Let’s talk about microwave ovens.
If you’ve ever started a small kitchen fire in your home, you aren’t alone.
In fact, cooking equipment caused nearly half of the home fires reported in the US between between 2012 and 2016, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
The problem is, many Americans don’t realize just how potentially dangerous cooking can be — and if you don’t think your small kitchen accident can really do that much harm, think again. Cooking fires in the U.S. cause an annual average of 530 deaths and $1.1 billion in direct property damage.
And while several different factors can cause these types of fires, microwave ovens are often underestimated when it comes to their potential dangers.
In order to help you stay safe — and keep your kitchen from going up in flames — here are some reminders about how to properly use your microwave.
Microwave safety means keeping these items out of them
1. Paper bags
Paper bags can release toxins that could potentially catch fire.
2. Take-out containers
If the container has any metal, don’t put it in the microwave! Metal can easily start a fire in the microwave — and cause serious damage.
3. Yogurt & butter containers
Plastic containers like yogurt cups and butter containers are meant for one-time use. They aren’t made to withstand the high temperatures and heat of a microwave, and if heated they can melt and potentially release chemicals into your food.
If you want to make hard-boiled eggs, boil them in a pot on the stove. Putting eggs in the microwave will likely just leave you with a huge mess — after the high temperatures cause them to explode.
This is one of those things people like to test — thinking, “If I just put it in for a few seconds, it’ll be fine…” Don’t do it!
Styrofoam cups, bowls and take-out containers don’t belong in the microwave. Styrofoam is a type of plastic, which doesn’t mix well with microwave temperatures.
They can explode and could catch on fire.
7. Cookware with metal trim
Again, metal never belongs in the microwave.
8. Sauce or dip without a cover
Putting any type of sauce or dip in the microwave without a cover can end up leaving a HUGE mess. In a pinch, a paper towel will do.
9. Plastic storage containers
Certain Tupperware-type plastic containers will have a label telling you if they are microwave-safe. If you don’t see that label, check the manufacturer’s website — or to be on the safe side, just don’t microwave it.
10. Hot peppers
The heat from the cooking process can cause the peppers to release chemicals that can burn your eyes — chemicals that are released straight into your eyes when you open the microwave door.
11. Stainless steel travel mugs/bottles
Many people microwave travel mugs not realizing they’re made of stainless steel — which does not belong in the microwave. The stainless steel will not only block the heat from warming whatever’s in your mug, but nuking it can also damage your microwave. If the mug is plastic, check the bottom for a label to see if it’s marked as microwave safe.
12. Frozen meat
Frozen meat is tricky to microwave, because depending on how thick it is, it’s difficult to make sure the inside is fully cooked. Plus, if the heat isn’t evenly distributed, bacteria can grow and spread on the food. If you need to defrost meat that was in the freezer, just leave it in the fridge overnight.
13. Aluminum foil
It’s metal. If your leftovers — or anything else you want to heat up in the microwave — has aluminum foil on it, take the foil off before putting it in! The aluminum foil can catch fire.
When there’s nothing in the microwave to absorb the microwaves, the microwave can actually catch fire. At the very least, turning it on with nothing in there can damage the microwave.
15. Containers with ‘microwave safe’ labels (sometimes)
If something has a ‘microwave safe’ label, that often means you can microwave it without damaging the product or your microwave. That doesn’t mean the product can’t get extremely hot and become unsafe for you to touch after it’s been in the microwave.
If you aren’t sure about how a certain bowl or other container will work in the microwave, heat the liquid or food in something else and then transfer it to that container.
Most of us likely think of our microwave as a safer cooking appliance than a conventional oven or stove. While that’s largely true, it’s still important to exercise caution and keep in mind what does and does not belong in a microwave — or risk becoming one of those kitchen fire statistics.