When to Cover Food in the Microwave

Nicholas Briano

The microwave, invented more than 50 years ago, has grown to become a household mainstay and a necessity for quick cooking and reheating. One problem with microwaves, however, is that when food heats, some types of foods have a tendency to splatter and cause a mess inside the microwave.

Covering these items can prevent this from occurring.

What Foods To Cover?

Cover the types of foods that you believe may splatter in the microwave. Splattering is difficult to clean even right after you remove the food item. The splattered material has usually dried up by the time the microwave stops, making it difficult to clean. Common items that are known to splatter are soups and sauce-based foods that bubble as they heat up.

Cover Without Really Covering

The average plastic container comes with a lid that snaps shut to prevent leakage. In most other circumstances this is fine -- but not when using a microwave. Microwaves travel horizontally through the container to heat the food up. As the temperature inside the sealed container rises, the lid can blow off and cause splattering. Instead, place the cover over the container without snapping it in place. Simply cover it to block splattering.

Advantages To Covering

Foods that are steamed, such as rice, benefit from covering in the microwave. In order to steam the food, the heat must be trapped by a cover to create the steam. This will heat an item up faster as well. If you cook something uncovered, it will lose most of the heat as it warms up and will most likely cook the outside first and leave the middle of the food cold. The cover uses the steam to more evenly cook the food in the microwave.

Other Materials Used as Covers

If you find yourself heating up food on a microwave-safe plate that does not have a designated cover, you will need to use something else. It's permissible to use either plastic wrap or wax paper to cover your food in the microwave. Plastic wrap should only be used for short reheating sessions because of its tendency to shrivel up if it gets too hot. Never use foil in the microwave. Special vented microwave dish covers are sold in some housewares departments.