Microwave Safety Tips

Since their introduction decades ago, microwave ovens have frequently been the subject of scaremongering urban legends. In reality, microwaved water won't kill your plants and microwaving plastic wrap won't fill your food with dioxins, but you should observe a few legitimate safety precautions when you're working with a microwave.

Avoid Fireworks

One of the most spectacular ways to go wrong with your microwave is by incautiously using metal or foil items in the cooking chamber. Some microwave cookware is carefully designed with metal sections to retain heat for even cooking, and even some TV dinners incorporate them, but winging it is risky. Accidentally leaving a fork on your plate or microwaving dishes covered with foil can cause alarming lightning-like flashes that can start fires or damage your microwave.

Keep It Clean and Tight

Letting your microwave get dirty is a bad idea on several levels. Food buildup can impair your oven's efficient operation, cause smoke or fires, and—if drips spill out the front—can prevent the door from making a good seal. Use gentle cleansers and wet cloths to clean the oven, not abrasive scrubbing pads, which can leave arc-producing debris. Advanced models simplify this effort with a simple steam-cleaning process that minimizes the need for cleansers.

Heat Evenly...

Microwave ovens heat unevenly by their nature, so stir your foods periodically as they reheat. A few minutes rest gives the heat time to equalize throughout your dish. Ideally, it's safest to use an instant-read thermometer to ensure that your foods reach the recommended food-safe temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Hybrid models with fan-driven convection heat provide safer and more even reheating.

...But Not Too Much

Microwaving your food for too long is a serious no-no. High-fat foods can burst into flame, and any food can cause billows of foul-smelling smoke if overheated. At a minimum, you'll ruin your food. It's best to microwave food in increments of a few minutes and to stay in the room while it cooks. High-end models often provide sensor cooking, monitoring heat and humidity levels within the microwave and stopping when the food is done.

Photo Credits: Sarah VanTassel/Demand Media

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