Ever second-guessed yourself when cooking something in the microwave? Well, that may have been with good reason. Yes, there are plenty of things that you should totally avoid nuking, no matter the circumstances. Otherwise, you could end up with anything from mushy, tasteless food all the way through to severe burns.
20. Aluminum foil
Large pieces of metal in the microwave, such as a thick pan, will simply stop your food from getting hot. But smaller pieces or shards of metal, like aluminum foil, could actually catch fire. That’s because microwaves turn them into electrical conductors. When the current surges through, they heat up and burst into flames.
19. Most takeout containers
Many of us are no stranger to reheating last night’s takeaway for lunch. But if you choose to do so, it’s probably best to transfer it to some proper Tupperware first. Yes, unfortunately, the majority of plastic takeout containers aren’t suitable for microwaves, as harmful toxins can seep from them into your food.
Ever wanted to see your microwave burst into flames? No, we thought not. In that case, it’s probably a good idea to never try putting grapes into it, then. That’s because the skin of a cut grape heats up so quickly that it erupts into fire, and if the conditions are right, it can even produce the fourth state of matter – plasma.
17. Hot peppers
Like most things on this list, hot peppers are prone to turning quite literally fiery when nuked. But that’s not the only reason you should keep them far, far away from your microwave. In addition, the component that makes them spicy, capsaicin, will emanate into the air – so it won’t just be your mouth burning, but your eyes, too.
Like grapes, microwaving toothpicks can be a great way to produce plasma at home. However, like grapes, it’s also quite dangerous, because you’re essentially creating tiny balls of lightning. And the damage it can do to your microwave probably isn’t worth the few seconds of entertainment, either.
15. Hard boiled eggs
If you’ve ever been tempted to cook an egg in the microwave but didn’t go through with it, count yourself lucky. After all, it’s very likely that it would have exploded. Yes, when you heat up an egg inside its shell, water pockets form. And when those boil, the pressure can cause the egg to explode, launching its scalding yolk all over the place. Ouch.
14. Dry sponges
Microwaving sponges can be a great way to sterilize them. After all, they’re one of the most bacteria-ridden items found in most households, carrying all sorts of harmful microorganisms – including E. coli and salmonella. But if you do, make sure to wet them first: a dry sponge is a fire waiting to happen.
13. Light bulbs
Sure, you probably don’t go around regularly putting light bulbs in microwaves. But just in case the thought has ever crossed your mind – just to see what would happen – then you should be aware of the consequences. Yes, microwaving a light bulb can release toxic chemicals into the air, including lead and mercury vapor. Not what you want near your food, then.
Those styrofoam takeout containers? Yeah, they’re no good when it comes to the microwave. That’s because the heat of its contents can cause the styrofoam to melt, bonding its toxic chemicals with the food within. And that’s not really something you want to be putting in your body.
It may surprise you to learn that using a microwave isn’t a particularly safe way of boiling water. In fact, it can result in something called “superheating,” which means the water has warmed up before vapor bubbles have had time to form. Without these bubbles, the heat can’t be released, so the water will race past its usual boiling point. And then, it might explode.
10. Glow sticks
A glow stick plus a microwave surely equals a recipe for disaster. Yes, that’s one equation we were confident didn’t need testing. Nevertheless, in 2014 one boy tried it anyway, hoping his green stick would glow a little brighter. And that it did – at least, until it exploded over his face and clothes.
9. Foil pouches
Everyone makes mistakes – that’s why pencils have erasers. But just because your aluminum foil has been converted into pouch form, that doesn’t make it any more microwave-safe. Capri Sun drinks, for instance, will still have you seeing sparks if you choose to nuke them.
8. Breast milk
Heating up bottled breast milk in a microwave is basically an all-round terrible idea. Not only can the bottle explode if you run it for too long, but microwaves don’t warm up liquids evenly – so you’re risking scalding your baby without even realizing. And, of course, nuking the breast milk can eradicate its nutritional value.
7. Stainless steel travel mugs
Yes, it’s more metal in the microwave and should probably be obvious. But because a travel mug is intended to deal with high temperatures, some of us might not think twice about chucking it in the microwave. Unfortunately, the steel will reflect the microwaves rather than absorb them, which could harm your microwave, along with the mug.
6. Fine china
Unsurprisingly, fine china is best kept out of the microwave. After all, chances are it was created before “microwave safe” was even a necessary term. And let’s be honest, would you really want to risk that vintage, and no doubt expensive, crockery? Yes, you’re better safe than sorry with this one.
Broccoli is one of those vegetables that really needs to be cooked properly to bring the best out of it. And right at the bottom of the list is microwaving it. Yes, nuking your broccoli removes almost all of its nutritional benefits, so you’re just eating pointless, soggy mush. Steaming it, meanwhile, retains far more of its nutrients.
4. Celery, beets and spinach
Moreover, broccoli isn’t the only vegetable that the microwave can prove detrimental to. Indeed, the high quantities of nitrates in the likes of spinach, celery and beets can release toxic, carcinogenic fumes into the air if reheated. So, when you’ve got leftovers for lunch, it’s probably best to find another way to warm them up.
When you reheat chicken, the proteins within it alter considerably. Combine that with a microwave that doesn’t necessarily reheat foods evenly throughout, and you’re left with all the ingredients for an upset stomach. If you want to avoid digestive problems, then, you’ll want to reheat it using a different method – or just eat it cold.
2. Plastic wrap
It shouldn’t be news to you by now that plastic and microwaves generally don’t mix, but plastic wrap can be particularly hazardous if it’s touching food while it’s in there. That’s because it can easily melt, sticking and mixing in with your food. If you do need to cover it, there are always paper towels or wax paper.
Yes, turning on an empty microwave is actually one of the worst things you can do for it. That’s because the microwaves that bounce around inside it need something to absorb them. Otherwise, they’ll simply reflect back into the magnetron – that is, the heart of the machine, which creates the waves in the first place. And if you damage that, your microwave won’t work at all.