It’s time to make the most of your microwave! This infographic provides 31 recipes and hacks to help. You can make crispy bacon, mac and cheese, perfectly husked corn on the cob, Parmesan crisps, s’mores, poached eggs, stuffed banana boats, and so much more!
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The microwave was invented in 1945 by a Raytheon engineer named Percy Spencer. Today, there’s a microwave in around 97% of American homes, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. However, the inventor of the microwave had no idea that his accidental invention would become such a beloved mainstay in households around the world.
In 1941, as the U.S. was preparing to enter World War II, Percy Spencer was conducting research on the magnetron and how it could be used to produce the high power output required for radar equipment. Radar sets developed by Spencer were installed in U.S. bombers, and they were powerful enough to spot periscopes on German submarines. He received the Distinguished Public Service Award for his accomplishment, the highest honor that the Navy bestows on civilians. However, that’s not what he’s most remembered for.
Standing next to a magnetron one day, Spencer noticed that the candy bar in his pocket had melted. This sparked an idea — could the energy from radio waves be used to cook food? To test this theory, he placed popcorn kernels near the magnetron tube. Within minutes, Spencer snacked on the world’s first microwave popcorn!
In 1947, Raytheon produced the first RadarRange based on Spencer’s discovery. The first microwave ovens were enormous and pricey, used only by restaurants, vending companies, and airlines. A home model became available in the 1950s. The public was initially slow to adopt the technology, but by the time of Spencer’s death in 1970, microwaves were becoming a universal fixture in American kitchens. But despite their widespread use, many people still have suspicions about how safe they are.
Is Microwave Radiation Dangerous?
So far, there has been no evidence that microwave ovens are a health risk. Microwaves are a form of electromagnetic radiation with many modern uses, such as cooking food, broadcasting television and Internet signals, detecting speeding cars, and talking on the phone. Electromagnetic radiation spans a broad spectrum, from long radio waves to short gamma rays. The human eye can see only a small part of this spectrum in the form of visible light. High-energy radiation like X-rays and gamma rays can cause harm because these types of radiation can alter molecules within the body (which can lead to cancer). Unlike X-rays, microwaves use non-ionizing radiation. This type of radiation does not have enough energy to knock electrons out of atoms. In the U.S., microwave ovens are also designed to limit the amount of radiation that can leak out of the device.
Does Microwaving Food Kill the Nutrients?
In a study by the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, it was found that broccoli cooked in a microwave retained all of its minerals except for vitamin C, which leached into the added water. Vitamin C is extremely volatile, so any form of cooking would result in its loss. Fortunately, vitamin C is bountiful in many raw fruits and vegetables, so you can make up for it easily. Additionally, microwaves have been shown to cause the least amount of antioxidant loss in 20 vegetables when compared to boiling, frying, and pressure-cooking!
Does Microwaving Plastic Release Toxins?
Yes, it does. However, plastic used for cooking is closely regulated. By choosing plastic containers that are designated to be microwave-safe, you can minimize the risks. There is also a big push to ban BPA, a type of plastic linked to a range of cancers. You can also go for the safest alternatives, glass and porcelain.