Q. I thought it was common knowledge that you shouldn’t put any metal in a microwave, however, one of my friends said he puts a spoon in the microwave for a few seconds to make ice cream scooping easier. I can’t tell if he is pranking me and am too scared to try this. I once left a tiny piece of tinfoil on some food I was reheating by mistake and the sparks started to fly in seconds. I know the tin foil is actually aluminium and my friend said the spoon he uses is stainless steel so I wondered if it’s only certain metals that can’t be used in the microwave. Have I been wrong all these years? Can you really put stainless steel in a microwave?
A. First, let’s start by saying we highly recommend you do not use any metal in your microwave and always follow the microwave manufacturer’s instructions. The reason is that it’s just not very straightforward and the risks of a fire outweigh the benefits of warming a spoon in the microwave. A much safer solution would be to heat the spoon in a cup of hot water from the kettle or even just the hot tap. Even then you need to be careful in picking up the spoon by the handle and make sure you use an oven glove or similar so as not to burn your hand.
The way in which electricity is conducted through different materials, of different thicknesses and at different distances is not an easy calculation and while your friend might have got away with this in his specific microwave and his particular spoon, this most likely has more to do with luck than judgement- that is unless he is a talented physicist with the time and patience for some serious pre-experimental planning!
To reiterate, for these reasons, it is definitely safest to avoid putting any metal objects of any kind into any microwave. Always follow manufacturer’s guidelines and err on the side of caution. Stick with microwave safe products that have been specifically designed for the job. Electrical arcs and house fires simply aren’t worth the risk.