How Hot Does A Microwave Get?

Have you ever thought about the ins and outs of how a microwave works?

How Hot Does A Microwave Get featured image

If you aren’t familiar with how a microwave functions, it can be pretty confusing to think about – even something as simple as how hot a microwave gets can be a mystery if you’ve never considered it before.

Don’t worry, though, because we’ve got all the answers you’re looking for right here!

In this guide, we’ll take a look at just how hot microwaves get when they’re cooking food.

We’ll also go over how a microwave works in the first place, and how it’s able to heat food up so quickly.

So let’s jump right into it!

If you’re searching for a new microwave and are deciding where to put it in your kitchen, you might want to know how much a microwave weighs.

How Does A Microwave Work, Exactly?

Before we can take a look at how hot a microwave gets, let’s take a closer look at how a microwave actually works.

Microwaves are different from other forms of cooking such as ovens in terms of how they heat their food.

Instead of producing heat via fire or a heating element that then transfers heat into the food, microwaves use – you guessed it – microwaves!

Microwaves are generated by a tube in the oven and bounce around the metal interior of the microwave.

The microwaves are then absorbed by the food, and cause the molecules of water inside the food to start vibrating.

This vibration generates a lot of heat, which then causes the food to cook as a result.

So How Hot Does A Microwave Actually Get?

Okay – we’ve covered the basics of how microwaves work.

By causing the water molecules in the food to vibrate incredibly fast, microwaves generate a lot of heat inside the food itself.

How Hot Does A Microwave Get?

But just how much heat does this process actually produce? Well, it actually depends on a couple of different factors.

The main factor at play here is the setting your microwave is on. This is because the settings control the wattage of the microwave.

Different settings will produce more or less heat depending on the temperature you need – for example, the defrost setting generates a very low heat compared to setting the microwave to High. 

This is great when you need to defrost bacon in a microwave, but not sufficient when you’re trying to cook something.

Most microwaves can provide a range of wattages from 350W to 1250W, with the higher wattages cooking food more quickly and at a higher temperature.

However, wattage isn’t the only thing that can influence the temperature of a microwave. Cooking time also has an effect.

The longer your microwave is cooking, the hotter the food will get.

As more microwaves are absorbed by the food, it will heat all the way through and increase the overall temperature in the process.

When it comes to the actual temperature inside the microwave, this is where things start to get a bit tricky.

Because microwaves work by heating up the water inside the food to cook it, the question isn’t so much “how hot does a microwave get?” as it is “how hot does the food get” – this can be complicated, as the temperature can vary wildly depending on what it is you’re cooking.

Some of these secrets explain why ice doesn’t melt in the microwave!

In general, though, the highest temperature your food will reach in a microwave is around 212℉ (or 100℃), which is the boiling point of water.

As the water molecules in the food are being heated directly, they’ll start to evaporate as soon as it hits boiling point; any food will start to dehydrate and liquids will begin to boil, at which point you need to switch off the microwave ASAP to prevent any accidents.

That’s not to say that 212℉ is the hottest a microwave can get, however.

As mentioned before, the wattage and cooking time of a microwave can increase its temperature.

If you cook something on a high setting for long periods of time, the contents can pass the normal maximum temperature. 

Water can also be superheated if the right conditions are created, bringing the temperature to extreme levels.

However, this (along with the other example) can be dangerous and shouldn’t be attempted. 

Learn more about how to prevent superheating when you make coffee in a microwave.

Does The Inside Of A Microwave Get Hot?

While the food inside a microwave can hit some pretty high temperatures, the inside of the microwave itself doesn’t actually get hot!

Because microwaves generate heat through the moisture in food, a dry microwave wall won’t be heated while the food is cooking.

There may be some heat caused by steam, but this is vented quickly and the interior of the microwave cools down soon after the door is opened.

Learn more about vents and what a convertible vent on a microwave is.

How Do Microwaves Cook Food So Fast?

So now that we know how microwaves cook food and the temperatures they reach, you might be thinking to yourself: “okay, but how do microwaves heat food up so fast?”.

After all, a conventional oven can reach much higher temperatures than a microwave can, but it still takes far longer to cook in the oven – so what makes a microwave cook so quickly?

Again, this is because the microwaves heat the water in food directly and efficiently.

Going back to the way a microwave works, we know that microwaves produced in the oven are absorbed by the food and cause the water molecules inside it to vibrate.

This generates a lot of heat very quickly and efficiently, and cooks the food from the inside.

Unlike cooking in an oven, which relies on heating the air inside to transfer heat to the food, microwaves effectively cook its contents from the inside out.

This means that it can heat up foods and liquids in a fraction of the time it would take in an oven or stove.

In fact, one of the reasons most microwaves spin is to aid in more even heating!

Final Thoughts

Microwaves are fairly unique as a method of cooking, and the way they cook food makes them incredibly effective.

Because they heat up food and liquids by heating up the water molecules inside, the highest temperature you’ll typically see in a microwave is 212℉, or the boiling point of water.

This might not seem like a lot of heat compared to an oven or stove, but by cooking food internally, microwaves are one of the best ways to heat up things in a hurry!

See just how fast you can microwave milk for hot chocolate for a warm, decadent treat!

Katie Vine