Microwave Myths Explained

In our hectic modern day lives, the microwave has become more than just a convenience, but a necessary part of many households.

But as we hear more and more scare stories focussed around this simple mini-oven, it’s hard not to look at the microwave sideways and wonder just how safe it really is to have in our homes and offices.

Cast aside your aspersions and ignore the fear tactics as we at Ovenu are in the privileged position of being able to dispel the myths that surround one of the most prevalent kitchen appliances of the last forty years.

The First Myth – “Metals become dangerously hot in microwaves”

This is what happens when a CD is put in a microwave – do NOT try this at home!

This is what happens if you put a CD in the microwave – do NOT try at home!

False!
It’s true that you shouldn’t put any small metal objects like foil, cutlery or plates with metallic edging into the microwave – some of us may have learned that the hard way when trying to reheat a takeaway from the night before – as they can conduct microwaves causing electrical sparks. However thick pieces of metal won’t be heated to levels anywhere near dangerous in the microwave, as they usually reflect the microwaves, although it still isn’t good for the condition of the microwave oven.

The Second Myth – “Microwaves cook food unevenly”

True!

Expecting your food to be cooked straight through to the middle from frozen without following the packet’s instructions is just unrealistic. Microwaves heat up food by stirring up the water molecules on the outside, which then transfers the heat to the insides of the food. To avoid biting into a piping hot lasagne to find a frozen centre, follow the instructions carefully, especially when it comes to stirring or turning. Be especially careful with meat products as not cooking them through fully can mean the ingestion of dangerous bacteria.

The Third Myth – “You should never heat oil in a microwave oven”

True!
If you’re forgetful, try a sign like this one.

If you think you might forget, make yourself a label like this one.

This is usually a matter of convenience as opposed to safety. Microwaves work by heating up the water in food and drinks, and as oil has no water it doesn’t heat especially well in a microwave. If left too long, substances with particularly high levels of oil or fat may get too hot, although heating oil in the microwave is more inconvenient than dangerous. Use a frying pan or oven in a well-ventilated room instead.

The Fourth Myth – “Microwaves use more energy than ovens”

False!

Well, kind of. This is a complicated one, as microwaves do in fact consume larger amounts of energy than ovens, although the considerably shorter cooking times can cancel out this factor as the microwave doesn’t waste time and energy heating the surrounding area and containers. The difference in energy bills is minimal, so don’t worry about using the microwave instead of the oven from that perspective.

The Fifth Myth – “Plastic in the microwave is bad for you”

True!

Although there are many microwave safe plastics, and most microwaveable meals which come in plastic containers can be heated in them – for one time only – it is best to stay away from plastic in the microwave if you can help it. Especially in throw-away plastic like food containers, toxic amounts of the compound Bisephenol A (BPA) can be found, which have links with frightening issues such as neurological and motor-function damage.

The Sixth Myth – “They can give you cancer!”

False!

This 1959 microwave probably was very dangerous!

This 1959 microwave may well have been dangerous!

Luckily, this has about the same level of truth as saying that looking into a microwave can make you go blind. The radiation of a microwave is non-ionising much like a radio wave, so unlike ionising waves such as X-Rays there is no evidence that normal use of a microwave can cause cancer. There are some dangerous effects to direct exposure to the microwaves, although it’s extremely uncommon now to find a microwave which is able to run while the door is open. Occasionally leaks can develop due to malfunctions in the machine, but there is no solid proof as of yet that these can cause cancer to form.

Have you been told any crazy theories about microwaves that you’d like an honest answer to? Or maybe you can provide some expert advise to others who are worried about their health? Discuss them with us on our Ovenu Facebook page!

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