You should know by now that microwaving food won’t give you cancer, fill food with invisible toxic particles, destroy nutrients, or turn you into some kind of alien. Nope, it’s totally safe, not to mention very, very convenient. (Not having to wait 45 minutes for your DIY Organic TV Dinner to heat up is truly technology worth celebrating.)
At least, it’s safe most of the time: There are some things that should never, ever get nuked if you want to avoid freaky explosions, weird bacterial growth, full-on oven fires, and leaching chemicals into your food. Here, 8 things you need to permanently keep out of your hot box.
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It’s totally fine to nuke eggs, as long as you crack them first.
Related: Our Favorite Supermarket Eggs
Trying to make hard-boiled eggs in the microwave can cause steam to build under the shell from the water in the whites and yolk. If this happens, you’ll have exploded bits of egg all over the inside of your microwave before you can hit cancel.
Brown Paper Bags
Sorry, popcorn lovers: DIY paper bag popcorn is not the genius alternative to chemical-laden microwave popcorn bags like everyone thinks. The problem: Any glue and ink on a paper bag can emit toxic fumes in the presence of high heat, according to the USDA. (Try one of these 11 clean eating snacks.) Plus, there’s a chance that your bag can catch fire while you’re waiting for your tasty treat. Next time you’re craving fresh popcorn, drop the paper bag idea and cook it on the stovetop.
Like eggs, whole fruit contains lots of water that can cause steam to build, leading to a potentially super messy explosion—so don’t even think about nuking your pear, peach, or plum. (Not to mention, that would taste pretty weird. Microwaved fruit? But for some reason, we still see lots of recipes online for nuked pears and apples.) That said, if you really want to, you can microwave sliced fruit, because even though it has the same water content as its whole counterpart, steam can’t get trapped under the skin.
Frozen Meat Or Poultry
The microwave can be a godsend when it’s 6:00 PM and you realize you forgot to take out those frozen chicken breasts or ground beef patties before leaving for work. But unless you’re planning on cooking thawed meat immediately after nuking it, skip the microwave. According to the USDA, microwaving can cause some areas of the meat to get warm and spur the growth of bacteria, which could cause the meat to spoil if you let it sit around for a while before cooking it.
Food Stored In Plastic
Plastic containers and wrap run the obvious risk of melting in the microwave if you leave them in for too long. But even if you think you can just quickly throw something in the hot box covered in plastic wrap before it has a chance to melt, it’s still not a good idea. Plastic contains endocrine-disrupting chemicals like BPA and BPS that can leach into food. In fact, one 2011 study found that a whopping 95 percent of 400 plastic food containers tested, including those labeled as BPA-free, released toxins when the containers were subjected to heat from a microwave, dishwasher, or even hot water. Instead, nuke food in glass or microwave-safe ceramic plates and use paper towels instead of plastic wrap if you need to cover anything.
Most recipes don’t call for warming oil in the microwave, but you might try it if you’re making DIY massage oil or another homemade beauty product. And while it’s not particularly dangerous, it’s also not very effective. (This is the new oil replacing trans fats in your food.) Microwaves heat food or liquid by sending electromagnetic waves through water particles, which causes the particles to vibrate and warm up. Because oil is virtually water-free, it doesn’t get that hot. Butter, on the other hand, is around 16 percent water, which is why you can nuke it and get melted butter without any problems.
Aluminum foil can spark and cause a fire, plain and simple. When you’re reheating leftovers, always take the foil off first.
Unless you want to buy a new microwave, avoid turning it on when nothing’s inside. Sounds obvious, but some have made the mistake of pressing start with nothing inside only to cause their hot box to overheat and shut down. How could this happen? Microwaves heat stuff by sending electromagnetic waves through water molecules in your food or drink. If your microwave is empty, there’s nothing to absorb those waves, ergo a possible disaster.
This article originally published on Eat Clean.