If you own and use a microwave, one of the worst things you can hear during use, short of a fire alarm going off, is that little popping noise. Sometimes the popping is because you’re microwaving a bag of movie-theater popcorn at home. And sometimes it means your food is heated through—and it’s all over the microwave.
These tiny explosions occur when the moisture in food is heated rapidly. If there isn’t enough space for that steam to escape, it forces its way out, causing that popping sound. Unfortunately, it can also cause a mess all over the inside of your microwave.
The good news is, there’s an easy strategy to prevent frequent microwave cleanings. Covering your plate or bowl will get the job done.
Of course, what you cover your dish with matters, too. Many plastic wraps are microwave safe, making them an okay option. Just make sure you cut slits or leave a corner open for steam to escape, or you could end up with a bigger explosion on your hands. However, this can feel somewhat wasteful.
For a biodegradable alternative, you can’t go wrong with a wet paper towel. Run it under the tap for a moment, squeeze out extra water (you don’t want it to drip) and place over top your food. A dry paper towel tends to blow off during the microwaving process, rendering it totally useless from protecting your appliance from splatters. The water keeps the paper towel weighed down and helps it stick to the rim of your dish.
The paper towel method is good for flavor, too. You know how sometimes you pull food out of the microwave, only to find that it’s totally dry, and your microwave destroyed the flavor? The water in the paper towel will also create steam and help everything stay moist.
For an even better microwave experience, arrange food on a plate with an empty space in the middle. The “waves” only travel a short distance, usually only reaching the outermost edge of your dish. This is why a couple of minutes in the microwave can still leave something like a burrito scalding on the outside and frozen in the center. Leaving a hole in the center when possible can help with more even cooking.