It's no secret that spinach is beneficial to your health as it's a power food ready to protect your bones, eyes, brain, heart, and much more. With essential nutrients and antioxidants, spinach can fill out your diet, and you can cook it in the microwave!
Does Spinach Retain Its Nutrients When Cooked in the Microwave?
Microwave ovens use energy waves that are comparable to radio waves but shorter. These waves are extremely selective, affecting just water and other electrically asymmetrical molecules (one end positively charged, the other negatively charged). Microwaves induce these molecules to vibrate, quickly generating thermal (heat) energy.
The optimum cooking method for retaining nutrients is one that cooks quickly, heats food quickly, and uses as little liquid as possible. Microwaving satisfies these requirements. Microwaving food with a small amount of water steams the food from the inside out. This preserves more vitamins and minerals than practically any other cooking method, demonstrating that microwave food can be nutritious.
Some people prefer to use a plastic bag with a seal but ensure the plastic is microwaveable for safety. While cooking spinach in the microwave is safe, not all plastics are safe for the microwave. Furthermore, do not put melamine in the microwave either. Unfortunately, melamine and plastic often look very similar.
With or Without a Steamer Basket?
You can use a steam basket or skip if you prefer. Silicone or microwave-safe plastic steam baskets work best as you cannot microwave metal. However, as you will wash the spinach first, simply do not wring the water off, and that will be enough liquid for steaming. Some people prefer to use a damp paper towel or a microwave-safe lid and bowl.
Cleaning and Preparing the Spinach
Clean the leaves of any dirt and trim them for less work after and for extra tenderness. It's quite normal for the leaves to have some soil on them whether you're using freshly selected spinach from a grocery shop, farmer's market, or if you grew the spinach yourself. Remove any dirt from the leaves by rinsing them under lukewarm water and gently rubbing them with your fingertips.
If there are any long, fibrous stems, clip them off using a knife or a pair of kitchen scissors. You can keep the stems if you prefer, as they are beneficial and edible, but some people do not like the stems. Leave the water on if you are not using a steam basket, or pat them dry with a paper towel. Alternately you can wash the spinach in a bowl of water.
You can cut the spinach or break it up into smaller pieces while it's still cool to prevent burns. Shorter leaves are much easier to eat and get onto a fork or mix into a meal. Chopping the spinach will not affect the time or the flavor but definitely make it easier to eat!
Steps to Steam Spinach in the Microwave
Place the leaves in a microwave-safe bowl while they are still moist to steam spinach in the microwave. There is no need to add more water if the leaves are still wet. Use a microwave-safe lid to cover the dish. If you prefer, use a damp paper towel over dry leaves to provide the necessary moisture to steam the spinach. Longer bowls work better if you are cooking larger portions of the veggie. If you use a plastic bag, do not seal the bag completely but leave a little gap to ensure the bag does not explode from the pressure.
Microwave spinach on high until all of the leaves is dark green and completely wilted. Steaming a 1/2 pound of medium-sized spinach leaves takes around 3 minutes. Smaller amounts of spinach will only take two minutes or less. Allow the spinach and container to cool and finish cooking before removing to eat. Make sure to use potholders to prevent burns. Finally, drain the excess water before seasoning as desired or adding to a dish.
Keep in mind that microwaves come in different wattages. Higher wattages may need less time by about thirty seconds. One thousand-watt microwave may take only a minute and a half to cook a half-pound. Check the leaves before removing them to gauge the level of doneness.
Tips for Steaming Spinach
Try to avoid opening the spinach to check, as this can affect the cooking and texture of the spinach. Always let the spinach rest after use to avoid scalding food in your mouth. If you are microwaving large amounts, then consider doing it in batches to avoid problems. The leaves will be wilted when they are done, but if you overcook them, they can oxidize and turn too dark. Finally, do not reheat cooked spinach in the microwave; just toss it in the trash.
As there is no need to add water when microwaving spinach, more of the water-soluble vitamins A and K contained in spinach are preserved. Microwaving also demands very short cook periods and gets dinner on the table faster, saving you time. Start adding steamed spinach to your diet and enjoy all the health benefits from this power food.