When faced with a serious illness. it's amazing how much easier it becomes to give up certain things. Our microwave was one of those things.

When my husband was diagnosed with cancer last spring, it was one of the first things to go. We had already been in the process of changing a lot of things (food, toiletries, cleaning supplies, etc.) but the microwave was one that we had been procrastinating on.

I have never read any absolutely firm evidence (i.e. truly scientific, extremely reputable studies) that microwaves are harmful to our health or that they are carcinogenic (cancer-causing). I imagine that even if such a study was performed, it's results would be kept very much under wraps by those who have money to be made. I have read many very educated opinions, as well as much intelligent speculation, that microwaves may possibly be very dangerous and should be avoided as much as possible. Even before getting rid of ours, I kept my daughter away from it when it was on, and I always tried to stand a few feet away as well.

Here are just a couple of articles I found online, discussing the dangers and studies done on the use of microwaves :

Proven Dangers of Microwaves
The Hidden Hazards of Microwave Cooking
Microwave Cooking is Killing You

I am not going to try to convince you that you should all immediately go and throw your microwaves in the dumpster. However, I do think that it is worth reading about, and worth considering how you could learn to go without!

Here are a few tips that I have learned as I have gone back to the good old days of not being able to just nuke my food:

  • If you forget to take your meat out to thaw it, put it in a sink full of cool water. It's not as fast, but it definitely thaws faster (and safer) than just sitting on the counter. Sometimes I just adjust my cooking time to the fact that my meat isn't perfectly thawed.
  • Ground meat can be cooked frozen- simply flip it from side to side over medium heat, and each time scrape off the portion that has thawed.
  • Use a toaster oven to re-heat leftovers, instead of heating the whole oven. Ours came with a small tray that works great for a meal sized amount of food.
  • A pot or pan on the stove is such a fast way to re-heat soups, stews, stir-fries, etc.
  • Infant's milk and food should never be microwaved (it decreases nutrients, as well as heats unevenly and creates pockets where heat and steam are trapped). I try to remember to take out frozen baby food in the morning and leave it on the counter to thaw by lunch or dinner (unless it's meat or dairy). Lately I've been using a ceramic bowl in the toaster oven to heat it slightly. Running a glass jar under hot running water works well, as does boiling a small pot or pan with water and putting the bowl of food inside (note- this only works if your child is not feeding themselves out of the bowl- if they are, make sure to transfer the warmed food to a cool bowl before serving it).
  • For hot beverages, use a kettle for hot water or else heat the beverage in a pot on the stove. I make amazing frothy milk for lattes by heating it on the stove, and then pumping it up and down in a french press.
  • Please, don't use microwave popcorn (if not for any other reason than that the oils that make it taste buttery are terrible for you)! Get an old fashioned corn popper from a thrift store or garage sale, or just use an old camping pot on the stove top. Melt your butter on the stove, or in the nifty little compartment on top of the popper.

Not owning a microwave helps me to think ahead about my meal planning and thawing food from the freezer. I've gotten so used to preparing our food on the stove and in the oven, and in fact, I wouldn't really even want to eat soggy, nuked food anymore!

Has anyone else given up their microwave? Please share your tips for thawing, heating and re-heating foods!

Originally published December 2007