Safety of Microwave Cooking
If you found this site by performing a search via a search engine or directory, you probably skipped passed a few sites titled "Dangers of Microwaved Food," or "Hidden Hazards of Microwave Cooking." You may have stopped to wonder if there is any validity in these claims.
If you believe the claims in those articles, then you shouldn't be using the computer you are surfing the Internet with right now either. Frankly, there is more danger from the microwaves emitted from your computer screen than there are from your microwave oven. The only result you get from cooking food in your microwave is hot food, faster than cooking it in your conventional oven.
As J. Carlton Gallawa explains in his book The Complete Microwave Oven Service Handbook:
Microwaves used in microwave ovens (similar to microwaves used in radar equipment, and telephone, television and radio communication), are in the non-ionizing range of electromagnetic radiation. Non-ionizing radiation is very different from Ionizing radiation ...
Microwave radiation (at 2450 MHz) is non-ionizing, and in sufficient intensity will simply cause the molecules in matter to vibrate, thereby causing friction, which produces the heat that cooks the food.
Also, there have been several emails being sent around about boiling water exploding in the microwave, and causing injury. If you take proper precautions, you can avoid having this happen to you. Fortunately, Joe Wolfe, an Associate Professor of Physics at The University of South New Wales in Sydney, Australia, has put together an excellent explanation of Superheating and microwave ovens, which not only explains how and why it happens, but how to avoid it as well.
General Microwave Cooking Safety Precautions
You should always use caution when using your microwave oven, just as you would use caution using your conventional oven. Read the manual that comes with your microwave oven for proper precautions you should take! Some additional tips:
- Do not turn your oven on when it is empty because microwaves may damage the cavity. If you accidentally turn an empty oven on, leave a cup of water in it to absorb the microwaves.
- Only use your microwave oven to heat food. Do not use your oven to dry or heat clothing. The only exceptions are a browning utensil, which is specifically designed to be heated alone in the oven; and some non-food products specifically designed to be heated in the microwave.
- Microwaves can not pass through metal. Do not use metal or aluminum utensils in your microwave oven. This includes utensils with metallic decorations around the rim as well as enameled cookware. The utensils is still metal on the inside, despite the enameled coating. (See the Equipment page for test to see if a dish is safe for the microwave).
- There are rare occasions when a recipe will instruct you to use small pieces of aluminum to shield part of your food to keep it from over cooking. Follow the instructions carefully.