We just returned home from a week long 'extended family' vacation in Mexico and Texas and I've been running on-the-go-crazy since we got home, trying to get caught up and ready to jump back into real life again. Today I was off bright and early to get my truck from the mechanics, see my husband off to work and then change clothes to run to the grocery store to refresh our refrigerator after using up and throwing out all the fresh foods before we left for vacation 1 1/2 weeks ago. KEEP THAT IN MIND when I now admit I had a 'blonde moment' as I rushed out the door.
I went to lock the back door and realized the sun was out - gloriously out - and my sun oven was sitting about 3 feet from me. "Perfect", I thought. I need to hard boil 18 eggs so I'll just put them in the sun oven now, before I leave and they'll be done when I get back! I grabbed the solar oven, opened it up, ran back into the house to grab the eggs and BRIEFLY did actually think; "I can't put the polystyrene egg carton in there, it will melt." But as soon as I thought it, the cat tried to sneak out the open door, the dogs were going insane with their happy feet and running around thinking they were going with me, and my mind was on "remember your purse, the phone, the list, the coupons..... and what else do we need to put on the list, Will my truck start? Should I take the car?".
I set the eggs inside my sun oven, closed it and ran (literally) through the house and out the door.
And that is why this post can also be called: "That time I threw out 18 eggs....."
When I arrived home and had finished putting away all the groceries, checking the mail and a few other tasks, I went out to the deck to bring the eggs in. (Foods baked in a solar oven do not burn so you don't have to worry about how long they are left out there cooking). I opened the glass and... brown spotted eggs and a perfectly flat styrene container! Oh shoot. As the container melted, the condensation formed on the eggs and the brown liquid stained them. I removed them and the flattened, melted egg carton. I put the eggs in a container of water to see if the brown would come off but it didn't really.
That's when I started to think about how porous egg shells are. How they allow air into them. How the gas from the melting container would have filled the solar oven. Hmmm. What to do.
I cracked open an egg and found the egg white was light brown in color. It smelled kind of normal... I tasted it... I think it tasted kind of normal. But in my MIND I was thinking 'chemicals' so whether or not it actually HAD an off-taste I'm not sure. I couldn't get the thought of baked in chemicals out of my head.
I turned to the internet and didn't find anyone else on message boards or blogs admitting they did something so stupid as I did by baking eggs in the container in a sun oven... but I did find a lot of people talking about melting their plastic containers in the microwave or on the stove. And wondering if the food was safe.
Ironic that our family is pretty anti-chemical anyway and I never cook foods in plastic or containers in the microwave - I won't even use silicone baking cupcake or muffin tins. And me, of all persons had this moment of stupidity and cooked the eggs in the plastic container. (Again, I'm pleading temporary brain lapse due to exhaustion and multi-tasking!)
I decided I'd rather be out a few bucks for the eggs than chance eating cancer causing chemicals in our food... so out went the eggs. All of them. And that melted container? Just as rock hard plastic as the knobs on your car radio or your dashboard!
If you were wondering (as I was) - here is what the USDA themselves say about accidentally cooking (and melting) packaging materials with your foods. (And yes, they tell you to throw them out!)
Should foods be microwaved in packaging materials?
Microwave food in packaging materials only if the package directs, and then use only one time. Materials suitable for microwaving include oven bags, wax paper and plastic wrap. Do not let the plastic wrap touch the food, and do not reuse the wrap.
Foam insulated trays and plastic wraps on fresh meats in grocery stores are not intended by the manufacturer to be heated and may melt when in contact with hot foods, allowing chemical migration into the food. In addition, chemical migration from packaging material to a food does not necessarily require direct contact. Excessive heat applied to a closed container may drive off chemical gases from the container that can contaminate the enclosed food.
These types of plastic products should not be used in a microwave oven because they are subjected to heat when thawing or reheating. To avoid a chemical migration problem, remove meats from their packaging.
If packaging is accidentally cooked in a conventional oven, is the food safe to eat?
Plastic packaging materials should not be used at all in conventional ovens. They may catch on fire or melt, causing chemical migration into foods. Sometimes these materials are inadvertently cooked with a product. For example, giblets may be accidentally cooked inside the turkey in their packaging or a beef roast may be cooked with the absorbent pad from the fresh meat packaging underneath.
The giblet bag and the absorbent pad are clearly not intended to be cooked, however if this happens and the packaging materials remain unaltered (that is, do not melt or come apart) the cooked meat will not pose an imminent health hazard. If the packaging materials have melted or changed shape in some other way do not use the product.
You might also be interested in learning more about solar cooking and sun ovens or buying one from Amazon;