Can You Put Metal in the Microwave Oven? Is It Safe?

Can You Put Metal in the Microwave Oven? Is It Safe?

Ian Mutuli
Updated on

Microwaves are the future of easy and quick cooking but have you ever wondered if you can put metal in the microwave? It can be difficult to determine if some materials are safe to be used under microwaves.

Ideally, it is not safe to use metal containers in a microwave. It is not only unsafe, but it can also alter the texture and taste of the food. A spark caused by a metal plate or spoon may burn the food and damage the appliance. Wondering wh this is so?

Whether you're cooking or reheating foods, we are going to educate you on the dangers of using a metal container while microwaving food. Here, we will discuss what actually happens when you put metal in the microwave and the potential hazards of using metals in the appliance.

How Microwave Ovens Work

A microwave oven is a simple device that involves a magnetron hooked to a high voltage source. This magnetron will direct the microwaves to the metal box, and the waves will bounce inside the microwave till there are absorbed by some molecules, causing heating up.

Ceramics, water, and certain polymers work well with microwaves as they will easily convert microwave energy into heat. On the other hand, metals are great conductors of electricity.

When microwaves hit a metal surface, free electrons may start moving rapidly, preventing the electric waves from getting into the metal and instead, they are reflected.

What Will Happen When You Put Metal In A Microwave?

Contrary to what a lot of people may think, if you put metal in a microwave, you won't experience a massive explosion or radioactive waves.

The biggest result you can experience is sparking or arcing, which can cause a small fire or damage your microwave. However, most times, nothing will happen, depending on the metal you're using.

Can You Put Metal in the Microwave?

As mentioned earlier, a metal container or metal objects may cause sparks in the microwave oven. A microwave is made from metal, including the walls and the mesh on the windows. This keeps away the microwave energy trapped inside and ensures your food is heated.

person in white and red plaid shirt standing beside stainless steel tray

The microwaves in your oven bounce around the interior before they are absorbed into the molecules within liquids and foods, therefore, heating them. Since the molecules in a metal spoon, metal rack, or any other metal object are packed closely together, they won't be able to absorb microwaves but only reflect them.

Furthermore, the reaction between the charged air and the microwaves in the microwave oven may cause sparks or arching. As a result, a burned spot in the microwave, a hole in the wall, or even irreparable damage to the electric systems of the microwave.

What Kind of Metal Can You Put in a Microwave?

Although most metal materials are dangerous when used in a microwave oven, this doesn't mean that all metals will potentially damage your microwave or food. Some metal materials like aluminum foil can be used but in small quantities.

A thin sheet of aluminum, steel, or tin that lays flat when in the microwave and doesn't get in contact with the internal parts of the microwave, will help prevent interference as the food cooks. However, you should constantly keep an eye on it when using foil is in the microwave and avoid using it to heat or cook food for long periods.

Things to Know About Microwaving Metals

As already mentioned, it is not a great idea to microwave metals as they are not microwave-safe. However, to get a more in-depth understanding of why this is so, here are things you need to know;

  • Different shapes of metals react differently in the microwave. Ideally, metals with sharp edges may spark when microwaved because they trigger charged particles to go to the edge of the fork.
  • Dishes with metallic trims are not microwave-safe as they overheat and form electromagnetic radiation that may destroy the oven or dish.
  • When using aluminum foil, ensure it is not wrinkled or with sharp edges. Instead, lay it flat to avoid sparks.

Final Thoughts

While certain metals may be safe for use in microwaves, it is always a good idea to be safe than sorry. This means that you should avoid heating or cooking foods with metals in the microwave. It is definitely not worth the risk.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Using Metal in the Microwave

1. Can you use aluminum foil in a microwave?

Unlike metal objects, aluminum foil is safe when used in small amounts and for shorter times. However, it is not recommended. Any foil used in a hot pocket or frozen food is designed to thin, which is safe.

You can use smaller pieces of foil to protect your dish when you don't want it to be overcooked. This is because the metal blocks heat. If you want to use aluminum foil safely, ensure that the sheet won't completely obscure your food because there will be no space to absorb the microwaves. Again, ensure your foil is smooth with no sharp edges or crinkled areas.

2. Can you microwave stainless steel?

Stainless steel is no different compared to other metal objects as it will still reflect microwaves. However, if it is a flat stainless steel object, there is not much that is going to happen, but if it is a stainless steel fork, you will probably see some sparks or lighting.

3. Does stainless steel explode in the microwave?

Not all stainless steel materials can explode it spark in the microwave. Some round metal objects like forks, coins, and spoons won't explode in the microwave. However, twist tie, nail or china with a metal trim can spark or explode in the microwave.

Ideally, large stainless steel objects are less reactive than smaller ones. However, since the power and microwaves are different based on the model, brand, and manufacturer, you should never use stainless steel materials in the microwave.

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.