When heating up a meal in the microwave, such as a soup or a special dessert, it may be confusing to know when it is okay to leave a spoon in the microwave. Sometimes we leave a utensil in there by mistake! What does this mean and can you microwave a spoon in general?
Do not microwave spoons. Microwaves use electromagnetic radiation and most spoons do not absorb those waves, causing a fire hazard. Metal spoons can cause sparks and plastic spoons can melt. Wooden and paper spoons can catch fire, however, porcelain, glass, and silicone spoons may be microwavable.
To understand more of the differences between each material of spoon, basic microwave etiquette, and the truth behind microwave-friendly spoons, continue reading below.
Can You Put a Spoon in a Microwave?
The short and clear answer is no, you should not put a spoon in the microwave. Reasons as to why this is and if there are ways around it are a little more specific, but we will review all this and more! This can be a confusing topic because some sources say it is okay and others say it is very dangerous. However, we will go over all of these perspectives and explanations below.
How Do Microwaves Work?
Microwaves produce electromagnetic radiation that is absorbed by the food you are cooking. These waves make the water or food molecules vibrate, producing heat and giving you a warmer meal. Without being turned, some spots of your food can be hotter than others. Because of this, there is a fan inside of the microwave to evenly disperse these waves and a turn table for the food to get close to even amounts of cooking time.
Some argue that the radiation from microwaves is bad for your health. However, microwaves create a type of radiation that is called non-ionizing, which does not alter atoms or damage cells like ionizing radiation from X-rays and radio waves. There has been no conclusive evidence linking microwave oven radiation and cancer if your microwave is working properly.
Why Do Some Say You Cannot Put A Spoon In The Microwave?
It is recommended to never put spoons in microwaves because of the material the spoon is made of.
For example, a big warning when using a microwave is to never put outside metal in the box. The metal walls inside a microwave reflect the waves to get them into the food. If there is not sufficient material to absorb these waves, something called “arcing” will happen. Arcing is the sparks inside of a microwave that can look like a tiny bolt of lightning.
Almost all materials that spoons are made of can be fire hazards. In simple terms, sometimes nothing will happen if you microwave a spoon, but there is a good chance of arcing or flames depending on the material.
It is better to just keep the spoon or utensil away.
Why Do Some Say You Can Put A Spoon In The Microwave?
Like I said before, most of the time nothing happens if you cook a metal spoon for short periods of time with other food products. In fact, serious fires or injuries from leaving metal in the microwave are not very common. However, you could permanently damage the microwave instead in some cases, which is why we say it is better to not microwave a spoon at all.
Some argue that the shape of the metal object matters over the metal itself. Cutlery with pointed edges can reflect electromagnetic waves back and forth more efficiently, causing arcing or sparks over the rounded edges of spoons. This does not apply if you place the metal spoon on the metal wall of the microwave, which can cause arcing.
Some will argue that if a metal object in a microwave does not touch any metal, then there is no hazard. One professor explained that putting a metal spoon in the microwave is okay as long as it does not touch the metal walls and there is some other kind of object in the same box, such as water or food. Another manager explained that putting a spoon inside a glass container will cause no problem.
What Is The Bottom Line?
If you think about it, when you put a bowl of food in a microwave you don’t worry about if it will catch on fire. You just worry if your food is going to be warm enough to eat! As mentioned before, just make sure there is a microwavable object on or next to your spoon and the spoon is not touching the side of the microwave. Just do not put spoons in the microwave by themselves because they can be an unpredictable fire hazard.
We now know why metal spoons are hazardous in microwaves, but what about plastic spoons? The short answer – do not microwave plastic spoons because they may melt and leave chemicals in your food if placed directly in them. It may not be a problem if it does not touch the metal sides of the microwave.
However, keep an eye out for any suspicious behavior on the part of the plastic spoon. If you see something that doesn’t look right, such as an odd smell or a melted utensil, take the object out immediately and avoid microwaving it again, but your appliance should work just fine.
For the long answer, it is not the microwave radiation that will ruin your plastic spoon, but the heat that will release harmful chemicals such as BPA and phthalates from your spoon into your food. If the time you cooked the plastic spoon is short and it is sitting next to an object like a cup, piece of food, or a plate, then nothing should happen.
But if you place a plastic spoon inside of a cup of liquid or on top of a plate of food, it will heat up more quickly, start to deform, and will release nasty chemicals into your food, especially when exposed to high temperatures.
Microwaving plastic spoons is not a good idea if you want a chemical-free meal.
Wooden and Paper Spoons
Wood, paper, and other organic dried materials can catch fire if you microwave them long enough. Some may say that it is okay to microwave a wooden or paper spoon because these materials do not conduct electricity, therefore no arching will occur. But these people are missing the bigger picture which is that these materials can catch fire, especially if they have no water on them.
If you microwave a wooden plate, bowl, or spoon and there is food on or around it then you should be okay. However, microwaving a wooden or paper spoon just on its own can be quite dangerous. Watch out for those flames!
Porcelain is one material that may be completely microwave-safe based on the formulation process. When porcelain is created, it is fired at very high temperatures that are most often beyond the boiling point of water. Because of this, there should be no internal water in the material.
However, certain components of the ceramic and glaze can react to microwaves. Some porcelain materials may have a sticker explicitly telling the user to not use it in the microwave. Again, this can be because of the glaze or ceramic components.
If you are microwaving a porcelain spoon, check any stickers and proceed with caution. This may be safer than other material options, but this can still be a fire hazard.
Most glassware is safe to microwave, however, special glass materials such as ceramics, colored glassware, and glassware with metallic trims are not safe to microwave unless explicitly stated otherwise. In general, glassware is a safe material because it tends to be chemically inert, meaning that the food in the glass will not react to any chemicals in the glass.
Glass ceramics are not the most microwave-safe because it comes with a mixture of ceramic clay, which when heated and cooled quickly, can cause the object to shatter. Additionally, chemicals from the colors can be a hazard to the food being cooked. Additionally, glass with metal trimming can cause arching or sparks in the microwave.
It is completely safe to microwave silicone spoons if they are made of 100% food-grade silicone. This does not leave any harmful chemicals into the food you are cooking and can easily withstand high amounts of heating caused by your microwave. Silicone is very versatile for food storage because these spoons can be placed in the fridge and microwave without the possibility of shattering.
Plus, silicones do not absorb microwaves. So while they can get hot from the contact with heated foods, they do not heat up on their own. If you do your research on the product you are buying, silicone spoons and utensils should be completely safe.
Again, check for any warning stickers on the package or product itself, as they will give specific advice if necessary. You can also research reviews online and see if the company is known for being microwave friendly as well as the materials it is made out of.
What About Microwave-Friendly Spoons?
When you are purchasing a new utensil and you need something that is 100% microwave friendly, do your research! Search for “microwave friendly” spoons and a plethora of safe options will pop up. These spoons will usually be made of silicone and will be 100% food grade. Some are porcelain with no dangerous or flammable ceramics, glaze, or dyes.
You can find objects like these from Amazon, Bed Bath & Beyond, Target, Walmart, and so on. Again, do your research on the company or brand you are purchasing from because some may market their products as microwave safe, but in reality, it is just a gimmick.
I Left a Spoon in the Microwave, What do I do?
If you left a metal spoon in the microwave with food in it, there should be no damage. Metal that is thin and left in the microwave will cause damage to your appliance, but a regular spoon should be completely fine. If you left a plastic spoon in your food, it would be best to throw the food away as chemicals may be transferred over.
Other spoons such as porcelain, glass, and silicone should be completely fine. At the end of the day, your microwave is still safe to use if you accidentally microwaved a spoon. Unless the spoon was plastic, the food should be okay to eat as well.
Is it Okay to Microwave a Spoon?
If you take anything away from this post take this – it is not a great idea to microwave a spoon just by itself in the microwave because it can be an unpredictable fire hazard. For the most part, nothing will happen if you microwave a spoon with or without food.
However, if the material proves to be dangerous, it can explode, shatter, ruin your appliance, or even start an in-house fire on rare occasions. That is why there is such a divide on the topic of what you can microwave or not – because you never know for sure when something is a fire hazard or not.
Because there are so many loopholes as to when it is okay to microwave a spoon, it is smart to just avoid it overall. If you accidentally microwave a spoon or another utensil but there is no damage and everything looks fine, then don’t worry about it too much. Keep an eye on the microwave if necessary and just avoid microwaving questionable materials. Don’t let this stress you out!
In closing words, it can be difficult to make a point and blank statement on this topic just because the true answer is “Yes and no”. If you are ever in doubt, just don’t microwave it. If you do your research on the product, meal, and spoon you are microwaving and use your best judgment, you should be okay. Stay safe and don’t microwave your spoons!