March 7

What Happens When You Put a Fork in The Microwave? | How About Other Cutlery or Metal Objects?


Author: Gisele Perez and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

There's a lot of misinformation out there about what you can and can't put into a microwave. Some people use paper plates for microwaves, while others stick to glass bowls.

But one thing that almost everyone agrees on is that putting metal in your microwave is a bad idea because it might cause sparks, burn holes in your food, or start your kitchen on fire, but why? The Answer Has to Do with How Microwaves Work.

How do Microwave Ovens Work?

A microwave oven features a magnetron tube. Think of it as your microwave's engine. It converts electrical energy into energy that is used for cooking your food.

Microwaves heat food by making water molecules inside the food vibrate really fast. These vibrations create heat, which warms your meal.

a digital microwave oven

In order for this process to happen, there has to be water in the food, which is why dry foods like bread don't cook very well in the microwave (though they may still get hot).

Also, this is the main reason you cannot put a metal like a fork in the microwave; it doesn't absorb microwaves and acts more like a mirror than anything else. The waves bounce off the fork and return to their source, where they might create sparks or damage the inside of the oven.

Effects of Putting Metal Cutlery such as Fork, Knife, and Spoon

If you put any conductive material in there, things like knives and forks will reflect the electromagnetic radiation since they do not absorb microwave energy like the way food does.  This can seriously damage the microwave, create sparks that can cause fire, or burn a hole through a microwave.

Forks have particularly sharp tines, which makes them more dangerous metal objects. Their sharp tines can act as an antenna for waves, heating up quickly and causing serious damage to the microwave oven.

graphic illustration of fork in the microwave

I have been told stories of people having to repaint walls because they've had to put out a fire caused by sparks in their microwave.

Don't Use Metal Takeout Containers or Aluminum Foil in Your Microwave

The same rules apply to takeout containers with metal handles or edges; they're just bigger pieces of metal that need to be avoided.

Aluminum Foil

One of the basic precautions when using a microwave is to keep any metal away from it. Aluminum foil is one of those metals that cannot be put into the microwave because it will create arcing or sparks that may lead to a fire or electric shock.

aluminum in the microwave

What To Do If You Accidentally Microwave Metal Object

Don't panic. You should first shut off the microwave and unplug it before removing the metallic object. Sharp metal objects may spark or even catch fire if left inside of a microwave.

Leave the door shut until it's cool enough to safely remove the item.

If there is no damage to the microwave and no fire, then consider yourself lucky. You can probably continue to use it just fine. If there are sparks or smoke coming out of it when you try to heat something up again, then you'll have to get it fixed or replaced or, even worse, buy a new one.

If there's anything else wrong with your microwave after an accident like this happens, then don't try fixing it yourself. Call an appliance technician instead.

electrician fixing a microwave

Modern Microwaves with Sensors

Most modern microwaves come with sensors built in to prevent sparks from forming. If they detect something metallic inside, they either stop the machine or try to warn you.

If you have a cheaper microwave that doesn't do this, then you can buy a metal detector that you can stick inside, and it'll go off if there's anything metal in there.

What Are Some Other Things That Can Be Put in The Microwave?

While microwaves are great for heating up leftovers, they can be used to do more than just reheat food. You can use your microwave to brew coffee, melt chocolate and even cook bacon.

a microwave working


Oatmeal is a great breakfast option because it's easy to make and super to fill. But if you don't have time in the morning, try making it at night by microwaving it for four minutes. The oats will absorb water while they cook, which makes them soft and fluffy.


Coffee is a must-have for most people in the morning. But instead of brewing a whole pot just for yourself, try microwaving it. All you need is some ground beans and water. Add them to your cup or mug together with sugar to taste and mix well before popping into the microwave for two minutes. Remove from oven when done cooking and be careful not to burn yourself.

Thaw Meat

Microwaves have to defrost settings that allow you to safely thaw meat before cooking it in the oven or on the stovetop. Never cook frozen meat; instead, use your microwave's defrost setting first to thaw it. This will ensure that your meat is cooked all the way through without burning or overcooking it.

a person taking out the bowl with food from the microwave

Microwave Safe Containers

Some things that can be put in the microwave to heat food include Tupperware, glass, and enamel; these are considered to be microwave-safe containers.

Glass dishes are often deemed safe for microwaves if they have been manufactured specifically for microwave ovens. Such containers often have a symbol on them to denote that they are microwave safe. If people are unsure whether glass dishes are suitable for microwaves, they should consult the manufacturer's instructions before use.

Many enameled containers are also deemed suitable for microwaves, as long as they do not have metal handles or decorations and do not crack easily.

Tupperware; These containers are generally safe for use in microwaves. However, users should ensure that the lids do not contain metal parts and that the containers have no cracks or holes.

brownies in cups prepared in microwave oven

Is It Safe to Eat Food That Was Microwaved with Metal?

The short answer is yes, but only if the metal is very thin, like aluminum foil, and provided that you don't actually let the metal touch the walls of the oven.

Metal in the microwave isn't a good idea. If you put metal in the microwave, you'll almost certainly regret it soon after.

There are two reasons you might not want to eat microwaved food cooked in metal. One is if it tastes metallic. The other is if it sparks, which can happen if a piece of metal is too close to the sides of the microwave. If you get sparking, unplug the microwave and let it cool first.

Thick pieces of metal, like pots, pans, and silverware, will heat up quickly and could start a fire. Even thin aluminum foil can be dangerous if crumpled into a ball or folded into sharp points.

Food prepared in aluminum foil

Microwave Safety Tips

Microwaves are convenient, but they also can be dangerous if you don't know how to use them properly. Microwaves can start fires when they are not used properly or when they malfunction. In fact, microwave fires cause property damage each year.

To prevent accidents in your microwave, observe the following:

Avoid Metal and Plastic Containers

Use only microwave-safe containers. If you are not sure whether a container is safe to use, do not use it. Do not use brown paper bags, newspapers, aluminum foil, or any packaging material that is not specifically designed for cooking in the microwave oven.

Aluminum foil also reflects microwaves rather than absorb them as most foods do, so it needs to stay out of your microwave at all times.

Don’t microwave your food in plastic containers, Styrofoam, or plastic wrap. The containers release chemicals into the food.

Carefully inspect containers before putting them in the microwave to make sure they don't have any metal trim or embellishments.

a red cup in a microwave oven

Don't use metal dishes or utensils in your microwave oven, as metal reflects microwaves and can cause sparks that could damage your oven. Never put metal items such as forks, knives, or aluminum foil into the microwave, even if they are empty or contain only a small amount of food.

Follow The Instructions of Your Microwave Oven

Microwaves work best when they're used properly. Read the manual before you use your appliance. The manual will show you where to place dishes and which settings to use for different foods. It will also provide safety instructions, such as instructions on how to keep children away from the microwave while it's in use.

a person pushing the buttons on a microwave oven

Make Sure your Appliance is in Good Condition

Make sure the oven is in good condition and doesn't leak. Stand a few feet away from the microwave when you turn it on. If you feel anything unusual like tingling, burning, or prickling sensations, turn the oven off immediately and have it repaired.

Make sure the microwave is clean. Food splatters can cause arcing, damage the oven and start a fire.

If your microwave has a rotating glass tray, make sure it rotates freely. A tray that doesn't turn easily can cause uneven heating, which could result in burns or start a fire.

Now that we've cleared out any uncertainties about how metal cutlery behaves when microwaved, you can find out more about different types of modern microwaves to suit all your needs. Check out the extracts from those reviews we shared here:

Microwave Types

Best Convection Microwave

Convection ovens have great cooking power, a child safety lock to prevent accidental usage of the microwave, and different cooking levels. Like we mentioned before, choosing a convection microwave for your needs will be influenced by these 3 main factors - capacity, features for your budget, and your counter space.

Best Microwaves For Home Use

The more features you choose to have, the more expensive the microwave oven for home use would be. The good news is that you can choose to keep things very economical by simply going for a microwave oven with minimal features that meets the size and power requirements as stated earlier.

Best Simple And Basic Microwave Ovens

To reiterate this, a basic microwave oven, in our opinion is a small to midsize, non-inverter solo countertop microwave oven. Why? because a microwave such as this is easy to operate, is affordable, does not occupy much counterspace and is easy to install.

Best 1200 Watt Microwave Ovens

Most of the ovens in this category are quite expensive. This is generally due to two reasons: high powered microwave ovens are heavy duty and thus feature expensive components, secondly, they are very large. Some of the premium ovens in this power category though offer cutting edge technology, albeit at a higher cost.

Best Midsize Countertop Microwave

A midsize model is excellent for a regular family. The smaller models are generally reserved for offices, dorm rooms or garage like spaces. Larger microwave ovens are reserved for commercial spaces, so if you are have regular sized family or 4-5 members, then a midsize microwave oven would work perfectly for you.

About the author

Gisele Perez

When not giving in-home, hands-on cooking classes, or developing recipes, Gisele "cooks" wonderful posts for us. She writes about various topics related to cooking appliances and cooking methods.


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