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10 Things You Should Never Put in the Microwave

April 10, 2010

There are a lot of things that you can put in the microwave that are made tremendously better by doing so. Conversely though, there are a lot of things that you should never put in the microwave. There is a lot of information out there, and a lot of funny videos about things that explode when put in the microwave. A lot of these things though are not natural kitchen items, like a Ferbie or your cat, and I won’t be focusing on those items. Instead this is a list of items that you might use in cooking and might actually want to put in the microwave (please note that this is not necessarily a complete list).

  1. Tin foil and utensils
  2. Hopefully everyone knows about this: all metal should be kept away from the microwave! While thick metal, like the walls of the microwave can withstand the waves produced by the microwave, thin metals like tin foil heat quickly. Along with heating, the uneven surfaces on some metal items, like the tines on a fork or the bumps in tin foil, can create electric arcs. Combine these arcs with the quickly heated metal and you have all the elements necessary for a major fire.

  3. Fine China
  4. A little less well known is that most fine China also has metal in it. Even if there doesn’t appear to be a metal ring around the China it is still not a good idea to put it in the microwave. The paint on the China was not crafted to withstand such high temperatures and will crack and distort, forever ruining the piece.

  5. Fruits
  6. You might think you have a clever idea; you are going to make your own raisins by microwaving some grapes. Awesome! No, not awesome. While not too common, fruits in the microwave can be very dangerous. Grapes in particular can spark and flame if one splits open while in the microwave.

  7. Vegetables
  8. True, you can put vegetables in the microwave, but only if you poke holes in them first! Without these holes the vegetable will almost certainly explode in the microwave, not only will this ruin your dinner but will probably destroy your microwave. You can’t poke too many holes in a veggie if you decide to microwave it, so store up your anger and stab that vegetable to death before you nuke it.

  9. Eggs
  10. If you really want a hardboiled egg and you really want it fast, please just be patient. If you try to boil an egg in the microwave it is going to explode. An egg is basically a protein inside a hard shell. When microwaved this protein expands, but the shell doesn’t so it has no choice but to explode when the protein tries to expand past the shell.

  11. Boiling water
  12. This one may sound a little weird, but trying to boil water in the microwave can actually be very dangerous. The microwave heats the water but on rare occasions the water doesn’t boil, it just gets superheated. When a foreign object, like a tea bag, meets the water the boiling process happens suddenly and violently. This is especially dangerous because it doesn’t explode in the confined space inside the microwave, but instead explodes in your hands as you try to turn that water into some tasty hot tea.

    A safer way to boil water is to put something in it: some cocoa mix, a tea bag, or even a small wooden spoon.

    Because this one is a little strange sounding here is a quick video on boiling water from the Discovery channel’s Mythbusters:

  13. Sponges
  14. There is an old wives’ tale that you can disinfect a sponge by sticking it in the microwave; the microwave heats the sponge and the intense heat kills the bacteria. In reality though, you will probably just catch the sponge on fire and leave a nasty burn mark on the bottom of your microwave. If you want to disinfect it just stick it in the dishwasher or buy a new one.

  15. Plastic
  16. Some plastics are safe to put in the microwave buy many aren’t. You need to check the label on the plastic before sticking it in the microwave, and this includes Styrofoam. Yes, against popular belief some Styrofoam can go in the microwave if it is says so on the packaging. If the plastic in question isn’t microwave safe it will most likely melt and warp and be completely useless to you in the future.

    If you can’t find any markings that tell you whether or not something is microwave safe this site provides a few rules of thumb on how to tell what usually is or isn’t safe.

  17. Red sauce
  18. Ok, so this is stretching it, but it isn’t a good idea. It isn’t dangerous to microwave red sauce it is just really messy. If you must microwave some old spaghetti sauce make sure you cover it with some Wax paper. This will catch all the splatter so it doesn’t make a complete mess out of the inside of your microwave.

  19. Marshmallow Peeps
  20. Microwaving a Peep is a lot of fun, but also very unsafe. If you decide to do this next Easter (since it is all Peeps are good for in my opinion), be careful about it. Don’t stick them in there for 5 minutes; this could catch the Peep on fire. Instead watch the Peep carefully and only put it in there for a short period of time, and then you can watch it expand to about 200% of its original size.

    However, once you remove the Peep from the microwave and watch it deflate like a sad soufflé please don’t eat it. This is really dangerous! While the Peep may seem safe to eat on the outside it is molten marshmallow on the inside and will burn your mouth so terribly you may not taste anything for the next 2 weeks!

    In case you have never seen this here is a quick clip. This clip also demonstrates that if you leave it in there too long it will eventually stop expanding and just start to burn. And I know that this guy touches the Peep after he cooks it, but that is what is so deceiving about them: the sugar on the outside remains relatively cool while the inside is molten-hot. Enjoy the Godzilla-Peep:

Now I know that this list was full of awesome sounding explosions but please do not try any of these in your microwave. If you really must see them I’m sure there are enough internet videos to keep you and your microwave safe.

And remember while each of the items may not have 100% rate of causing explosions they are high risk items so please be careful and use your best judgment with these items and everything you stick in the microwave.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Christine Parsons permalink
    April 12, 2010 2:18 pm

    The tone of this entry is just awesome. This is a serious topic, but somehow the conversational way you’ve presented it works really well. And you don’t just say “This shouldn’t go in the microwave;” you also tell readers why it shouldn’t go in the microwave.

    I actually didn’t know about some of these. I never would have thought that boiling water in the microwave is a bad idea. I’ll have to remember that.

    I also like the length of each list item. You tell readers what they need to know, and you keep it short and sweet. The title works really well, too.

  2. Stefanie Larson permalink
    April 12, 2010 6:47 pm

    First I love that you used myth busters! Of course I believe you now :) I totally didn’t know that about water, I do that all the time. Thank goodness I haven’t been using distilled water!
    I also loved that you mentioned peeps, because my friends and I were just talking about microwaving them like two days ago.
    I do wonder though if you could’ve cut peeps and the spaghetti sauce out and just made this 8 things that you shouldn’t put in the microwave. The other things seemed pretty valid, but you didn’t actually tell people why microwaving peeps was bad you just said be careful if you decide to do it. And though red spaghetti sauce is messy it’s not something you should “never put in the microwave”.

  3. June 26, 2011 7:23 am

    i wish i had read your post earlier.. :(

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