What Happens If You Put a Fork in the Microwave? – Safety Tips

Like most people, I’m sure at some point in your life, you have or will accidentally leave a fork on a plate and stick it in the microwave. But, what happens if you put a fork in the microwave? Will the whole thing explode?

The short answer is: putting a fork in the microwave will have varying reactions, ranging from nothing at all to generating a few sparks, with the worst case being a fire and damage to the microwave.

Of course, there are other factors to consider here that will determine what your particular outcome is. So, let’s talk a little bit more about those items in depth.

what happens if you put a fork in the microwave dinners done quick featured image

What Happens If You Accidentally Put a Fork in the Microwave?

If you accidentally put a fork in the microwave, the fork is going to build up electrons emitted during the microwave cooking cycle. When enough have accumulated, the fork will begin to spark.

Most often, this is just between the tines, as their close proximity lends to an easy spark jumping point. However, depending how close the fork is to the metal sides of your microwave, it may just as easily arc there as well.

The concern with the fork is mostly the tines themselves and not the metal composition directly. That’s why, with some precaution, you can use aluminum foil in the microwave, as it’s not got a natural arc producer built right in.

Can a Metal Fork Damage a Microwave?

Yes, a metal fork can damage a microwave. Persistent electrical sparks will eventually damage components of your microwave, making it either completely not working, or unsafe to do so.

That said, it typically takes at least a few minutes of cooking time to generate enough sparks to cause damage. It’s the same phenomenon you’d see when you microwave nothing actually, where the buildup of charge without a way to disperse it can lead to damages.

If you accidentally place a fork in the microwave and see it spark, immediately stop the microwave and remove the fork. This should mitigate any potential damage.

What Happens If You Microwave a Metal Fork With Food?

If you microwave a metal fork with food, often the food will serve as a damper to prevent buildup of electrons in the fork itself. Especially if the tines are buried in the food, you likely won’t see anything happen other than the fork getting warmed along with the food.

That said, the portion of the fork that sticks out of the food can still create an electrical arc with the sides of the microwave if it comes close enough.

This goes for other utensils as well, be it a spoon, knife, or other metal object like a thermometer you’re using to warm milk in the microwave.

Will Putting a Fork in the Microwave Make it Explode?

No, putting a fork in a microwave will not make the microwave explode. Usually, electrical sparks are all that occurs. However, prolonged periods in the microwave can lead to a fire.

Even if your microwave and subsequently your kitchen were to catch on fire, the microwave still is not likely to explode.

What Happens If You Put a Spoon in the Microwave?

Much like a fork, putting a spoon on the microwave typically causes sparks with the housing of the microwave. It can also lead to a fire and damage the microwave after a few minutes.

Spoons, however, do not possess tines to arc amongst themselves. In this way, they are less likely to create sparks when compared to a fork. They can still create an arc with the inside of your microwave, however, so caution should still be used.

Is It Safe to Eat Food That Sparked in the Microwave?

It is safe to eat food that sparked in the microwave assuming you know the culprit, such as a fork. The sparks caused by metal utensils in the microwave will not harm your food.

If the food is sparking on its own during heating with no utensils present, then it is not recommended to eat it. This generally indicates the presence of metal fragments in the food itself, which could be hazardous.

Is My Microwave Safe to Use After I Put a Fork in It?

Your microwave should be safe to use after putting a fork in it, so long as no noticeable damage has occurred. Look for signs such as burn marks, holes, or other obvious damage to both the interior and exterior of the microwave.

Most damage occurs after 2-3 minutes of use, so if you accidentally placed the utensil in and caught it pretty quickly, then your appliance is likely fine.

If the microwave emits smoke, sparks, or trips the breaker when you attempt to use it, immediately unplug it and get a new microwave.

In Conclusion

While it’s not something you should do regularly, if you happen to put a fork in the microwave, it’s likely not the end of the world.

If you’re keeping an eye on things, you might see a couple sparks fly. However, you can always power it off, remove the offending utensil, and carry on.

The worst case, though, is that you can start a fire in your kitchen! So, I always try to give my plate or bowl a double check before I hit that start button to make sure nothing is hanging out that shouldn’t be.

If you find yourself in the market for a new microwave, check out my 7 Ideas For What to Do With Your Old Microwave for some disposal options!

Other Microwave Guides to Check Out

Katie Vine