There’s a reason microwave cooking is so popular—it’s quick, it’s easy, and in many cases, it produces reliable results. However, while you may rely on your microwave to pop that bag of popcorn or reheat your lukewarm coffee, there are a number of foods that only get worse when you nuke them. From depleting their nutrients to producing compounds that could make you sick, these are the foods experts say you should never microwave. And if you want to kick off a healthier lifestyle, start with The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.
Whether you’re trying to cook a chicken breast or make the perfect burger, the microwave is no place for raw meat products.
“Microwaves just don’t cook evenly, so part of the meat can become extremely hot and dried out before another part is even thawed or cooked at all. It tastes awful, and isn’t safe to eat!” explains Megan Byrd, RD, who writes The Oregon Dietician blog.
In fact, even attempting to defrost raw meat in the microwave can lead to serious health complications due to unsafe temperature fluctuations. Instead, “If you need to thaw your meat out quickly, run it under cold water,” suggests Byrd.
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If you’re hoping to get the most nutritional bang for your buck, don’t stick your broccoli in the microwave to cook it.
“According to one study, microwaving broccoli leads to a 16% reduction of chlorophyll, while chlorophyll content was nearly unchanged in steamed broccoli,” says Heather Hanks, MS, a nutritionist with Instapot Life. If you want to keep those nutrients largely intact, Hanks suggests steaming your veggies instead. Looking for some delicious vegetables to add to your next meal? Check out the 18 Healthiest Vegetable Side Dishes!
While you may not suffer any adverse health effects from microwaving bread, you certainly won’t enjoy the end result.
“[Bread products] don’t reheat well in the microwave, which heats food by exciting water molecules which in turn generate heat,” explains Celine Beitchman, director of nutrition at the Institute of Culinary Education. “With breads, this process causes their starch molecules to bind to water molecules and makes items soggy, no matter the type of bread you are reheating.”
You might want to think twice before trying to make that baked potato in the microwave.
When you microwave a large, whole item, like a potato, “You might take out a very hot item, only to find that the center is tepid or still cold. That may mean that large foods reheated or cooked from raw may have pockets of cooked areas while other areas are not cooked or heated sufficiently and can harbor and grow pathogenic bacteria,” explains Beitchman.
If you’re trying to cook or reheat that hard-boiled egg in the microwave, you may end up with a dangerous situation on your hands.
“Heating boiled eggs (shelled or not) builds pressure inside them. This causes the eggs to explode either in the microwave or on your plate,” explains nutritionist Hiba Batool, a nutrition researcher at Marham.
Attempting to cook egg from its raw state in the microwave may not yield significantly better results, either. According to a study published in the Journal of Hospital Infection, dangerous salmonella bacteria survived the microwaving process during the preparation of poached eggs. And before you start that breakfast scramble, check out these 26 Things You Need to Know Before Buying a Carton of Eggs.
While processed meat products, like sausages and cold cuts, may not exactly have a reputation for being healthy, their nutritional profile worsens significantly when they’re microwaved.
According to a 2015 study published in Lipids in Health and Disease, microwaving various processed meat products—including sausages, bacon, lunch meat, pressed ham, and loin ham—increased the production of cholesterol oxidation products (COPs), which the study’s authors note to be not only carcinogenic, but may significantly contribute to the buildup of arterial plaque. Wondering what the worst offenders are when it comes to processed meats? Check out the 30 Best and Worst Packaged Deli Meats.