Microwaving vegetables in plastic "steam" bags

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created June 14, 2011 at 6:32 AM

Using steam bags is one of the easiest ways I know to quickly cookie vegetables in a microwave and it's ridiculously convenient for work.

The problem is my wife believes these bags are minions of cancer and that the plastic can leach into the vegetables during the heating process.

Is there any validity to this concern? And if so, any good alternatives to steaming veggies at work?

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9 Answers

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on June 14, 2011
at 03:13 PM

I don't cook anything in the microwave in plastic. Everything goes into a ceramic bowl with a ceramic plate used for a lid, or glass. Anytime you heat up plastic, you're releasing chemicals. You may notice that the texture of the bag changes after you use it - that's because it released chemicals. Scientifically, we know BPA is bad, because it's been studied. The rest of it hasn't been well studied, which is a good enough reason to avoid it if you ask me.



on June 14, 2011
at 03:36 PM

As a chemist, plastics scare me. The only time I use plastic is in my leftover containers to take food to work (and that's just because I haven't gotten around to getting any glass ones that seal good). I don't heat anything up in plastic. Even sous vide scares me and that's only around 100 degrees. I find it too hard to draw pictures here on paleohacks, so I won't, but when you look at the structures of most plastics, it's easy to see how they can be carcinogenic. I had a similar rant about sunscreen a while ago here (http://paleohacks.com/questions/37200/are-you-aware-that-using-sunscreen-may-cause-skin-cancer/37202#37202), it all comes down to the structures of the molecules. Stick with glass.



on June 14, 2011
at 11:05 AM

I don't trust plastic, so I wouldn't use those bags. It just seems to have too many harmful chemicals that we're only just learning about.

I usually just steam my vegetables in the bowl I'm going to use, which is a microwave safe ceramic one.


on June 14, 2011
at 06:43 AM

Steam basket is your friend :)

I only use to microwave to warm up food, not actually cook it, so I would steam it at home (a metal steam basket is a must for every kitchen) and warm up your veggies at work (preferably in a glass or ceramic bowl).

As for being the minions of cancer, I can't say as companies have taken BPA and pthalates out of food useable items. But I can neither vouch or deny that. Forget about buying anymore bags, by the basket and save coin.



on June 14, 2011
at 06:37 AM

I don't know if there's any science to back it up, but I'm with your wife. And even if there's not science NOW, there probably will be not that far in the future. Look how the FDA flipflopped on Bisphenol A. Plus, all that plastic ...

Could you precook and then just heat up?



on June 14, 2011
at 12:26 PM

I don't use bags. They are single-use expensive eco-unfriendly things. Mostly I'm cheap though. I have tons, just tons, of little plastic re-useable containers in every size that stock nice and neat in both fridge and freezer and go straight into the microwave for defrosting heating if necessary. Sure..you have to wash them. Yes, glass would be better, but they're heavy and breakable. I say this because I have my doubts about all plastic but give in to convenience a tad on this one.



on June 14, 2011
at 10:46 AM

I use them. My understanding is that they are nylon like roasting bags and crockpot liners. Now that doesn't mean it isn't plastic, but it does mean is is made of a plastic with a known specific melting point, 545 F, that is pretty durn stable below that. So I personally don???t worry about it.


on June 14, 2011
at 10:45 AM

I don't know about the plastic leaching into the vegetables causing cancer, but I DO know these "Steam Fresh" vegetables taste like plastic once they've cooked. I'd just as soon use a steam basket on the stove, or saute my vegetables.



on June 14, 2011
at 09:43 AM

I use one of these. Really handy, holds about 400-450 grams of frozen broccoli or cauliflower. I usually either fill that up from a plastic bag the night before or in the morning and take it with me to work, i use a rubber band to keep it closed. 12 minutes in the microwave if straight out of the freezer.


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