Nothing like a hot can of spam for its salty, gooey goodness. It’s one of those foods you either love or despise; there’s no in-between.
I like how it goes with almost anything, from fried rice and potatoes to macaroni and cheese. And when I’m too busy to make dinner, having something quick and easy on tap is always a plus.
However, confusion arises about whether or not you can cook this canned meat in your microwave. Some argue that if microwaved for too long, the plastic lining inside the can will leach toxins into your meal. Others believe processed food is just as unhealthy in the microwave or oven.
So, what’s fact and what’s fiction? Can you microwave spam?
Yes, microwaving is a quick and easy way to turn spam into a delicious entrée. And although microwaved spam might not have the same crisp texture as fried ones, it does accentuate the flavors beautifully. Keep an eye on it to ensure it doesn’t overcook and become dry.
For more insights on cooking spam in the microwave and much more, please read on.
What Is Spam, And Is It Good for You?
Spam is a pre-cooked canned meat product comprised of pork shoulder, ham, salt, water, potato starch, and sodium nitrate as a preservative.
And, if I recall correctly, its popularity soared in 1937 when Hormel Foods introduced it as an inexpensive meat alternative for US troops on long marches or living on field rations. Today, this war-era staple can be found in most kitchens across America, usually served with eggs and rice or eaten straight from the tin.
However, as my grandpa would say, not all that glitters is gold. While spam is delightful and easy to use, controversy has surrounded its place in human diets. Some believe that its high-fat content makes it detrimental to one’s diet. Others worry about its relatively high sodium content.
But what does science have to say?
A quick Google search reveals one thing the above concerns are valid. For context, 1 ounce of spam contains 180 calories, 16 grams of fat, 790 mg of sodium, 7 grams of protein, 1 gram of carbs, and traces of minerals. Unfortunately, that’s bad news for your heart health, waistline, and blood pressure levels.
However, don’t get discouraged yet. Like any other food, moderation is key. If you’re having bacon, cheese, eggs, and toast, pieces of spam won’t make or break your breakfast. So, before you banish this delicacy from your pantry forever, try incorporating it into your meal plan sparingly.
Can You Cook Spam in the Microwave?
Yes, microwaving is a quick and easy way to cook spam for your lunch or dinner.
However, this method does not always work best with this product. For starters, with a microwave, I find it difficult to achieve that crispy crust and brown texture you get from frying. If you fall in this camp, microwaving might not be the best choice.
Secondly, microwaves have a bad rap for drying out food. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about canned meat, it’s that moisture retention is critical. If left for too long or microwaved at too high of a temperature, the result can be tough and rubbery.
So how do we overcome these obstacles?
I find that microwaving my spam in short bursts rather than one continuous cycle solves the problem of dried-out meat. Remember, spam is pre-cooked and only needs to warm up. As a result, monitor your food closely, so it does not overheat.
And don’t fret! Even if you don’t achieve that signature fried texture, you’ll relish its savory flavor and heartiness. Next time you’re looking for a quick fix, remember: sometimes convenience comes with trade-offs.
Can You Eat Spam Without Cooking It?
Absolutely yes, spam is pre-cooked and safe to eat straight from the can.
Remember me earlier mentioning spam and its role in World War II?
The invention of this canned meat was a pivotal turning point in the war, providing sustenance for soldiers during times of rationing.
But its effectiveness as a wartime staple stems from the fact that it does not require refrigeration or cooking. It’s ready to eat! You just pop open the can, slice some of the meat with a sharp knife, and go.
And if you’re concerned about its degree of safety or the risk of contracting a foodborne illness, don’t be. Spam has undergone pasteurization, an FDA-approved process that destroys harmful bacteria before it reaches your plates. Furthermore, its high sodium nitrate concentration makes it shelf stable and impossible for bacteria to survive.
However, this is not a free pass to simply eat it unheated at will. Many individuals describe the taste of uncooked spam as bland, musty, salty, oily, and rubbery. Fortunately, cooking solves these issues. It alters the texture and enhances flavor, resulting in one delicious dish.
How Long Does Spam Take to Cook in the Microwave?
Typically, it will take about 20-30 seconds to “cook” spam in the microwave.
As I mentioned earlier, spam is already cooked upon canning and hence only requires warming up to enhance its flavor. Microwaving it for too long may dry or overcook the meat, resulting in a tough texture.
To avoid such situations, I recommend starting with 20-30 seconds and gradually increasing by 5 seconds at a time, evaluating for doneness after each interval. Once warm, it should be juicy, tender, and delicious.
However, the cooking time may vary based on factors such as your microwave’s power, the slices’ thickness, and whether they’re frozen or thawed. Overall, do not exceed 1 minute.
Tips For Microwaving Spam
For the novice cook, here are some helpful tips for making your first microwaved spam dish:
1. Cut the spam into pieces
This increases the surface area of the food, allowing more heat to penetrate and cook it faster. You’ll also want to cut them evenly, so they all cook at the same rate. The easiest way is with a sharp knife or kitchen shears.
2. Avoid overcrowding
It’s tempting to pile as many spam pieces as possible on a platter. However, overcrowding leads to steaming rather than cooking, resulting in a soggy dish. If you have too many pieces to fit on one plate, I suggest microwaving in batches instead.
3. Use a microwave-safe container
Spam comes packaged in aluminum tins. Microwaving a metal tin can cause sparks or even an explosion. To avoid these dangers, always transfer the spam into ceramic, glass, or other microwave-safe containers.
4. Cook for 20-30 seconds at a time
Cooking in rounds ensures that all parts of the meal are thoroughly heated without overcooking any one part. To be safe, the total microwaving time should not exceed 1 minute per batch.
5. Thaw frozen spam
Frozen spam takes longer to cook and is more prone to overheating. Add 30-60 seconds to the cooking time and check periodically until warmed to your liking.
How To Cook Spam in the Microwave
Now that we’ve established that cooking enhances the taste of spam, below is a simple guide on heating it in the microwave:
- Carefully open the top of your spam tin using a can opener or kitchen knife, avoiding sharp edges as much as possible.
- Place your spam on a chopping board and cut it into even pieces with a serrated blade or kitchen shears. For example, I usually make thinly-sliced pieces for my sandwich, while I use thicker slices for sushi rolls.
- Transfer the pieces and arrange them on a microwave-safe plate in a single layer.
- Pop the plate of spam in the microwave and set it to cook on high for 30 seconds. Increase the time progressively until the pieces are warm enough to your liking. Do not exceed 1 minute as the risk of drying out the meat increases.
- Remove from the microwave and serve as desired.
Alternatives To Microwaving Spam
Sometimes, I want my spam crispy and crunchy, which is impossible to achieve with microwaves. In this case, I either fry it on the stovetop, bake it in the oven, or air fry it.
All these methods have one thing in common-they take longer to cook than a microwave. However, the results are worth the extra time.
If you choose to pan-fry your spam, for example, place the slices in a skillet over medium heat. Fry them for 3-4 minutes per side or until they’re golden brown and crisp. I love stirring minced garlic and soy sauce into my spam to give it an Asian twist.
An air fryer is another fantastic choice, especially for those on a low-carb diet. Simply place your spam slices in an air fryer basket and cook for 5-7 minutes, or until crisp and brown. The good news is that the method utilizes little to no oil, resulting in a guilt-free snack.
Last but not least, there’s baking. For this, preheat the oven to 350°F and line the cookie sheet with waxed paper. Next, lay the slices in a single layer on the baking tray and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, flipping midway. But if you want to go overboard, coat the pieces in sugar or honey before baking.
What To Serve with Spam?
Spam is incredibly delicious when cooked correctly. It is hard to resist the salty, savory flavor of this canned meat. However, a little culinary inspiration can mean all the difference between a delicious meal and just an okay one.
Below are a few recipes to serve with spam that are sure to delight your taste buds.
- Fried rice with Spam: Combine cooked white rice, diced onions, soy sauce, and vegetable oil in a mixing bowl. In a large pan, fry up some minced garlic until fragrant. Stir in the rice mixture for about five minutes before adding the cubed spam. Cook until heated through, and then enjoy.
- Scrambled eggs with bacon and fried spam: I love this combo because it has so many flavors going on at once. The eggs provide creaminess, while the bacon adds saltiness and crunch. The fried spam lends a spicy punch to the dish. Don’t forget to top everything with fresh soy sauce.
- Roasted potatoes with spicy Spam chunks: Potatoes make a great side dish for any meal. They’re crunchy and filling and go with almost anything. Throw some butter in a baking dish and top with spam slices—season with salt, cumin, and pepper and roast for 30 minutes, or until browned. Toss with minced parsley for a deliciously flavourful entrée.
Spam is a delicious treat, especially when properly cooked, and the microwave makes this easy and quick.
Although you won’t get a crispy exterior crust from microwaving, the spam flavor profile will be enhanced. Make sure not to overcook it; otherwise, it will turn tough and rubbery.
Video on Microwaving Spam