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August 24, 2022  |  Kitchen

Are microwaved foods more dangerous?

Microwave ovens have added convenience to millions of households ever since their introduction in the early 1970s. They can zap entire meals in a few minutes and reheat leftovers like a charm. Microwaves offer the luxury of convenience at affordable prices for most homes.

However, some consumers call into question the safety of relying on microwave technology to heat up the food they eat. Concerns range from radiation exposure to loss of nutritional content. Is this common kitchen appliance a health concern?

How do microwave ovens work?

Microwave ovens use microwave technology, which isn’t visible to the human eye. It operates at a frequency of 2,450 megahertz and is produced by a magnetron to disperse the waves throughout the oven, which uniformly heats water molecules and penetrates the food. The heating from the microwaves and vibration from the water molecules cooks the food in the center.

As microwave energy is absorbed by the food, it turns to heat, according to the US Food and Drug Administration. It does not create “radioactive” or contaminated food.

Other surfaces inside the microwave oven don’t absorb the energy from the waves. Microwave-safe food containers tend to warm up simply because they’re in direct contact with the hot food inside.

Microwave safety

When operating microwave ovens, follow these guidelines:

  • Handle hot dishes with care, ideally with pot holders, towels or heat-resistant gloves.
  • Do not overfill containers with liquid, as they can boil over.
  • Do not operate an empty microwave.
  • Do not microwave unsafe materials, such as plastic or metal.
  • Check the manufacturer's instructions before operating.

Is it safe to eat microwaved foods?

As long as the microwave oven operates correctly according to the manufacturer’s instructions and food safety standards, it’s safe to consume microwaved food.

According to the World Health Organization, large portions of food or food in deep containers can heat unevenly, posing a risk. To mitigate this, place food in shallow containers or let heated food sit for a few minutes to allow the heat to continue penetrating through to the center of the dish.

The Mayo Clinic states that reheating leftovers with a microwave is more reliable than using a slow cooker since the slow cooker may not reach hot enough temperatures to kill bacteria. Slow cookers are best for cooking ingredients or meals from scratch rather than reheating leftovers.

Is food better when cooked in a microwave?

This may be up to each consumer’s preference and based on how certain foods cook using microwave technology. However, a recent study found that microwaving French fries after initially deep frying them resulted in a better-quality fry with lower oil content. Air fryers also offer an alternative to deep frying that produces crisp French fries with lower oil content.

FAQ

Q. Can microwave ovens leak radiation?

A. No. A microwave oven does not lead to radioactivity. Sensitive tissues in the body have a higher risk of thermal damage, but those tissues would need to be exposed to extremely high power levels over long periods of time, which microwave ovens do not emit. When the microwave oven is switched off, no microwaves remain in the oven cavity.

Q. Is it safe to eat microwaved food every day?

A. The more important question to address is what foods are being microwaved. The microwave technology itself isn’t a harmful way to prepare hot meals. According to one study, it also has no major difference on the outcome of the food. The contents of the meals and snacks you consume is much more important than how you reheat them. A microwave is an appliance that can add convenience to a healthy, balanced diet. On your days away from the microwave, you can create a variety of healthy recipes that don’t require an oven.

Q. Do microwaves lower the nutritional content of food?

A. No. Food cooked in a microwave oven maintains the same nutritional content as food cooked with other heating methods, according to the World Health Organization. Microwave energy reaches deeper into the food than other heating methods, which increases heat exposure and lowers the cooking time.

Q. Does microwaving plastic containers release toxins?

A. Potentially. According to the Mayo Clinic, if the food is stored or placed in a plastic container made with bisphenol A, it isn’t microwave-safe, as the heat may break the chemical down over time and eventually leach BPA into the food. Instead, store takeout and leftovers in BPA-free containers, and reheat them in microwave-safe containers made of glass or porcelain. When buying new containers, shop for BPA-free products.

What you need to buy for microwaved foods

Toshiba Smart Countertop Microwave

This extra-large microwave is great for reheating and cooking a wide range of foods. It has multiple pre-programmed settings, auto menus, buzzer selections and an Eco Mode that reduces energy by up to 50%. Colors available include black and stainless steel.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Panasonic HomeChef 4-in-1 Microwave Oven

If you want to upgrade your kitchen with just one appliance, this multifunctional microwave offers a microwave, grill, convection oven and air fry capabilities. It includes a Teflon pan for the grill and air fry modes.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Air Filter Factory Microwave Oven Aluminum Grease Filter

This two-pack of filters features 12 layers of mesh to capture grease and mist sprayed inside the microwave. They’re compatible with GE microwaves in addition to being hand-washable and reusable.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Love This Kitchen Premium Silicone Trivet/Pot Holders

These thick silicone pot holders are flexible and protective for reaching into the microwave and grabbing hot dishes. They’re heat-resistant and dishwasher-safe, and they come in three colors.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Origami Folding Kitchen Microwave Cart on Wheels

A microwave cart saves space while adding functionality to small spaces. The foldable stainless steel cart is easy to store and sturdy when in use. It’s available in black, silver and white.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Ninja AF-101 4-Quart Air Fryer

This large air fryer from a favored name brand can handle up to 3 pounds of food in its four-quart capacity. The ceramic-coated crisper plate adds texture to the food, and it can also be used as a dehydrator.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Wayfair


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Katy Palmer writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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