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Healthy Microwaving Tips

Healthy Home 2008, Spring 2008

It's amazing how much we've come to rely on microwave ovens. Yet a vague distrust remains regarding how they work and what they do to the food cooked in them. Microwave ovens do leak radiation, but at very low levels that the FDA and most scientists believe are harmless. There are a few simple guidelines to follow to make microwave use safer, including avoiding certain plastics when reheating (see Plastic Containers).

Ovens with damaged doors and latches can leak more radiation than normal, so make sure your appliance is in good condition. If using plastic containers, cook only with those labeled "microwave-safe." Do not cover containers in the microwave with cling-type wrap, which is made of PVC; use unbleached paper towels instead.

When defrosting meats and cooking frozen foods, be sure to remove the manufacturer's packaging. Also, remove microwave-ready foods from their packaging before heating, as there are health concerns related to heating plastic.

The butter flavoring in some microwave popcorn -- and many other foods -- contains a chemical called diacetyl that has caused incurable lung disease in popcorn-factory workers and in one man who ate several bags of butter-flavored microwave popcorn every day for many years. Manufacturers have already started dropping the ingredient from their products.

More Careful
Use only ceramic or glass cookware in your microwave (metal, of course, can cause electrical arcing). Use a microwave-safe plate or bowl, and, instead of wasting paper towels, cover it with a glass pot lid, like the ones that come with casserole dishes, to prevent spatters.

Most Careful
Use the microwave infrequently, if at all. Cook and reheat foods on a conventional stove or in the oven.

Comments (7)

  • grannymaryann 10 Mar, 2011

    How do I safely clean micro after burning popcorn? can't get rid of odor!!

  • seahurst 25 Feb, 2009

    This information is incomplete. I would like to know the source regarding the dangers of microwave cooking/heating. If you want people to really learn and not just be unnecessarily frightened, let's have more facts.

  • ejimenezp 25 Feb, 2009

    Sorry I meant to say: Use a covered pan on stove over 'Medium' heat for five minutes for heating leftover pizza. Got it...

  • ejimenezp 25 Feb, 2009

    Use a covered pan on low heat to heat left over pizza for five minutes. It is amazing. No more soggy leftover pizza...mmmmm

  • ditheo 24 Feb, 2009

    I had no idea about the dangers of popcorn in the bag or the use of cling plastic - all of which I have done. Thanks!!

  • BobbyeeB 24 Feb, 2009

    We found that the space where our microwave was is much better used for a convection toaster over.
    Except for thawing frozen foods, I never miss the microwave and even that is replaced by a few minutes to thaw in other ways.
    Microwave recipes are easily changed to stove top or toaster oven and are quite often simpler and faster !!!
    So it isn't just safety questions that are making microwave cooking less and less used.

  • beachbumdella 17 Oct, 2008

    Does anyone have the recipe for microwave crustless quiche?