Microwaves were invented by accident. The story goes, an engineer named Percy Spencer was testing a military-grade magnetron and discovered a peanut cluster bar in his pocket had melted.
Unsure but curious, he tested the microwaves on an egg which promptly exploded. Undeterred, he brought in corn kernels the next day, popped them, and shared them with his colleagues.
From there, microwaves slowly became a household appliance, with more than 90 percent of American households having one, according to the Consumer Price Index.
It’s not surprising since microwaves have many benefits. However, there have also been myths that have come up surrounding these common cooking tools.
To put it in simple terms, microwaves heat up water molecules through vibration, heating the food. While most people will use their microwaves for run-of-the-mill tasks like warming food or making popcorn, the multiple power levels of microwaves make it even more versatile than you may think.
Experts have found most microwave owners are not familiar with the different power levels and the majority of their respondents were incorrect in answering questions about the best levels to cook certain foods.
Understanding how microwaves work eliminates some concerns but here are the six most widespread and enduring myths about microwaves.
1. Myth: Microwaves Give You Cancer
Since microwaves are a form of radiation and we are always warned before getting x-rays, it would make sense that such a falsehood might sound reasonable.
However, as the Cancer Council reports, microwaves do not cause food to be radioactive and are not known to cause cancer.
2. Myth: Microwaves Destroy Nutrients
Nutrients are diminished in foods when exposed to high temperatures and, the longer they’re exposed, the more they are diminished.
By virtue of cooking foods faster, it is actually microwaves that preserve nutrients more than other cooking techniques. In fact, experts report microwaves preserve antioxidants best.
3. Myth: Don’t Microwave Plastics
Microwaves can, indeed, generate enough heat to melt plastic. However, when using the oven according to manufacturer’s instructions and using microwave-safe plastic, the FDA (who regulates microwaves) has approved the use of microwave-safe plastic.
4. Myth: Microwaves Use Too Much Energy
This is a misconception, more than a myth. Microwaves will use more energy than a stove top when heating water for tea, but when it comes to cooking or reheating food, microwaves use less energy.
The reason is because microwaves target the foods specifically, and not the container they’re in.
5. Myth: Microwaves Cook Food from The Inside Out
Microwaves target the outside of the foods, not the insides. That’s why you might reheat last night’s leftovers and find the center too cold while the outside edges are too hot to touch.
The heating of the insides of the food is done through conduction of the heat from the outer edges, as the FDA explains.
6. Myth: Microwaves Leak Radiation
All radiation-emitting products are regulated by the FDA, including microwaves. The EPA reports that microwaves can leak if used when damaged or broken and asserts such leaks are very hard to detect. However, avoid standing above or close to a microwave if you are concerned about radiation leaking.