What Happens if You Put Aluminum Foil in a Microwave? (Just Don’t Do It!)
A friend from my childhood, who has since moved away and no longer speaks to me, used to ask me all the time what would happen if this or that happened.
I always had a pretty good guess as to their reactions. But then one day, I found myself in a situation where I actually didn’t know for sure what would happen if you put aluminum foil in a microwave. Because she and I no longer speak, I couldn’t ask her.
So I decided to try it out for myself, and this is what I discovered.
What happens if you put aluminum foil in a microwave?
When you put aluminum foil in a microwave, the electric fields cause currents of electricity to flow through the metal. If these currents are powerful enough, they can create sparks. If these sparks hit something else in the oven, you’ll probably need to reach for the fire extinguisher because a fire could erupt.
If you don’t remove the aluminum foil, it can cause a fire in the microwave and create a dangerous situation.
Is it safe to put aluminum foil in a microwave?
When aluminum foil is microwaved, the electric fields cause currents of electricity to flow through it. If these currents are powerful enough, they can create sparks that can easily ignite something else in the oven, like wax paper or cooking oil, and start a dangerous fire. For this reason, it is not safe to microwave aluminum foil and should only be used with caution.
Can you safely microwave aluminum foil?
It’s almost never a good idea to use aluminum foil in a microwave. The FDA has repeatedly stated that you should remove all aluminum from any type of food before microwaving it.
What should you do if you’ve accidently microwaved aluminum foil?
If you put food that has aluminum foil over it or that is in an aluminum container, you should stop the microwave. If you catch the issue soon enough, you should remove the food or the foil from the microwave and use a microwave-safe dish instead. If you have gone through the entire cooking process and there was no fire or no sparks, your microwave may be fine.
Unless you notice some damage or see that it is not performing as it was prior to the foil, you are fine to continue using your microwave. Simply be more careful in the future about microwaving foil. If you microwaved foil, and you did not catch it in time, you do need to inspect your microwave to see if there is any visible damage or any visible issue that might make your microwave unsafe or mean that there was some damage that occurred.
If a fire does occur due to aluminum foil in the microwave then it’s best to reach for either a Class A or class D fire extinguisher. Class A fire extinguishers will usually put out combustible items such as wood or paper. Class D is designed for flammable metals. Also, you must make the determination whether or not you can put it out. If you can’t, call for emergency and get everyone you can out of the area.
Will aluminum foil damage your microwave?
The main issue with using aluminum foil and other metals in a microwave is that they do not absorb the microwaves that are being emitted as the food might if it were in another sort of container or vessel. Plastics, ceramics, and other microwave-safe materials neither reflect nor absorb the microwaves, allowing them to pass freely through the food to heat it up. Metals like aluminum foil, however, reflect the microwaves and heat up very quickly, which increases the likelihood of fire. With the sharp edges of the foil, the edges can also cause sparks that can cause fire within the microwave.
In other words, as the microwaves are deflected from the aluminum and back onto the walls of the oven, they will damage the walls of the oven if left cooking for too long. This could end up burning a hole through the metal or causing a fire.
Why do people mistakenly microwave aluminum foil so often?
Aluminum foil is one of the most common materials used in homes today. Aluminum foil became very popular not long after it was invented and made its way to the United States because it was so easy to use, it was accessible, it was reusable, and it was something that many homes could benefit from. Aluminum foil is very easy to use and is a very common material for takeout containers, storage containers, and more.
Many people do not think of aluminum foil as a real metal. Since it is so thin and malleable, most people are not going to stop and think that it might cause major damage to your microwave or that it might have the potential to cause damage. People tend to get something that is covered with foil and do not necessarily think that it is metal, and that it does have the very real ability to catch on fire, or throw out sparks, or cause real damage that can hurt you, cause a fire in your home, and more. It is easy to forget that you have put aluminum foil in the microwave or that the food you put in was in a foil container. Since foil is so common, it is sometimes hard to remember that you should not put it in the microwave.
Why does aluminum foil burn in the microwave but not in the oven?
When thinking about using aluminum foil in the microwave versus aluminum foil in the oven, it helps to know the difference between the cooking methods and the heating methods.
A microwave uses microwaves that are emitted and pass through the food to heat it. The microwaves pass through the food and are absorbed by the water, where the molecules are then sped up, and that increase in speed is what makes the food heat up. This is microwave cooking. The microwaves are going to bounce off of the aluminum foil and have the potential to cause a fire and sparks instead of the waves being absorbed. When the foil heats up, it can cause a fire and sparks. With an oven, the means of cooking are different.
A convection oven uses heated elements and air to circulate the hot air around the cooking chamber rather than any sort of wave being emitted. The hot air does heat up the foil, and it does make the foil very hot, but since there are no waves being thrown around, the foil has nothing to reflect, so it simply heats up. When using foil at a typical temperature, you are not going to have to deal with fire. You can burn up aluminum foil or char it in the oven, but this is far less likely.
When was aluminum foil created?
Aluminum foil was invented in 1903 and made its way to the United States by the year 1913. It was used to help with commercial packaging and was widely used in foods that were packaged for mass retail sale. It was also used within homes as a means of preserving food that had not been fully eaten but needed to be stored for some period of time. Foil became very popular during WWII, and the microwave oven did not become popular until the late 1940s.
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