Are microwaves safe? The truth is, the experts aren’t sure, and that’s enough uncertainty to motivated us to find and use alternatives for heating our food.
Over the past few years, we have been trying to use our microwave less and less. This has posed a few challenges as we try to break the habit of “nuking” food just because it’s quick and convenient. We have adopted several new techniques for warming food and liquids as we phase this handy little kitchen tool out of our lives.
Are Microwaves Safe?
Without going into the science of how microwaves work (it’s all a little too complicated for me), I will just say that there’s enough information to make me nervous about using one. So nervous that I can sometimes be found ducking beneath the microwave or hiding around the corner when I have succumbed to using it. I have read about the molecular structure of food being changed when microwaved, thus destroying much of the nutrients. The use of microwaves is a personal preference, and it’s something Matt and I are finding alternatives for.
If you are on the fence about microwaves, maybe the following tips will challenge you to join us in The Great Microwave Phase-Out! (Okay, no such thing exists, but it always sounds fun to be part of something big so we’ll pretend.)
Microwave popcorn alternative
I won’t judge you if you eat microwave popcorn, but it’s one of the items on my “Things That Were Never Meant To Be Microwaved” list. I have been using the same cheap air popper since 1996, and it’s still kicking out killer batches on a regular (almost nightly) basis. I see air poppers at second-hand stores all the time for only a few dollars if you want to try this option without purchasing brand new.
Popcorn is also excellent when made on the stovetop with oil. You can make it in a regular pan with a lid or in a stovetop popcorn popper. My dad would make popcorn on the stove when I was little, and I remember it being one of the most indulgent snacks of my youth. (I won’t suggest Jiffy Pop as an alternative, because the list of ingredients scares me a bit.)
Warming up water for beverages, hot cereals, noodles, or baking will only take a few extra minutes on the stove. Grab a pot or a tea kettle and warm it to your liking. The good part? No extra dishes will need to be washed because it was only water.
One idea is a water dispenser with a hot water tap built in; talk about convenient and fast! The downside is those heating elements burn a lot of electricity.
Matt and I love our leftovers. We have been using a cast iron dutch oven on the stovetop to warm things like soups, stews, rice dishes, even noodles. Covered with a lid, it only takes a few minutes to get things to the desired temperature – and the even heat means no “hot spots.” You can also throw a dutch oven or an oven safe pyrex dish into the oven for casseroles, meat, or any other leftover dishes. Preheating the oven takes some time and uses more energy, so the stovetop dutch oven method has become our favorite.
If you own a toaster oven, this is another great way to warm up leftovers. They generally take up less counter space than a microwave and give lifeless leftovers a nice crispy finish. Matt and I put droopy, soggy restaurant leftovers on a cookie sheet in the oven for 10 minutes to resurrect them to their once tasty state. (Think burger and fries from your favorite burger joint!)
Infrared ovens like the NuWave are another option for warming food. I have seen the infomercials for these but don’t have personal experience using one. They have a fan that blows the heat around inside to ensure even cooking. Because the heat circulates, it won’t end up trapped at the top as it can in conventional ovens. Several of our friends use a convection oven for all their cooking and reheating, and they swear by its usefulness.
If you wonder, “are microwaves safe?” It makes sense to use these other methods to reheat your food.
It seems like I’m constantly melting butter, either for baking or for drizzling on my popcorn. Our gas stove melts butter in less than a minute in a small pan. This is probably less time than microwaving when you factor in all the time you waste checking on the spattering butter.
There are a few other things we used to melt or thaw in the microwave, that we now just run under hot water, heat in a double boiler, or submerge in a sink of hot water.
Bread and rolls
Since I’m a huge carb-aholic, I frequently warm rolls and bread to go with meals. These can be warmed on a cookie sheet in the oven or under the broiler for just a few minutes. A toaster oven or regular toaster could also be used on a low setting.
Can you live without your microwave?
Want to know what else is on my “Things That Were Never Meant to be Microwaved” list? Brownies. I made microwaved chocolate brownies in a mug one desperate night, and Matt begged me to never try it again. It made both of us gag, and I vowed to always take the extra time to do it right.
We’re learning to live without the convenience of microwaving, although we still own one, and it’s not as tough as I thought it would be. (And it’s saving me from having to compulsively hide from the microwave’s rays.) The easiest way to stop using the microwave is to simply get rid of it. Trust me, you’ll find alternatives.
Are microwaves safe to you, and have you found a way around using microwaves?
You may also want to check out our article on the safest cookware and bakeware.