There are certain things that one goes through life, never to be without. For most people nowadays, that includes a smart phone and an ATM card. And in your home, there are many things you never seem to be without either. Like a microwave. I can’t remember ever living without a microwave (aside from a very brief stint when we first moved to Germany, and it was more painful living without a dishwasher at that point) …until we moved to Berlin.
When we moved to Germany 12 years ago, we bought a great built in microwave that fully served it’s purpose until we sold the far. It was really practical albeit small, but for cooking sweet potoes or warming up dinner for Mack, it was definitely sufficient.
So when we moved to Berlin, there was not even a question about getting a new microwave because it simply wouldn’t fit anywhere. I guess if it had been a priority for us, we would have made it happen. But instead we accepted the “loss” as a new challenge to help us acquire new cooking skills that would let us warm things up without a microwave, something we’d never even thought about in the past. Necessity really is the mother of invention…
How To Warm Food Up Without a Microwave
Now it may sound at this point like we were using our microwave a LOT…but IMO, we were really only using it a few times a day and not actually cooking in it all that often (aside from potatoes which take forever in the oven). But there are often times when you have leftovers that just don’t taste right cold and you wonder what to do. So here’s a quick list of things you can easily warm up without a microwave:
- Pasta or rice — This is super simple. Just put a small am0unt of water into a pan (depends on how much you are warming up but usually a spoonful or two works great) and add your rice or pasta on top.
- Casseroles — Pop them in the oven at the same temperature you originally baked it at. Keep an eye on the top to make sure it doesn’t burn (foil works great for that) and I like to take the dish out of the fridge while I warm up the oven so there’s no danger of cracked glass dishes.
- Vegetables — These you can generally toss in a pan with a bit of water or broth to warm up quickly.
- Meats — Meats are a bit tricky and it depends on what you are warming up; but the best bet is usually in the oven. Chicken does well this way, especially with sauce over it.
- Bread — This can be done well in the toaster if it’s sliced or in your oven at around 200°F. If they’re a bit tough, you can also put a few drops of water on the outside and it will soften a tad.
- Wide range of leftovers — If you are warming up something like Thanksgiving dinner, you can just put a bit of everything on the plate and warm it up all at once. But do make sure you don’t grab the plate when you take it out because it will be HOT!
Health Risks of Microwaves
Now I’m sure you’ve heard that microwaves are really toxic and standing near one infuses you with radiation. I’ve certainly heard it myself. Whether or not all that is true will vary based on the website you visit (and probably which lobbyists are behind the website). But in general, from what I have heard you will rarely be at risk of radiation poisoning unless your microwave and starts leaking.
A survey conducted among the Professional Service Associates, a group of microwave repair servicemen, indicated that over 56% of microwave ovens two years or older leaked levels of radiation 10% higher than the safety standards set by the FDA. More often than not, a simple adjustment was all that was needed to stop the leakage. These leaks can be caused by things as simple as slamming the oven door or having dirt or food particles caught in the door seals and hinges. So basically, be alert and make your own call.
Here are a few other risks to consider:
- Food which has been microwaved contains fewer nutrients since food often becomes overcooked
- Microwaving food produces carcinogens within them
- Consuming food that has been microwaved can increase your risk of cancerous growths in the stomach and intenstine (source: CureZone.com)
The lists goes on and on and I think everyone needs to make their own decision about what health risks they want to expose themselves too. But I think we should all think twice about how often we use our microwaves and for what purpose. Also, do not use plastic containers to warm things up in your microwave; glass or ceramic only. Many of the plastics we use today are not safe for heating food in and will quickly leach chemicals — plus some of them are prone to sparking which you never want in your microwave!
Do you have a microwave? How often do you use yours and are you concerned about health risks from it?