Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Great Microwave Debate

My boyfriend hates microwaves. He believes they are, at the very least pointless, and at worst dangerous cancer causing machines. When we moved to Georgia we didn't own one. What's the point of having 1 more unneccessary piece of (plastic) kitchen equipment taking up space? Since I prefer to eat a whole foods diet and cook most of my own food from scratch a microwave wasn't needed.
We had some roadblocks in being microwave free. Like when we bought microwave popcorn for a movie night we were hosting. "Anyone want popcorn?...Well you better not!!" And what do you do about leftovers? I quickly learned that reheating on the stove is (almost) as fast and often tastes better. Certain foods could also be reheated in the toaster oven.
There are lots of benefits to going without a microwave: more counter space, less plastic, smaller environmental impact, discourages buying unhealthy "microwave" meals (which come in lots of packaging). But are microwave ovens really unsafe? Instinctively I think they must be unsafe. So I did what any good internet junky would do while bored at work and Googled it. Unfortunately that only complicated the issue. The FDA and EPA say that normal home microwave oven use is perfectly safe. Unfortunately I've watched way too many documentaries to trust either of those organizations so that really isn't a definitive answer. There are just as many websites quoting studies that have conclusive findings that microwave ovens are a serious health risk as there are websites quoting studies that have conclusive findings that microwaves are just as healthy and safe as any other cooking method.
I often bring leftovers to work where we have no stove for reheating. I usually eat my food at room temperature and forgo the microwave to be on the safe side. Is my caution warrented?

I should also note that, while I think a microwave is completely unneccessary I do have a few other kitchen appliances that aren't all that neccessary either.

Toaster Oven - I could just use the oven. Using a toaster oven uses less energy for small jobs though. I probably could have purchased a used one but I bought it new because the only used ones I found were very dirty.

Rice Cooker - I could just cook the rice on the stove. I purchased this rice cooker before I really considered the environmental impact of the manufacture of new goods. Honestly it's very convenient as it does cook the rice perfectly every time and when I'm making a large meal with rice and have several pots going it's nice to have 1 less thing to think about. We also make a lot of our own sushi so our rice cooker has been put to good use.

I think that's actually it though. We don't have a hand mixer, electric can opener, bread maker, waffle iron, grittle, coffee pot, electric kettle, bread toaster, George Forman grill, or any other gimicky electronic for the kitchen. Oh yea, and we don't have a microwave.

I guess I'll have to keep researching microwave safety. I think either way I can do without.

1 comment:

  1. I've been round and round with this topic. CatMan (my boyfriend) is an engineer and he has given me several extremely technical lectures on how microwaves are perfectly safe. I confess my head sort of starts to spin when he gets deep into the physics of it all.

    Anyhow - we still have one, but it doesn't get much use. It's pretty much a glorified defroster. I've taken to making some meals ahead of time and freezing them because a certain engineer I know is not terribly patient when he's hungry and also wants to be spontaneous about dinner choices. It's a bad combination!

    But in terms of popcorn I finally found the perfect solution! I won't eat microwave popcorn because it's pretty much like eating toxic waste as far as I'm concerned, and popcorn makers are either the hot air kind which are plastic nightmares and make popcorn that tastes like Styrofoam or else they have a non-stick coating which is also a level of toxic that I'm not willing to cross.

    But - we found a stove-top popper that works amazing! It has a little crank handle that turns an arm which agitates the kernels and keeps them from sticking. It hardly needs any oil and the popcorn turns out perfect every time. The most popular brand is called Whirly Pop or something like that, but we found a "Back to Basics" brand that has metal gears (important according to the reviews) for only $4 at the thrift shop. We totally LOVE it! Ours is aluminum (CatMan gave me another long involved lecture explaining how aluminum is perfectly safe - chemistry instead of physics this time, but it still made my head spin) but they do make a stainless steel variety too.