What Causes Sparking & Smoking in Microwaves?

A microwave oven is a common household appliance in most kitchens. You may rely on it heavily to prepare meals or use it only to heat leftovers, boil water for tea or to pop popcorn. Although it is uncomplicated to use, smoking and sparking can occur when it is used incorrectly. Basic safety measures ensure that the use of this appliance does not result in a fire hazard or cause it to quit working.

Improper Cleaning

Not covering your microwaveable dishes with microwave-safe cling film, waxed paper, a microwaveable lid or a paper towel can result in the foods splattering or overflowing in the microwave. If you do not clean up the food residue, it can overheat and cause the unit to smoke. Clean up spills right away to prevent them from hardening and resulting in a difficult cleanup task.

Improper Containers

Using any type of metal in the microwave can cause it to spark and produce high voltage arcing, which can result in damaging the microwave oven itself and even cause a fire. Use only microwave-safe dishes in the unit, such as heat-resistant glass or ceramic, paper plates or containers labelled microwave-safe with either the words or a symbol. Other microwave-safe dishes may state this only in the instructions on the package when you purchase them. Even a tiny metal band around a plate or the staple in a tea bag can cause the sparking in many microwaves.

Overheating the Food

Microwaves cook much faster than conventional ovens; therefore, knowing how long to cook the food items is difficult. Foods like chocolate and sauces can overheat quickly and burn, resulting in a smoky mess. One of the best ways to prevent overcooking or burning your foods is to read the manual that comes with your microwave oven. Since each unit has a different wattage and power, the correct time in one microwave may be too long or too short in another. If you no longer have the owner's manual, refer to the package directions on the food or a microwave cookbook to approximate the time. Keep an eye on the food if you are unsure of how long to cook it to prevent accidentally burning and wasting the food.

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About the Author

Chelsea Fitzgerald covers topics related to family, health, green living and travel. Before her writing career, she worked in the medical field for 21 years. Fitzgerald studied education at the University of Arkansas and University of Memphis.