Most homes in the United States have a microwave oven, the last couple of generations are more likely to have grown up with one than not. The popularity of microwaves makes sense, they offer a fast way to prepare and reheat food and have been somewhat of a kitchen revolution rivaling the introduction of the food processor. 
You might guess that I’m not a big fan of the microwave and you’d be guessing right. First and foremost, I am concerned about the effects of a radiation box in my home. And honestly, I have never cared for microwaved food. It’s just not as good. It’s always uneven- burnt on one side, frozen on the other. It’s impossible to get anything crispy, despite the paper fold-up sleeves designed to magically make it happen. It’s useless. Some elements of culinary technique simply are not available by way of this artificial method of heating.
It's just the way a microwave works. Unlike traditional ovens, which cause changes in the actual temperature to heat food, microwaves use electromagnetic radiation to agitate molecules. This agitation causes vibration and that generates heat. Now, observers of space will attest to the presence of radiation in our universe. So in that sense, it is natural, but keep in mind we’re literally searching space for a justification to say that. Exposure to radiation is not good for your health.
How Safe Are Microwaves?
Not surprisingly, there has been a lot of back and forth debate over whether or not microwave radiation is damaging. You can search PubMed and find research on the subject but you can also simplify the process by just answering the following question. If a microwave the size of a living room existed, would you be alright with getting inside and turning it on “high” for a minute or two? Me either.
Another topic that’s generated a lot of discussion is the added concern of some of the materials used in the cookware people use with their microwave . Plastic that contains BPA (and plastic that doesn’t) is problematic already. Why would anyone think it’s a good idea to wrap up food with that stuff and then give it a good spray of radiation? 
What Clues Already Exist?
Many responsible parenting resources will absolutely recommend against microwaving breast milk or formula . If you ever need a blood transfusion the blood will be warmed prior to the procedure but rest assured it will not be done with a microwave. No gourmet restaurant is serving food prepared by a team of trusty microwaves. These are just a couple examples of how microwaves are not used in situations “where it really counts.”
You Don’t Need It
Thing is though, it always counts. Every meal you eat, especially if you’re eating with loved ones, should be prepared on purpose and with purpose. Things get hectic and schedules are busy but there are also natural foods of convenience that can be had during those times. And if you’re finding that you’re always in the middle of chaos and “have to” microwave food because you’re on the go, it might be time to regroup, refocus, declutter, and get back on track.
Give It Up
If you and your microwave are best friends, or even just good acquaintances, I challenge you to eliminate all microwave use for one month. Make it a New Years resolution. Switch to using an oven or toaster to heat your food and water. Or, if you really like, fire. Try it. And let me know how it makes your life different. I want to know how it affects your food decisions and the mechanics surrounding your meal time. Perhaps you could even do without any cooked food and adopt a raw vegan diet for a month. Now, how do you think that would affect your health?
- Stephanie Butler. Natural history of the kitchen: food processor. Eat Me Daily. 2010 June 1.
- The Harvard Medical School. Microwaving food in plastic: dangerous of not? Family Health Guide. 2006 July.
- Katherine Zeratsky RD LD. What is BPA, and what are the concerns about BPA?. Mayo Clinic. 2010 December 2.
- La Leche League International. Can human milk be heated in the microwave? Heating Human Milk in the Microwave. 2007 February 18
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.