It’s been a decades since microwaves entered our houses as a kitchen staple, helping us to cook everything from packaged meals to fresh vegetables. I cook a variety of foods in the microwave because it saves my time. However, many people think twice before using a microwave because they think it is unhealthy. If you are using a microwave for the first time, you might be wondering about it too.
In general, microwaving is not unhealthy because there is no evidence of side effects associated with the microwave method of cooking. In fact, microwaving is considered to be better than the other modes of cooking as it retains the nutrition values of food and helps in preventing the formulation of toxic compounds.
Is microwaving unhealthy?
There hasn’t been any evidence that proves microwaving is unhealthy. So, I believe that microwaving is the healthiest mode of cooking due to various reasons. Firstly, it maintains the nutrition values of foods by preserving Vitamin C and other essential micronutrients which could be lost during the process of gas oven cooking. Secondly, it protects food by preventing the formation of unhealthy or harmful compounds in it. (Recommended article: ‘Is it Safe to Boil Water in a Microwave?‘)
Microwaves use a unique heating technology that is completely different from gas or electric ovens. Inside a microwave oven, electromagnetic radiations circulate and make the food warm. The water in foods absorbs the radiation and starts to vibrate. As a result, food gets heated and cooked. Some users are cautious about the electromagnetic radiation in the microwave. However, they need to know that it’s not harmful to health because the radiation remains within the metal shields and screens of the oven.
Microwaves are designed in such a way so that they can prevent the radiation from escaping. Yet, you should be a little careful while using a microwave. Using only microwave-safe containers, avoiding metal containers, and wearing gloves are some rules you need to follow.
Is it safe to cook food in a microwave?
Yes, it is absolutely safe to microwave food as microwave radiation can have no impact on our health. The World Health Organization has approved the microwave method of cooking and has declared it as the most convenient method of cooking. On the official website of WHO, it is mentioned that microwave cooking and reheating should be safe, provided you use it according to the manufacturer’s instructions and take certain precautions (Recommended article: ‘Why Can’t You Put Metal in the Microwave?‘)
Our body can absorb microwave radiation, which is considered to be extremely harmful. We have some organs such as the eyes where there is a poor blood supply and temperature control. These organs have a huge risk of heat burn or thermal damage. In the case of a microwave, the chances of damage are minimal as these organs cannot get direct exposure to microwave radiation.
Do microwaves destroy nutrients present in food?
Microwaves do not destroy nutrients in food. Instead, it keeps them more intact than the other cooking appliances. Unlike gas or electric ovens, microwaves use less water and hence retain water-soluble vitamins such as Vitamin C and B. Also, the short cooking times of microwaves cause a minimum exposure to heat, which preserves the nutrients further.
Is it safe to stand before a microwave?
Yes, it is safe to stand in front of a microwave while cooking as you do not get any exposure to microwave radiation from the outside. You can stand two inches away from the oven to maintain safety. However, apart from maintaining a safe distance from the microwave, you should also avoid touching the glass panel during cooking. Some people press their nose up against the microwave glass panel or door to check how food is getting cooked. It could be dangerous as there are chances of thermal burn.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration states that there are instances of injuries from microwave ovens but the count is very minimal. Most of these injuries have happened as the users haven’t taken proper precautions for handling the microwave. Thermal burns have occurred as they have touched the inner surface of the microwave without wearing gloves. If you are careful enough and never do such mistakes, you will be safe.
Is microwave cancerous?
No, a microwave is not cancerous because of two reasons: the radiation does not stay in foods and the exposure to radiation is also nominal. Though microwaves use radiation to cook foods, they do not make foods radioactive or toxic. Hence, microwave foods are completely safe for consumption.
Many people are concerned because daily exposure to radiation can lead to fatal diseases such as cancer. But, with microwaves, the chances of radiation exposure are very minimal because the radiation in microwaves is not high enough to cause any health issues. The instances of any disease from microwave radiation are rare. Hence, you shouldn’t worry about cancer when using a microwave.
How long can a person be exposed to microwaves and still be safe?
Some researchers have proved that long-term use of microwaves for more than ten years may provoke carcinogenic effects on humans, which can lead to cancer. However, their reports have also mentioned other types of radiation from mobile phones and similar devices. The reports have stated that the other types of radiation are more harmful to human health as the amount of radiation from mobiles and similar devices is much higher than the radiation produced in microwaves.
Will a leaking microwave hurt you?
A leaking microwave can hurt you because it produces a high level of heat. The higher chances of risk due to a microwave leakage are in the eyes and testes. The thermal heat can lead to dangerous problems such as cataracts in the eyes and temporary sterility in the testes. Hence, if you notice any leak, you need to immediately stop using the microwave. You can get it checked by a professional by calling the customer care number of your microwave’s brand before using it again. If the leakage is permanent, you may need to replace the microwave oven.
When should you replace a microwave?
You should consider replacing a microwave once in ten years. Almost all manufacturing brands expect their microwaves to sustain for nine to ten years, which is considered to be their average life. However, depending upon the usage and some other factors such as its components and features, your microwave can get damaged much before that. If you take care of your microwave properly and don’t overuse it, you can expect a whole ten years of use.
How can I increase the longevity of my microwave?
To extend your microwave’s life, here are the tips you need to follow:
- Clean the spills: You should always clean the spills in your microwave as that would help the appliance retain its even heating technology. If any spills remain in the microwaves for long, hot spots get created easily, which leads to uneven heating.
- Use pre-programmed times: It is better to use pre-programmed times for preparing common foods such as chicken, vegetables, ramens, pasta, and cakes. Almost every microwave comes with pre-programmed time for a huge list of foods. You can follow the user manual or the label on the microwave for such programs.
- Never overcook foods: Try to follow the exact cooking time mentioned in the recipes and don’t overcook. This will help you to avoid overheating the microwave by running it for too long. If you accidentally put the wrong timing, consider resetting it before the microwave starts.
- Place it away from other devices: Try to place your microwave at a distance from the other appliances in the kitchen such as the gas oven or the electric oven. The excess heat and moisture from these appliances may damage your microwave much before its average life.
- Use exhaust fan: If you have a small kitchen and there are no other options than keeping your microwave right beside the gas or electric oven, consider using an exhaust fan or a chimney in the kitchen when cooking. This will also help you to enhance the longevity of your microwave.
What should I avoid to increase the longevity of my microwave?
Apart from the tips like cleaning the spills, not overcooking, using pre-programmed times, you can develop a few good habits that can enhance the longevity of your microwave. Here, I am listing down a few activities that you need to avoid if you do not want your microwave to break down early.
- Avoid slamming the door of your microwave.
- Never run the appliance when it is empty.
- Avoid running it on the same circuit where you run other appliances.
- Never put something heavier that exceeds your microwave’s mentioned weight limit.
- Avoid microwaving kitchen sponges and other equipment.
- Do not place your microwave on a surface that’s too narrow or small.
- Avoid overlooking the manufacturer’s instructions while using and cleaning the appliance.
- Avoid heating stainless steel-made travel mugs even if these are microwave safe.
What are the signs that will indicate the microwave is unsafe?
Here are some signs that may warn you about the dysfunction of your microwave. Once you notice these signs, it is better to avoid using the appliance before calling the technician to repair it.
- Burning smells inside the microwave
- Electronic sparks while food is getting cooked
- Too much smoke when the microwave is on
- Food is not getting heated or cooked properly
- There is a disturbing sound when food is inside
- The door isn’t closing properly
- The keypad isn’t working properly
- The age of the microwave is more than ten years
What is the safest way to cook warm food in the microwave?
The safest way to cook warm food in the microwave is to cover the food with a lid or plastic wrap. It will lead to even heating of the food. If you cook food uncovered, there are chances of developing hot and cold spots in the microwave, which often leads to uneven cooking. However, while covering the food, make sure the lid or the plastic wrap does not touch the food inside. If it does, you will not get the best results as expected.
Does microwave radiation stay in food?
No, microwave radiation doesn’t stay in foods and neither does it make food contaminated. The microwave radiation remains only within the appliance while it is running. Even if a microwave has a leaking problem, the radiation may go outside but won’t stay in the food.
When you put your food inside a microwave, it starts to absorb the radiation and gets heated. After the preparation is over, you should wait for a few minutes and then serve the food because the food becomes extremely hot from inside. There is no association with microwave radiation once you take your food out from the appliance.
Is it bad to eat microwaved food daily?
It isn’t bad to eat microwaved food every day because there is no evidence of health issues related to microwave cooking. If microwaving is the most convenient cooking method for you, there is nothing for you to worry about. However, make sure you only use glass, porcelain, or plastic containers that are labeled as microwave safe.
How safe is it to use a microwave if there is peeling inside?
Unfortunately, it is not safe to use a microwave if you spot that the painting inside is peeling or the coating is flaking. The ingestion of the peeled component may lead to health issues. You should immediately discontinue using that microwave and consider buying a new one. Such damages are usually non-repairable and hence you cannot get it serviced by the manufacturer.
Can a microwave affect Wi-Fi?
Yes, there are chances of a microwave affecting the Wi-Fi. Microwaves and radio waves are the same because both are electromagnetic radiations. Though there won’t be any significant impact, the leakage of microwave rays can make an interference with the Wi-Fi signal.
You may notice an internet connection problem or a low internet speed on your phone or laptop when your microwave is on. It is more likely to happen when your router is in close proximity to your microwave. There are higher chances of frequency clash in such cases. Hence, you may need to place your microwave and the router at a distance.
If you are not sure whether your microwave is creating a Wi-Fi connectivity issue, you can simply check your internet while heating something in the microwave. If there is no such issue, it means that some other reasons are behind your slow Wi-Fi connectivity.
Do I have to replace my 15-year-old microwave?
Yes, you should replace your 15-year-old microwave because it has sustained for 5 years more than its average longevity of 10 years. A 15-year-old microwave is supposed to show some dysfunctions related to heating or running. Most old microwaves start to produce an odd smell that stays in the microwave even after cleaning. Smoke, sparks, and burning smells are also very common signs of old microwaves.
If you notice any such issue, you need to switch the microwave off and unplug it immediately. You should consider replacing it with a new microwave because the repairing cost of old microwave ovens is relatively much higher than the repairing cost of new microwaves. In contrast, buying a new microwave is worth investing in. Also, repairing old microwaves won’t satisfy you fully because there might be another sign of damage anytime soon.
Do microwaves explode?
Yes, microwaves can explode if there is any manufacturing defect or if they are misused by the users. Any microwave that has faulty wiring may catch fire, produce smoke, or even explode. If metal or any unsuitable material goes inside the microwave, there are chances of explosion. Some foods such as whole eggs and grapes can also lead to the explosion of microwaves.
How to prevent your microwave from exploding?
To protect your microwave from an explosion, you need to follow the steps below:
- Avoid using metal utensils for microwaving: Metal containers, spoons, and forks are not suitable for putting inside the microwave as these are considered unsafe. When you put metal inside a microwave oven, there are chances of sparks or explosions. If metal comes into contact with microwave radiation, its electrons can’t absorb the radiation and instead reflect it, which is the cause of friction. On the other hand, when you put glass or any other microwave-safe container inside the microwave, the chances of explosion are minimal.
- Avoid cooking certain foods in microwave: As mentioned earlier, certain foods aren’t suitable for microwaving as heat quickly results in the steaming of the outer layer of these foods. As a result, plasma starts to release from the food, putting the microwave in danger. From electric sparks to smoke or explosion, there can be anything worse.
- Check if wiring problems are spotted: If you come across any significant problem in the microwave due to wiring, get it checked as soon as possible and try to avoid using the appliance unless you get it checked. Though microwave manufacturers pay close attention to safety aspects while designing their appliances, there might be some manufacturing defects in a few microwaves. Hence, it is always better to get your appliance checked when you notice a wiring problem.
What are the main components of a microwave?
Microwaves contain more than one component in their metal box, which leads to effective heating. Here are some main components that you will find inside your microwave:
- High voltage rransformer: Microwaves need 3000 or 4000 volts of high voltage electricity, which is not provided by the standard power outlets in houses. Hence, it needs a high voltage transformer to convert low voltage to high voltage. Microwaves consist of capacitors that can multiply electrical currents and supply adequate power to the appliance to function properly.
- Cooking cavity and case: The central part of the microwave where you put your food to heat is the cooking cavity. If you compare your microwave with other cooking appliances, you will notice a big difference. Almost all the other appliances provide you a bigger space for cooking according to their proportion whereas the cooking cavity of a microwave is much smaller than its overall dimension. However, there is a reason why it’s designed that way. The cooking cavity is the main area where radiations travel. To give this area utmost protection, the walls are designed quite thick and are radiation-proof.
- Cooling fan or stirrer: Like some other appliances, microwaves are designed with a cooling fan or stirrer. Microwaves have a chance of overheating and the role of the cooling fan is to protect the appliance by preventing it from happening. In older models, the cooling fan was not present, and instead, those were designed with a stirrer fan. The role of the stirrer fan is exactly the same as cooling fans.
- Magnetron: Every microwave has a magnetron, which plays a crucial role in receiving the electric energy from the transformer and converting it into microwave energy to run the appliance. Magnetrons consist of ring-shaped magnets that divert the electrons so that they move in a circular motion without colliding with each other. The electrons create microwave radiation to heat the food inside. Magnetrons use magnetic fields to control electrons.
- Waveguide: As its name suggests, it is a component in microwave ovens that directs the microwaves. This component looks like a tube and is hollow from the inside. As the magnetron produces microwaves, it is the role of the waveguide to transmit and guide the wave. Waveguides are supported by the inner walls of the microwave, which are made of metal so that they can reflect the waves without allowing them to escape.
- Power cord: It is the main source of electricity in microwaves. The power cord makes a connection between the power outlet and the microwave. It supplies the main electricity to the microwave.
- Turntable: It is the glass plate inside your microwave which rotates the food around to ensure even heating. Turntables are placed inside the microwaves securely with the help of ridges. Turntables can be removed from the appliance and cleaned.
- Door: It provides you with the main access to your microwave. Besides allowing you to place and remove your food, doors also play a vital role in sealing the microwave radiation inside the appliance. Almost all microwave doors are designed with glass panels that work as windows, allowing the users to check how the food is being prepared. In case of a spark or smoke, one can easily turn the appliance off by checking the inside.
- Control panel: It provides you with full control of your appliance. The control panel mainly helps you to dictate which action you want your microwave to perform. While some microwaves are designed with knobs, the others have buttons on the control panel. Using them, you can set the time and temperature of your microwave.
Will microwaves travel through walls?
Microwaves can travel through walls unless the walls are made of metal. Microwave radiation can pass through concrete walls and other solid materials such as glass, plastic, paper, and more. However, metal is the only solid material that cannot pass microwave radiation and instead reflects it. For this reason, microwave ovens are designed with metal walls on four sides. Microwave radiation is unlikely to travel outside the appliance. Hence, microwaves are safe for human health.
What will happen when I eat too much microwave-cooked food?
Your health will be great even if you eat too much microwave-cooked food because of the fact microwaves won’t destroy the nutrients present in your food. Instead, they will keep them as intact as possible. When you eat all nutrients in the right proportion, your health will be better.
What will happen when I eat microwave-ready meals daily?
If you eat microwave-ready meals every day, you may have some mild to serious health problems in the future. Microwave-ready meals contain preservatives and a high amount of sodium present in salts. Eating too much high sodium food is not considered healthy by health experts. It can lead to high blood pressure and even heart attack.
Hence, you should limit your consumption of microwave-ready meals. Though these meals are tasty and quite convenient, these are not the best options when you want to eat nutritious food. You can eat these foods once or twice a week but not daily. Moreover, if you already have any health issues such as high blood pressure, you should completely avoid these foods.
How can I detect microwave radiation?
It is quite difficult for you to detect microwave radiation because you need radar technology to detect it properly. Remote sensing system is considered to be the best way to detect microwaves by sending microwave pulses and sensing the reflected energy. Some examples of remote sensing instruments are Scatterometers, Doppler Radar and Radar Altimeters.
What are the nutrients that reflect microwave radiation?
Minerals are the nutrients present in foods that reflect microwave radiation. Foods rich in minerals such as iron, magnesium, and sodium have a tendency to spark when you put them in the microwave. This is because these minerals contain electrons, which cannot absorb microwave radiation and when they meet the radiation, friction starts between the electrons and the radiation.
Which containers can absorb microwaves?
Generally, glass and ceramic containers are considered microwave-safe because they can absorb microwave radiation. However, it is essential to check whether the containers are labeled as microwave-safe before you use them. Not all glass and ceramic containers are built the same way to withstand high temperatures. If you use the wrong container, it can break inside the oven. Some plastic containers are also labeled as microwave-safe as they are capable of absorbing radiation. While choosing the best container for microwaving, make sure it doesn’t have a metal rim.
Does microwave pass through the wood?
No, microwaves do not pass-through wood properly, and hence you should never put any wooden container inside the microwave. Doing so may not only damage your food and the container but also can catch fire in your kitchen.
Can magnets affect microwave radiation?
Unfortunately, yes. Microwaves can be hugely affected by magnets. Microwaves contain two magnets inside that control the radiation inside. Putting an extra magnet can destroy the functionality of the appliance temporarily or permanently. The first reason to avoid bringing a magnet in closer proximity to your microwave is that it is made of metal, which is considered unsafe for the appliance.
Can I put toothpicks inside a microwave?
No, you should never put toothpicks inside your microwave because toothpicks can produce toxic gas or plasma inside the appliance. Toothpicks are made of wood or plastic, which are completely unsafe for the appliance.
Can I put anything on top of my microwave?
Yes, you can put things on top of your microwave only when the appliance is not in use. While it’s in use, you should not put anything on its top. Many people use the flat top of their microwave as a storage space. Though it is not the best thing to do, it is not unsafe. However, being careful about the weight of the objects is the first thing to ensure.
If you want to put something lightweight on top of your microwave, you need to check two things. First, you need to remove it before turning on the appliance. Secondly, you should never block the microwave vents by putting anything near the vent.
Is it good to leave the microwave door open when not in use?
Yes, leaving the microwave door often when not in use is a good practice. If you have cooked something very hot, you can keep the door open for half an hour and then clean the appliance. This will help you to dissipate the steam that has been produced in the microwave during cooking. After cleaning the appliance, you can keep the door closed for convenience. Do not leave the door open always as that won’t be useful.
How to use the ‘microwave-safe without lid’ containers?
The label ‘microwave-safe without lid’ on a container means that the foods can be cooked or reheated in the container without the lead. Some containers have this label to ensure that it’s microwave-safe. As it is not mentioned whether the lid is microwave-safe or not, it is better not to put the lid inside the microwave.
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