
5. Baby Food
As it’s been established before, microwaves and consistency don’t necessarily go hand in hand. Since a microwave can’t distribute heat evenly, you can’t trust it to be 100% safe. That’s especially true when it comes to the safety of babies. Many new moms choose to freeze breastmilk or formula and save it for when needed. All they need to do is thaw it out, and they can feed their babies without any problem. Well, there won’t be any problems, providing the thawing isn’t done in the microwave. The same goes for baby food. In the same way that microwaves heat plates of food irregularly, the bottles of breast milk won’t be warmed properly. This can create “hot spots,” which can be extremely dangerous. These spots can severely injure babies’ mouths and throats and damage their sensitive palates. Plus, there is a carcinogen hazard that comes with reheating plastic, and the high temp of the microwave can also destroy some of the key immune-enhancing proteins in breast milk. According to the FDA, the best way to heat up breast milk and formula evenly is to put it on the stove or use hot tap water for about one or two minutes. Then, use the inside of your wrist to test the temperature, and it’s ready to be served. The milk should always feel lukewarm before you give it to your baby.
4. Frozen Fruits
Okay, popping your bag of frozen blueberries in the microwave might not be something “you’ve” done – or have even thought about doing – but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen. Many people choose the microwave to defrost their frozen delights for all kinds of reasons. For desserts, smoothies, or just a quick snack, keeping a bag of frozen fruits in your freezer is always a smart move. However, if you do get frozen fruits, make sure you’re going to keep them frozen – or if not, at least not be using the microwave to thaw them out. According to a 2010 study published by Bioelectromagnetics, beneficial properties found in fruits can easily be converted into carcinogens in the microwave and could also result in unfavorable immunological effects. And if that doesn’t happen, well, it’s not like the texture of the defrosted fruit is going to be made any better. Again, microwaves aren’t the kings of cooking things “evenly,” so the chance of getting consistent defrosted fruit is pretty slim. Most of the fruit will become soggy and mushy while the rest will still be frozen. No, if you really want to defrost your frozen fruit, just put them in the fridge overnight instead and save yourself the microwave shenanigans.
3. Leafy Greens
Eating leftover spinach, celery, or kale might not be everyone’s snack of choice, but every once in a while the guilt takes over and you don’t have a choice – wasting food is bad. So, if you ever need to reheat your leafy greens, opting for a conventional oven might be the best idea. When it comes to these veggies, the microwave should be avoided – like, really not used at all. It turns out these veggies can be a little bit dangerous – not only for you but also for your microwave itself. Greens like kale and spinach can spark when microwaved, which could potentially destroy your appliance, as well as your dinner. As for the damage to your body, it’s not pretty either. Leafy vegetables are usually particularly rich in nitrates, which are very good for your health. However, studies backed by the European Food Information Council have shown that when blasted in the microwave, these nitrates can convert to nitrosamines – the opposite of good for you. Nitrosamines can be carcinogenic and can affect the body’s ability to carry oxygen. The same applies to reheating nitrate-rich beets and turnips. Kind of a turn-off that your healthy meal could turn into a risk for your health, no? So, next time you need to heat up your veggies, don’t push your luck and use the stove or oven.
When you want to enjoy a nice, warm piece of bread with some melted butter, your first instinct is probably to put it in the toaster. That is the right reaction to have. But, what if you want to reheat last night’s dinner roll? These don’t fit in the toaster, and more importantly, they’re not meant to be toasted! Your first instinct in those situations should then be to pop it in the oven and leave the microwave alone. Not only will it taste better and make the butter melt perfectly, but it’ll also be ten times better for your health. Apparently, when you put bread in the microwave, it can get a little too hard and too chewy to be properly enjoyed. That’s because of the way gluten, starch, and the sugar in the bread react while it cools down. Technically, it’s not the microwave’s fault, per se, but rather the cooling process – it’s the cooling that turns your piece of bread into a hard mess. Even if you only put it for 10 seconds, enough moisture has had time to evaporate from the bread, and the chewiness follows. The best way to warm up your snack is to wrap it in some foil and put it in the oven for a few minutes. Sure, it’ll take longer, but it’ll also taste so much better and feel ever fresher. Never underestimate the power of the oven.
1. Buffet Foods
Going to a buffet is arguably one of the most exciting things to do. An unlimited amount of multiple varieties of food? Yes, please! Now, usually, buffet restaurants will not let you leave with a doggy bag – that’s their policy. However, office parties and home gatherings are obviously a little more lenient when it comes to bringing some food home. If you ever find yourself with leftovers from a buffet, the one thing you need to know is that you shouldn’t put them in the microwave – ever. The FDA has confirmed that dishes at buffets that have been left out at room temperature for hours are the perfect breeding ground for countless dangerous microorganisms. Bacteria multiply way more quickly on non-refrigerated food, and buffets are the perfect way for that to happen. Even though most restaurants and professional companies have to follow strict safety guidelines to prevent such food-borne illness, a slip-up can happen at any time. Reheating your food in the microwave probably won’t eliminate the germs completely, but only make it worse. To dodge some undesired bacteria, if you’re ever in charge of a buffet-style dinner party, make sure to throw away any perishables that have been out for more than two hours and never add fresh food on top of an already filled serving dish.