Can You Boil Water in The Microwave, and Should You?

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Known for making kitchen work easier, faster, and more convenient, the appliance is incredibly versatile.

However, answers to questions regarding its safety, specifically how it affects water, remain elusive.

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This article reviews whether you can boil water in a microwave, if doing so is safe, and precautions to take.

Safety of boiling water in the microwave

Microwaves use electromagnetic waves to rapidly move and cause friction between water molecules to generate heat.

One study on how various microwaving temperatures affect the properties of water confirmed that microwaves can heat water to boiling temperature (1).

That said, the electromagnetic waves in microwaves heat water molecules in random spots. This means that if the water is not heated long enough, pockets of boiling water may develop below a layer of cooler water.

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Therefore, it’s important to stir the water prior to use. You should also use microwave-safe cups when boiling water in a microwave.

For better temperature control, it’s best to use other methods like the stovetop.

The health effects of microwaves remain controversial. To date, no conclusive evidence suggests that microwaves have cancer-causing effects, indicating that it’s a safe preparation method (2).

You can boil water in a microwave. However, microwaves may heat water unevenly, so make sure to stir it before use. Studies on the health effects of microwaves remain inconclusive.

Precautions

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Though boiling water in a microwave is easy and convenient, you should take some precautions.

Spilling boiling water can be dangerous. To protect your skin from burns, be sure to use hot pads when removing water from your microwave.

You should only boil water in the microwave in approved containers. Do not use plastic or glass unless it’s rated safe for microwave use. It’s also important to note that metal should never be put in the microwave.

Steam vapor can also cause burns. Therefore, be sure to protect your skin and do not put your hands directly above boiling water until it has cooled slightly.

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Be sure to read your microwave’s instructions carefully to familiarize yourself with its power output, settings, and suitable containers.

When boiling water in the microwave, be sure to take proper precautions. Use hot pads and suitable containers to avoid burns.

How to safely boil water in the microwave

Boiling water in the microwave is simple and quick.

Here are 6 easy steps to follow:

  1. Choose a microwave-safe bowl. Glass or ceramic bowls work best.
  2. Pour water into an unsealed container. Do not seal or cover the container.
  3. Place a non-metallic object in the container. This could be a chopstick or popsicle stick, which will prevent the water from superheating.
  4. Heat in short intervals. Stir after each 1– 2-minute interval until the water has boiled.
  5. Tap the side of the bowl to check for superheating. Tapping the side of the bowl disturbs the water molecules and releases trapped heat.
  6. Carefully remove the container. Use hot pads to avoid burning.
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Boiled water can be used for many purposes like cooking or making tea, hot cocoa, or coffee.

Boiling water in the microwave is easy. Make sure to use a microwave-safe container, heat in short intervals, and stir the water before use.

The bottom line

Boiling water in the microwave is convenient and safe.

The method is best used when heating small quantities of water, as microwaves can distribute heat unevenly.

According to current research, no negative health effects are associated with boiling water in the microwave.

Therefore, the next time you need to boil water quickly, feel free to use a microwave.

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