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Microwaves and Nutrition

Microwave-OvenScience-based medicine is a concept that is larger than the analysis of any specific topic. It is, essentially, an approach to answering health and medical questions, one that involves careful and thorough analysis of scientific evidence within a framework of understanding of critical thinking, mechanisms of self-deception, and the process of science itself. We feel this creates the best opportunity to arrive at tentative conclusions that are most likely to be reliable.

We often address claims that are the result of a very different process. In fact there seems to be a thriving subculture on the internet that emphasizes the naturalistic fallacy, fear of anything technological (including irrational chemophobia), paranoia about the government, corporations, and mainstream medicine, and embracing anything perceived as being contrarian, exotic, or radical. To this subculture science is either the enemy, or it is used (as Andrew Lang famously quipped) like a drunk uses a lamppost, for support rather than illumination. This approach is simultaneously gullible and cynical.

It is no surprise that those who follow this fatally flawed approach consistently arrive at the wrong conclusion, especially on any controversial scientific topic. The two most prominent netizens following this approach, in my opinion, are Joseph Mercola and Mike Adams. I do believe, however, that there is another hoping to join their ranks – Vani Hari, who blogs under the name Food Babe. (Mark Crislip also blogged about her here.)

She first came to my attention as a result of her campaign to pressure Subway to remove the benign ingredient azodicarbonamide from their bread, dubbing it the “yoga mat” chemical. Looking into her writings, however, was like peeling back a small crack in a wall and finding, just under the surface, a vast infestation of termites. Unsurprisingly, for example, she is anti-vaccine. In her blog post attacking the flu vaccine she summarizes the naturalistic-antiscience approach, described above, quite well.

One of the goals I made in starting this blog back in April, was to uncover and unveil information that isn’t readily available for public consumption on true health, nutrition and wellbeing. I want this blog to help you break free from the “conventional” wisdom that the food industry, government agencies, pharmaceutical and medical community try to push because of greed or corruption that is ultimately harmful to you and your family.

Vaccines are not my topic for today, however, but rather the effects on nutritional content from microwaving food. There have been anti-microwave activists as long as there have been microwaves, it seems simply because it is a new-fangled technology that uses radiation to cook food. It is a perfect villain for the naturalistic-antiscience crowd.

Hari warns her readers to throw out their microwaves, writing:

Live, healthy, and nutritious foods can become dead in a matter of seconds when you use a microwave. We are the only species on the planet that destroys the nutrient content of our food before eating it. A study published in the November 2003 issue of the Journal of Science of Food and Agriculture found that broccoli cooked in the microwave lost up to 97 percent of its antioxidant content.

The first claim above is that food is supposed to be alive, and that cooking it “kills” the food. This is pure naturalistic nonsense. By the time certain foods, like meat, hit your table, even if it is raw, any cells in the food are dead. The cells in fruits and vegetables start dying after they are picked. Anything frozen will also be dead. Some things alive in the food, you probably don’t want there, such as bacteria that cause spoilage.The more important point, however, is that having living cells is irrelevant to nutrient content.

The core claim she is making is also that when we cook food, especially with a microwave, we “destroy” the nutrient content. Hari is one who will quickly cite a scientific study if she thinks it supports her side, but she often completely misinterprets the studies she cites. She is looking for support, not insight, and gives no evidence of making an effort to truly understand the science she references.

Before I take a look at specific studies, including the broccoli study Hari references, a little background is in order. Cooking actually has a complex effect on the nutrient content of food. In general heating food, by any method, can break down vitamins and other nutrients. The variables that are relevant to this process are the intensity of the heat, the duration of heating, and contact with water. The latter seems to be the most important variable.

Boiling vegetables, therefore, has the most dramatic effect on their nutrient content, especially on water-soluble vitamins. The water leeches out the nutrients, which then evaporate with the water. An extensive study of various cooking methods on the antioxidant nutrient content of 20 vegetables found:

According to the method of analysis chosen, griddling, microwave cooking, and baking alternately produce the lowest losses, while pressure-cooking and boiling lead to the greatest losses; frying occupies an intermediate position. In short, water is not the cook’s best friend when it comes to preparing vegetables.

That’s right – microwaving is among the best methods of cooking in terms of preserving nutrients. Hari’s conclusion, therefore, is the exact opposite of what the science says.

What about the study she references? That study, “Phenolic compound contents in edible parts of broccoli inflorescences after domestic cooking“, added water to the vegetables during microwaving. In essence, they were boiled using the microwave, so the results were more similar to boiling vegetables. Other studies looking at microwaving without added water demonstrate minimal nutrient loss. The advantage of microwaving is shorter cooking time – just don’t add water to your vegetables before putting them in the microwave.

Cooking, in fact, can increase the amount of certain nutrients in certain vegetables, such as lycopene in tomatoes and carotenoid levels in carrots.

Also, Hari fails to consider bioavailability. The nutrient content of food is only half the equation, we also need to know how much we can extract from the food through digestion. This is the main advantage of cooking, it weakens cell walls and breaks down proteins so they are easier to digest, enabling us to extract more nutrition. In fact, studies show that cooking broccoli increase the bioavailability of certain nutrients.

The bottom line is that cooking has complex but net positive effects on how much nutrition we get from our food, and that microwaving is one of the best methods for cooking (in terms of nutrient content). Hari’s advice to readers is therefore exactly wrong, as is her interpretation of the scientific literature.

Her other claims about microwaves are equally misleading, and venture into the truly bizarre. She claims that microwaving food releases carcinogens into the food. She repeats the dioxin claim, which is nothing but an urban legend.

The kernel of truth is that you should not heat food, by any method, in plastics that are not specifically designated as safe for the microwave or cooking. To be safe, place food into inert containers like glass or ceramics for microwaving.

She also warns about the risk of radiation from microwaves. She quote the dubious book, Cancer is Not a Disease, as saying:

And apparently, the same can happen to the human body when it is exposed to this type of radiation on a regular basis. After all, human cells are made of molecules and molecular bonds are broken and destroyed when exposed to radiation.

This is simply wrong. Microwave radiation is not energetic enough to break molecular bonds. It is considered non-ionizing radiation. Microwaves can heat water, including water in your body, and this can have biological effects. That’s why microwave ovens are shielded. The best advice is not to use a really old microwave that may not be functioning well. Also, don’t stand directly in front of the microwave when it is operating. Radiation falls off quickly with distance, so stand a few feet away and any minimal radiation leakage will be harmless.

Finally, Hari cites the work of Dr. Masaru Emoto, who claims that being mean to water will make it form ugly crystals when it freezes, while being nice to it will make it form beautiful crystals. This, of course, is pure pseudoscience. That doesn’t stop Hari from citing it as if it were real scientific evidence, because Emoto also claims that microwaving water makes it unhappy and ugly. This is provided as evidence that microwaving food will cause a host of health problems.

Conclusion

Microwave cooking is a safe technology. It’s not my favorite method of actually cooking, but it is a great tool for heating food. It is fast and convenient, and, it turns out, has a favorable profile in terms of the net effects on food nutrition.

Vani Hari’s conclusions about microwaves are all demonstrably incorrect and at odds with the scientific evidence. This seems to stem from a fatally flawed process of starting with an extreme naturalistic ideology, combined with misunderstanding and misinterpreting scientific evidence, which is used not to truly investigate or discover the truth but to back-fill her existing biases and opinions.

Posted in: Nutrition, Science and Medicine

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234 thoughts on “Microwaves and Nutrition

  1. The Dave says:

    When I was in middle school, I had a teacher tell us that you should never cook meat in the microwave (reheating previously cooked meat was OK, just not cooking it from raw)

    Years later, my mother-in-law gave us a tray to cook bacon in the microwave, which seems to work just fine with no ill-effects

    Is there any truth to the advice from my teacher of oh-so-many years ago (with regards to chicken ,beef, or pork, etc)?

    1. mouse says:

      I’m not an expert, but I believe the main health concern to cooking raw meat in the microwave is uneven cooking/heating. With a thicker piece of meat (than bacon) it’s likely to be cooked on the tips and raw on the inside. You’d need to use a meat thermometer to assure the meat reaches the appropriate temp to kill whatever bacteria is a concern.

      This can also be a problem with reheating some foods (such a fried rice) if they haven’t been properly refrigerated. For instance forgetting a Chinese food on the counter before refrigeration, then partially reheating in the microwave can result in food borne illness (not that that’s ever happened to me.)

      Quality is also an issue, of course. Meat cooked in the microwave is general not as tasty as when it’s cooked in the pan, grilled or baked.

    2. Angora Rabbit says:

      Dave, it was probably a concern about microbial contamination. There were concerns that the temperatures involved in microwave cooking might not be sufficient to destroy microbial or pathogen contamination. Unlike an oven, thermometers were not commonly used in microwave cooking (probably still aren’t), meaning that the cooking temps weren’t as closely monitored and thus increasing the risk for pathogen survival.

      Reheating is just fine because the previous cooking preparation would have destroyed said pathogens. This assumes the food was stored correctly prior to reheat.

      Mind, microwaving excites the water in foods and so, in essence, one is boiling the meat and misses all those wonderful flavors and textures from crisping and browning. Bletch.

    3. Alex says:

      The problem with cooking raw meat in the microwave is uneven cooking. This is not a problem when you heat up soup: stir after microwaving and the soup all gets to the right temperature. But if you microwave a raw chicken breast, some spots may be far from “all the bacteria are dead” temperature while most of the breast is fully cooked.

      1. The Dave says:

        Thanks for all the responses… I had a suspicion it might have to do with uneven cooking or not getting up to the proper temperature.

        Plus, as Angora Rabbbit said: ” in essence, one is boiling the meat and misses all those wonderful flavors and textures from crisping and browning. Bletch.”

        Bletch, indeed!

        1. Andrey Pavlov says:

          in essence, one is boiling the meat and misses all those wonderful flavors and textures from crisping and browning. Bletch.”

          You can’t get the Maillard reaction from a microwave. Though I suppose cooking meat in one was a boon for British cuisine :-P

          1. Windriven says:

            Do you remember a PBS series called, I think, Two Fat Ladies? Two rotund English women who would take fresh meat, seafood, veggies, and turned it into inedible dreck, all concocted in a cloud of cigarette smoke.

            I love England. I love going to theatre in London. I love drinking ale in pubs. But one can’t live on Plowman’s lunches and fish and chips.

            1. n brownlee says:

              It was not inedible dreck. It was classic French haute cuisine and traditional English cooking, steak and kidney pie and beef bourguinon and beef tenderloin and kippers and bubble and squeak and a lot of other great stuff. They were superlative professional chefs who learned their trade long before the dreary minimalism of nouvelle cuisine and Califuckingfornia holistic non-GMO vegan falafel on a stick.

              They each knew seven different ways to cook mussels on the beach and where to find them. And only one of them smoked.

              1. n brownlee says:

                AND they made a whole dinner for a bunch of High Anglican churchmen which ended with a dessert of meringues shaped like pretty boobies, with raspberry nipples, and the little cookies called “pettes de non”.

              2. Ciaran M says:

                Holistic falafel has just entered my lexicon…

                There’s an incredible laziness in the urge to jump to stereotypes about British food (and teeth). I’ve had some crappy English food but if you pay attention and stop eating in that one type of ploughman’s lunch pub you’ll find some beautiful food. I miss the beef and ale pies from that butcher’s in Hereford. I still get teary when I remember the Sunday lunch cooked for me in Devon. That roast rabbit in sherry sauce in Oxford… Jesus Christ but that was hard to walk away from.

                Perhaps our American friend above could learn to cook some European traditional food (not haute cuisine) with decent ingredients and has his/her mind opened to Italian or English or Irish folk food or even the new cuisine that’s sprung up in the last fifteen years or so.

              3. Windriven says:

                @Ciaran

                “There’s an incredible laziness in the urge to jump to stereotypes about British food (and teeth).”

                I always thought the one was the consequence of the other;-)

                Seriously, there was no malice in these comments. Another thread not long ago drifted off into comparisons of ales in Britain and elsewhere. We all know these stereotypes aren’t true but that is part of what makes them amusing. Yorkshire pudding alone is enough to distinguish English fare.

                If you’ve found this offensive I apologize.

                I love the regional cuisines of a variety of cultures and we make them frequently at home from a well turned leg of lamb to the decidedly rustic apple galette to borscht with beets fresh from the farmers’ market.

              4. Andrey Pavlov says:

                Yes, as windriven said. I’ve eaten some truly excellent meals in the UK myself. Apologies if the tongue-in-cheek was not obvious enough (though that is why I inserted the emoticon that I did). This was hardly a rigorous science-based thread and I think all of us involved were merely joking around with stereotypes for funsies. I half expected the most common joke I get when I mention how much I love Ethiopian food: “I didn’t know Ethiopians had food.”

                Life becomes dull without being able to give – and especially take – a joke.

            2. irenegoodnight says:

              But one can’t live on Plowman’s lunches and fish and chips.

              Nonsense! I did just fine on that diet for two years while doing my Archeaological fieldwork in England, including the ale. :-)

              1. n brownlee says:

                And if you insist on a well-rounded diet, you can add an occasional curry.

            3. n brownlee says:

              @Ciaran
              Hello! I’m totally with you re: English/Irish/Scots food. While I have had some forgettable meals in Great Britain (though certainly no worse than my home state), I’ve also somehow, completely accidentally, had unexpectedly wonderful pub meals in northern England and Scotland- not where I’d be looking for them. Rabbit pie, steak pie- my kids (big hulking teenaged boys) were immediately sold on Scottish food. Well okay temporarily, but that was enough for them, and me, too.

            4. Windriven says:

              Jesus, Nancy – it was intended to be humorous, not an indictment of the Two Fat Ladies in the pages of Gourmet.

              “They each knew seven different ways to cook mussels on the beach and where to find them. And only one of them smoked.”

              Mmmmm … smoked mussels! ;-)

              1. n brownlee says:

                Windy, can you tell I’m an elderly, unreconstructed devotee of all things fatty and fattening- cream, butter, cheese, etc. It’s a daily struggle, keeping my intake within some kind of reasonable bounds. I liked the Fat Ladies for their unapologetic presentation of just those luxurious ingredients.

          2. Kathy says:

            “British cuisine” – Andrey, that’s a logical contradiction.

  2. Richard Abbott says:

    One point about water in a microwave, as a general caution.

    It is possible to superheat water (and other drinks like coffee) in a microwave.

    It may not be unhappy or ugly crystals, but the scalds caused by this can be rather nasty.

    1. Sullivanthepoop says:

      Speaking of super heating and the microwave, ceramic novelty mugs get really hot in the microwave.

      1. StarBird says:

        The mugs to which you refer are made of dolomite not true ceramic.

    2. Frederick says:

      I remember the Myth Buster when they tested that. I was impressed, Now I’m really careful when i reheat some coffee! ( coffee after all is like 99% water, I just don,t want to take chance)

    3. Paul de Boer says:

      You cannot superheat coffee in the microwave. Near pure water can be superheated, but anything with significant solubles in it will not super heat.

      See snopes,

      http://www.snopes.com/science/microwave.asp

      1. mouse says:

        Not sure about super heating, but I sometimes reheat my morning latte in the microwave. Every once in a while, the milk of the latte will form a skin, trapping the vapors from the heating liquid in the cup. The skin will become tough, but expand gradually, until it all EXPLODES, splattering latte all over the inside of the microwave.

        Boy is that annoying.

      2. Derek Freyberg says:

        I don’t think the cited snopes article provides good support for the comment; and in fact I’m fairly sure that solubles (e.g. salt, sugar, instant coffee) if fully dissolved will not prevent superheating. What will prevent superheating is insolubles of some sort, preferably porous/microporous, which permit bubble formation on the pores. A stir stick would be good – chemists used to (maybe still do) put porous ceramic “boiling chips” in stills to prevent localized superheating (“bumping”).

      3. Frederick says:

        Yeah, I was guessing i was wrong, But still, better safe than sorry, and beside i have a heat sensitive mouth. I wife find things to be “just warm” when i get mouth burn. Like soup, I can’t tolerate much heat. I do tolerate Spicy food quite well, huuuuum vindaloo Chicken.

      4. Sean Duggan says:

        I’ve never had the water itself explode, but I have occasionally had instant coffee surge and froth over when the powder is put into microwaved water. If one is holding the cup, it can lead to startlement and dropping a cup of hot liquid on one’s garments.

        1. Derek Freyberg says:

          Sean:
          That’s the classic superheating problem. The water temperature exceeds boiling point but fails to actually boil for lack of nuclei for formation of the steam bubbles – glass and ceramic containers are particularly bad for this because of smoothness. When the particulate instant coffee (especially the “pop rock” granulated type rather than fine powder) goes into the water, there is instant nucleation of steam bubbles and “up she goes”.

        2. Gerry says:

          “Exploding” is a bit of a hyperbole. I’ve had superheated water from my microwave multiple times. I actually find it fascinating to see, so I don’t try to avoid it. I use filtered water (not distilled) to make my tea. Usually the water boils. But occasionally, it doesn’t… that is until I add something to the water… What happens is essentially an instantaneous boil for a few seconds. If the cup is full, it may overflow, but otherwise, it stays within the cup.
          I highly doubt coffee can be superheated… Just as water from the tap can’t. You need very pure water and a clean cup.

  3. Jonathan says:

    “By the time food hits your table, even if it is raw, any cells in the food are dead”

    This statement is overly broad, given the tone of this post. Some fruits and vegetables will still technically be ‘alive’ by the time they hit the table…?

    A study published online today in the journal Current Biology found that store-bought cabbage, lettuce, spinach, zucchini, sweet potatoes, carrots, and blueberries respond to light-dark cycles up to about a week after harvest.

    1. Harriet Hall says:

      So what? Is there any effect on health?

      1. Paul de Boer says:

        C’mon Harriet, This is a skeptical community who prides themselves on accuracy. Not to mention these errors will be jumped on and touted as false criticism, even if it is against false claims.

      2. mkandefer says:

        The “so what” is it is a statement made categorically that should hedge itself better, as it isn’t accurate. Even if it doesn’t matter for nutritional value the article would be bettered by including more accurate statements.

      3. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

        I’m actually half-disagreeing with you here. True, there are no effects from eating “living” versus “dead” foods, but I would question whether this statement is strictly-speaking accurate. Potatoes can sprout (or even become toxic), and I’m sure there is some sort of measureable metabolism beyond the breakdown from complex to simple. I stumbled on it when I read the line initially, and concluded that it was trivially false in the strictest interpretation of the term.

        The problem being, of course, that nutters categorize foods into “living” or “dead” in nonsensical, unscientific terms which are far, far more false than the minor, pedantic technical error found here.

        1. Kathy says:

          Incidentally, DO potatoes really become toxic when they green? I’ve had this told me in all seriousness by a doctor friend, who lived in a potato growing area so he should know his potatoes. But I’ve been eating them at all stages and ages, often green and sprouting – I couldn’t afford to throw them away – and I’m still alive. Maybe people of Irish descent have evolved the ability over generations to eat anything potatorous and live (just joking!).

          1. Harriet Hall says:

            “DO potatoes really become toxic when they green?”
            Yes they do. Small amounts won’t hurt you, but it’s safest to cut out the green parts.
            http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/killer-tomatoes-and-poisonous-potatoes/

    2. andyo says:

      Also, apparently someone hasn’t seen Oldboy (the original, Korean, good, version).

      1. Diatryma says:

        Well, food doesn’t get to be any more alive than in that movie. Hrgh.

  4. pleigh says:

    Would the nutrients that are leeched out by the water vaporize with the water when it evaporates or would the nutrients be left behind in the water much like salt and other minerals found in water as evidence by the water spots left behind by “hard water” when left to air dry?

    1. angora rabbit says:

      Hi PLeigh,

      Not sure what you’re asking but let me try? Most of the nutrients aren’t volatile so they would stay behind with the food, if you are just microwaving. But, if the food is resting in water, then just like with boiling, some nutrients would diffuse into the water as they are released from the biomatrix. But then, that’s one major and good purpose of cooking, to release foods from the biomatrix and make them more available for digestion and absorption in the gut. The analogy with hard salt spots isn’t a good one, because it implies those nutrients would be unabsorbable, and that’s not true – rather the opposite!

      Is this what you’re asking?

    2. qetzal says:

      pleigh,

      I think you’re right: virtually all the water-soluble nutrients will not be volatile, so they’ll still be in the water. But of course, nobody drinks that water, so the nutrients get lost when it’s poured down the drain. The end result is they’re still lost.

      1. Windriven says:

        “But of course, nobody drinks that water, so the nutrients get lost when it’s poured down the drain.”

        In the deep south, greens are often mixed with a little pickled pork and cooked into absolute submission. The liquid remainder is called ‘pot liquor’ and is sopped up with pieces of corn bread. I’ve no idea if this is an attempt to salvage the nutrients or (more likely) because it is delicious.

        1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

          When in doubt, always assume it’s because it’s delicious rather than nutritious :)

      2. pleigh says:

        Both of you got at what I was looking for…nutrients leech into the water and stay in the water rather than being vaporized with the evaporating water. So you could get the “lost” nutrition if you consume the water it was cooked in and those macromolecules in the water would generally be no worse for wear.

        Thanks!

        1. Alia says:

          A traditional solution for the problem of nutrients poured away with the water is cooking soup.

        2. kaitch says:

          Leach. There, even if it’s just spelled correctly once in a sea of misspellings on the internet, it calms me a little. Aaaaah.

      3. Tim Allman says:

        Not in my house. Cooking water usually ends up in the next soup.

      4. irenegoodnight says:

        But of course, nobody drinks that water,

        Ha! I put all that veggie water in a pot in the freezer and then add it to soup. When my kids were babies, I mixed it with the food I puréed for them.

      5. Stella B says:

        Blanch greens in well salted water. Then soak and cook beans in the same. Mix cooked greens, cooked beans, a dollop of olive oil and a bit of grated parmigiano. Mmmm. “La cucina povera”.

  5. Kevin says:

    To Dave,
    Microwaves tend to cook unevenly so for instance if you cook a chicken breast some of it could be under cooked and a health concern. Modern microwave oven are better in this respect than early models and the ones with a rotating plate even better. But it is still not recommended to cook raw meat in a microwave. Great for reheating and cooking vegetables.

  6. goodnightirene says:

    So who “cooks” in a microwave anyway? They don’t cook broccoli ( or rice, beans, or anything with no fat or sugar) any faster than the regular range. They are good at reheating leftovers and for melting things like butter or chocolate. I do cook my veggies in the microwave with a tiny bit of water (which I will now reconsider, but I think I recall that the manuals say to use water?), but the broccoli still takes seven or eight minutes–same as on the stove. I do it because it saves using a pan AND a serving dish–although I worry that I am the last person who still puts food in a serving dish and eats at the table.

    Steaming is a good alternative for veggies and they have microwave steamer baskets, so I guess I’ll get one. I am distressed to think I’ve been negating the health benefits of my broccoli, et al. :-(

    1. Windriven says:

      @irene

      “but the broccoli still takes seven or eight minutes–same as on the stove.”

      Yipes! I cook mine on high for 2 minutes – a little less if the florets are on the small side. I like mine slightly al dente so maybe that is the difference. And I use only the water that clings to the florets after washing, a pinch of salt and a pat of butter.

      But like you I like saving the pot and the steamer basket.

      For pure flavor though, nothing beats oven roasting.

    2. Chris says:

      I have some things that I cook in the microwave.

      When I make scalloped potatoes I make the white sauce in the microwave. I take a quart sized glass measuring cup, put in diced onions, carrots and celery. I add some butter and a wee bit of olive oil and zap it until the onion is translucent. Then I stir in a bit of flour, and cook it for a bit. Finally stir in milk, and cook it in 30 second burst to thicken.

      It saves standing over a stove.

      I also use it to make fluffy tapioca pudding, since the amount I make requires about a half hour of constant stirring for the custard section. It is much easier to have the milk/egg/tapioca/sugar mixture go in five minute rounds in the microwave. And watch very close near the end for boil over (or pop out!) as I am whipping up the egg whites.

      Regular oatmeal (not those horrible little bags), even steel cut, can be made nicely in a microwave. Just slow down the power. It takes the same amount of time as the stove top, but it saves on cleaning a pot.

      Fresh corn is really good just dampened and zapped with the husk on. And if I grow Tom Thumb popcorn, it is fun to take the little cob, put it in a paper bag and pop it in the microwave oven.

      And several years ago when I need a wee bit of sweet, I figured out how to make a brownie for one in the microwave (cook at low power). That was over twenty pounds ago, so I don’t do that anymore.

      1. CHotel says:

        Single-serving brownies/cakes made inside of a coffee cup in the microwave were my sweet-tooth’s saviour in university. So quick and easy a treat at 3 am.

        I too make my oatmeal in the microwave. Every morning, zap, stir, zap, add some fruit, yum.

        1. mouse says:

          I make my oatmeal in the microwave. I make it with milk and add raisins before cooking. The raisins get all plump and hot and sweeten the oatmeal.

          1. Chris says:

            I often do it when the apples from my trees ripen. I put the oatmeal in a bowl, add cut up apple and only a little bit of water and then cook at half power for five minutes. I add the milk afterwards to thin it out, since I like my oatmeal fairly thick.

            The apples cook, and add sweetness just like the raisins. No extra sugar required.

          2. Chris says:

            Oh, no! I just realized something about using the fruit instead of sugar. This means we are getting more of the evil fructose! ;-)

            1. mouse says:

              I say, if it’s evil, it must be yummy.

        2. Windriven says:

          @Chris

          “Regular oatmeal (not those horrible little bags), even steel cut, can be made nicely in a microwave.”

          I love steel cut oatmeal with dried berries on a cold winter’s morning. The night before bring the water to a boil, add the salt if you’re using it and the oats, stir, cover, turn the fire off.

          And just walk away.

          In the morning, add half a cup of water, apple juice, cream, or whatever floats your boat oatmeal, stir in the dried berries and nuts if you choose, and set over a low flame. Bring it up to temperature and cook to the desired consistency. Sprinkle on a bit of brown sugar, add a moat of cream if you choose, and head for nirvana. Total cooking time is less than ten minutes. I haven’t tried it but I’ll bet the pre-prep could easily be done in the microwave.

          1. Earthman says:

            Yikes, this is turning into a cookery blog!

            1. Windriven says:

              Science based cookery!

      2. irenegoodnight says:

        I’ve made pudding (custard really) in the microwave for years (although I rarely indulge in it these days). It’s an excellent way to do it without all the stirring, double boiler, etc. The recipe was in the cookbook that came with my original Amana Radar Range in about 1978! It had a door that opened like a stove oven and came with browning trays for meat. In those days we thought they were for cooking as usual, and set about attempting to prepare the regular meat and potatoes dinner–that’s when I learned that: a) meat was more trouble than it was worth to make in the MW, and b) things like potatoes for five weren’t any faster–although a single baked potato was a nifty deal. :-)

        1. Chris says:

          The white sauce and tapioca are sort of like custard, only I don’t use a packaged stuff. Except, of course, the tapioca bits from a box. I added the carrots and celery to the scalloped potatoes recipe in my Betty Crocker cookbook as a way to get veg in kids.

          When I make tapioca I need to make a triple batch (three eggs, six cups of milk), because it will disappear too quickly. It is made in a two quart glass container, which is why it takes so long to cook.

          The request for fluffy tapioca pudding usually coincides when some milk needs to be used up since as adults we don’t drink it often enough, and there is some fresh strawberries and other fruit in the fridge.

          I used to make the sweet and sour sauce from the The Art of Chinese Cooking by the Benedictine Sisters of Peking (a book my dad used in the 1960s/80s). It is a corn starch thickened sauce. But I stopped because I just save the sweet and sour sauce leftover from our neighborhood Chinese restaurant takeout.

        2. Kathy says:

          I love baked potato but to put one lone potato into the oven is a horrible waste of electricity. Putting it into a mw works fine and is easier on my budget. And it tastes just great, especially if the skin goes all tough and tacky. OK, OK, I have perverse tastes.

          1. Chris says:

            Especially with a generous dollop of butter!

            I’ve been known to cut up a potato, put it in a bowl, cover it with a small plate and zap in the microwave with butter. It is a yummy treat.

    3. David Gorski says:

      So who “cooks” in a microwave anyway?

      Back in the 1970s, when I was going through grade school and high school, microwave ovens were a relatively new technology. There used to be all sorts of microwave cookbooks that suggested you could cook almost anything in a microwave: complex dishes, even steaks, meatloaf, etc. There were even microwave baking recipes for cakes. My mom tried it a couple of times; the cakes uniformly turned out terrible.

      Really, the only thing a microwave is truly good for is to heat (or, more commonly, reheat) food rapidly. It’s something that it’s very, very good at. But cooking? Not so much.

      1. irenegoodnight says:

        Agreed! See my response to Chris, above.

      2. Andrey Pavlov says:

        As I said I don’t have one currently, but in the past I also used it to par-cook items to be then further cooked in more complex dishes. Chicken, for example, in chicken enchiladas.

        1. Calli Arcale says:

          Microwave ovens are great for steaming veggies, and I was surprised to read an article indicating that they actually do so more efficiently than the electric range. (Comparison with gas range was not available, probably because that’s a more complicated question.)

          I’ve also found I’m much less likely to overcook veggies in the microwave as opposed to the stove. And the microwave is, by far, the best way to temper chocolate. (In my opinion.) Tempering chocolate is a very tricky process, and finicky, but microwave methods are virtually foolproof and require less hawklike monitoring.

          And then there’s spaghetti squash! I’ve done those both in the microwave and oven, and it turns out basically the same both ways, but is easier in the microwave. (Just make sure you really stab the living daylights out of it first, or it will explode in your microwave oven. I’ve had that happen. Blew the door open, which triggered the safety interlock to shut off the microwave. Looked like the microwave had barfed all over the counter.)

          Baked potatoes also turn out very well in the microwave. No special tricks; just poke ‘em with a fork a lot of times before popping them in. They don’t dry out as much as in the oven, either. And microwaved corn-on-the-cob is *much* better than boiled, which loses flavor to the water.

          1. Andrey Pavlov says:

            And microwaved corn-on-the-cob is *much* better than boiled, which loses flavor to the water.

            I never boil my corn. I blanch it. Get a huge pot of salted water to a rolling boil, dunk the corn in for 30-45 seconds, and you’re done. Dee-lish!

            1. CHotel says:

              After trying it for the first time last summer and never turning back since, I fail to understand why anyone would cook corn in a way that isn’t grilling. Drool.

              BTW, all this talk of corn reminds me of one of my favorite Mitch Hedberg jokes:

              You know they call corn-on-the-cob “corn-on-the-cob,” right? But that’s how it comes out of the ground, man. They should call that “corn”, and they should call every other version “corn-off-the-cob.” It’s not like if you cut off my arm you would call my arm “Mitch”, but then reattach it and call it “Mitch-all-together.”

              1. Andrey Pavlov says:

                After trying it for the first time last summer and never turning back since, I fail to understand why anyone would cook corn in a way that isn’t grilling. Drool.

                Time and weather are the only two reasons I can think of. But I agree. What I like to do is take the whole ear, husk and all, and soak them in salted water for 10-15 minutes (or however long it takes me to prepare the rest of my meal). Then, put them over very hot coals and let the husk char, rotating for a nice patchy char all around. Typically I do about 2-3 minutes per side, rotating 3-4 times.

                And big ups on the Hedberg reference. It was sad to see him go.

                I used to to drugs. I still do, but I used to also.

                I wish he’d genuinely stopped at the first sentence.

              2. Kathy says:

                They roast corn like that here Andrey, over an open fire. You can buy it on the roadside or at truckstops. Very popular with the locals.

              3. Andrey Pavlov says:

                Very popular with the locals.

                No doubt – it’s delicious!

              4. Calli Arcale says:

                Grilled corn is magnificent. Also good: corn wrapped in aluminum foil and then put into the coals of a campfire for a while. (Exact time is . . . not exact. If you like it more carmelized, leave it longer, if you like it just warmed, take it out sooner.)

              5. CHotel says:

                “Time and weather are the only two reasons I can think of. ”

                I scoff at weather being a determinate in whether or not to grill. I’m Canadian, I routinely fire up the BBQ throughout the winter, even during a blizzard or a -40 cold-snap (and by snap, I mean like a month. We were colder than the surface of Mars on New Years, apparently).

              6. Andrey Pavlov says:

                I scoff at weather being a determinate in whether or not to grill. I’m Canadian, I routinely fire up the BBQ throughout the winter, even during a blizzard or a -40 cold-snap (and by snap, I mean like a month. We were colder than the surface of Mars on New Years, apparently).

                I grew up in Southern California, lived in Brisbane, Australia, and currently live in New Orleans. I like to visit the cold and rain is a curiosity for me. I can assure you that if I lived in Canada I would absolutely not be grilling in the winter. I will be bundled up inside dreaming of surfing in the sun. Scoff as you will.

              7. Windriven says:

                “Also good: corn wrapped in aluminum foil and then put into the coals of a campfire for a while.”

                Potatoes and sweet potatoes too. Some of the best things on earth are the simplest. Great beer. Fine bread. Perfectly grilled corn. There is nowhere to hide. You either know what you’re doing or you don’t. The ingredients are either perfect or they’re not.

            2. mouse says:

              CHotel “I scoff at weather being a determinate in whether or not to grill. I’m Canadian, I routinely fire up the BBQ throughout the winter, even during a blizzard or a -40 cold-snap (and by snap, I mean like a month. We were colder than the surface of Mars on New Years, apparently).”

              We’ve grilled a lot more in winter since we got the propane grill, but NOT this last winter. Getting out the snow shovel to clear one or more feet of snow and ice from the grill just seems perverse and sadly desperate. So I decided winter is the time for stews, roasts, chili and all those other things that you won’t make in summer because it’s too damn hot to keep the oven or stove on.

              Also, you can’t get decent corn on the cob in winter anyway.

    4. irenegoodnight says:

      @Windriven

      I’m betting I make more broccoli than you do, perhaps? I make a large covered casserole dish–at least one entire stalk, often two. Mr Goodnight just LOVES broccoli, hot or cold, so I make a lot at one time, so longer cooking time. It comes out al dente, I promise. You mustn’t take me for a philistine! And maybe it’s actually six minutes! The old micro was a cheapie, low power unit and took longer for everything.

      I will surely try it without the water, though.

      1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

        See my reply below. Don’t worry about the tiny amount of water, it’s only an issue when your vegetables are basically floating in it.

      2. Windriven says:

        “I’m betting I make more broccoli than you do, perhaps?”

        Right you are. Windriven leads a bachelor’s life Monday through Thursday as Mrs. Windriven’s practice is 100 miles away from my business. A single modest head, broken down into florets, is normally enough for my dinner. I save the stalks (along with leek greens and asparagus stubs) for when I make chicken stock. Mmmmmm.

        1. irenegoodnight says:

          I guess I’m a Philistine after all–I eat the stalks, as does Mr G. :-)

          1. Windriven says:

            I like the stalks too – it is just too much food and often the leftovers end up going to the compost bin.

            1. Andrey Pavlov says:

              I enjoy the stalks raw with a sprinkle of salt. This is usually eaten as I cook so it rarely makes it to the table. My mother used to give it to me and my sister as a pre-dinner snack while she was preparing the rest of the meal.

              1. jacobv says:

                That’s exactly what I do with the stalks as well. I peal them, add a little sea salt and its one of my favorite raw veggies. I consider it a cooks treat because no one else ever gets any if I’m cooking.

    5. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      So who “cooks” in a microwave anyway?

      College students.

      Watch the video. Watch the series. Try not to laugh.

      I do cook my veggies in the microwave with a tiny bit of water

      That tiny bit of water helps to steam the veggies a little quicker, it’s not the same thing as using the microwave to boil veggies. Nutritional losses would be miniscule, more than compensated for the fact that you’re not boiling it, and the speed that it helps you cook with.

      You’re definitely not negating the health benefits of your broccoli, that’s only an issue when you’re soaking them in a substantial amount of fluid.

      1. Frederick says:

        He really make you watch the whole cooking… LOL… he’s a weird chef.

      2. Sastra says:

        Whoa — I’d never seen that video without the music. The sad music.

        It doesn’t seem right without it.

      3. irenegoodnight says:

        @WLU

        Thanks for the reassurance about the water–that’s what I always thought before reading this.

        I’ll have to watch the video but the college students I know these days can’t cook at all, unless you count heating up deli food or pulling the top off Cup-of-Noodles and adding some water.

      4. brewandferment says:

        and military folk who want something different from the chow hall food but can’t have hot plates in their rooms. My sister made pasta with jarred pesto using only a microwave–yummy! She learned it from her roommate in Bosnia who rarely ate in the chow hall because she had a whole repertoire of grown-up food that she made in the microwave. That or on their rare escapes from the base when they got street food.

        Not practical for more than 2 people of course! Takes much longer but on deployment when you’re off duty, there’s often little else worthwhile to do if you have passed the age or maturity level that involves getting blotto (or are not permitted to do so due to various military restrictions, either due to own culpability or theater of operations sensitivities.)

    6. mouse says:

      I often cook veggies in the microwave. Just seems easier and faster. How do you cook broccoli on the stove in 8 minutes? It always seems to take me longer. Also one burner is alway out on our stove. Right now it’s our big burner. Maybe that’s my problem.

      I like roasting veggies when I can. Zucchini, squash and tomatoes with olive oil and salt roasted in the oven is very good.

      1. Lumen2222 says:

        If you’re on an electric stove it very well might take longer than that. The time it takes for the burners to heat up makes a difference in short timed dishes like vegetables. If Irene is using a gas stove I would say 8 minutes is about right, based on my own experience.

        1. mouse says:

          Nope, I have a gas. I hate electric ranges. Seems I am doing something wrong in the broccoli department, or I am just over estimating the time it takes on the stove.

          1. mouse says:

            I have a gas RANGE, is what I meant to say.

            Actually, I had an endoscopy yesterday, so I have gas too (it’s a side effect) not that everyone needed to know that.

      2. irenegoodnight says:

        @mouse

        Stove or microwave for broccoli–same thing. Put it in a dish/pan with a little water. Cover and heat until al dente. I have a gas range and maybe that saves a bit of time. Microwaves do not cook most real food any faster. They are great for high sugar and fat foods and this may be one of many factors in the obesity epidemic.

        1. mouse says:

          I tried this last night and it IS the same time. On the stove, I usually boiled a pot of water, then added the broccoli. Boiling water on my stove usually takes over 5 minutes, so I’m guessing that was the time difference.

          Of course I overcooked the broccoli, though. Gotta keep an eye on things. Oh well, the kids like it better overcooked anyway.

          It’s funny, I’ve never even tried the microwave for sugary or fatty things. I’ve seen recipes for microwave pudding, but never tried it because I thought it might be awful. Never done a sauce in a microwave. I have melted chocolate for dipping strawberries or pretzels. That works pretty well.

          1. Angora Rabbit says:

            Mouse, try steaming the broccoli with one of those interleaved metal baskets that you get in the grocery store cookware aisle for $8. We put 1/2-1″ water in the pot bottom, add basket, add veg, cover with lid, and turn on burner full blast. I’ve not timed it, so I don’t actually know if it is faster. And it gets a pot dirty rather than just a bowl. Okay, maybe microwave wins.

    7. Frederick says:

      The only vegetable that we cook more, are onions and Egg plant ( egg plant is the only vegetable that is good when overcooked lol). When making a vegetable Sauté, Asian style in a wok, ( like i did last week) the zucchini broccoli and carrot go at the end and like 2-3 mins, just for them to be hot and crispy. The onions goes first with the smoked tofu at first. It was delicious. Also mushrooms require more cooking of course.

      Egg plant or BBQ… you only put olive oil on them, and you cook them well.. so good…

    8. Yodel lady says:

      I always cook veggies in the microwave. Cut up the brocolli or asparagus or whatever, wash it, wrap it in a wet paper towel. For one serving I zap it for 1 minute (same as heating a cup of coffee), then leave it in the towel to steam a couple minutes. Perfect, beautifully green veggies al dente.

  7. Rob says:

    Good timing. My favourite cooking website just posted this yesterday.

    1. irenegoodnight says:

      All that and more was in my old Radar Range manual. Perhaps reading all that was one of my steps toward science literacy. :-)

  8. Frederick says:

    We never use Microwave to cook per se, maybe pop corn, but we used it a lot for reheating leftovers. Since me and my wife cook a lot, and always make a lots more food ( Always useful as lunch), we often reheat it afterwards. I try to use plastic design for it as much as possible, or plates.

    I have a friend and she hate microwave, she always talk about how disgusting the food and texture are after reheating it that way. That’s is a legitimate reason, and she never said more, but I think she believe In those myth about micro-wave. That will explain her obsession with hating them. For example we invite them over for diner, and My wife reheated appetizer she cook the day before, and she told me not to tell that to her, I found strange.

    This is the same nonsense as Cell phones and wifi scaremongers.

    1. CC says:

      Some foods are no good when reheated in the microwave, others are perfectly fine. I’ll choose a reheat method based on which gives me the best taste/texture. Some dishes I try to not have leftovers at all because they just don’t freeze/reheat well no matter what the method.

      (And, the “best” taste/texture is totally subjective. I have never understood how anybody could stand a microwave-reheated piece of pizza, but it is apparently common.)

      1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

        (And, the “best” taste/texture is totally subjective. I have never understood how anybody could stand a microwave-reheated piece of pizza, but it is apparently common.)

        Indeed, stovetop is best for pizza. You get a nice, crisp crust. I use a lid for a short while, to speed up the top being warmed.

      2. Frederick says:

        I do eat reheated pizza, most of the time thin crust pizza, they are fine when reheat, it is of course subjective.
        But do eat them cold to, that’s is pretty good.

        1. Calli Arcale says:

          I like cold pizza, personally. My husband thinks it’s gross. ;-)

          1. Windriven says:

            Cold pizza … yummm. Perfect breakfast. Wheat, calcium, veggies, a little meat, and an anchovie or two.

            1. Andrey Pavlov says:

              Thankfully all the important people in my life love cold pizza. Though that may be a self-selected group….

    2. irenegoodnight says:

      I have a couple of friends like your wife’s, but I am evil–I purposely microwave their food and don’t tell them!

      Oddly, I do NOT make popcorn in the MW–too much oil, and no flavor in the low fat. I use the old air popper, spray on olive oil, and a bit of Butter Buds. Sometimes, I go wild and use actual butter–melted in the MW, of course.

      1. Frederick says:

        Ok my syntax was Bad, my wife, she is ok with MW, It’s our friend that really hate the MW. Sorry If I was misunderstood.

        1. irenegoodnight says:

          I understood you. I said ” wife’ S– that’s the possessive form in English, meaning he friends of your wife. :-)

          1. Frederick says:

            Ah yes, wife’s, didn’t get that. thank for the English lessons :-)

      2. brewandferment says:

        have you tried kettle (aka sweet and salty) MW popcorn? Of course it’s not like the stuff you get at the county fair fresh out of the giant kettle, but it’s nowhere as oily as butter flavor MW, and not as bland as the low-fat version. My favorite brand of it is PopSecret and Orville Redenbachers is ok too.

    3. Kathy says:

      I wonder if your friend picked up that the appetiser was microwave heated? If she didn’t know in advance.

  9. DevoutCatalyst says:

    Microwaves are well suited to the task of cooking sweet potatoes. The regular oven takes too long and heats up the house and turns the taters into virtual candy, almost cloying in sweetness; boiling in a pot makes for sweet and delicious vittles but is a longer process. Being as sweet potatoes are a staple in our household the microwave is kept mighty busy. I would guess that fear of microwave ovens has pretty much waned and it would take quite an effort to resurrect doubt regarding this noble instrument of sweet ‘tater bliss.

    1. Windriven says:

      “Microwaves are well suited to the task of cooking sweet potatoes”

      Perfect for sweet potatoes and regular potatoes as well. But I am fond of the skin of both so I usually finish them in a 400F oven for 5-6 minutes to remove the excess moisture that accumulates in the skin during microwaving.

      1. Calli Arcale says:

        I like that excess moisture, personally. I think the oven dries them out to much. I guess it’s a question of personal taste, then. ;-)

    2. irenegoodnight says:

      I share your love of sweet potatoes and for cooking them in the microwave. A very tasty treat and sweet enough to stave off the pastry craving!

      1. DevoutCatalyst says:

        I like the yellow fleshed Jersey variety. Not as sweet, but more nummy. Drizzle with olive oil and forget about your woes…

        1. WindriveA says:

          ” Drizzle with olive oil and forget about your woes…”

          Olive oil is perfect … If you’ve run out of BUTTER! Are you using a fruity extra virgin? How does that work with the sweetness? Or are you using a more subdued olive oil?

          I also like several coarse grinds of black pepper. Tellicherry is my fav but Malabar is quite good too.

          1. DevoutCatalyst says:

            I’m no oil snob, the one I’ve got now is labled Oro Bailén Picual. Of it one site says:

            Displaying fruity, tropical & slightly ripe olive notes, this oil has a smooth beginning, slightly bitter center & lingering pepper finish.

            I wonder why Richard Branson hasn’t a line of olive oils ? Virgin Extra Virgin has a nice ring to it.

            1. Windriven says:

              “Virgin Extra Virgin”

              Love it!

              I’m wondering how the fruity notes play with the sweetness? Next time I make sweet potatoes I’ll give it a try.

  10. Martin Rocek says:

    I strongly recommend cooking corn-on the-cob in a microwave; peel all but the inner most leaves covering it (optionally you can moisten the outside), and cook for 3-4 minutes per cob.

    1. Angora Rabbit says:

      Ditto what Martin said about sweet corn. What keeps Norwegian bachelor farmers strong. :)

      Since we’re recipe-sharing, slice an acorn squash in half, scoop out seeds*, add a butter pat and maple syrup, and microzap for whatever time needed to cook. Yummy! *Rinse the seeds, mist with oil and seasoning, and slow roast.

      We are girding the loins for a kitchen remodel and were asked about where the microwave goes. Our response was “back corner and out of the way.” We use it for leftovers but seldom for cooking. We do pre-cook broccoli for stirfry in the microwave, to minimize wok fumes.

      1. WindriveA says:

        Angora, I am going to give you a piece of advice that I hope you will take: invest in an upscale vent hood as part of your remodel. When I did mine I bought a BlueStar restaurant style range* and a commercial type hood. The vent fan is on a rheostat. I don’t think I’ve ever had it above about 30% of maximum as above that level it starts sucking up stray dish towels, pot holders, and small children. I can now heat my wok to white hot, grill salmon indoors, and blacken the occasional steak, all without ever smelling anything. The vent has slide-out stainless steel filters like a commercial vent. Pop them out, soap them up, and rinse. Or, if you are so inclined, pop them in the dishwasher. I love the BlueStar. But I love the vent even more.

        * The BlueStar is less well known than Viking and Wolf. I’ve not cooked on Wolf but I have on a Viking in a friend’s restaurant. The Viking arguably can produce better control on low settings. The BlueStar goes from hot to thermonuclear. Plan to stack burner grates for a low simmer. But BlueStar has a HUGE oven and I bake a lot of bread. That was the deciding factor for me. The oven heats very evenly (but mine is lined high and low with ceramic tile for the bread so your results may differ).

        1. Andrey Pavlov says:

          I definitely need this when I am in a position to do so. I am an avid chef (and in fact me and my lovely ran a food blog for a year, but haven’t kept up with it. It is still up and still gets hits) but I have a tendency to set off smoke alarms and smoke up the joint. My friends have become accustomed to it and comment that my best meals are when the alarm goes off.

          1. Windriven says:

            I really like the BlueStar, Andrey. But try to arrange to cook on all three before you decide what is best for you. And yeah, don’t scimp on the hood!

            1. Andrey Pavlov says:

              I’ve cooked on Vikings before. Never heard of Wolf. But either way, I am very far off from being at the point where it matters. Just fanciful dreams of a far off time in a far off land when I am making attending money and can afford any one of those.

              And definitely not scrimp on the hood!

        2. irenegoodnight says:

          I just open the window! staying home with the kids just doesn’t result in such a fancy kitchen.

        3. Angora Rabbit says:

          Thanks, Windriven! The 36″ Wolf stove (a local product) is in the garage waiting for plans to finalize. Our local applicance store had a closing sale and I flung myself across it, crying “Mine! Mine!” I lived in Thailand and grew up eating east/SE Asian cuisine, so getting a stove with proper BTUs for “wok hoy” (sp?) + the wok insert was essential. Blue Star was in the running as well – glad to hear you love it.

          And I completely agree about the vent. What did you get? We’re targeting VentAHood. After reading the recent paper in Environmental Health Perspectives about cooking fumes (and in drafty LA homes, no less!) this became imperative. Alas, the dream 600 cfu hood requires an intake which code here says is a hole drilled into the kitchen wall. After this past winter, no way, magnetic flapper or no. So we will probably settle for the 300 cfu.

          I recently learned that women have substantially higher rates of COPD than do men. Given the EHP paper, I can’t help but wonder if this reflects that women do the majority of cooking + sealed homes.

          1. Windriven says:

            Sadly, I don’t recall the vent manufacturer and there in no logo on the hood. It is all stainless steel. I have a magnetic damper and it works very well but your experience may vary ;-). I vaguely recall that mine is rated at 600 CFM so I’m thinking 300 would probably be enough unless you’re recycling automobile tires or something.

            In China almost everyone’s kitchen can be sealed off from the rest of the house. My condo had an elaborate sliding door. I can’t recall any of my friends having an open plan that included the kitchen. Was Thailand like that?

  11. dani681 says:

    Also, don’t stand directly in front of the microwave when it is operating. Radiation falls off quickly with distance, so stand a few feet away and any minimal radiation leakage will be harmless.

    Isn’t this more of the same fear mongering? Either microwaves are dangerous, or they’re not (they’re not). If a microwave was leaking radiation, would you not feel your skin heating up and thus step away and call the repairman?

    Other suitable advice along those lines – don’t stand too close to wifi routers; don’t put your cell phone directly to your ear.

    Sidenote – are microwave ovens still considered dangerous for people with pacemakers? I remember my grandfather had one, and when he visited we were never allowed to operate the microwave if he was in the kitchen.

    1. This is what the FDA has to say:
      “A Federal standard limits the amount of microwaves that can leak from an oven throughout its lifetime to 5 milliwatts (mW) of microwave radiation per square centimeter at approximately 2 inches from the oven surface. This limit is far below the level known to harm people. Microwave energy also decreases dramatically as you move away from the source of radiation. A measurement made 20 inches from an oven would be approximately one one-hundredth of the value measured at 2 inches.”

      Also, eyes are particularly sensitive. So – staying a couple feet from the microwave while in operation is an extra layer of safety. Maybe not necessary, but it would take care of any lingering concerns about leakage of low level radiation.

      1. irenegoodnight says:

        But the question is, why would a rational person have “lingering concerns”?

      2. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

        Sometimes safety officials are hampered by the necessity to address the lowest common denominator, which leads to unnecessary fear. Like the claim “This product meets the California regulation (whatever) for cancer and is classified as a carcinogen in California”. Trivially true, but only because the safety standards for carcinogens in California are absurdly high. Like, “at 10,000 times the dose you get in your food, it may cause cancer in heavily-inbred mice, but even then the rates are so low we aren’t really sure” still gets this warning.

        Damned hippies.

        But I wonder about what the effects are on the eyes, does it cause cataracts or something? Or merely local heating and the eyes are unusually sensitive?

    2. Calli Arcale says:

      Sidenote – are microwave ovens still considered dangerous for people with pacemakers?

      Good question, so I googled it. Apparently a lot of early microwave ovens were not well shielded against electromagnetic interference, so they played havoc with any EMI sensitive devices in the area. There was probably a small outside chance of possibly upsetting an early pacemaker, but modern pacemakers and modern microwaves are both better built and should not have any problems playing nice together.

    3. Michael Busch says:

      With modern microwave ovens, the only evidenced problem from leakage radiation is high-sensitivity radio receivers at the operating frequency of the oven picking up the interference.

      At radio astronomy observatories, we deal with this by putting the microwave inside a second layer of microwave-blocking mesh. Otherwise, it does not matter much.

      Likewise for active cell phones (as has been discussed here extensively before: http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/a-disconnect-between-cell-phone-fears-and-science/ ).

  12. Andrey Pavlov says:

    Ugh. This “food babe” is getting traction as well. I am seeing friends on FaceBook beginning to quote and reference her, I am fielding questions from friends who have heard her stupidity and are suspicious it is specious but don’t know enough to be sure, and I am seeing her mentioned (occasionally, but with increasing frequency) in my own perusings of the intertubes.

    As for the idea of breaking chemical bonds… that is utterly nonsensical. Microwaves work primarily by agitating water molecules due to their partially polar nature to cause kinetic friction to neighboring molecules. That is also why ice doesn’t melt particularly rapidly in a microwave unless it is in water (and why many frozen pizzas have those metallic heating plates and why your nuked burrito is lava on the outside and frozen in the middle). There is also resonant heating, wherein the wavelength of the microwaves generated by the oscillating magnetron is resonant with the molecular structure of whatever they are encountering. That could hypothetically break chemical bonds, but it would require a level of energy far greater than a commercial microwave can generate and would likely result in explosions along the way. Metallic objects act as an antenna, gathering and concentrating the waves creating hot spots from a convergence of the energy on it. This is why it is not recommended to put metal in the microwave. Smaller pieces will get hot enough to burn or crackle, but bigger pieces will merely get extremely hot and divert energy away from what you actually want to be heating. You can even look on YouTube and find videos of people putting things like bullets in microwaves. Many times they don’t even go off, but when they do there is a large delay and an ineffectual discharge because it is the metal casing heating up enough to ignite the powder that ultimately causes a discharge. In one video I have seen, there was a large amount of unburnt powder left over, precisely because the microwave did not break the chemical bonds of the powder (which are, by definition, much less stable than any of the chemical bonds in any foodstuff you are eating) but because part of the casing got hot enough, ignited part of the powder, and then ejected the bullet before the rest could burn.

    As a side note, we do not have a microwave in our house. Not really for any other reason than the lack of convenience means we actually have to take extra time and effort to cook or even just re-heat a meal, which increases the barrier to mindless snacking. That way instead of eating whenever we are a little hungry, we must be actually hungry enough to motivate for the time and effort necessary. Just a little “trick” to keep our calorie consumption lower. That and it would be a burden on our already limited countertop space.

  13. Chris says:

    Remember this is the same woman who is excited by water that has been through a blender:

    Makers of vortex water machines claim that the structure of water is important to get the most health benefits from drinking it. For example, they use the analogy of carbon in coal vs. a diamond to illustrate how something with the same chemical makeup can look and feel totally different. Now I haven’t been drinking vortex water regularly to tell you about whether or not there are benefits but Dr. Mercola’s team is actually conducting research and testing the sprouts for the vitamin, mineral and enzyme content and I’m sure will be reporting back to us on the results.

    1. Richard Abbott says:

      What if you microwave ‘vortex water’?

      Does the vortex counter the ugliness ?

  14. Harriet Hall says:

    Against all advice from parenting groups, we heated formula in those little disposable plastic bags in a plastic baby bottle in the microwave for both of our babies. I didn’t think there was any good evidence that they would be harmed by chemicals leaching into the formula from the plastic, and I thought the main reason for the prohibition was uneven heating or over-heating, and we took precautions to avoid that.

    1. irenegoodnight says:

      I breastfed, but one of the four was weaned at ten months and had bottles for a while, which I heated in the microwave. They were plastic bottles and I’m not sure I would do that today–at least I’d look into it more carefully and I’d probably use glass bottles (which almost weren’t available for a while until everyone got all upset about BPA in plastic bottles). The eldest (aged 44) was only breastfed a little and I actually had one of those stovetop sterilizers with a rack and glass bottles–a bit like canning! That experience made me try much harder at breastfeeding with the next one.

    2. ChristineRose says:

      The main reason is uneven heating. It can feel fine to your finger dip but still be hot enough to scald the baby in parts. I don’t know to what extent this is a real issue,. As you can see there’s been much discussion of the circumstances where microwaves do or do not heat evenly upthred.

      1. Calli Arcale says:

        Microwave ovens develop a standing wave of RF inside; the peaks of these waves will be places where food will tend to get a great deal hotter. That’s why packages will instruct you to stop halfway through cooking and rearrange the food, and why most microwave ovens these days have turntables. The composition of food also makes a difference, because the food itself will affect the pattern of RF waves through the food. This website does a great job of explaining, even going so far as to model the behavior of radio waves inside a microwave oven that is busy nuking a potato.

        http://www.comsol.com/blogs/why-does-a-microwave-heat-food-unevenly/

      2. irenegoodnight says:

        Oh for heaven’s sake–I shook it up and checked it well. There was never any indication that any baby was burned, let alone scalded!

  15. CHotel says:

    How could a device that can do something this cool be evil:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vCNNqgKqnaQ

    1. Frederick says:

      For some reason… I want to try that.

      1. CHotel says:

        Oh, yeah you do. It’s awesome.

        They actually taste pretty interesting afterwards too.

        1. Frederick says:

          You had me with the word PLASMA.

  16. Akely says:

    As one who works at a nuclear power plant and therefore (by law) is required to know a little about radiation I find the notion that ‘omg the food is radiated’ hilarious.

    1. Kathy says:

      Some of the older ones among us may remember the huge fuss (pre-Internet, it spread mainly via faxes) about irradiating foods to sterilize them. That seems to have been at least partially because of confusion with “radiation” and fear that the food itself would become radioactive. There was a lot of opposition, and the food firms had to rename the process to get round this.

      1. Ken Phelps says:

        It’s a lot like not understanding the difference between light and paint. If you shine a red light on something, it’s not red afterward. If you paint it red, it is.

  17. RobRN says:

    @#15 Chris:

    The use of a “vortex water machine” sounds suspiciously llke homeopathic succussion!

  18. MTDoc says:

    Since I am responsible for dinner when my wife works, I find the microwave indispensable. In fact I have two, and that along with one oven permits me to prepare three items to come out at the same time, hopefully 15 or 20 minutes after my wife calls to say she is leaving work. The oven is for meat or cheese, the M/W for potatoes or frozen veges. Fresh veges are better steamed. I leave the serious cooking to her as everyone knows men can’t cook. At least I have her convinced.

    1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      Apparently one of the most frequent comments Chris Kimball gets is from middle-aged white men coming up to him and saying “thank you for making me capable of cooking”. If I ever met him in person, I would be one of those middle-aged white men.

      ATK FHTAGN!

      1. mouse says:

        My husband makes lovely lasagna and tuttra* and does a good job grilling burgers, but things seem to go swiftly down hill from there. He once accidentally made pan fried fish with confectioner sugar, instead of flour. He claimed it wasn’t that bad. It was.

        But I don’t want to make this a man/woman thing. Lots of guys can cook way better than me. I am the family cook by default because I have an instinct for self preservation.

        *which apparently doesn’t exist in the world outside his family, since I can’t locate it in Google.

      2. CHotel says:

        I learned how to cook by watching the Food Channel and reading recipes about 10 hours a day the whole summer after I graduated high school. College-prep. Worked well, I’m by no means a chef but I’m a pretty damn good cook.

    2. irenegoodnight says:

      Yet somehow I managed to get three (or more) item meals on the table for many years before MW’s came along. You learn to do it with what you have.

  19. Derek Freyberg says:

    Just slightly OT, but medicinal chemist-blogger Dr. Derek Lowe has a good post on food ingredients at his site today, http://pipeline.corante.com/archives/2014/04/30/is_that_food_or_not.php . The “Food Babe” gets a mildly unfavorable mention. He also has a link to the site of James Kennedy, a high school teacher in Australia, who has done some clever posters of ingredient lists for natural foods – here’s the link to the banana: http://jameskennedymonash.wordpress.com/2013/12/12/ingredients-of-an-all-natural-banana/

  20. George S says:

    It is worth taking a look at food babe’s website. It is like some sort of comedy website that is set up like a parody of an actual informative website. It can only be a joke and nothing else. Water changing crystal structure when exposed to the word “satan” or “hitler” cannot be serious. How could anyone actually believe that water can only read English? (or even read at all)

  21. Mike G. says:

    I have submitted this article to Rbutr.com as a direct rebuttal to the Food Babe article. I would recommend that others who are concerned about the misinformation on the Food Babe web site please consider using Rbutr for rebuttals and WOT for web site ratings.

  22. Kira says:

    “We are the only species who…” is one of my trigger phrases. As soon as I hear/read it, I know I am probably in for something infuriatingly stupid and/or obnoxious. I’ve found it’s usually used to justify adultery (“We are the only species who practices monogamy/mates for life, therefore it’s perfectly natural that I cheated on my partner.”) or to support any natural fallacy.

    1. Calli Arcale says:

      Normally I’d agree, but I did once see this claim cited and have found no reason to doubt it yet:

      “Humans are the only species that enjoys Tabasco sauce.”

      :-P

      (Actually, birds enjoy eating it, but there’s a qualification there — they don’t experience the burn of capsaicin, which appears to be an adaptive feature of peppers to make sure that only the desired seed carriers consume the fruit. So we’re the only animals that experience the burn and *like* it.)

      1. simba says:

        I once saw a dog pick the chillies out of a curry in preference to the meat. It picked them out, ate them whole, sneezed a lot and put its tongue out repeatedly, and then went back for more.

  23. TiredFather says:

    I find foodbabe’s web site amusing. It’s sort of cannon fodder for skeptics. Anything with a big name is the enemy, chemicals are poison etc. (they are food too of course!).Nevertheless the comments on the bottom of the articles are actually a great read when you have filtered out the dross- there are some excellent posts trying to set the record straight.

    There are some nice recipes on there, great to see SBM contributors getting in on the act too!

    BTW a colleague at work did a project on measuring leakage from lots of commercial microwave ovens. The leakage is usually far, far less than the legal limit. It’s not something which would concern me due to the helpful effects of spreading losses at the range you would normally operate the device at. If the door fits properly in front of the cavity and is undamaged then it shouldn’t present any significant hazard.

    Sincere thanks to all at SBM for the high standards you keep.

  24. fredeliot says:

    I’ve recently started to cook and have been experimenting with easy ways to produce quick, easy, healthy, low costs meals for one. One systems that works pretty good is micro-steaming. I cut up some veggies and place them on a wet paper towel on a plate, cover with a microwave splatter dome and zap for 4 min in a 600 watt microwave. While it is running, I cut up a skinless-boneless chicken thigh to add to the veggies at the end of the 4 minutes. I then put the plate back in for another 3 minutes. I check the temp and season to taste. The cooking time for the veggies can vary and some adjustment may be needed. The steam seems to do a good job of getting everything cooked. Cleanup is easy.

    1. irenegoodnight says:

      Throw it all in a wok and be done in two minutes. Your method sounds tedious and time consuming, but by all means, do whatever works for you.

      1. Calli Arcale says:

        Woks are quick, but then you’re stir-frying, not steaming. I like stir fry, but it’s a very different culinary experience than steaming and poaching (which is basically what he’s doing with the chicken).

  25. Stuart Mathieson says:

    Whatever Vani Hari’s true beliefs on these matters the fact is there will always be a market for ill informed ideas and unscrupulous people who will oblige.

  26. Sean Duggan says:

    Regarding cooking breaking down vitamins and such, it’s technically true, as noted above, but one must also remember that cooking also breaks down poisons in the plants. Yes, vegetables do wage chemical warfare on us. It’s usually nothing major unless you’re only eating raw vegetables and only a limited arrangement, but there are plants out there that are dangerous unless you cook them in a certain way. Look at it this way… plants want to be eaten so that their seeds can be spread, but they have also evolved in a way that discourages over-grazing that will kill the plant.

  27. MR PALEO says:

    To Whom it May Concern:

    Just a couple of comments…

    1) There are many foods that are still “alive” when they reach your home… one really needs to define “alive”…

    2) Most of those considered to be the “best chefs in the world” are male… no offense intended, as there are many excellent female chefs.

    3) What, if I may ask, is GRIDDLING ???

  28. Flower says:

    It’s scientifically proven that many vitamins are destroyed at high heat (cooking) and enzymes, most of which are proteins, become denatured at certain temperatures, as well as by other factors, such as acidity.

    Since almost all chemical reactions in a biological cell need enzymes in order to occur at rates sufficient for life, it stands to reason that foods cooked at high temperature are inimical to health (destroyed vitamins; denatured enzymes).

    Microwave-oven energy is more penetrating than heat that emanates from an oven or stovetop.

    Additionally, microwaves also have non-thermal effects on food:

    “MW radiation nonthermally induced different biological effects by changing the protein structures by differentially partitioning the ions and altering the rates and/or
    directions of biochemical reactions.” (25)

    http://aem.asm.org/content/77/9/3017.full.pdf
    See also:
    http://www.sciencedomain.org/download.php?f=1377779362-Kushwah342013BMRJ5036.pdf&aid=1936

    In 1991, there was a lawsuit in Oklahoma concerning the hospital use of a microwave oven to warm blood needed in a transfusion. The case involved a hip surgery patient, Norma Levitt, who died from a simple blood transfusion.

    It seems the nurse had warmed the blood in a microwave oven. This tragedy makes it very apparent that there’s much more to “heating” with microwaves than we’ve been led to believe. Blood for transfusions is routinely warmed, but not in microwave ovens. In the case of Mrs. Levitt, the microwaving altered the blood and it killed her.

    Dr. Hans Ulrich Hertel, who is now retired, worked as a food scientist for many years with one of the major Swiss food companies that do business on a global scale. A few years ago, he was fired from his job for questioning certain processing procedures that denatured the food.

    In 1991, he and a Lausanne University professor published a research paper indicating that food cooked in microwave ovens could pose a greater risk to health than food cooked by conventional means.

    An article also appeared in issue 19 of the Journal Franz Weber in which it was stated that the consumption of food cooked in microwave ovens had cancerous effects on the blood. The research paper itself followed the article. On the cover of the magazine there was a picture of the Grim Reaper holding a microwave oven in one of his hands.

    Dr. Hertel was the first scientist to conceive and carry out a quality clinical study on the effects microwaved nutrients have on the blood and physiology of the human body.

    His small but well controlled study showed the degenerative force produced in microwave ovens and the food processed in them.

    The scientific conclusion showed that microwave cooking changed the nutrients in the food; and, changes took place in the participants’ blood that could cause deterioration in the human system.

    In the journal Pediatrics (vol. 89, no. 4, April 1992), there appeared an article titled, “Effects of Microwave Radiation on Anti-infective Factors in Human Milk”. Richard Quan, M.D. from Dallas, Texas, was the lead name of the study team. John A. Kerner, M.D., from Stanford University, was also on the research team, and he was quoted in a summary article on the research that appeared in the 25 April 1992 issue of Science News.

    So, when paediatrician John A. Kerner, Jr, witnessed neonatal nurses routinely thawing or reheating breast milk with the microwave oven in their lounge, he became concerned. “In the April 1992 issue of Pediatrics (Part I), he and his Stanford University co-workers reported finding that unheated breast milk that was microwaved lost lysozyme activity, antibodies and fostered the growth of more potentially pathogenic bacteria.

    Research findings from Russia and Germany:

    According to US researcher William Kopp, who gathered much of the results of Russian and German research – and was apparently prosecuted for doing so (J. Nat. Sci, 1998; 1:42-3) – the following effects were observed by Russian forensic teams:

    1. Heating prepared meats in a microwave sufficiently for human consumption created:
    * d-Nitrosodiethanolamine (a well-known cancer-causing agent)
    * Destabilization of active protein biomolecular compounds
    * Creation of a binding effect to radioactivity in the atmosphere
    * Creation of cancer-causing agents within protein-hydrosylate compounds in milk and cereal grains;

    2. Microwave emissions also caused alteration in the catabolic (breakdown) behavior of glucoside – and galactoside – elements within frozen fruits when thawed in this way;

    3. Microwaves altered catabolic behavior of plant-alkaloids when raw, cooked or frozen vegetables were exposed for even very short periods;

    4. Cancer-causing free radicals were formed within certain trace-mineral molecular formations in plant substances, especially in raw root vegetables;

    5. Ingestion of micro-waved foods caused a higher percentage of cancerous cells in blood;

    6. Due to chemical alterations within food substances, malfunctions occurred in the lymphatic system, causing degeneration of the immune system=s capacity to protect itself against cancerous growth;

    7. The unstable catabolism of micro-waved foods altered their elemental food substances, leading to disorders in the digestive system;

    8. Those ingesting micro-waved foods showed a statistically higher incidence of stomach and intestinal cancers, plus a general degeneration of peripheral cellular tissues with a gradual breakdown of digestive and excretory system function;

    9. Microwave exposure caused significant decreases in the nutritional value of all foods studied, particularly:

    * A decrease in the bioavailability of B-complex vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin E, essential minerals and lipotrophics

    * Destruction of the nutritional value of nucleoproteins in meats

    * Lowering of the metabolic activity of alkaloids, glucosides, galactosides and nitrilosides (all basic plant substances in fruits and vegetables)

    * Marked acceleration of structural disintegration in all foods.

    As a result microwave ovens were banned in Russia in 1976; the ban was lifted after Perestroika.

    1. Sean Duggan says:

      Ah, that would be the Norma Levitt who died of a blood clot, not from microwave-infused blood?

      And I believe that your comments on microwaves “changing” the food is pretty thoroughly covered in the article. Yes, microwaves change food. So does cooking it on the stovetop, cooking it in a fire, boiling it, drying it, stirring it… that’s what cooking is all about.

    2. Andrey Pavlov says:

      I know you are a troll, so I’ll only address one painfully obvious point.

      Since almost all chemical reactions in a biological cell need enzymes in order to occur at rates sufficient for life, it stands to reason that foods cooked at high temperature are inimical to health (destroyed vitamins; denatured enzymes).

      Not only will those enzymes will be destroyed in your stomach and intestines as they are digested, it is simply inane to think that the enzymes of a plant or animal very different from ourselves would be directly useful in humans. No matter how you slice it, that is simply a ridiculous idea. Unless you think that there is some sort of magic vitalism you are ingesting, in which case you may believe yourself to be a lich or some other made up creature that can imbibe life forces.

      1. Calli Arcale says:

        Yeah, our cells all depend on enzymes. Good thing our bodies *make* those enzymes, then! Seriously. The enzymes in food are not the enzymes our bodies use. Our bodies break those down into their constituents and then make new enzymes out of that.

        1. EBMOD says:

          THis is what I get for responding to the thread in a window I hadn’t ‘F5ed’ in a while. I see I posted almost the exact same thing as a result…

      2. EBMOD says:

        Not to mention the fact that if someone was able to determine a way to get enzymes through the stomach unmolested, diabetics would no longer need to be jabbing themselves with needles to get insulin into their bloodstream…

        Not only that, but it is GOOD that your body breaks up those enzymes. Where does he/she think we get the amino acids so our cells can assemble the enzymes our own cells need?

  29. Wombat says:

    “By the time food hits your table, even if it is raw, any cells in the food are dead”.

    This is plain wrong! Sure the stuff about microwaves is bullshit – but that’s no excuse.

    All raw fruits and vegetables contain living cells. If you pick a lettuce leaf or tomato, how can all the cells instantly die before you get it in your mouth? What about sprouts – anyone who grows and eats them knows they’re alive when you eat them. You could slice up a raw onion and eat it – but if you put it in water instead, it would sprout. The same onion. It can’t be both alive and dead.

    You’ll know when the cells in your fresh veggies are dead – they’ll be mouldy and slimy!

    I wonder if the author has had much experience of eating fresh fruit and veggies? Might be time to leave the freezer aisle and experience some real food.

    1. Andrey Pavlov says:

      Yes, we get it. Dr. Novella was wrong on this point. It caught me up briefly as well. It is, however, not a major point. It does not change the substance of the piece, nor does it impugn the rest of it. Everyone can make mistakes. We should strive to make as few and of such immaterial quality as Dr. Novella.

    2. CHotel says:

      “You could slice up a raw onion and eat it – but if you put it in water instead, it would sprout. The same onion. It can’t be both alive and dead.”

      Urge to make a Schrodinger’s Onion joke, so overwhelming, must… resist!

  30. cloudskimmer says:

    Long ago my high school biology teacher gave me a steamer basket–not for a microwave oven but to put in a pot on the stove. Veggies went into the basket which allowed them to be above the water boiling below. He said this would be nutritionally better than boiling them in water, but the water was always discolored afterwards, though the veggies seemed to cook faster and look and taste better than the boiled variety. Does anyone here know if this does help retain the nutritional value?

    I have heard some people say that microwaves can increase the likelihood of developing cataracts, and perhaps lower the age at which they appear. Is there any truth to that assertion?

    These days I like to stir fry in just a little oil, tossing in cooking sauce at the end and perhaps a little water, and maybe putting on a lid briefly if cooking more fiberous vegetables like broccoli. Leafy greens always go in last and are cooked very briefly. Everything is then poured over ride and eaten, so hopefully stir frying retains lots of vitamins. It is fast and easy, and I hope healthy, too.

    This was a great topic. Thanks to all for the good ideas and recipes. And only one troll!

    1. agitato says:

      I’ve often wondered about whether steaming is any better for cooking vegetables, nutritionally speaking, than brief immersion in boiled water. I recently stumbled upon this site: http://welcometothecookout.com/steamed-vs-boiled-vegetables/

      His explanation about why bringing salted water to a boil and then plunging the vegetables into it actually preserves nutrients sounds plausible but is it true?

      1. cloudskimmer says:

        Interesting, but he provides no evidence that this is true. Have vegetables been tested after both procedures to show that the blanched ones have a higher nutrition content? And how about the downside of having the sodium with the veggies, which could cause blood pressure problems for some people? Usually when blanching is recommended it is as a pre-cook prior to cooking the vegetables another way. If the blanching were done for the same amount. of time as the steaming, I’d think the nutritive value would be the same. Throwing around the term “osmosis” is all well and good, but salt could increase removal of nutrients or reduce or it could remain unchanged; his explanation explains nothing.

        Since I don’t have the lab facilities, I will cook the veggies however I like while exploring other options and not obsess about the nutritive value. As long as they aren’t cooked to death, vegetables are the best thing to eat.

        Canning involves heating for an extensive period of time, but the food is in jars at that point, so some nutrients must be retained. People used to eat their canned vegetables and fruit in the winter, and seem to survive, which would seem to indicate adequate nutrients. Of course, they weren’t being poisoned by their microwave ovens!

  31. The statement about food being dead was oversimplified to the point of being mistaken.

    Any meat cells will be dead. Muscle tissue survives a few hours without blood supply.
    Anything frozen will also be dead.
    Fresh fruits and vegetables will, however, continue to have some living cells depending on conditions. The cells do start dying naturally once picked, but how much have died will depend on how it was stored and for how long.

    The larger point, however, is that the cells being alive or dead do not affect their nutritional value. We don’t need them to be alive. We don’t need the proteins to be intact – in fact, we want them broken down. Broken down plant cells walls also increase bioavailability of some nutrients.

    Note – the body of the post was edited to reflect this.

    1. Calli Arcale says:

      There are some who would argue the point about whether it is better to eat live or dead animal tissue, not on the basis of health, but on the basis of culinary preference. Personally, I want my animal protein to be dead, but then there are:

      * live oysters

      * baby octopi eaten live (and hastily; they actually stand a decent chance of exacting revenge upon you if they manage to grab your epiglottis on the way down)

      * squid tentacles served immediately after slaughter of the animal such that drizzling soy sauce on them causes them to squirm (also can grab your epiglottis, since the suckers do still work)

      Really, not for me. I do not like my food to move under its own power.

      1. Andrey Pavlov says:

        * live oysters

        One of my favorites. My record in a sitting was 9 dozen. My lovely managed 6 dozen that same evening.

        One of my other favorite dishes combines both ends of the spectrum: ika natto. Fresh raw squid (so technically still alive, assuming it is fresh enough) and fermented soybeans (so the bean is dead, but the bacteria rotting it are alive). Not for the faint of heart.

        1. Windriven says:

          “One of my other favorite dishes combines both ends of the spectrum: ika natto. ”

          Very nice if the natto is perfect. Sometimes natto has the texture of horse snot and I’m not a fan of that. I usually have ika with just a bit of shiso. Nice combination of flavors.

          Another you might try at a Korean sushi place is hung-oh. It is fermented skate. A close friend’s mother makes it. The smell is daunting but the flavor is wonderful.

      2. Windriven says:

        In China I sometimes have small shrimp that are served alive in a salty broth. They’re quite nice and they sort of bounce around in the broth. But they are a little difficult to eat as you sort of mush the flesh out of the shell with your teeth and then spit out the shell. Not for the fastidious.

        And at a friend’s sushi bar in Shanghai, a fish that I don’t know is plucked from a tank and filleted and served as nigiri, still sort of aquiver.

        1. Andrey Pavlov says:

          Sometimes natto has the texture of horse snot and I’m not a fan of that.

          Agreed. But growing up in Orange County there was no shortage of excellent (and I do mean excellent) Asian fare everywhere. And good natto is, IMO, very good. I also like it plain, warmed, with some hot mustard. There was a market I went to called Mitsuwa that had it in individual serving cups, ready for the microwave, with a packet of spicy mustard for less than a buck a pop. One of my all time favorite sushi places is called Fukada and they have truly excellent ika natto (along with everything else – their hamachi is to die for). It is actually at that very restaurant that I celebrated my acceptance to medical school.

          Another you might try at a Korean sushi place is hung-oh.

          If I come across it I will be sure to. I am a very adventurous eater, having tried literally everything put in front of me save one dish. It was in undergrad, one of our housemates made “drunken chicken.” Except I doubt it was properly done. He took a whole raw chicken, put it in a pot, poured some incredibly foul smelling Taiwanese liquor over it along with a few spices, and then put it (covered) in a cabinet for a couple of weeks. The smell was overpoweringly rancid and I simply couldn’t stomach it.

          That said, I do quite enjoy durian, so it isn’t a rancid smell per se that turns me off to foods, but that was just something truly rotten rather than fermented. I am also curious to try Hákarl, which is an Icelandic fermented shark. Based on the descriptions I may not be able to stomach it, but I’d certainly be keen to try; particularly because that means I would be in Iceland which is definitely on my bucket list of places to visit.

          1. Windriven says:

            “Iceland which is definitely on my bucket list of places to visit.”

            Mine too. I had planned to do Portugal this spring with a 4 or 5 day stopover in Iceland on the flight over. But then I had to put a new roof on the house on the Oly Peninsula at about twice the cost that I expected. i would have rathered Iceland and Portugal.

            1. Andrey Pavlov says:

              i would have rathered Iceland and Portugal.

              A mentor of mine gave a talk in Reykjavik. He said it was amazing.

        2. Andrey Pavlov says:

          Whoops, screwed up the threading.

          In China I sometimes have small shrimp that are served alive in a salty broth.

          Again back home a restaurant I favorite called Dana Kai serves a sweet shrimp nigiri that is served with the heads and legs still attached, and quite alive. After finishing the nigiri, they take the heads back and flash fry them, then bring them back out with a nice ponzu sauce. Crunchy and delicious.

          1. Windriven says:

            ” they take the heads back and flash fry them, then bring them back out with a nice ponzu sauce. Crunchy and delicious.”

            Like the frame of aji mackerel. Yum!

            Don’t know where you’re hitting sushi in NO – and I’ve been away for a while so I probably don’t have any good recommendations. There was a time when Little Tokyo (at the old location) in Metairie was quite good. The bar was run by a Vietnamese named Phat. Phat went on to open his own place in the Marigny but I’ve lost track of him over the years. People used to rave about Ninja but I never found anything special about it. If you’ve found a good place, let me know. I’ll check it out next time through.

            1. Andrey Pavlov says:

              Don’t know where you’re hitting sushi in NO

              I agree. Ninja is meh. Chiba, nearly right across the street is the same but they have a good happy hour that makes it worth it.

              We used to go to Mikimoto on Carrollton and it was very solid. Then we discovered a new place (opened within the last year or two) called Asuku on Earhart, just a block downtown from Carrollton (which is funny, because it basically walking distance from Mikimoto) and that is hands down our favorite. They have excellent offerings and creative nightly specials plus, if you know to ask, they offer fresh grated wasabi. Not the paste made from powder. I’d be willing to bet you’ve had it and know the difference.

              We actually rarely go out to the Marigny just because it is a bit of a schlep and there is so much good stuff here. We live in Uptown, very near Cooter Brown’s.

              1. Andrey Pavlov says:

                Crap. It is Asuka, not Asuku.

              2. Windriven says:

                I’ll look it up next to,e I’m in town. Thanks!

                ” I’d be willing to bet you’ve had it and know the difference.”

                My friend in Shanghai grates the fresh root on the skin of some kind of shark (as I recall) mounted to a wooden paddle. The difference between wasabi root and the powder is ,,. I lack words.

              3. Andrey Pavlov says:

                And hopefully next time, I won’t have 4 houseguests and we can actually grab that beer. The Avenue Pub on St Charles is one of the best beer bars in town. And they have beers to suit both our tastes.

                My friend in Shanghai grates the fresh root on the skin of some kind of shark (as I recall) mounted to a wooden paddle. The difference between wasabi root and the powder is ,,. I lack words.

                I believe at Asuka they use those ceramic dishes with the myriad fine needle-like peaks and points. An artificial version of the shark skin. And the difference is… exactly as you say.

      3. Harrison Bolter says:

        Yikes. Those descriptions are toe-curling.

        But then again, I enjoy sushi, especially a nice tekkamaki (raw tuna). So I suppose my intestines are crawling (ha) with parasites of the microbial variety. I mean, besides the bugs that are supposed to be in there.

        So, hey, what do I know? :)

        And now I’m jonesing for sushi tonight. Yum.

  32. Jane says:

    Enough people have pointed me at the food babe’s “helpful” article about what sugars and sugar substitutes are safe that I twitch a bit merely upon hearing her name. (My kid has fructose malabsorption which is a rather irritating food issue to have to cook around, especially for a little one who would like dessert sometimes.)

    Contrasting the discussion of why commercially made stevia is evil with the nigh-identical process she gives for making your own is almost lolworthy.

  33. Earthman says:

    As far as I am aware the first recorded instance of microwave cooking was about 1941 or 1942 at the University of Manchester in the UK. They had just invented the cavity magnetron (one in every microwave oven) for making the first practical radar sets that were small enough to go in an aeroplane. They used to put sausages in the experimental beam and cook them. So that was about 72+ years ago, not so new and high tech.

  34. I agree that microwave is possibly a safe tool for reheating, but might not be the best option for cooking from raw ESPECIALLY if it’s chicken. Unlike steak, chicken can’t be eaten if it isn’t fully cooked because of the salmonella which is usually present in raw chicken and raw egg.

    1. n brownlee says:

      Salmonella isn’t “usually” present in raw chicken and raw eggs. It’s much more likely to be present in chicken than in other raw meats, and raw chicken is no culinary treat- so it’s sensible to cook chicken thoroughly. Eggs may carry salmonella- but if they “usually” did so, the entire population of France would be sick with it, most of the time.

      Raw or only slightly cooked egg is in constant use in cookery all over the world. Eggs need sensible, careful handling – but I have no intention of giving up coddled, soft cooked, and sometimes raw egg. It’s also only sensible to remember that the worst outbreaks of salmonella in this country have been traced to ground heat (hamburger) and, wait for it, salad greens.

    2. Angora Rabbit says:

      I puzzled over Salmonella and poultry for a long time. I had assumed it was just exterior contamination from feces or whatever. Finally got the answer from colleagues in Poultry Sciences. It turns out that salmonella can populate the chicken ovary without adversely affecting the hen’s health, and as the egg forms some of the microbes can be transferred to the egg white and yolk. This is how it can be deposited inside the egg. So the risk isn’t from the exterior shell but from within. And if it’s in the ovary, it can also be in the meat. Add to this external sources of fecal contamination. And organic doth not make a difference unless the flock is certified salmonella free. And free range? Not a chance as salmonella is endemic in wild bird populations (and is why we should regularly clean our bird feeders in bleach).

      Why not in European eggs? Because some years ago a number of European countries made the decision to wholesale slaughter their chicken populations (the euphemism being “depopulate”) and start fresh with Salmonella-free flocks. (There is a list somewhere in the Google-verse.) U.S. producers opted not for that draconian measure, and thus here in the US of A we have the risk for Salmonella-infected poultry. I suppose it was cheaper to settle the occasional lawsuit.

      1. brewandferment says:

        Hmmm…So everyone who is paying out the nose for organic, free range eggs with the notion that they are more healthful is misguided! Tastier they supposedly are but my budget doesn’t usually justify the price premium(given the qty of eggs we go through each week and the mostly mundane foods they are used for). Somehow there seems to be a certain warped justice given that the usual purchasers of said free-range eggs tend to overlap the usual woo suspects on a Venn diagram. Part of me can’t help but snicker a bit–is that bad of me?

        1. n brownlee says:

          I kept a small flock for years- when I had my big garden. The original reason was that I wanted the manure- you can activate a LOT of compost with just a little chicken crap. Didn’t take long to become devoted to the ‘yard eggs’- not that they ran around in the yard. We built a big chicken run, completely enclosed with wire, and I just threw the garden waste and orchard drops in. The chickens ate it, scratched it over, manured it, ate the earth worms- and produced the best eggs I’ve ever had.

          I also had the most rotten spoiled chickens in the state of Texas. “Oh, yawn, organic white peaches again? No thanks.”

        2. Windriven says:

          “So everyone who is paying out the nose for organic, free range eggs”

          I purchase yard eggs when I can and “cage free” eggs when I can’t* for the flavor of the eggs in the first instance and for the ethics of letting a chicken live some sort of chicken-like life in the second. And I must say that my favorite chicken lady uses an organic feed that her co-op brings in from Canada. I’m not impressed with its being organic but her eggs are unbelievable.

          Thanks to Dr. Rabbit as I didn’t know about the European chicken cull. Mrs. Windriven has been on me to build her a chicken coop and, if I ever complete this veritable Taj Ma-Hen, I will try to populate it with salmonella-free chickens.

          *’I can’t’ being a euphemism for ‘I’m too lazy.’

          1. brewandferment says:

            Hey Windriven, if it was just me and Mr. Brew, we’d have free range eggs regularly…but when there are 3 growing kids to feed, budget (and the lack of gastronomic sophistication for two of them yet) just doesn’t justify the price.

            Ethical life for chickens, another luxury out of my present budget mostly…I do spend extra to get vegetarian fed eggs high in Omega 3s. But my parents kept chickens while I was growing up and most of them were barely above carrots on the intelligence scale, so I guess it doesn’t trouble me too much. They were never out of their enclosure either because neighborhood dogs and/or coyotes would have found it much too tempting (and actually on at least one occasion got in and shredded the entire flock. I awoke at usual time and looked out the window on my way downstairs and at first wondered if by some freak chance we’d gotten snow in SoCal!)

            1. Windriven says:

              “Ethical life for chickens, another luxury out of my present budget mostly”

              No stones cast, Brew. I was simply (clumsily?) trying to make the point that I buy fru-fru eggs myself but not for the most common reason.

              1. brewandferment says:

                yah, I know, no offense taken…my comment was clumsy enough as well. I wish I could afford more humanely raised meat, because I have known people who gave up meat due to ethical concerns about how animals are raised. Now that there are more options beginning to become more mainstream, I would like to be able to put my money where my mouth is and champion a market-based solution and encourage farmers who provide it. Maybe once the fridge vacuums have grown up and moved out…

                But most chickens are still not much smarter than carrots…

                ;->

      2. n brownlee says:

        I had twelve hours of poultry science- or ‘sick chickens’, as we called it, and all you say is true- but it’s still no reason to think that that eggs are “usually” contaminated by salmonella. Though they may be, they are not, usually. Consider the vast quantities of eggs ‘over easy’ consumed in this country daily. Consider, also, that there’s not a professional chef in the country who doesn’t eat lightly cooked eggs quite frequently – a barely coddled egg on the steak tartare, a soft boiled egg mixed into the tuna of the salade nicoise. In a restaurant s/he may be restricted to pasteurized egg glop, but not at home. Do you know anyone who scrambles their eggs until dry? I don’t, and I surely don’t want to eat them.

        And like I said- hamburger and sprouts and spinach and salad greens have all been responsible in this country for more big salmonella outbreaks than have eggs or chicken.

        1. Angora Rabbit says:

          Hi Nancy,

          I totally agree with everything you say. Wasn’t meant as criticism but informational for the list in general. The problem is, it’s a roulette and no way to know whose birds are free of salmonella and whose aren’t. I do research with chickens and embryos and we’ve become paranoid perhaps because of a few bad experiences. Of course, a bucket of yolk goo was enough to put me off uncooked eggs permanently! Mine are definitely hard scrambled or boiled in consequence. Which makes corned beef hash very sad. Also had experiences with pet birds (small parrots, doves, finches) and someone in there had contamination as well. As always, one’s personal mileage and risk assessment will vary! :)

          Totally agree also about other sources of contamination, and wash the heck out of those as well. Steak tartare and certain sushi’s are definitely off my list (sorry, Andrey!). And I never assume those veggies are “prewashed.”

          PS – how did you get 12hrs of poultry science? Cheers!

          1. Andrey Pavlov says:

            Steak tartare and certain sushi’s are definitely off my list (sorry, Andrey!).

            All the more for me!

            And funny enough, I am either just very lucky or the prevalence of infection is very low because I have eaten raw/rare meats (not chicken), fish, and if my yolks are ever hard I’m unhappy since I was a child. I’ve only ever gotten food poisoning thrice in my life. Once in Thailand (from a curry house), once from a chicken burrito I bought at a bodega, and once from an upscale restaurant salad.

            As a child my mother would slap my hand because I would sneak bites of raw ground beef with just a dash of salt on it – nothing fancy, the regular ground chuck you get at the grocery store. Not because she was worried about it being raw but because she didn’t want me to spoil my dinner. I still love it and often eat quite a bit. A “treat” growing up was actually raw egg. We would take a sewing needle, poke a hole in the top and bottom of the egg, stick it in and swirl the yolk, shake it well, and then put salt on the shell and literally just suck the raw contents straight out of it. Add more salt, suck a bit more out, repeat. We also had very close friends who are Ethiopian (in fact, the daughter was my sister’s maid of honor) and so I also grew up eating a lot of home made Ethiopian food (amazingly good, and would highly recommend if you’ve never tried it). One of my favorite dishes is called “!tze kitfo” which is basically the Ethiopian version of steak tartare: chopped raw steak, ghee, berbere (a local spice that is in many foods), and chopped up spicy peppers (the “!tze” denotes the spicy, or you can have it mild and it is just “kitfo”).

            When I was in my first and second year of med school I would buy an entire salmon from the Chinese market because it was only $13.99/kg to buy a whole one vs $20/kg for parts of it (and vs $25-30/kg from a regular market). We would throw huge sushi parties that first night, and then eat the rest of it over the following week, cooking it more and more thoroughly as the week progressed. But we would eat it rare to medium-rare for at least 3-4 days after purchase. Never once had an issue.

            And yes, I will absolutely agree that one should be more safe and I would certainly not recommend for people to be as cavalier as I. It’s just how I grew up and have very little compunction about it. Had I been unlucky and gotten sick more often I’m sure I’d be singing a different tune.

            1. DevoutCatalyst says:

              Our resident Bulgarian is now giving Amharic lessons. Regarding your eating habits, wild man, should you ever have a bout of gnathostomiasis or some such, you’ll post some cool photos for the squeamish, won’t you?

              1. Andrey Pavlov says:

                Our resident Bulgarian is now giving Amharic lessons.

                Hey now, I’m also half Russian and was born a Soviet citizen :-P

                Regarding your eating habits, wild man, should you ever have a bout of gnathostomiasis or some such, you’ll post some cool photos for the squeamish, won’t you?

                Thankfully there are few fresh water fish I find palatable in a raw or otherwise less than fully cooked state. Same goes with poultry. And whilst I do love me some frog legs, I’ve never had them anything but fully cooked. Though I understand that in Japan and some other Asian countries there is a dish of frog sashimi in which the poor creature is flayed open alive and the meat presented in the carcass of the animal with the head still trying to ribbit in protest. For some reason that makes me squeamish whereas the sweet shrimp does not. A purely arbitrary line in my head, but we all have to draw one somewhere.

                But yes, if I do end up with some sort of exotic infection I will make sure to document it graphically and share my experience. :-P

            2. Windriven says:

              @Andre

              Rather than buying ground beef for tartare from Safeway, a decent piece of meat and two knives or a dash in the food processor is both better flavored (though I grew up eating bits of ground beef too). Two 10″ chef’s knives makes short work of it but you may have to butterfly the beef so the the weight of the knives will carry the blades entirely through the meat. You don’t want to end up with cube steak ;-). The texture of the meat prepared this way is really nice.

              @Devout Catalyst

              There is a danger and not always to ourselves. A couple of weeks ago I bought a filet of salmon and sliced up a bit of it for sashimi for dinner. In the prep I tossed a couple of pieces to my Labrador, Jessie. A few days later she was near death, unable to rise from her crate in the morning. I trundled her off to the vet and, while the diagnosis isn’t certain, rickettsia – fatal if untreated – is most likely. That ended up being a $2,000 lesson in what not to feed one’s dog. The fish can harbor a liver fluke (I knew I should have listened Hulda Clark) and that fluke harbors the rickettsia bacteria.

              1. Andrey Pavlov says:

                Rather than buying ground beef for tartare from Safeway, a decent piece of meat and two knives or a dash in the food processor is both better flavored (though I grew up eating bits of ground beef too)

                Oh of this I am well aware. I don’t buy the ground chuck as a sub for my steak tartare… I just merely can rarely resist the temptation to nom on some as I prepare my hamburger patties.

                When making actual steak tartare I find that a mezzaluna actually works rather well, though it must be nice and sharp.

                In the prep I tossed a couple of pieces to my Labrador, Jessie.

                My lovely and I are cat people and have two of them, sisters from the same litter. One of them we’ve nicknamed Fatty because, well, she is a bit pudgy and is always whining for treats and snacks. The interesting thing is that neither of them will touch a piece of fish or meat, regardless of the cut or type. They do, however, love tortilla chips and popcorn. Fatty will come and slyly sneak chips or popcorn* right out of the bowl on the occasions that we have a snack whilst watching a movie.

                *that included home-made kettle corn as well

          2. n brownlee says:

            Good Morning, Miss Rabbit. A degree in ag/hort required some animal science, and since I already had chickens, it seemed sensible. Turned out nothing about chickens is sensible; the mad gleam in their tiny eyes should have told me. Also lice. And mites. Still, they don’t hurt as much as horses do, when they step on you – as far as I’m concerned it’s the main point.

            1. Angora Rabbit says:

              LOL! All so very true! I wish I had taken a class – then I probably would never have adopted them as a research model. Those blasted mites and lice are resistant to everything known to man and beast.

          3. Sean Duggan says:

            There was an interesting exploration of the statistics of egg contamination in Because I Said So by Ken Jennings where he works out that, statistically speaking, the average eater will run into a salmonella-infested egg once every 84 years. Vegetables, on the other hand, are positively dangerous…

  35. Chris says:

    So this evening I used the microwave for another dish. I made the “Green Risotto” recipe from the The Herbfarm Cookbook by Jerry Traunfeld (and his Poppy restaurant is wonderful, especially since hubby and I found a good place to park only two blocks away).

    When you make risotto you need to add hot stock in small bits to the rice to keep it creamy. So I just warmed up cubes of frozen homemade chicken glace de viande with water in the microwave to pour into the rice pot.

    I made it “green” by adding sorrel, chard, parsley and chives from my yard, along with basil from a window pot, It was yummy.

    This was the first time I have made risotto that fooled dear hubby into thinking it was full of cream. Win!

    1. simba says:

      Ooh, excellent idea- I’ve been looking for things to do with sorrel.

  36. egstras says:

    I believe tht microwave ovens are ruining the country, and possibly the rest of the world.

    We have become so spoiled by them that we can no longer wait more than 5 minutes for anything. I personally become agitated and impatient when I find that the bus won’t arrive for another 2.5 minutes… and if it’s late, total meltdown.

    And it’s all the microwave’s fault.

    OTOH, it does a fine job with some cooking tasks.

    1. DevoutCatalyst says:

      Thanks for sending your comment in via First Class Mail. Thank goodness for Saturday delivery.

      1. egstras says:

        “Thanks for sending your comment in via First Class Mail. Thank goodness for Saturday delivery.”

        Maybe we could go back to delivery twice a day… either that, or I’ll have to get rid of my microwave.

  37. Dick says:

    Vani “FraudBabe” Hari cites Masaru Emoto’s water woo as evidence that microwave ovens are bad? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Emoto’s not a doctor of anything! He got his “doctorate” from a diploma mill that peddles alternative medicine! His real degree is in international relations! Jesus Christ, she keeps digging herself deeper and deeper.

    Why she hasn’t been investigated for fraud yet is beyond me.

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