We all know the classic “don’t put that in the microwave” lessons. Nothing metal. No plastic wrap, plastic bags, or plastic containers. No travel mugs or Styrofoam. And we all know that if you don’t cover your food it can spatter all over the place (some of us have learned this the hard way). But did you know that hard boiled eggs might wreak havoc? What about plain old paper bags? Make sure your microwave no-fly list is up to date with these 8 surprising microwave don’ts.
1. Empty plates, bowls, and cups
Even a microwave-safe vessel needs something in it to absorb the particles (the contents disperse the heat), or you risk it shattering or melting. So while the idea of warming plates or bowls in the microwave seems like a great idea, you are better off warming them in a low oven or even in your slow cooker.
2. Paper or cardboard plates with metallic designs or rims
Paper plates always seem like an easy choice for the microwave, but if the metallic paint or design has any actual metal in it, you will have the same problem as a metal or foil item in the microwave. Sparks will fly and the plate can catch fire. Read the package to see if it says microwave-safe, and if not, stick to plain undecorated paper or cardboard when reheating.
3. Uncooked grains or pastas without liquid
Yes, you can cook grains and pastas in your microwave, but they have to have cooking liquid, or they will burn. This mostly applies to commercial, prepared foods, such as Cup Noodles, Easy Mac, or rice pilafs. Be sure to read the directions on the packages and add the necessary water or liquid or you will have charcoal mac or flaming ramen for lunch.
4. Takeout containers
Whether it is a sneaky staple holding your Chinese container shut, or a lesser-quality plastic tub or clamshell, never put any takeout container in the microwave unless it is specifically marked microwave safe. And Styrofoam is never microwave safe. Transfer leftovers to a bowl or plate instead.
5. Hard boiled eggs
Seems like a great fast breakfast, right? Hard boil a bunch of eggs and then heat them up in the morning. But steam builds between the yolk and white, and the egg explodes (even if it’s peeled). You haven’t saved time in the morning if you have tiny egg particles superglued to every inch of your microwave interior.
6. Paper bags and sandwich wrappers
Don’t think about doing DIY microwave popcorn in a regular paper bag or heating your sub sandwich in its paper wrap. Both can easily catch fire.
7. Hot peppers
Need to soften and skin a bell pepper? Great job for the microwave. A hot chili pepper like a jalapeño or habanero? No good. Just like you shouldn’t put your face over a hot pan when chili peppers are cooking, you should never cook spicy peppers in your microwave. When superheated, they can essentially create pepper gas in your microwave, which you don’t want to breathe in when you open the magic door. And the hotter the pepper, the worse it can be.
The single most dangerous thing you can put in your microwave is literally NOTHING. Without something for the particles to focus their attention on inside the machine, they just go flying around and your treasured appliance can literally spontaneously combust or explode! Don't be tempted to use it as a kitchen timer, in other words.