The next time you’re sighing trying to find a cover to warm up your lunch, you might be wondering: why cover food in the microwave? Why is it so important? Do I really need that lid?
Today I’m going to go over the top 3 reasons why you want to cover your food in the microwave. In short, it boils down to convenience, better food quality, and safety.
So, let’s dive into why it’s important to cover food in the microwave.
1. Helps Keep Your Microwave Clean
The first reason you should cover food in the microwave is that it helps keep your microwave clean.
As pockets of moisture in your food heat up, it naturally leads to some “pops” which propel food outwards. If you don’t have a cover on your food, it’s readily splattered onto the walls and ceiling of your microwave instead.
Next thing you know, you’re constantly wiping down the inside, scrubbing and soaking the removable parts trying to get that stuck on food to come loose. You could have saved all that hassle by just putting a cover on your food.
If you are in this conundrum, though, make sure to check out our best microwave cleaners for some recommendations on how to make the job a bit easier.
2. Reduces Moisture Loss and Promotes Even Cooking
The next reason it’s important to cover food in the microwave is that it helps food cook more evenly and lose less moisture.
That lid on top of the food actually helps to trap moisture (in a good way!) so that your food stays moist. This is particularly important in reheating, such as when you reheat a baked potato in the microwave. No one wants a sad, sandy-textured potato.
All that steam floating around under the lid actually helps your food heat more evenly as well. Just like the reason why the microwave spins, it causes heat to be applied more thoroughly across the food, so you get fewer cold pockets.
Of course, that’s important for reheating, but it’s equally important for defrosting as well. A lid helps you defrost fish in the microwave by getting all the ice out while helping to prevent you from starting to cook the edges.
3. Steams Any Bacteria for Safer Eating
The last big reason to cover food in the microwave is because it’s actually safer. The steam bath created by trapped moisture helps to cook off any bacteria that may have formed in your food.
Now that’s not to say all food has bacteria in it, but if you didn’t put it away quite fast enough or it sat in that temperature danger zone a tad too long, you could have grown something unwanted in there.
By giving it a hot steam injection, you’re likely to kill off any of that pesky bacteria in your food. Just remember to bring it to at least 165°F in the middle. That, as I mentioned before, is also much easier with a lid, since heat is better distributed. No more cold middles!
What Happens if You Don’t Cover Food in the Microwave?
What happens if you don’t cover food in the microwave is pretty much the opposite effect of all the reasons you should cover food in the microwave.
If you don’t cover food in the microwave, it will:
- Likely splatter, creating a mess that needs cleaning in your microwave
- Remove too much moisture and cause your food to dry out
- Create cold pockets and/or not kill off bacteria, particularly on reheated foods
In short, it will create a mess, and you definitely won’t enjoy your food as much!
Is It Safe Not to Cover Food in the Microwave?
Generally speaking, it is safe not to cover food in the microwave.
However, just because you won’t get radiation poisoning from leaving the lid off doesn’t mean you shouldn’t cover your food.
While food splatters in the microwave aren’t really harmful, they will make your microwave stink and create a lot of work for you.
Cold pockets in your food are inconvenient and dare I say annoying, but they’re not generally something that makes it dangerous.
What Can I Cover My Food With in the Microwave?
You can cover your food in the microwave with:
- Paper towels
- A vented microwave lid
- Other microwave safe lids (such as Rubbermaid)
- Microwave safe plastic wrap
That’s right – you don’t need a fancy lid to cover your food in the microwave. Reaching for something as simple as a sheet of paper towels goes a long way.
If you’re using some other type of lid, make sure you know what the microwave safe symbol is so you don’t melt it onto your food accidentally.
I do love the reusable lids, however, as they’re easy to just pop in the dishwasher for easy cleanup after a meal. Check out our best microwave splatter covers if you want to get one of your own!
Believe it or not, but there are even limited circumstances where you can put aluminum foil in the microwave.
Now that you know why you should cover food in the microwave and how easy it is to do so, it won’t seem like much of a hassle.
Taking that extra few seconds to add a lid helps your food heat more evenly, stay more moist, and makes the cleanup job much easier.
Whether you use a reusable lid or just grab a paper towel, they accomplish the same job! So, don’t feel like using a cover means a lot of extra expense. You’ll save that and more in time spent cleaning or food that gets tossed!