Can a Microwave Explode? (6 Reasons You Should Know)

A microwave is an electrical appliance that makes cooking, baking, and heating feasible. The microwave uses electromagnetic waves to heat the food. A microwave oven has ideal functions and benefits, but it also comes with potential risks. That brings us to our question; can a microwave explode?

Yes, a microwave can explode and catch fire. Microwave ovens are not explicitly complicated devices, but they require special care. For example, inserting the wrong food or container and reluctance to follow safety measures can cause the microwaves to explode. Microwave fires are also a result of faulty equipment and poor maintenance.

To prevent microwave oven fires, we need first to understand the operating principles of a microwave oven.

How Does a Microwave Operate?

Microwave ovens use a vacuum tube device called a magnetron. This tube converts electricity into electromagnetic radiation. These waves exist in the microwave spectrum, hence the device’s name. These waves are subject to constant fluctuation.

Once emitted from the device, the food absorbs these electromagnetic rays. As a result, the water molecules are subject to vibration for the desired time set by the user. This vibration generates heat and raises the temperature of the food.

microwave-mechanism

More prolonged exposure to microwave radiation generates higher temperatures. This is mainly used for baking or defrosting items.

The operation of a microwave is simple. However, its high power can cause potential harm or damage if you don’t follow the instructions.

What Causes the Microwave Oven to Explode?

A microwave oven heats all sorts of foods, but not all food is microwave friendly. Certain foods explode because of their unique properties. These reasons can range from the presence of metal, high moisture, or high temperature.

Each item you put inside the microwave needs its own time to be ready. While some food can be cooked and reheated in a few minutes, others require extended exposure to microwave radiation. Heating the wrong food for long periods causes the microwave oven to malfunction.

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Moreover, microwave ovens can malfunction if you use high metal or water content items. When heated, this water content turns into steam, and when the steam finds no place to escape, the microwave ovens explode. Hence, moisture inside the microwave needs to be kept to a minimum.

Plastic takeout containers and containers having metal content can also cause microwaves to catch fire. It can cause severe heating and sparking when exposed to microwave radiation. It can become super hot, create sparks, and cause a fire. Plastic can melt and leach into food when exposed to high heat and make a mess.

Things That May Explode in a Microwave

Most microwaves have standard guidelines on what you can and cannot put inside the device. In general, you should avoid metal at all costs. Nonetheless, it is better to look for the manufacturer’s guidelines before using your microwave oven.

However, here are a few things you should avoid as they might explode in the microwave:

Metal

Metal is a big no-no as it represents a dangerous fire risk. It reflects electromagnetic radiation, generates heat inside, and keeps the food from heating. If the container you are using has a relatively low amount of metal, your microwave may be safe.

In comparison, thick metal heats quickly and causes more damage. However, the only acceptable form of metal is aluminum foil. Since it is a thin layer and has low metal content, it is not that harmful.

Always double-check if your container might have some hidden metal components.

Plastic

The more disposable plastic containers you avoid, the better. There are chemicals used in the manufacturing of plastic, and these chemicals, over time, can spread out and affect the quality of your food.

Additionally, plastic containers are weak and can quickly melt when exposed to microwave heat.

It would help if you also avoided styrofoam containers. The heat from the microwave oven can cause them to melt and leach into your food or drink.

The better alternative is to use microwave-safe containers that do not explode when heating the food. Microwave-safe plastic will usually have a special marking that indicates they are safe to use in the oven.

Empty Microwave

An empty microwave oven causes the radiation to bounce back and be absorbed by the device itself. When these waves keep increasing, the microwave can burst out in a matter of minutes.

Paper Bags

If you decide to heat food in a paper bag, think again. Some paper bags can be sturdy, but using them is not the best idea. Paper can easily catch fire if heated at high levels. Avoid using paper items inside a microwave to eliminate the chances of a fire.

When exposed to heat, paper bags with chemical treatment may also leach toxic substances into your food.

Boiling Water

Want to heat water? Do not use a microwave oven! Boiling water to a high temperature can ruin the performance of the microwave. Remember, microwave energy acts primarily on the water molecules.

It is simple; microwaves can heat the water above boiling temperatures and superheated water. When disturbed, the steam will explode and spew boiling liquid everywhere.

Heating water to a mild temperature is safe but trying to boil a cup of water in this device should be avoided. Instead, use a gas or electric kettle to be on the safe side.

Eggs

As harmless as they seem, eggs are the first to cause chaos in the microwave. Do not put whole eggs inside the device. The shell will absorb all the heat and produce steam from the moisture inside, increasing the risk of exploding. Also, try to keep the cooking time low to avoid any accidents.

How to Prevent Microwave Accidents?

After reading this article, we do not want you to fear for your life. Like any other electrical appliance, microwaves are safe if you follow the proper guidelines.

Some measures you can take to keep the microwave functioning long term are:

Proper Maintenance

Microwaves can have a lot of dirt inside the chamber and on their glass plate. This is because the different types of food you place in the device tend to spatter around and cause a mess.

If it is not cleared out and cleaned, it can affect the microwave’s efficiency. Hence, regular cleaning is necessary to maintain the health of the microwave.

Read the Guidelines

Each company has its own set of guidelines for its products. If you are confused about whether a specific item goes inside the microwave or not, refer to the manual. Manufacturers do not list everything that you ought to avoid.

However, the guidelines will give you further reading material to help safely operate your microwave oven.

Avoid Strange Items

Microwaves have a long life, and they do not simply break down if you put one strange food inside. Nevertheless, if you are careless in the long run, it will eventually give out.

Avoid putting unusual items in the device even if you are doing it for fun. These exceptional items can include a piece of cloth, metal piece, wood, and more such things. Your best bet is sticking exclusively to microwave-safe materials.

Microwave Door

Ensure that the microwave door is closed during operations. The safety mechanism will not allow the device to run until the door is closed. In case of a malfunction, the radio waves might escape the device and present a radiation hazard or decrease operational efficiency.

If your device is working with the door open, it is bad news. Stop using it immediately and have it repaired by certified professionals.

Don’t Operate When Empty

It might seem a piece of useless advice when someone says not to use the microwave empty, but it is the most important one. Leaving the microwave empty affects the magnetron inside.

It ruins the microwave oven’s inner chamber, which pretty much makes the microwave useless.

Conclusion

Are you still wondering about the safety of your microwave device? We assure you that your microwave will not blow up in your face as long as you follow the guidelines. There is no need to deprive yourself of this fantastic modern convenience.

The rules are simple. Do not put metal, boil water, or heat foods with high water content inside microwaves. Double-check all the things you are feeding to the device to ensure it does not end up turning to smoke and air.

Stick to these basics, and you’ll enjoy your microwave for many years to come.

In conclusion, microwaves are not complex devices that can be troublesome. They are electrical appliances that require your care.

About Justin Schwartz

Justin Schwartz is an experienced editor and food blogger based in New York. He focuses on healthy eating and living. When he’s not acquiring and publishing cookbooks, you can find Justin sampling food in New York’s restaurants or trying new recipes in his kitchen.

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