8 Things That You Should Never *Ever* Put in the Microwave

8 Things That You Should Never *Ever* Put in the Microwave

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The microwave—or as some professional cooks like to call it, “Chef Mike”—is one of the most useful tools in any kitchen. There are few (if any) appliances capable of reheating leftovers, poaching salmon, steaming sweet potatoes, and occasionally burning popcorn. While the list of foods you might want to cook in a microwave continues to grow (thank you, David Chang), because of what a microwave is—and how it works—there are certain things that never belong inside of it.

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How Does A Microwave Work?

Microwave ovens create electromagnetic microwaves that are absorbed by food. Those microwaves cause water molecules in food to vibrate, creating the heat that cooks your food. For this process to work, microwaves must be able to pass through the container holding your food. Microwaves will pass through glass, paper, and ceramic objects, making them the preferred materials for microwave-safe cooking. However, microwaves do not pass through metal, making it problematic for the appliance.

Read Your Manual

Before we get into the list of what should never be placed in a microwave, it’s worth mentioning that every device is slightly different. Everything you need to know about your microwave can be found in its manual. There, you will find a detailed outline on what doesn’t belong inside your specific appliance. If you’ve lost your manual, identify the make and model of your microwave, then search for it online.

1. Aluminum Foil

Metal reflects microwaves, which can cause fires and ruin your appliance. If you often wrap leftovers in foil, make sure it is completely removed before reheating your food.

2. Any Kind of Metal

It’s worth repeating: Metal should never be inside your microwave. This includes silverware, and any plates, bowls, or spoons that have a metal rim. Not only is it dangerous, but it also impedes the microwave from actually heating your food.

3. Raw Spicy Peppers

When heated by microwave, raw spicy peppers release capsaicin (the compound that gives them heat) into the air. A microwave’s fan will blow the capsaicin directly into your face upon opening, which is potentially dangerous for your eyes and lungs. For reference, this is the same compound used to create the “hot” feeling in IcyHot—you don’t want that in your eyes.

4. Single-Use Plastic

Water bottles, plastic bags, and anything made out of cheap, flimsy plastic should never be microwaved because they could contain the harmful chemical, Bisphenol A (BPA). When melted, these materials could release the chemical into your food.

5. Styrofoam

Similar to single-use plastic, styrofoam will melt in your microwave and release chemicals into your food which have been linked to cancer.

6. Uncovered Sauces

Left uncovered, heated sauces will bubble and burst until they eventually splatter all over the inside of your microwave, potentially damaging the appliance’s interior. Always cover your sauces—your microwave shouldn’t look like a Jackson Pollock painting.

7. Nothing

Using your microwave when there’s nothing in it can also cause problems. When there is nothing there to absorb the electromagnetic microwaves, that energy is directed back inside the appliance, potentially harming it.

8. Plain Water

Unlike water boiling on your stove, water that is heated beyond its boiling point in a microwave will not always bubble. However, when that seemingly calm water is disturbed—either by you picking it up or pouring something inside of it—the liquid can violently erupt, possibly injuring you and anyone nearby. According to the FDA, adding substances such as instant coffee or sugar to water before heating will greatly reduce this danger.


What’s something you’ve learned about your microwave recently?

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