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Old 01-26-2020, 03:56 PM
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Metal put into a Microwave Oven


I tried searching for a thread related, finding nothing titled, here goes.

I have heard warnings So many times that I am NOT suppose to put metal in a Microwave oven AS i put in a can of soup to heat up.
Ok, is their really an issue ??

I know some items like foils and bag ties will ark and burn if accidentally put into oven, but lets limit this for now to a can of Progresso soup.
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Old 01-26-2020, 04:03 PM
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No issue, as long as you don’t mind buying a new microwave oven.
If there isn’t enough liquid to act as a microwave absorber, the metal will act as an antenna and cause arcing and reflections, which can burn out the magnetron. Don’t do it unless you don’t really care.
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Old 01-26-2020, 04:12 PM
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Here's a video of someone microwaving a can of soup. There is some pretty impressive arcing.

Generally the problem occurs in places where the metal is thin and/or pointed. The edge of an open soup can would qualify.
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Old 01-26-2020, 04:21 PM
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Gah, forgot to include the video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kVwsMqy8aOM
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Old 01-26-2020, 05:01 PM
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It *could* be ok. Metal will act like a reflector, which could concentrate energy someplace, and if it almost creates a loop it can act as a transformer and create high voltage arcs.

But there's nothing magically bad about it. The entire inside of the microwave oven is made of metal. If I happened to have food on a metal plate, I'd go ahead and put that in, though I might watch for a second when I first started it.

I wonder -- it can't be that unusual to forget, and start the microwave oven before putting the food in it. Do they really destroy such an expensive part if you do that? Or do they provide some kind of practical protection?

Years ago, a few of us got curious what an electron tube would do in a microwave. It filled the oven with brilliant blue white light which streamed out of the door and illuminated the kitchen. We got nervous and stopped it, and opened the oven. The tube was still sitting upright there in the center, as we'd left it. Somebody reached in to retrieve it (gloved I think), and at the first touch the glass all turned to fine dust with a "PFFAF!"
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Old 01-26-2020, 05:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Napier View Post
If I happened to have food on a metal plate, I'd go ahead and put that in, though I might watch for a second when I first started it.
I wouldn't. A microwave oven is designed to set up a standing wave, which is why you have hot spots and cold spots inside the box. If you put a metal plate in there, you are probably going to get reflections off of it, and those reflections could end up going back into the magnetron (the part that generates the radio waves), which could destroy the magnetron.

The metal plate will also absorb a lot of the radio waves. You'll end up with eddy currents that heat up the plate. All that energy going into the plate is energy not going into your food, so your food will not heat up as well.

The gray stuff on microwave pizza boxes and the like is actually a metallic coating. It's designed to heat up, and the heat will brown the pizza dough. Without it, the dough gets hot but doesn't brown. So if properly designed, metal can go into a microwave. A random metal plate isn't exactly properly designed though, so what happens with that is more a matter of luck than anything else.

Most likely, the plate will just get hot, but worst case, your microwave's magentron goes kablooey.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Napier View Post
I wonder -- it can't be that unusual to forget, and start the microwave oven before putting the food in it. Do they really destroy such an expensive part if you do that? Or do they provide some kind of practical protection?
The magnetrons in early microwaves were fairly delicate, and running the microwave without food in it could easily overheat and damage the magetron. Modern magentrons are a lot beefier, so the chance of damage is reduced significantly. You're not likely to ruin a modern microwave just by running it without food for a short period of time. Turn it on for several minutes though and you can destroy the magnetron.

There aren't any sort of safety devices to protect the magnetron. A microwave oven is literally just a magnetron, a metal tube (called a waveguide) which takes the radio waves from the magnetron over to where the food is, the metal box that you put your food in, and a simple control circuit. That's it. Rocket science they ain't.

Replace the food box with a large antenna and you've got a 1940's style radar transmitter.

As said upthread, arcing usually occurs where charge builds up, like on sharp corners. The tines of a fork will sometimes arc, but usually not in my experience. Take a grape and cut it almost in half so that there is just a tiny bit of skin holding the two halves together and lay it flat on a plate and it will usually arc. Mixed vegetables will arc if they were grown in soil with a high mineral content.

Last edited by engineer_comp_geek; 01-26-2020 at 05:43 PM.
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Old 01-26-2020, 07:05 PM
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The Never But Metal in a Microwave warning is not set in stone as discussed in this article:

"If you must put metal in your microwave—your house, your rules—the safest option is flat, non-crinkled aluminum foil. With few sharp corners, the electrons have a large area to vibrate over and not many places to get stuck. Sparking isn’t a problem, and the microwave reflections can shield food and keep it cool, like a blanket over a chicken bone you want to protect from burning. Limit yourself, though. The USDA suggests covering no more than one quarter of your food, keeping excess reflections at bay. Thin, flat foils are also part of “crisper” packaging like Hot Pocket sleeves and frozen pizza trays. These foils reflect microwaves, concentrating the energy nearby and cooking the crust a bit more than the rest. (It’s all relative, though. You’re never going to get a nice sear on a microwaved steak, crisper foil or not.)

Beyond that, be wary. Spoons are smoother than forks and should lead to less sparking, and a metal mixing bowl might likewise be cornerless enough, but when you’re explaining what happened to the insurance claims officer, don’t say you heard that justification here."

"If you must put metal in your microwave—your house, your rules—the safest option is flat, non-crinkled aluminum foil. With few sharp corners, the electrons have a large area to vibrate over and not many places to get stuck. Sparking isn’t a problem, and the microwave reflections can shield food and keep it cool, like a blanket over a chicken bone you want to protect from burning. Limit yourself, though. The USDA suggests covering no more than one quarter of your food, keeping excess reflections at bay. Thin, flat foils are also part of “crisper” packaging like Hot Pocket sleeves and frozen pizza trays. These foils reflect microwaves, concentrating the energy nearby and cooking the crust a bit more than the rest. (It’s all relative, though. You’re never going to get a nice sear on a microwaved steak, crisper foil or not.)

Beyond that, be wary. Spoons are smoother than forks and should lead to less sparking, and a metal mixing bowl might likewise be cornerless enough, but when you’re explaining what happened to the insurance claims officer, don’t say you heard that justification here."]If you must put metal in your microwave—your house, your rules—the safest option is flat, non-crinkled aluminum foil. With few sharp corners, the electrons have a large area to vibrate over and not many places to get stuck. Sparking isn’t a problem, and the microwave reflections can shield food and keep it cool, like a blanket over a chicken bone you want to protect from burning. Limit yourself, though. The USDA suggests covering no more than one quarter of your food, keeping excess reflections at bay. Thin, flat foils are also part of “crisper” packaging like Hot Pocket sleeves and frozen pizza trays. These foils reflect microwaves, concentrating the energy nearby and cooking the crust a bit more than the rest. (It’s all relative, though. You’re never going to get a nice sear on a microwaved steak, crisper foil or not.)

Beyond that, be wary. Spoons are smoother than forks and should lead to less sparking, and a metal mixing bowl might likewise be cornerless enough, but when you’re explaining what happened to the insurance claims officer, don’t say you heard that justification here."

Source: https://thetakeout.com/we-asked-a-ph...mic-1798253143

I routinely leave my spoon or fork in soups or highly liquid foods I'm heating up because the percentage of the metal surface is much less than what I'm heating up. Sometimes there a small spark, especially if the fork or spoon handle hits the side of the oven, but as noted in the article, something flammable is required to start a fire. Soup's not going to burst in to flames!
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Old 01-26-2020, 07:17 PM
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CD's and DVD's make a very nice display in a microwave.
With the proper setup you can even use consumer ovens to melt aluminum and iron.
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Old 01-26-2020, 10:27 PM
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I once put one of those aseptic boxes (Tetra Brik) in a microwave and found out that was a bad idea. But at least I solved a minor mystery I'd been wondering about. The box was not sealed, in fact the pour spout had broken out of the box and there was only about one serving of soup left in it. So I thought I'd just heat it up in the box.

It turns out that the box has aluminum foil in its construction and it immediately started sparking. I quickly shut it off and did not apparently damage anything. But that at least answers how those things are considered recyclable. They obviously just recycle the aluminum and burn off the rest of the package.
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Old 01-26-2020, 11:45 PM
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CD's and DVD's make a very nice display in a microwave.
With the proper setup you can even use consumer ovens to melt aluminum and iron.
Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "burn a CD".
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Old 01-27-2020, 01:36 AM
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Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "burn a CD".
Turkey or chicken with foil on the end of the legs, so that it doesn't overcook. Never done it myself, but apparently it's a thing, and not a disaster.

In the video posted above, there is no way for the soup to get hot, because it's protected by the can. That also means that all the energy is being pumped into the circulating currents in the can -- no wonder it arcs!
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Old 01-27-2020, 08:43 AM
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Turkey or chicken with foil on the end of the legs, so that it doesn't overcook. Never done it myself, but apparently it's a thing, and not a disaster.
I’ve just bought a new microwave and actually scanned through the manual for once. I’ve always followed the ‘no metal in the microwave’ rule, so I was quite surprised to find the manual suggesting wrapping thinner parts of things like meat in aluminium foil to stop it burning before the rest of the food is cooked. There’s even a section on safely using foil in the microwave. So not just a thing, but a recommended by manufacturers thing.

OB

Last edited by Oswald Bastable; 01-27-2020 at 08:44 AM. Reason: Typos
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Old 01-27-2020, 09:38 AM
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Here's a video of someone microwaving a can of soup. There is some pretty impressive arcing.

Generally the problem occurs in places where the metal is thin and/or pointed. The edge of an open soup can would qualify.
Well, that is not a "Can of Soup", that is an Empty Soup Can, Lol

Back 40> years back my Pa told us that putting a metal cup or bowl in a microwave oven could be a problem if there was trapped water in a seam such as a rolled and sealed base or lip.
He did a lot of reading on anything new and toyed with those heath kit projects a lot.

One other thing he said was popping popcorn is hard on the Microwaves Gizzard(my word), but Nuking popcorn at work along with about 20 other co-workers didn't appear to be hard on that oven.
So remembering Pa's many words of wisdom i would get a kick out of the guys that would get all bent out of shape when i put my can of soup in.
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Old 01-27-2020, 09:45 AM
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Then there are grapes. One of my nephews put grapes in my microwave one and caused some problems.
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Old 01-27-2020, 10:23 AM
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Gilded dinnerware can catch you off-guard. I put a Christmas plate with gold edging in the microwave once. Ever put a CD in a microwave? Same thing: the thin layer of gold edging on the plate was destroyed, criss-crossed by a jagged mesh of arc trails where the metal had been blown away. Oops.
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Old 01-27-2020, 10:54 AM
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I'm old enough to remember Barbara Hale (of Perry Mason fame) pitching for Amana Radar Ranges on television. She would put frozen TV dinners in the Range with portions protected with foil.

I once owned an Amana Radar Range Cooking Guide. This was the instructional booklet that came with a Range. It specifically permitted using foil as a blanket, as mentioned by lingyi.

Of course that was 40 years ago. Modern units are probably different and I would certainly read the owners guide to see if it was still permitted.
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Old 01-27-2020, 11:05 AM
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I remember watching a PBS cooking show in the late 1980s that had a segment on using aluminum foil safely in a microwave oven. Complete with demonstrations.

The upshot seemed to be that the surface area of the food had to be much larger than the surface are of the food. No wrapping a potato in a foil jacket and trying to bake a potato in a microwave the way you would in a regular ol' oven.
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Old 01-27-2020, 01:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markn+ View Post
Here's a video of someone microwaving a can of soup. There is some pretty impressive arcing.

Generally the problem occurs in places where the metal is thin and/or pointed. The edge of an open soup can would qualify.
Put the can in unopened. Problem solved.




Do not do that. I was just kidding.
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Old 01-27-2020, 01:58 PM
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My son had a microwave that came with a metal rack. But it didn't have sharp edges and there was no arcing.
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Old 01-27-2020, 02:08 PM
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Our microwave-convection metal rack does not spark. I regularly leave a metal spoon in a non-metal container of food being nuked. No forks because arcing. All the gold foil boiled off our decorated Celtic cup so it gets nuked for coffee without regret. But anything microwaved for the first time gets watched for sparks.
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Old 01-27-2020, 05:57 PM
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Campbell's makes a ready-to-eat soup which is intended to be microwaved. The can itself is some type of fiber or cardboard but it has a metal ring all around the top. It has never caused any arcing or other issues.

One of the local grocery stores here now sells most prepared foods in trays that appear to be made of aluminum, which they claim are safe for both oven and microwave use. I've never believed that it could be truly safe and effective in the microwave and have always either used the oven or dumped the stuff into a ceramic casserole dish. But obviously the answer to metal in the microwave question is that "it depends".

The trays are indicated as being recyclable so I throw them in with aluminum beverage cans, food cans, and the like. How they differ from old style metal containers that were strictly prohibited from microwave use I have no idea. This article seems ambivalent -- small amounts of aluminum foil are OK, metal pans are not, and food entirely wrapped in foil is not OK because the microwaves will not reach and heat the food. Therein my problem with the aluminum trays. Unless they are made of some kind of magic metal, most of the heating would probably be through the open top and not through the bottom or sides, hence uneven heating at best.
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Old 01-28-2020, 08:16 AM
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We were looking t microwave ovens this weekend, and I noticed that most models have a nice, gleaming meta rack smack dab in the middle. These are apparently accounted for in the design so they don't cause problems:

https://www.leaf.tv/articles/what-is...microwave-for/
https://www.apartmenttherapy.com/met...-and-oth-90861

Ages ago, at my first job, someone put up a sign saying that not putting metal in a microwave was a myth. You CAN do it, provided you know what you're doing, and do it correctly. as noted, those individual soup contains have metal rings in them, and metal rims on cups don't seem to cause problems. But just putting metal at random in a microwave is asking for trouble

https://www.wisegeek.com/is-it-dange...-microwave.htm




You don't need metal to cause problems. One of my bosses at a job several years ago thought he would avoid the problems with exploding eggs in the microwave by putting his egg into a cup filed with water. He figured that the water would heat first, boiling the egg in itys shell and preventing problems.

Ha!

The egg not only exploded all over the microwave (producing an incredible stink), it also blew off one of the hinges on the door. He had to get a new microwave oven for the office.


Did I mention that this was a high tech firm, and he was an engineer?
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Old 01-28-2020, 09:50 AM
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The upshot seemed to be that the surface area of the food had to be much larger than the surface are of the food.
Err ... that should read:

... the surface area of the food had to be much larger than the surface area of the foil.

Thanks, all, for allowing me to skate on that
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Old 01-28-2020, 11:26 AM
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I put a plate with silver trim around the circumference. It would sometimes spark and once I got nasty burn (enough to cause a blister) when I touched it.

Forgot to mention, if you leave a metal utensil in your food, be careful. It can get really hot from contact with the food.
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Old 01-28-2020, 01:36 PM
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Take a grape and cut it almost in half so that there is just a tiny bit of skin holding the two halves together and lay it flat on a plate and it will usually arc. Mixed vegetables will arc if they were grown in soil with a high mineral content.
There were unexpected fireworks when I used the microwave to mellow out some lightly salted chopped onion.
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Old 01-29-2020, 05:37 AM
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You don't need metal to cause problems. One of my bosses at a job several years ago thought he would avoid the problems with exploding eggs in the microwave by putting his egg into a cup filed with water. He figured that the water would heat first, boiling the egg in itys shell and preventing problems.

Ha!

The egg not only exploded all over the microwave (producing an incredible stink), it also blew off one of the hinges on the door. He had to get a new microwave oven for the office.
I see on YouTube an instruction to just put a small hole in the egg.

Nope. If you put a small hole in the air-sac, the shell doesn't explode. But the egg still does.
If you but a large hole in the shell, and pierce the yolk several times.... you've still got a problem.

Assuming that you've got the big hole in the shell and the pierced yolk --- the egg cooks from the outside in, sealing up the hole that you made, and still burps. And then it seems safe, but is hot steam inside.

So you break the egg, beat it, and put it in a microwave-safe dish --- and still burps in the oven and is dangerously unevenly heated when you take it out.

... it's not just microwaves. Our single-white-male tenent blew the door off the conventional oven while heating an unopened can Later, his girlfriend came over to help him muck out his kitchen with a shovel...

Last edited by Melbourne; 01-29-2020 at 05:37 AM.
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Old 02-03-2020, 01:14 AM
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So you break the egg, beat it, and put it in a microwave-safe dish --- and still burps in the oven and is dangerously unevenly heated when you take it out.
One of my fave easy man-meals: Open a small nuke-able container. Add a tablespoon or two of cooked beans or marinated artichoke hearts or whatever. Crack an egg onto that. Pour in a bit of egg whites and stir all that. Lay a slice of cheese atop that, and then a single maize corn tortilla. Put two or three low-fat sausages on the tortilla. Snap-on the container's lid. Microwave for about 3.5 minutes, depending. Spoiler: it won't explode.
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Old 02-04-2020, 10:28 AM
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It's an issue.

I recently got about 6 bronze-colored hand-me-down glass plates. I mean, they're coated glass, but the inside is a rich bronze color. I assumed they were microwave-safe, since they WERE glass, and I assumed most all plates are MW safe.

Nope.

I've accidentally thrown them in with leftovers on them a couple times, only to see lightning fire off inside my cheapo little microwave. I usually panic and hit the cancel button. So far it's been okay, and the machine still works fine. The plates haven't been microwaved for more than the 2 seconds it takes me to realize what I did, but at least one of them has visible black marks over one side.

I know I've accidentally microwaved a spoon once, too.

If it's only in for a literal 1-2 seconds, your microwave will probably be okay. Don't fool yourself into thinking it isn't dangerous, though.
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Old 02-04-2020, 10:40 AM
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So you break the egg, beat it, and put it in a microwave-safe dish --- and still burps in the oven and is dangerously unevenly heated when you take it out.
I've made scrambled eggs in the microwave quite a bit in the past. Beat the egg with the milk, add cheese or whatever else you want, and nuke it. Don't leave it in real long, of course, but I've never had any eggs explode.
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Old 02-04-2020, 10:42 AM
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My son had a microwave that came with a metal rack. But it didn't have sharp edges and there was no arcing.
Us, too. The large over-the-stove GE microwave that we had installed when we built our house 15 years ago came with an adjustable stainless steel metal rack inside (made of heavy-gauge wire). I was surprised to see this (having heard the admonition to never put metal objects inside a microwave oven, but figured it was designed to work inside the oven. Interestingly, it sits on plastic supports so that the rack does not actually touch the walls of the oven. Anyway, we've never had any issues with the rack.

Last edited by robby; 02-04-2020 at 10:43 AM.
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Old 02-04-2020, 01:26 PM
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I’ll tell you what not to do. There’s a fast food chain called Arby’s which is best known for their roast beef sandwiches. All of their sandwiches are served in wrappers that are paper on the inside and foil (I assume aluminum) on the outside.

At my first job a coworker decided to reheat his Arby’s sandwich in our break room’s microwave. The foil heated up immensely, setting the paper side of the wrapper on fire, and the microwave was in flames. Needless to say the oven was ruined. He was definitely a doofus.

If the wrapper was just foil, and didn’t have a paper side, I doubt it would have been that much of a disaster but who knows?
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Old 02-05-2020, 01:34 PM
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ObSimpsons: The walk-in microwave. (video)
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Old 02-14-2020, 05:28 AM
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I’ll tell you what not to do. There’s a fast food chain called Arby’s which is best known for their roast beef sandwiches. All of their sandwiches are served in wrappers that are paper on the inside and foil (I assume aluminum) on the outside.

At my first job a coworker decided to reheat his Arby’s sandwich in our break room’s microwave. The foil heated up immensely, setting the paper side of the wrapper on fire, and the microwave was in flames. Needless to say the oven was ruined. He was definitely a doofus.

If the wrapper was just foil, and didn’t have a paper side, I doubt it would have been that much of a disaster but who knows?
Um... That job wouldn't happen to have been at an electronics company near Dixie and Eglinton in Mississauga, Ontario, would it? Because I may or may not have done exactly that... without the flames though.
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Old 02-14-2020, 07:29 AM
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I have used a microwave egg cooker like this one.

https://www.amazon.com/Nordic-Ware-M.../dp/B0007M2BN0

It has two halves, the top half lined with aluminum, and a metal tray that holds four eggs. The metal in the top half reflects the microwaves away from the eggs so that steam pressure doesn't build up inside of them and they don't explode. Water in the bottom half steams them from below. I have had no problems using it to hard boil eggs.
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