What can you cook in a microwave if you don't have access to a stove. Whether you live in a hotel, in a RV, dorm room or a truck driver if you have access to a microwave you can ditch the TV dinners and use you microwave to cook healthy meals.
Microwave ovens are one of the greatest inventions of our lifetime. They help us save time and effort when it comes on to reheating food, and can even be used to cook some food items. Isn’t that spectacular?
As you already know, food isn’t placed in the microwave directly on the microwave turntable. They are placed in microwave-friendly containers that we call cookware.
These prevent messes from happening in the microwave and liquids from seeping out that could potentially cause damage.
While microwave cookware isn’t simply Tupperware and is made of specific materials, they are easily accessible and you don’t have to look very far to find containers for your microwave.
Let’s talk some more about that. We'll explore what they are made of, what should never go in a microwave and a few safety tips. Later, we’ll discuss some of the things you can and can't cook in a microwave.
A brief history of the microwave oven
When working on magnetrons at Raytheon Corp in 1946, Percy Spencer, an American engineer, would not have predicted that he would revolutionize cooking.
While experimenting using microwave radiation, he discovered that the chocolate in his pocket had melted. He decided to try this with other foods such as popcorn kernels and eggs, all of which would shake then explode.
This magnificent discovery led him to create a metal box to contain the microwave energy (since microwaves could not pass through metal) and he named his invention the “Radarange”.
At first, they were pretty expensive and the first one was nearly 6ft tall and was 700 lbs. It was sold to a restaurant for USD 5000. By the 1970s, the technology improved, the size decreased and the prices dropped. Soon homeowners were able to afford this appliance in their household, and today it is estimated that over 90% of homes in the United States have a microwave oven.
What is microwave cookware made of?
So, since microwaves can’t pass through metal. It should go without saying that microwave cookware is not made of metal. This wouldn’t make sense since the food would not heat properly.
Instead, microwave cookware is made of a material that is transparent enough for the microwaves to pass through but won’t melt at high temperatures.
Many microwave cookware appears to be made of plastic, but this is a special type of plastic. Regular plastic would melt and release toxic materials into food. This makes it unsuitable for use in the microwave.
The special plastics used for microwave cookware sometimes look like regular Tupperware, but will distinguish that it is microwave friendly. These are heat-resistant and will not alter the food in any way.
Other microwave cookware is made of ceramic, either porcelain or stoneware. This material can withstand high heat without cracking or melting.
These generally last much longer than plastic microwave cookware which tends to peel or deform after some time. When cared for properly, ceramic can last for decades, and can even be used in the oven or placed in the refrigerator.
Ceramic is also preferred by many because it is generally stain and bacteria resistant and much easier to clean.
Glass is also a popular microwave cookware material since it can withstand high-heat without getting deformed. However, not all glass is microwave friendly and the container may shatter if it was not designed for that purpose. This is because of tiny air bubbles that may expand while it is being heated.
Other microwave cookware may be made of special types of paper, but these are generally single-use and are not the best material in terms of functionality and sustainability.
What should not go in the microwave
Microwave-safe cookware will specify that they are safe for use in the microwave. However, people have found themselves using all sorts of things that end up not heating the food at all, causing a fire in the microwave, and even explosions.
Not everything is microwave safe, and some things are absolute no-nos.
- Do not put plastic containers in the microwave that were not made for that purpose. The toxic materials leached can make you seriously sick and can even lead to cancer.
- Paper materials are sometimes advertised as microwave friendly, but avoid those with writing or any form of logos that contain ink as this may leach into food while being heated.
- Do not use aluminum foil. The microwave energy will reflect off the metal interior of the microwaves and spark a fire. If this does not happen, the aluminum foil may meld with your food making it unsafe to eat.
- Avoid using ceramic and glass containers with metal trimmings, foil designs or logos, or any form of flammable attachments.
- Paper bags may be great when heating popcorn, but not all paper bags are made the same. Unless it says it is microwave friendly, assume it is not. These can heat up too quickly and release toxins or burn your food, or even catch fire.
- You may want to reheat your tea or coffee when running late, but it’s a bad idea to put your travel mug in the microwave. The insulated metal inside will disallow the microwaves from passing through and it won’t get hot. The exterior plastic handle and cover will likely be made of plastic and may melt or become too hot to handle.
- Some styrofoam containers like noodles have microwave instructions, but there is concern about potential carcinogens and toxins being released into the food. You are better off removing the contents and placing it into microwave cookware before placing it in the microwave.
Microwave cookware safety
Even though a piece of cookware will say “microwave-friendly”, there are still hazards at play. Here are some safety tips that will make using microwave cookware a safe and incident-free experience:
- Do not use cookware without a lid. Not only does this cause food to dry out, but it may lead to messes as the food water in the food begins to simmer or bubble. The hot contents may burn you as you try to remove the container.
- Under no circumstance should stainless steel or any metal utensils be left inside the microwave while the food is being heated. Not only can this start a fire and damage your microwave, but it may also cause it to explode or send the utensil flying through the microwave door.
- If you are unsure about your microwave cookware, try this simple test: Half the cookware with water and turn the microwave on to its highest setting for one minute. If the container is too hot to handle, chances are it is not microwave-safe.
Alternatively, fill a cup with water and place it beside the empty container. If the cookware gets too hot, it is not microwave friendly.
You can also try this test by simply adding boiling water to the cookware. If the handles are too hot, it is not suitable for use in a microwave.
- Before placing cookware in the microwave, inspect the container to ensure there are no cracks, peels, or deformations that would indicate the material is no longer suitable for use or is coming to the end of its life. Avoid using old containers with obvious signs of damage that may create a mess in the microwave or leak out when you attempt to remove it.
- Do not attempt to place a heavy container in a microwave oven that is above chest-height. While it may be easy to handle when it is cold, you place you're at risk of burns in the event of an accident where it slips and falls onto you.
- Avoid placing foods with a high-water content or that require you to boil water in the microwave. This can result in superheated water that may explode when it is moved.
What you shouldn't cook in a microwave
Before sharing what you can cook in a microwave, let's talk about what you should avoid placing inside a microwave.
Boiled eggs are a bad idea since the heat can cause too much pressure to build up inside it. This may eventually explode and leave you with a raw mess to contend with. Grapes are another no-no and are known to explode.
Hot peppers may catch fire or burst in the microwave. When you open the door, all these chemicals will be released in your eyes which will be a painful experience.
Frozen butter and oily foods are a bit tricky because they have a higher fat content than they do water. Since microwaves heat food by heating the water inside of them, these foods won't be heated properly.
What you can cook in a microwave
Microwaves are not only great for making popcorn, but they can also be used to make baked goods such as cakes and cookies, and for roasting nuts. It's also a great way to make smores without a campfire.
You can cook fish such as salmon in the microwave, with a side of baked potatoes or sweet potatoes, or some steamed vegetables.
You can also cook pasta, and make meals such as macaroni and cheese, spaghetti, alfredo, and noodles.
If you need a quick side dish, microwaves can be used to steam white rice, or if you feel for a quick snack, you can make a grilled cheese sandwich or some french toast.
Some persons prefer making bacon in the microwave, and even corn on the cob!
Investing in good cookware can make this and more possible. Why slave over your stove, when you can pop your ingredients in the microwave?
When doing so, it is important to remember that not all materials are suitable microwave cookware. Unless it is advertised as such, assume it is not.
And remember safety first.