Food Science: We asked a physicist: Why can’t we put metal in the microwave?

In Food Science, Dave McCowan from the University Of Chicago’s Department Of Physics answers our confounding questions about the mysterious world of food.

At a young age, we learned the golden rule of America’s favorite convenience appliance: never put metal in the microwave. But why? What would happen? Will it really burn the whole house down like Mom says?

Before we start breaking the rules, let’s look at how a microwave oven—at least one that isn’t filled with forks—cooks. It’s a two-step process. The oven first produces a type of light called a “microwave,” which wiggles with just the right frequency to make water molecules in your food vibrate or spin around like tops. Then, as the water rotates, it bangs into its neighbors and dumps that energy into the rest of your meal in the form of heat. Since the food we …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *