Why Do Eggs Explode in the Microwave?
Occasionally, eggs will explode in the microwave. Why? Science! But there are things you can do to prevent explosions and keep microwaving those eggs with safe and satisfying results.
As a rule, making eggs in the microwave is quick and low-maintenance, and goes without a hitch. Every now and then, though, things go awry and a yolk explodes. Microwaves aren’t exactly strangers to explosions, but that doesn’t mean we should have to put up with them.
Why do eggs explode in the microwave anyway, and is there any way to prevent it? Here’s what the experts say.
Steam + Pressure = Explosion
“The reason eggs, particularly poached eggs, explode in the microwave is due to the buildup of steam inside the egg,” says Ken Braswell, president of Eggland’s Best franchisee Braswell Farms. “The water inside the egg heats up rapidly, turning into steam, but this steam doesn't have an easy way to escape. If the pressure builds up too much, the egg will explode.”
This pressure is exacerbated by the egg’s structure since eggs have a thin membrane that seals liquid inside.
“Egg explosions in the microwave are especially common when the egg starts to overcook,” says Steph Chen, founder and CEO of Anyday microwave cookware. When egg proteins solidify, the water inside has nowhere to go.”
Why Do Microwaves Make Food Explode?
Eggs aren’t the only target of microwave explosions—think about popcorn, or the faint sound of leftovers crackling if you stick them in the microwave too long.
“Microwaves work by penetrating your food at the perfect frequency to vibrate the water molecules within it,” Chen says. Instead of heating up the air around your food (like an oven or an air fryer, etc.), the microwaves heat up your food itself. If the moisture inside your food has nowhere to go, it will result in popping or explosions.”
How to Prevent Your Eggs from Exploding
Thankfully, exploding eggs are a simple issue to troubleshoot. There are several ways to ensure a non-explosive egg in the microwave—piercing the yolk for poached eggs, adjusting your microwave setting, adding an extra step to the cooking process, or using a more microwave-friendly container.
- Pierce the yolk: Using a toothpick or sharp knife to pierce the yolk, will give the moisture a way out and lessen pressure.
- Adjust your microwave: Microwaves default to max power, so try reducing yours to between 60 and 70 percent and slightly increase your cook time. Less intensity means less pressure, which means better eggs. Fun fact: reducing your microwave’s power level is also a great way to reheat leftovers, because it lets food heat more evenly.
- Pause, then flip: With poached eggs, halfway through cooking time, pause the microwave and flip your egg over. “The top of the egg cooks more quickly than the bottom when microwave poaching,” says Jennifer Pallian, BSc Food, Nutrition and Health. Flipping your egg allows the steam to escape through the less cooked, still unset side. “When steam tries to rise through the fully cooked top, it can’t get out and eventually, if that pressure reaches a tipping point, it could blow up.”
- Use a different container: Material matters when it comes to microwaves. Opt for a glass or ceramic bowl or mug, which won’t heat up as quickly. Using a lid will trap the steam, and if the egg does explode, at least the mess is contained. “Think about microwave power levels like adjusting the heat on the stovetop. You wouldn’t cook scrambled eggs on high flame or bake brownies on broil,” Chen says.