To me, microwaves are one of the greatest inventions ever made. It is one of life’s simplest pleasures. Just put a chunk of cold food in and in less than 2 minutes, you get yourself a hot tasty meal.
Almost everyone has microwaves in their home which they use regularly. But did you know that most of the time you don’t use it correctly?
As it turns out, people, while reheating food, make tons of microwave mistakes and the most common and health hazardous of them all is reheating food in a microwave without covering it.
Is It Safe To Microwave Food Without Cover?
It is not safe to microwave food without a cover on. It is highly recommended to cover your food while microwaving by the health and food authorities, including USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Services.
I used to think that microwaving food without a cover would be more appropriate as it would heat the food faster and hasten the overall process. But the truth is that microwaving food is more beneficial than having it off.
Why Do We Cover Food In The Microwave?
Microwaving food with a cover on has many advantages including,
- Keeping food from drying out
- Heating food evenly
- Kill harmful bacteria
- Preventing food splatter
- Easy cleaning
Let’s have a look at these in a little detail,
Keeping Food From Drying Out:
This may just be one of the greatest advantages of covering your food while microwaving. It helps retain the moisture which helps prevent the food from drying out.
If you’re microwaving food which uses steam or water i.e. rice and pasta, adding extra moisture in it will give the food some freshness.
According to Hong Kong’s Centre of Food Safety adding small spoons of water in your food which you want to microwave will help steam your food from the inside out and help keep the nutrients and minerals inside.
Heating Food Evenly:
I know you would all agree with me on this one when I say that it sucks when you find that the food you have just reheated has still some cold bits in it. This is one of the major drawbacks of heating food in a microwave; that it doesn’t heat the food evenly and hence giving you the awful formation of cold and hot spots in your food.
But if you cover your food, your problem is solved. When you cover your food, the steam remains trapped inside the cover and distributes itself evenly across the food and helps heat it up evenly.
Trumbull: Food & Nutrition Press, Inc. published a study which stated that uneven heating of food can be prevented by covering the food.
Tips For Heating Food Evenly
- Cutting food into smaller pieces.
- Deboning big pieces of meat.
- Stir the dishes a few times while it’s in the microwave.
- Put the bigger portions of the food on the outside of the dish.
Killing Harmful Bacteria
The heat trapped because of covering your food in the microwave helps kill off the germs, according to the USDA’s FSIS. Viruses and certain bacteria like E.coli and Salmonella can be killed through a home microwave within 1 to 5 minutes, according to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.
An experiment was conducted in Florida. The scientist discovered that if a sponge is microwaved at its full potential for 1 to 2 minutes, it eliminates up to 99% of all the germs.
Preventing Splatter Of Food
If the food you want to heat in the microwave contains liquid or fats then the chances of it exploding are high and once exploded might end up looking like a murder scene. Covering the food will help you avoid the possible mess.
Since covering the food will help you avoid food splatter all over the place. Thus any splatter will be contained at a small radius and so can be easily cleaned.
The Downside Of Microwaving Food Without Cover
There have been no food safety concerns reported when it comes to heating food without cover but it does have some disadvantages. These include,
- Dried up food with the texture and taste of the food destroyed.
- Uneven heating of food
- Incomplete destruction of germs
- Splattering of food
What Can Be Used To Cover The Food With?
While you should cover your food while heating it in the microwave, you should be careful about the type of material you cover your food with. Here are some items that you can use to cover your food with,
- Wax Paper: Helps heat your food without steaming it. Best used for heating fruit and meat.
- Plastic Wraps: It holds the heat inside the wrap properly. They are best used when heating fish or vegetables. FDA has advised using plastic wraps with the label “microwave safe” on them.
- Parchment Paper: These are microwave safe papers and sometimes referred to as baking paper.
- Storage Bags: If the food requires little heat then storage bags are best for this purpose. Storage bags are used for minimal heating and don’t do well in high temperatures.
- Paper Towels/ Plates/ Napkins: Food covered with paper towels absorbs more moisture.
- Heat Proof Glass: Don’t want to cover your food with plastic covers? Heat proof glass such as pyrex are best used to heat food which needs steam or some moisture as a tenderizer.
- Covers with Microwave-Safe Labels: Microwave safe products are those whose chemical leaches the minimal into the food.
Although some covers would be safe to use. It is still advised to keep a little space between the cover and the food. Some covers become extremely hot and melt when touched by food.
Which Materials Cannot Be Used To Cover The Food In Microwave?
Here are a list of containers and covers that the USDA’s FSIS cautions us to use,
- Metal pans
- Aluminium foil
- Plastic bags
- Foam insulated trays
- Brown paper
What Covers Should I Use To Cover My Food While Microwaving?
Still confused on what type or material of cover to buy? Don’t worry, I’ve listed of the top 3 microwave covers that I found best,
This microwave cover is made up of borosilicate glass. It can withstand up to 450° and unlike silicon, it won’t absorb any unpleasant smell. It can also be served as a baking dish.
|Food will stay warm for longer periods
|Glass can crack
|Distributes heat evenly
|Heavy and thick
|No handle on top
|Can be used for baking
This cover comes with four magnets present on top of the cover. The purpose of this cover is that you can easily attach it on the top of your microwave after using it, thereby saving space.
This cover is made up of PBS-free plastic for safe heating and contains perforated steam vents which are used to release the extra moisture.
|Magnets may fall out
|Requires flat metal microwave top
|Food safe and BPA-free
|Can’t be used more than 10 mins
|Perforated steam vents
|Easy grip handle
This might be the best value microwave cover you might get. It has a simple design but it does the job. The cover is translucent and hence you can manage the progress of your dish. On top of that it is made up of BPA-free plastic; hence you don’t have to worry about exposing your food to harmful chemicals.
|Translucent design for food monitoring
|Doesn’t contain handle for lifting
|BPA or melamine free product
|May stain in the long run
|Simple and effective design
Always cover your food while heating it in the microwave oven; whether it is covered with a paper towel or BPA-free plastic covers.
Not covering your food can have many disadvantages including food splatters which become hard to clean and uneven or improper heating of food.