Microwave ovens are a regular part of daily life. Many people use them several times a day for boiling water for tea, heating up leftovers and frozen diet foods, and defrosting frozen meats. There is no doubt that microwaves have all but revolutionized food preparation. But could this powerful device be dangerous? And is microwaved food safe?
Microwaves emit radio waves that produce heat when they are absorbed by fats, water, and sugar. This is a form of radiation, a term that often carries worrisome implications. Its easy to see how people could be worried about these radio waves causing harmful radiation to microwave foods. But Eating Well Magazine reports that the radiation waves from microwaves are too small to negatively radiate foods. This means that microwave effects on food are minimal, and not enough to cause any health concern. However, there can be some health risks associated with preparing food in a microwave. It is possible that microwaved foods may not be cooked thoroughly enough, which can cause a health risk. Also, some substances are not microwave safe.
How to Safely Prepare Microwave Foods
Here are a few ways to keep microwave foods safe to eat:
- If you are preparing a large piece of meat or other meal, cut it up into smaller sizes so that the microwave can cook it thoroughly. Thick hunks of food are susceptible to undercooking. If you must cook a large piece of meat or other food, use a food thermometer to check the middle of the food. A safe range is 160-165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Follow directions when preparing packaged microwave foods. It can be tempting to guess or cook everything for 3 minutes on high, but it is safer to comply with specific instructions.
- Keep your microwave clean. Frequent use can cause an unsanitary and unappealing cooking environment, plus clean microwaves cook better than dirty ones.
- Don’t put metal in the microwave! This means no silverware, metal bowls, aluminum foil, or metal trays. Microwaving metal can create a dangerous electrical current, which can lead to sparks or fire.
All in all, the microwave is a great kitchen tool. If you simply follow a few easy guidelines, your microwave foods will stay safe, easy, and convenient.
- “The 13 Biggest Nutrition and Food Myths Busted”, Eating Well Magazine
- “Cooking Safely in the Microwave Oven”, United States Department of Agriculture Food and Inspection Service