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You might be microwaving your food the wrong way

Illustration for article titled You might be microwaving your food the wrong way
Photo: Star Tribune via Getty Images / Contributor (Getty Images)

I have a love/hate relationship with my microwave. On one hand, it works just fine heating up leftovers, but it always, always, fucks up my pizza rolls and Hot Pockets. And how does my tomato soup get all crusty once I zap it? What’s with that?

Insider asked chefs about common mistakes people make while using the futuristic food zapper known as the microwave, and it’s interesting to see what they said. One tidbit I found particularly useful was the warning that heating multiple types of food at once on the same plate can lead to both overcooked and undercooked food. Different foods microwave differently, so chef Amy Riolo suggests you simply microwave the items separately, then plate them together afterwards. Will I do this? Probably not. That’s more dishes. But I get it.

Another tip is to pause your microwave periodically during its heating time to stir your food, or flip it, while it cooks. We’ve all been victim to an unevenly cooked dish in the microwave.

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Also, avoid heating your food in plastic containers specifically meant for cold food, like yogurt or cottage cheese tubs with lids, as, according to the USDA, chemicals from that packaging can leach into your food. Not good, and probably not delicious. And I think plenty of you know this, but don’t microwave your food in a styrofoam container, as those aren’t designed for that purpose either. Styrofoam actually degrades when microwaved, and those chemicals can also seep into your food. Bad.

So, these are things you probably knew. But one thing I didn’t know was that you shouldn’t run your microwave without any food in it, otherwise you might start a fire. What! When you run the microwave while empty, the energy waves will bounce around the inside the cooking chamber with nowhere to go (i.e., no food to target), and if the microwave is left on long enough, those waves could damage the device to a point where it’ll catch on fire. I bet there’s a YouTube video of some jackass doing this somewhere, but I don’t want to check.

This is also a new one to me: microwaving spicy peppers can cause the capsaicin in them to get aerosolized, leading to an unpleasant surprise once you open the microwave door. You run the risk of breathing in all those spices, which cannot be fun whatsoever. And don’t add oil to your dishes before you microwave them, which runs the risk of hitting the oil’s smoke point as it’s heating up. Not only is a smoking microwave a bad situation, it’ll make your food taste pretty nasty.

Staff writer at The Takeout. Also: Saveur Humor Blog Award Winner, professional pizza maker, and insufferable troublemaker.

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DISCUSSION

I’m a big proponent of using a microwave lid. Besides catching splatters, they are great at preventing food from drying out in the microwave.

You don’t need the expensive ones on Amazon. You can get a cheap one from Dollar Tree or IKEA . When not in use, you can leave the lid inside the microwave. That way, you have a convenient reminder to use it.