Microwaving is a simple, convenient cooking option for people on the go. Many of us are using the microwave incorrectly to reheat foods. Sure, we know to never zap aluminium foil, metal, or plastic, but there are equally dangerous risks involved.
For starters, a microwave does not cook food evenly, which often means that any bacteria present in the reheated foods will survive. Then there’s the problem of microwave blasts directly contributing to the production of carcinogenic toxins. To minimize the microwave risks, Please don’t use it to cook or warm the foods below.
Shelled or unshelled, when a hard-boiled egg is cooked in a microwave, the moisture inside creates an extreme steam build-up, like a miniature pressure cooker, to the point where the egg can explode! Even scarier, the egg won’t burst inside the microwave while it’s being heated, but afterward, which means the scalding hot egg can erupt in your hand, on your plate, or even in your mouth. To avoid turning your egg into a steam bomb, cut it into small pieces before reheating or avoid putting it in the microwave altogether.
Many new mothers freeze and store their breast milk for later use, which is great, as long as it’s not reheated in a microwave. In the same way that microwaves heat plates of food unevenly, they can also warm a bottle of breast milk unevenly, creating “hot spots” that can severely burn a baby’s mouth and throat. Then there’s the carcinogen hazard that comes with reheating plastic. The FDA recommends that breast milk and formula be thawed and reheated in a pot on the stove, or using hot tap water.
Processed meats often contain chemicals and preservatives that extend their shelf lives. Unfortunately, microwaving them can make those substances worse for your health. In microwaving processed meats, we might unknowingly be exposed to chemical changes such as oxidized cholesterol in the process, according to research in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. A study in the journal Food Control suggests that reheating processed meats with a burst of microwave radiation contributes to the formation of cholesterol oxidation products (COPs), which have been linked to the development of coronary heart disease.
According to the Food Standards Agency, microwaving rice can sometimes lead to food poisoning. The issue with rice involves the common presence of a highly resistant bacteria called Bacillus cereus. Heat kills this bacteria, but it can have produced spores that are toxic, according to findings in the International Journal of Food Microbiology—and surprisingly heat resistant. A number of studies confirm that once rice comes out of the microwave and is left out at room temperature, any spores it contains can multiply and cause food poisoning. The humid environment of the warm rice makes it an ideal breeding ground for bacteria called B. cereus. B cereus is a type of bacteria that produces toxins. These toxins can cause illness like diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting. To avoid this dangers, avoid heating rice in the microwave completely.
The most important thing to realize about microwaves is that their heat does not always kill bacteria, because microwaves heat from the outside in instead of the inside out. As such, certain bacteria-prone reheated foods will have higher risk of causing sickness when these bacterial cells survive. This goes to show how much bacteria can survive in meat when microwaved, compared to other cooking methods.
If you want to save your celery, kale, or spinach to eat later as leftovers, plan to reheat them in a conventional oven rather than a microwave. When blasted in the microwave, naturally occurring nitrates (which are very good for you on their own) may convert to nitrosamines, which can be carcinogenic.
The same chemical conversion that happens to spinach holds true for reheating nitrate-rich beets and turnips! Good thing they’re just as delicious cold
When hot peppers are reheated in the microwave, capsaicin—the chemical that gives them their spicy flavour—is released into the air. Airborne, the chemical can burn your eyes and throat. In fact, microwaved pepper caused residents to start coughing and have trouble breathing.
Microwaved grapes won’t make raisins, but they will make plasma, which is a form of matter that’s created when gas is ionized and lets electricity flow. Whole fruit traps steam under the flesh, meaning it could burst while it’s heating in a microwave.
The danger comes when you try reheating cooked potatoes. Cooking potatoes in aluminium Foil protects the bacteria C. botulinum from the heat, meaning it can still thrive if the potato stays at room temperature too long, and potentially cause botulism. Popping that contaminated tot in the microwave won’t kill the bacteria, either, so play it safe by cooking them on a baking sheet instead of wrapped in foil and refrigerating leftover potatoes as soon as possible.