Microwave Ovens

I’ve never owned a microwave oven. It’s really the only thing, other than smoking, that I absolutely forbid in our house.

Why? I don’t understand how they work, and however it is that they do work seems to defy all logic. I suppose “electricity” is no less mysterious, and thus my suspicions should extend to regular ovens too. But they don’t. At least regular ovens got hot. Which in my book is a necessary requirement of anything that’s going to be doing the cooking in my house.

Of course this has caused others in my house some degree of hardship — no baby bottles were microwaved, no chicken breasts get quickly defrosted, no quick popcorn-in-a-bag for us.

It’s been mostly a lonely, irrational obstinacy that’s kept the microwaves out all these years.

Until today, when I spotted this sign on the wall of The Courtyard, a coffee shop on Locke Street in Hamilton:

Anti-Microwave Oven Manifesto

The sign makes reference to Dangers of Microwaving, which is a much more complete list of anti-microwave reasoning. I don’t know enough about the science of microwaves to be able to judge the truth of what’s written there, and it may be all drivel. But as it bolsters my until-now-knee-jerk anti-microwave stance, I welcome the help.


Rob's picture
Rob on May 8, 2008 - 07:12 Permalink

I’m ready to believe that microwave ovens can be harmful… but that page you linked to says microwaves cause “Breakdown of the human life-energy field”. It is probably worthwhile to try fishing up some more science-approved arguments on this issue. I’m sure they’re out there! I’ve seen how those marshmallows can explode in there.

Steven Garrity's picture
Steven Garrity on May 8, 2008 - 13:35 Permalink

But a cell-phone is ok?

Jevon's picture
Jevon on May 8, 2008 - 15:40 Permalink

Steven: I am pretty sure the coming Nokia N96x has a point-and-microwave option. Best of both worlds.

Jeremy Latham's picture
Jeremy Latham on May 8, 2008 - 17:39 Permalink

Peter — here’s a link to a Canadian government explanation about how microwaves work and the safety of microwave ovens:


After reading, I hope you enjoy the convenience of a new microwave.

Pat Garrity's picture
Pat Garrity on May 8, 2008 - 18:35 Permalink

I’ve always thought that if anything in my house is slowly killing me it’s the microwave; maybe toothpaste too….

Leah's picture
Leah on May 8, 2008 - 22:57 Permalink

I’m with you — we haven’t had a microwave oven for 22 years and for no rational reason other than it just doesn’t seem right. Every once in awhile we ponder it and we say — not a resounding no — just a naaahhh. I haven’t heard much about the dangers of the microwave itself but it’s interesting hearing about the dangers of the products we put in there — ‘bad’ microwave popcorn, heating leftovers up in plastic (euuu), miracle meals of the very quick variety (wrapped in plastic). I did notice one company up-selling their wax-paper encased microwaveable vegetables.

Rob's picture
Rob on May 9, 2008 - 02:48 Permalink

Well, don’t buy bad microwave popcorn and put your leftovers onto ceramic plates! Wax-veggies are gross! Don’t buy them! I use a conventional oven, but I don’t put veggies wrapped in plastic in there, either! It leaves a film in my mouth.

If science tells me “microwaving tomato sauce in a Pyrex measuring cup results in carcinogenic goo” then I’ll stop.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have a bad vibe about cellphones. I never owned one and I avoid them. I tell myself it’s for reasons other than I think it cooks my brain. But at the end of the day, I’m a hypocrite.

Plus, the dude from where I buy my flaxseed told me it has been shown that cell phones “stank up your peace-aura”.

oliver's picture
oliver on May 9, 2008 - 08:30 Permalink

You mean you understand how a 747 stays in the air? If you understand how radio and wifi work, and why computers heat up, you understand how a microwave oven cooks your food. The somewhat special bit is that pretty much it’s just the water molecules that are absorbing the microwaves. You could think of them as the antennas—or think of the radio frequency of the “ovencast” as having been selected to optimize reception by water molecules, which are caused to spin.

oliver's picture
oliver on May 9, 2008 - 08:34 Permalink

That free-radical assertion on the list of alleged dangers sounds like pure bunk to me, as do several others. The list doesn’t deserve to be addressed item by item. That’s my own knee-jerk response.

Melinda Stanley's picture
Melinda Stanley on May 9, 2008 - 13:10 Permalink

My husband told me about the potential risks of mircrowaves a couple of years ago. I still continued to use it on the very rare occasion of heating something up quickly. Otherwise, I just put it on the stovetop.

We’ve just moved and while we were waiting for our stuff to get from Fredericton to Halifax, my husband read to me more dangers that he found online that are apparently associated with microwaves. So, needless to say, the microwave is on the microwave stand… but hidden in the dining room and not even plugged in.

My idea for this, is that down in my apartment lobby, there is a security camera and we can watch this camera on our tv. I thought that someday, I would like to take the microwave down to the lobby and leave it

oliver's picture
oliver on May 9, 2008 - 21:33 Permalink

Regarding the way microwaves are produced, you could read up on klystrons and (especially in ovens) magnetrons.

oliver's picture
oliver on May 11, 2008 - 00:28 Permalink

How’s this: Just think of a potato as a radio and the oven as the CBC.