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Metal in the microwave

My recent purchase of a Revere Ware micro fryer got me thinking about the taboo of putting metal in the microwave.  If you believe the micro-fryer literature, microwaving food in metal cookware is superior to either microwaving in non-metal or cooking in metal on the stove.

So I did a little research.  Most microwave ovens include a warning about using metal in the microwave.  But I did find one interesting article entitled You Can Use Metal in a Microwave Oven, which appears to be a very thorough and well-researched investigation into microwaves and metal cookware.

What exactly are the benefits of cooking in a microwave oven?

  • Faster cooking that uses less power.  (Hey, its GREEN!)
  • What you are cooking won’t brown on top until it is fully cooked.  Ever tried cooking a frozen dish that turns out burned on top but frozen in the middle?
  • Using metal in the microwave, food can be more evenly heated, avoiding those molten-outside frozen inside results.
  • Metal won’t break, melt, or burn, and won’t leach nasty BPA (like some plastics) into your food.
  • You can use the same cookware to cook a dish both on the stove AND the microwave, for perfect results.

The most important thing about cooking in the microwave with metal cookware is to use microwave safe metal dishes.  What makes cookware unsafe for the microwave are:

  1. Microwaves can cause an electric arc to appear between two improperly placed pieces of metal. The user’s ability, to cause an arc, or prevent an arc, depends on the size and shape, of the metal pieces, their relationship to each other, and the lossiness of the load in the oven cavity.
  2. A metal utensil will arc to the oven walls, depending on its size, shape, distance from the oven walls, and the amount of food or other lossy material in the oven cavity.
  3. Metal reflects microwaves. A metal pot with a metal cover shields the food, that it contains, from microwave energy. Food, in a metal pot with a metal cover, will not get hot. The dimensions of the metal container in relationship to the size of the food is also important.
  4. The black, phenolic handles on metal pots and pans are not “Microwave Safe.” Phenolic is a plastic material, that has been used since the early part of this century as handles for metal pots and pans. Phenolic handles explode when exposed to microwaves.

Ok, so no utensils, no pots with long handles, and no phenolic handles.  I had a little trouble determining exactly what a phenolic handle is and whether Bakelite fits into this category.  My micro-fryer does have what appears to be a Bakelite handle, but it may be a different formulation that is particularly microwave safe.  Let’s just say no Bakelite handles in the microwave unless the instructions specifically say it is microwave safe.

The bottom suggestion by the article is to stick with cookware that is specifically designed for microwave cooking.  Given that not much metal cookware for the microwave is sold these days (if any at all), this might be difficult.  The value of my micro fryer just went up.

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