10 Important Do’s And Don’ts Of Microwave Cooking

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Since the microwave oven made its appearance on the public market in the 1970s, it has changed the way most people in developed nations prepare their food.

10 Tips for Cooking with A Microwave Oven | Foodal

As opposed to cooking with heat on a stovetop, this device warms up organic material by passing radiation through it.

The result? Shorter cooking times.

By using a microwave, you can put a full meal on the dinner table in just a matter of minutes. However, just like its stovetop counterpart, there are 10 do’s and don’ts of microwave cooking.

Foodal recommends 250 Best Meals in a Mug: Delicious Homemade Microwave Meals in Minutes

Do:

1. Read and follow the instructions in the owner’s manual. The manual is a wealth of information you’ll need to know for safe, healthy cooking, including operating procedures and safety warnings.

2. Read and follow the instructions on prepackaged foods you’re going to cook or reheat. Undercooking food in a microwave can leave you with cold, tasteless items that contain harmful bacteria. On the other hand, overcooking food makes it tough, rubbery, and inedible.

3. Use microwave-safe containers to cook or heat food or liquids. Suitable plates and containers are usually marked or stamped on the bottom. For safety’s sake, if you’re unsure whether a bowl, dish, or plate is microwave safe, don’t use it.

Or, if the plate or container is made of glass, you can perform a test if you’re pretty sure it’s safe: place it in the oven and “nuke” it for one minute. Then, touch it. If it’s lukewarm to the touch or it feels cool, it should be safe. But if the container is warm, don’t use it in your microwave oven.

Clean the inside of your microwave after each use to ensure that germs and molds do not take root - Foodal

4. Clean the inside of the door and the cavity after every use. This will prevent food and spatters from becoming cooked onto the surface, making it easier to clean. Keeping your oven clean will also remove germs and unhealthy bacteria that can pollute foods and liquids you place inside it.

5. Use caution when you open a bag, box, or other container that’s been cooked or heated up. Because the container was closed, or even partially closed, scalding steam can build up inside it.

Here’s a bonus for you– if you’re not sure what the wattage of your oven is, then do the water test. Pour a cup of water into a microwave-safe glass measuring cup. Heat the cup on high heat until the water boils.

If it takes less than three minutes for the water to boil, then your oven is about 600 to 700 watts. If it takes three or four minutes, then your oven is 500 to 600 watts. And if it takes the water in the cup more than four minutes to boil, your oven has a power of less than 500 watts.

Don’t:

1. Use plastic containers such as salad boxes, margarine bowls, whipped topping containers, and the like. The plastic can melt, and even contaminate the food or liquid inside.

2. Place metal objects into a microwave oven, because this can produce dangerous sparks. This includes aluminum foil, serving and eating utensils, pots, pans, and plates, bowls, or dishes that have a metallic trim on them.

3. Cook or defrost foods such as beef, pork, poultry, hot dogs, and so on while they’re still in their original containers. Remove plastic wrapping, foam trays, and other packaging before you place food items in your oven.

4. Turn your appliance on if it’s empty. Since there is no food or liquid to absorb the energy that’s produced, the magnetron tube can be damaged.

5. Try to use your appliance for cooking if a) the door won’t close properly. b) the door is bent or warped. c) the latch is broken or faulty. Call for professional service or replace the unit if any of these conditions exist.

Mug Cakes: 100 Speedy Microwave Treats to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth is another great recipe book to add to your collection.

And here’s a bonus tip for new mothers or mothers-to-be:

Don’t heat a bottle full of baby formula or breast milk up in a microwave. One reason for this is, the bottle may feel like it’s the right temperature, but the milk inside can be boiling hot.

Also, heating a baby bottle in a microwave can change the composition of formula and milk. It can actually turn trans-amino acids in formulas into toxic chemicals. Valuable vitamins, nutrients, and antibodies in breast milk can be destroyed.

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About Lynne Jaques

Lynne is a stay-at-home mother of two boys. As a former US military officer and the spouse of an active duty US military member, Lynne enjoys traveling the world (although not the moving part!) and finding new cuisine and methods of preparing food. She also has the habit of using parenthesis way too much!

42 thoughts on “10 Important Do’s And Don’ts Of Microwave Cooking

  1. Thanks for all these tips, there’s a fair few which I didn’t know!

    A small tip I might add is that when using a microwave to reheat food, place a damp paper towel over the food. The water in the paper is converted into steam, keeping the food from becoming too hard and dry, and also ensuring even reheating.

    • I use a damp paper towel, too. It makes such a difference when reheating food. You are absolutely right about the even heating of the food. When I don’t use a damp paper towel, some of the food is cold and some of it is too hot.

    • I also do this, and it makes a world of difference in how your food taste. Not to mention the texture, the drying affect a microwave has on food is very fast. So I totally agree with you. A damp paper towel works wonders when warming food.

    • Thank you Cheddar for that wonderful tip as well, these tips are awesome, i had a microwave once…became faulty and i became lazy…still on my budget to-do list, glad i had not purchased yet, glad to have stumbled upon these tips, at least now i can buy one with ease 🙂

  2. There should be a universal guide to this as I see so many people not covering their food and leaving splatters everywhere.

    I didn’t know about leaving the microwave on if nothing was in there that it could get damaged. I thought it was a waste of power. I’m sure not many people know this fact and pull out food early and then let it run if they are too lazy to hit the end button.

    A guide should be put up in work places with microwaves as many people abuse them.

  3. This is a very comprehensive list. It seems like these things should be obvious, but there are people who don’t know these things and it’s always helpful, and safe, to know!

  4. I have never read a microwave manual before. Maybe I will do it next time a buy a new one, it could have some good tips for me. I do clean my microwave, but not after ever use. I usually do it once every few days. I think that this has a lot of good tips. I need to focus on the “don’t” part of the list.

  5. Good tips. A lot of people are so against microwaves but I think they’re alright. Those people are generally not using them correctly. I should refer them to your post! As long as you use it for simple short tasks, all is well.

  6. Thank you for these tips. Even though they sound like very common things people should be doing already, I can tell you I didn’t know more than 80% of this info. I’ve even melted plastic with my food once! I’ll use this helpful guide whenever I try to go near a microwave now.

  7. I did the water test today! I had a few minutes to spare so I did it for ‘fun’. My microwave is actually a higher wattage than I thought! Good to know. I didn’t originally buy it myself so I had just assumed it was a certain wattage…no idea why. Now I know 🙂 Thank you for the tip.

    • This is what’s making me take time in buying a microwave…high wattage, piling electricity bills…as much as i may want to have it now, i think i’ll put a pause… up until i get some stuff figured out. 😉

  8. As dangerous as microwaves can be one would think they would put the most important warnings somewhere prominent on the thing. I almost burned down the office once when I put a small plastic container in for a few seconds that had a tiny piece of foil still stuck to its edge. Such a little timesaving device can be a big danger.

    I am going to spread the word about the water test. That will come in handy. You have no idea when you step in front of one and press the start button what kind of power you are dealing with.

  9. When it comes to microwaves, I just don’t trust them, I had a few bad experiences: a memorable one was when I put an egg to boil and when I took it out and cracked it, it just exploded in the whole kitchen.
    Then, you reminded me of baby milk, it’s true, must be very careful! When I was a waitress it happened that moms would ask me to heat up their milk and at the time I already had 2 babies, I would always test the temperature of the milk on my wrist to see that it wasn’t too hot. Must be careful about how to use this device, I always prefer traditional hob.

  10. Steer clear of all microwave popcorn. There have been multiple studies that microwave popcorn can cause lung cancer. There are substances in the bag, especially in the artificial flavoring that releases a toxic gas. The gas gets trapped in the bag, and then released right into your face when you open the bag. It is not that hard to pop popcorn on the stove. It just means you have to wash a dish. I would rather wash dishes than risk cancer.

  11. A great post with great tips! We can all use these reminders as the convenience of the microwave is something that we take for granted! A lot of people take shortcuts and don’t think about the consequences sometimes.

  12. Ah microwave cooking! Yes reading the instructions carefully can save someone from a great big mess. I remember one time I was in a rush. I forgot to put the lid back on as specifically stated in the instructions. It splattered all over my microwave. While it was still tasty and perfectly edible, I ended up cleaning all that goop.

  13. I cannot even remember *seeing* a microwave’s manual! But these are sound advices. Even “sturdy” plastic can melt over time and makes it less safe for eating from it then. I don’t think I ever owned a microwave that I cleaned regularly. Thankfully they sell those sort of plastic bells that you can put on top of your plate, so there’s that. Just using this limits the messes and splatter, and a quick wash is the simplest thing ever!

  14. Thanks for the reminders!

    I was told once that the “Microwave Safe” notation on plastics means that it’s safe for the container – not necessarily safe for people to eat from it. With all the BPA-free plastics available now, I am much more mindful of my plastic use when it comes to foods. I have saved myself the step of checking for microwave safety with plastics by only using glass dishes in the microwave. That might not be for everyone, but I enjoy the peace of mind, while not having to give up my handy, speedy microwave!

    • Oh my goodness, I think I’ve always been using microwave-safe plastic containers to reheat my lunches. I don’t think I’ve ever looked to see if it was BPA-free. Ahh, maybe I should be carrying glass containers from now on, even though they are incredibly heavy. The weight is only temporary, the damage to myself is permanent 🙁

    • My BPA fear is so real! I absolutely never use plastic in the microwave and avoid buying food in plastic packaging as much as possible, my husband and I are on fertility treatments so no plastic is imperative!
      I also don’t defrost any food in the microwave and I’ve stopped cooking veg in the microwave as well because I cant find a glass/ceramic steamer (does anyone know if you can put a bamboo steamer in the microwave?)

  15. It’s actually remarkable how many things you can make using just a microwave. I’m not talking burritos & reheating meals. I’m talking full on meals. I’m not a fan of microwave cooking but there was a time period in my life where I had little else to cook meals with. I ended up learning a lot of the tricks real quick because of necessity.

  16. Ah, microwaves, the all-in-one tool for any college student and recent college grads. Now that we have a stove (and a really nice one too) my husband and I try not to use the microwave as much but it is just too convenient!

    We are definitely guilty of not cleaning it out as much as we should (I should get on that), so thank you for reminding me 🙂 I also didn’t know about the baby milk tip that you said, and is quite surprised because my sister-in-law and my mother-in-law uses the microwave ALL the to warm up the baby’s bottle!

  17. I have definitely never read a microwave manual, so this was a good read for me. I was unaware that I wasn’t supposed to run the microwave when it’s empty. I also use a damp paper towel on the top of the container, because I’ve had the experience of food coming out dry. I own a couple of the rubber microwave plate covers, and use those, unless the container is small, then I use the paper towel. Also, when I microwave corn on the cob, I run it under the water first, then wrap it in a damp paper towel, and it comes out moist and tasty.

  18. I have to admit this post made me give the inside of my microwave a good wipe-down. It’s one of those things I seldom consider, but it can get pretty grody if I’m not careful. Will have to stay on top of that. Great tips overall, and I also agree with everyone who’s found the damp paper towel trick handy. It’s essential if you frequently warm up rice in the microwave.

  19. I came back to comment here just to say how awesome this tip list is!
    I
    book marked it a few months back before I left for college since I knew I was going to be using a microwave a lot more and never really used one extensively before.

    I was just now looking again and could not find one good page that was comprehensive and most just drone on about how “dangerous” microwaves ate because they use “radiation” or some other odd statement that demonstrated a clearly lacking understanding of the basic principals understating radiation or even cooking really.
    Anyways I used a few of these so far and they worked really well!

    I kind of look forward to new meals and trying my “nuker” out (which has this strange implication microwave and nuclear radiation are somehow similar.

  20. I used to be really scared of microwaves ever since I saw posts online about it being dangerous and damaging to our health. Learning more about the subject, I realized how stupid I was to believe all of those. These dos and don’ts made me think of our habits at home and I’m happy we do most of the dos and not the don’ts. The biggest mistake we had before was to just leave the food splatters inside to dry and have them be hard to clean when we do clean the inside. Never taking food splatters lightly ever again.

  21. As I was going down the do and the don’t list, I can’t help but think how silly some people can be when it comes to using the microwaves.

    I was one of those people when I was little. When I was little I had this ‘great idea’ of how I was going to make a chocolate milk using a plastic bottle, some chocolate, and milk. That doesn’t sound too bad, but my great idea was to melt the chocolate first in the plastic bottle and then add the milk. I never did get the chance to add the milk because when I took the plastic bottle with the chocolate inside it out of the microwaves it had totally deform. Sure, the chocolate were all melted, but so was the bottle. I think I was lucky because I was smart enough not to actually eat any of the melted chocolate.

    This list is an awesome and helpful tips to everyone because you never know when your brain will decide to malfunction and give you a ‘great idea’ – not! 🙂

  22. I usually don’t use the microwave except for popcorn and to heat up some foods quickly, but my father is the worst at using them. He puts everything in them, and doesn’t care. He’d probably still stick a sandwich in the microwave, even though it still has tinfoil on. Thankfully nothing bad happened to him, but I wish I could just steal it away from him, lol.

  23. Most of this stuff is pretty common sense. I would of thought this side would of given better tips in terms of food quality, such as heating for twice as long at half the power, to ensure a nicer meal.

  24. I should have had this list as a child that threw everything into the microwave. I had to learn the hard way not to put foil in the microwave. Seeing those sparks made me panic. Following cooking instructions on food labels is a good idea as well. In general, I tend to cook raw foods on the stove only. If it is already cooked, then I’ll put it in the microwave.

  25. I am so happy I got rid of my microwave about 5 years ago. The explanation was enough for me, it passing radiation through the food to heat it up. I just don’t think microwaves are a good idea. If you have to use one these tips are good but try to rid yourself of the microwave. Food tastes better stove top and oven reheated anyway.

  26. I really don’t like to use my microwave as much anymore because of the radiation factor. That to me is just unsafe. However, I do think that covering the food while heating it up can help. I have wanted to buy a microwave that fits above my stove I love the look of this. I would have to do a bit of a renovation because my kitchen cabinet above the stove takes up space.

  27. It’s amazing how many people don’t know even the most basic, disaster-averting rules. I once saw a friend’s roommate try to heat sausages in the can! College students need these rules spread around as fliers in the dorms…

    Mug cakes are awesome, but you can actually just as easily make whole cakes in the microwave, in minutes. I’ve made tons of sponge cake this way by using silicone molds, and the result was just as good as the oven made versions.

    Seeing the reaction on people’s faces when I produced a cake in 10 minutes by using the microwave was almost as good as eating the cake itself.

    You need a decent microwave for this, however. I tried this in a rented apartment and the cakes invariably came out with burnt spots all over.

    I really need to learn more microwave recipes, though, since I unfortunately can’t live on cake. Hoping you’ll post some more stuff soon!

  28. I think the most important thing that you have to remember about using this method to heat up your food is that, you have to make sure to heat it up the correct amount and with the correct time. Lots of bacteria can still live in food, especially those frozen dinners you buy at supermarkets for a quick meal. Lots of diseases can be contracted through ill-prepared food, so no matter how hungry, lazy, or impatient you get, you definitely have to follow the guidelines of microwave cooking.

  29. Some people still seem to be scared of microwaves because of “radiation”. Microwaves are just short-wavelength radio waves. Because of their short wavelength, they are able to resonate with water molecules, and warm them up.

    I saw a TV programme recently which checked the nutritional value of microwaved food compared to normal cooking. There was no problem at all. They also checked for microwave leakage from the cooker, and it was almost undetectable. You’d only get a bit of leakage if the door seal was defective or too dirty.

  30. Been having some problems recently with our microwave. Gotta nuke the crap out of anything we put in it, even if it’s a pre-packaged items with instructions. I find the middle always ends up cold if I just follow the directions. Have to say I’m a little wary of putting water in the microwave. I’ve heard horror stories of the surface of the water not breaking and the heat building up on the inside and exploding when you pierce the surface with a utensil. Any advice for that?

  31. Oh thank you for the water test to find out the wattage of your microwave! I have an older microwave and the manual is long gone, so this will be incredibly useful. I’ve been nervous to try out microwave baking for precisely this reason. I’ve also switched to using only glass containers, because apparently by law for a plastic to be microwaveable, it only has to pass a test for not warping under microwave heat,not actually for releasing any potentially harmful chemicals into the food – yikes. It may be utter nonsense, but I’d rather be safe then sorry on this one. Again, thanks you for a really informative and useful article!

    • Rust is iron oxide, and as such isn’t harmful to us when ingested in small amounts.

      However, it could produce sharp edges and holes inside the microwave which could cause arcing, or excessive microwave leakage… might be time for a new model Betty!

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