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“Don’t Re-Heat These Foods In The Mic” – Maybe…

I just stumbled on a story re-posted from Reader’s Digest on MSN.com. It purports to list 10 foods you should never re-heat in the microwave. I agree with some of them. I disagree with others. And I once again invoke common sense to settle the issue…

Red Grapes - © Olivia BarrDon’t even think about microwaving grapes!

Here we go…

Reader’s Digest publishes a story on a food safety issue. There’s no bio on the reporter, stating their suitability or qualifications to write such a report. And no attribution for the recommendations made. It’s simply credited to: ‘Reader’s Digest Editors’.

Before I go any farther with this analysis, I feel I must point out that this form of post – The Bast-of/Worst-of List – is often used as a device to promote cross-links with other stories on the site. In other words, the content is not new, its just repurposed from other, more specific posts. So I accept the ‘editors’ motives, if I don’t necessarily approve of their means of achieving their objective. And I’ll allow, right off the bat, that those nameless ‘editors’ who repurposed the content into the post under consideration may not have produced the most accurate article. But they did NOT inject any serious errors or misinformation into the material, either.

As you know, I speak as a long-time food lover, cook and professional chef, with formal training in the French Tradition. And I passed my Food Handling Safety Certificate training with honours.

My choices for a closer look

Of the ten foods listed in the post, I want to take a closer look at the recommendations the ‘editors’ made for a select subgroup. Some of these foods I am already on record, in this space, of offering my own recommendations for re-heating. To others I will apply common sense and sound food science.

Be my guest to view the entire list in the original Reader’s Digest post.

The top most contentious foods on the list…

Hard-boiled Eggs

Have you ever had occasion to re-heat a hard-boiled egg? Me, either.

But if you do, Reader’s Digest cautions: “Shelled or unshelled, when a hard-boiled egg is cooked in a microwave, the moisture inside creates an extreme steam build-up, like a miniature pressure cooker, to the point where the egg can explode! Even scarier, the egg won’t burst inside the microwave while it’s being heated, but afterward, which means the scalding hot egg can erupt in your hand, on your plate, or even in your mouth.”

I can see such a thing happening, in extreme circumstances. I imagine it would be the yolk and not the white that would generate steam. But I also suspect that the egg would not be in the mic, under live radiation, long enough to get that hot. Especially if it came right out of the fridge. And If you were really nervous about the chance of an explosion, you could just cut in half before heating. You were going to slice it or chop it anyway – right?

Breast Milk

Gimme a break!

Everyone – and I mean everyone who’s ever had to feed an infant – knows you gently rewarm breast milk by immersing the bottle in a warm water bath. It would be too easy to destroy the essential vitamins and minerals – not to mention degrade the vital organic compounds in breast milk by heating it anywhere above body temperature. I mean, anyone in charge of feeding infants is formally trained, or at least specifically instructed in the proper handling procedures.

Only the dimmest bulbs among our younger generations would even consider microwaving breast milk!


Yes, you can reheat it!

Basic white Rice is so easy to make, a lot of folks think, “I’ll make a big pot of it so I have leftovers for meals to come.” Good strategy, but such a plan can fail miserably in practice. Rice, pasta and potatoes can be problematical to reheat, especially if they have not been stored properly in the fridge.

See my recent post on ‘special handling for rice and pasta’ for details. And don’t throw out leftover rice or pasta just because some Reader’s Digest editor told you to!


Or any whole fruit, for that matter.

As with raw eggs in the shell, steam can build up under the skin leading to an explosion. But there’s another dimension to this unfortunate practice that bears exposure.

Reader’s Digest offers this science fiction-like factoid: “In a video, Stephen Bosi, PhD, physics lecturer at the University of New England, shows nuking two pieces of a plain ol’ grape in a microwave can create enough plasma to melt a hole through a plastic container.”

Pretty amazing. But Bosi admits the plasma effect may be limited to grapes, alone.

My take

The editors make minor points about concentrating harmful nitrites in cured meats and producing such harmful substances in other foods such as leafy greens and beetroot. But on the whole, They don’t present any foods you serve cooked in the first place, that you can’t re-heat in the microwave.

One caveat: Just as microwaving grapes won’t result in raisins, microwaving chili peppers won’t result in dried chilis. And it might release painful fumes.

Bottom line: Let common sense – and your experience – prevail…

~ Maggie J.