Right now, my electric oven is broken and the microwave is picking up some major slack. It has been drafted to warm tortillas, soften rock-hard frozen mango and heat up leftovers and instant macaroni and cheese. I’m thankful for that little innovation many times each day.
Home cooks probably know what can be heated in a microwave oven. But do you know what can’t?
Don’t put anything metal in the microwave, warns Wendy Treinen of GE Appliances. It’s her No. 1 no-no.
I learned this the hard way. In the 1980s, my Catholic girls high school didn’t have a kitchen, just a row of vending machines and a microwave that did more smoking than some of the seniors. Every week or so, someone turned the microwave on with a foil-wrapped burrito or piece of cutlery inside.
The result: a damaged microwave oven and some very unhappy nuns.
Here are more things to keep out of a microwave oven:
1. Chinese food containers
Microwaves are great for heating up leftover fried rice or kung pao chicken. But take a close look at that takeout container. If it has a metal handle, break it off before you put the container in the microwave.
Alternatively, transfer the food to a microwave-safe dish, suggests Jill Notini, of the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers.
2. Twist ties and staples
Look for any twist ties or staples and remove them from food packaging before you heat an item in a microwave.
Even the little piece of metal inside a twist tie can cause sparks inside a working microwave. Hunt down even a staple in a tea bag and remove it.
3. Nuts, seeds and eggs in their shells
Never cook eggs in their shells in a microwave, Notini warns. Here’s why: When steam builds up inside the shell, the egg may explode. Unshelled nuts and seeds may explode, too.
Notini’s rule of thumb: “If it’s inside its shell don’t put it in the microwave,” she tells Money Talks News.
4. Non-microwave popcorn
Why would you microwave plain popcorn when the microwave-ready product is so handy? Still, people do it.
Microwave popcorn comes in special packages made for using in a microwave. But microwaving popcorn after putting it in a plain brown bag isn’t safe.
“It can catch on fire,” Notini says.
It’s fun to watch YouTube videos that show off the fiery result when grapes are cooked in a microwave.
But stick to watching the videos. Don’t try it yourself. Like nuts and seeds, grapes are sealed in a tight skin.
Microwaving grapes creates a mess, at the minimum and can ignite a fire in the worst case.
Toast bread with a conventional oven if you don’t have a toaster. Don’t use a microwave.
Microwaving bread products makes them damp and soft … before burning them.
Avoid microwaving any food that’s meant to be crispy, including fried chicken and french fries, Treinen of GE Appliances tells Money Talks News.
Let me add pizza to the list, too. It’s done every day, but reheated pizza is sad. Instead, try this:
- Warm leftover pizza briefly in a non-stick skillet on the stovetop.
- After the bottom of the crust is crisp, add a few drops of water to the pan and cover with a lid for about a minute.
Mmmmm. Melty cheese, hot toppings and a crispy crust.
7. Milk or formula for babies
Microwaves are lifesavers for new parents who are too exhausted to make dinner for themselves. But don’t use your microwave to heat breast milk or formula.
“Studies have shown that microwaves heat baby’s milk and food unevenly,” the U.S. Food and Drug Association warns. “This results in ‘hot spots’ that can scald a baby’s mouth and throat.”
The FDA advises that you always stir baby food after heating, let it stand 30 seconds and taste-test it before feeding.
Turn the microwave off if there’s nothing is inside it.
“You’re dealing with energy here, and that energy needs to go somewhere,” Notini says. “It could be (going) into the walls or into even the little pieces of plastic under the turntable. Those could melt or catch fire.”
What are your hot microwave cooking tips and war stories? Share them with us in the comments below or on our Facebook page.