Microwaving food is easy. It’s like something out of “The Jetsons” or “Futurama”—you should just place the food inside the oven, set the time, and receive it piping hot a few minutes later without preheating the oven! Of course, microwave technology does have its limitations and downsides.
However, for the most part, microwaves are extremely convenient. With that said, is it safe to microwave food without cover? Should you use a lid or a plate over your food to correctly cook it in the microwave?
Is It Safe to Microwave Food Without Cover?
Kind of? And kind of not. If you’re heating up soups, broths, stews, or anything with loads of liquid, it can be messy. Hot food with water or fatty content tends to sizzle, pop, splatter, and fizz like crazy.
On one hand, if they were getting hot enough to boil your microwave’s insides and the turntable will receive splash-back or food splatter that you have to wipe off immediately before they could form a stain.
On the other hand, there are certain food items like mug cakes, quiches, and most finger foods that can cook fine without a lid or cover. When cooking fatty foods that sizzle in greases such as steak or pork chops, you should have a lid to shield your microwave from the greasy pops and fizz.
What’s the Right Way to Cover Your Food in the Microwave?
To make sure your food isn’t overcooked and tastes better, cover it with a loose lid. Don’t seal in the food inside a potential pressure cooker situation.
Covering food is yet another means for you to evenly cook the dish with uniform reheating. Other methods involved in even heating include the rotating turntable of your standard microwave, the orbiting antenna around the food in flatbed microwaves, and you manually stirring microwaved soup.
For watery or soupy food, you need to stop microwaving every minute to stir the soup or stew. For solid foods, you need to stop the microwave every minute to rotate it (sometimes the turntable isn’t enough).
Further reading: 7 of the Healthy Microwave Meals That Are Quick and Easy
Why Shouldn’t You Seal the Cover or Close the Lid Tightly When Microwaving?
A lid or cover shouldn’t be too tight on your microwaveable container because it could explode. It’s like a soda bottle that had been shaken with unstable carbonation. It turns your contained food into a ticking time bomb.
The moist heat produced when food is vented or steamed with a lid that isn’t too tight helps not only cook the food but also kills harmful germs at the same time, like recirculating heat from the inside to the outside.
Airtight containers are a no-no not only because it will cause a bigger mess than uncovered soup or pork chops. The lid can burst in the middle of microwaving o the lid can become impossible to open, becoming vacuum sealed.
It’s like a pressure cooker with no pressure release. The dish with container should blast open, spilling all its contents in your microwave interior then making a mess.
What Other Mistakes Should You Avoid When Reheating Foods in the Microwave?
There are a number of other mistakes to watch out for aside from making your food cover or lid too tight when microwaving a container full of food. They include the following.
Don’t Reheat Hardboiled Eggs Inside Their Shell
Don’t reheat hardboiled eggs in their shells because it’s like microwaving food in a tight lid. It actually helps when cooking things with skins like hot dogs or hot pockets to poke holes in them that serve as a pressure release.
Egg explosions or egg explosions are hard to clean up and should be cleaned up immediately to avoid that rotten or bad egg smell inside your microwave. It’s a stinky egg bomb of a mess that you can avoid with a small hole or using an egg boiler container.
Another problem with reheating a hardboiled egg is that it can become rubbery and inedible. No one likes eating a rubbery egg. Even if you feed it to your dogs, they probably won’t like it and its tastelessness.
Don’t Skip the “Stir Halfway Through” Step
Stir halfway through your soup when reheating it in the microwave. That’s what the pause button is for. Even if there’s a line behind you at the office pantry in order to use the microwave, you should press pause about halfway though reheating your soup.
You should stir your dish to distribute the heat and avoid the development of hot or cold spots. Cold centers can lead to bacterial spread. Uneven heating can also lead to you eating a mouthful of nuclear-hot pie or soup.
Microwaves heat food from the inside to the outside. Rotate solid foods and stir liquid foods in your microwave for the sake of even heating. Harmful bacteria tend to propagate between 40°F to 140°F.
As a Rule of Thumb Don’t Use a Plastic Container
Don’t microwave plastic containers unless they’re specifically marked as microwave-safe. You can also err on the side of caution and simply use ceramic or glass containers for microwaving. Bacteria can also spread and migrate into food when plastic melts or warps.
Also, be aware of the wattage of the device. It might be indicated by the doorjamb or by the front of the machine. Check the user manual too for the specs. You can even research the wattage by looking it up on the Internet using Google.
The higher the wattage of your microwave the faster your food cooks. Big microwaves can go between 850 watts to 1.65 kilowatts or more (commercial-grade microwaves). Being aware of wattage allows you to avoid undercooking or overcooking your food.
What You Need to Find Out
When microwaving with lids, make sure the lids are loose and mostly serve as splash guards against sizzling or boiling food. As for the best mini microwaves you can use with these lidded dishes, you have the Toshiba Microwave Oven as the best overall countertop microwave.
The most compact countertop is Black + Decker Digital Microwave Oven, the best smart countertop is the AmazonBasics Microwave and its voice-activated controls, and the best value countertop is the Hamilton Beach Digital Microwave Oven.
- Erica Chayes Wida, “8 mistakes people make when using a microwave“, Today.com, March 21, 2019