What Happens If You Microwave Too Long?

Nowadays, almost every household has a microwave. Ever since it was introduced for the first time in 1967, people have been using microwaves to heat up their leftover food, make popcorn, and steam veggies in it. While it has become one of the commonly used appliances in today’s times, there’s a lot of things yet to be known.

Oftentimes, people end up heating their food more than is required, without knowing the consequences. Overheating any food or liquid inside a microwave can burn the food, tamper the container, cause electric fires and whatnot!

In this guide, we have enlisted some of the serious consequences of heating food in a microwave too long. If you use a microwave regularly at your place, you ought to be aware of them. Therefore, without wasting any further time, let’s dive into the details. 

What happens if you microwave too long?

What happens if you microwave too long

If you have an expensive microwave, and you have placed food inside it for too long, it will probably shut itself down. However, if it’s a cheap one, it will continue to heat the food, and might melt the magnetron or give out 700W in heat, ultimately causing short circuit and electric fires. Anyone standing beside the microwave could even receive microwave burns!

Yes, microwaving food excessively is dangerous. Apart from the above mentioned consequences, there’s more. Let’s go through them one by one below.

Excessive microwaving will affect the food’s quality

Excessively heating the food inside a microwave oven will reduce its nutritional value. The food will undoubtedly burn in extreme heat and radiation.

If you have kept food inside a microwave, turned it on and then left, the nutritional value of its contents is likely to reduce. The same thing happens if you overcook food in an oven or grill.

Leaving food in high temperatures inside a microwave, for a prolonged time causes blistering hot spots in areas that have received maximum heat. That’s why people are advised to stir the contents frequently while microwaving food to ensure even distribution of heat. 

Lastly, if your food is overcooked inside a microwave, it’s likely to lose its taste and become extremely unappetizing. Surely, that’s not something you or your guests  would like.

It can cause damage to the containers placed inside

Oftentimes, people use plastic containers to store food and heat them inside a microwave. Some of the plastic containers release hormone disrupting compounds into the food under extremely high temperatures. When such food is consumed, your health is compromised.

That’s why experts advise homeowners to refrain from using plastic containers for heating food inside a microwave unless they are labeled microwave safe.

Not just inside microwaves, plastic containers shouldn’t be used to heat stored food. It’s a bad idea.

The ideal containers to be used for storing and heating food inside a microwave are the ones made up of ceramics, because they do not contain moisture. They allow microwave radiation to pass through easily, thereby facilitating even distribution of heat in the food.

Apart from plastic containers, homeowners should not also use aluminum foils or metal pans for heating food inside a microwave. These materials do not allow the radiation to pass through easily, sometimes reflecting those radiations back. This causes an uneven distribution of heat. If this is repeated regularly, it can also damage the oven.

 Aluminum foils have also been found to create sparks if they touch the sides of the oven. It’s extremely dangerous and must be avoided.

While buying a microwave, you would get a manual containing instructions to follow while microwaving food. That manual lists the kind of containers that are microwave safe. Experts recommend people to use such tested containers for one’s safety.

Can cause food based fires and injuries

A lot of times, homeowners are in a hurry to complete other household chores. They leave the food inside the microwave for too long, often forgetting about it completely. This is extremely risky and dangerous. Experts advise people to wait and take the food out, before indulging in any other chore. Such negligence can cause burns, scalds and electric fires.

So, by now you know the cause of microwave fires. The only way to prevent such accidents is to stop overheating food inside a microwave. Even an extra three minutes can turn nicely baked potatoes to a burnt mess.

These food based fires generate a lot of smoke. If you spot smoke coming out from a microwave, make sure to turn it off and unplug it immediately. Do not touch the microwave at all and let the door be closed.

Microwave radiation and heat hazards

A lot of reports on people’s injuries, including skin burns and scalding has been reported to the FDA. These have been caused due to eruption of boiling water from a cup after it had been overheating in a microwave oven.

When water becomes super-heated, any slight movement of the container can result in a sudden, violent eruption, harming anyone near it.

What needs our attention is the fact that microwave radiation can heat our body tissues like it heats food. This means that prolonged exposure to microwave radiation is harmful. It can cause burns. Most vulnerable to these radiations are the eyes and the testes.

The lens of the human eye is especially sensitive to excess, intense heat and exposure to high amounts of microwave radiation can cause cataracts.

Therefore, homeowners should take precautionary measures when they are standing near a microwave. Also, while handling hot beverages or food, such precautions are necessary.

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The Bottom Line

That being said, there are very rare instances when the human body has been affected by microwave radiation. While that’s still a possibility, it occurs only when the body is exposed to large amounts of radiation.

Sometimes, this is possible when there’s any crack or gap in the microwave oven seal. Therefore, keep your machine in check and repair or replace it whenever you notice any malfunction.

Majority of homeowners find microwaves to be effective, safe and convenient. Some even find them better than other cooking methods when it comes to maintaining the nutritional value of food and preventing the formation of harmful elements.

What users should keep in mind is that microwaves are safe when used as per the instructions mentioned. If you do not follow them, nobody knows what happens next. So, whenever you heat food in a microwave, watch the clock  and take the food out when it is properly heated.

Also, remember not to stand too close to the microwave and place food in a plastic or metal container for heating. Only use containers that have been declared as microwave safe, like ceramics.

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