Why microwave-boiling an egg can be very dangerous

Egg
This is why you shouldn't microwave a hard-boiled egg. Source: Pexels

It turns out that microwaving an egg is one of the more dangerous things you can do in the kitchen.  

A US man recently filed a lawsuit against a restaurant, claiming he’d suffered severe burns and hearing damage from a hard-boiled egg that exploded in his mouth after he bit into it, according to reports.

That story sent scientists off on a quest to look into what happens when an egg is boiled in a microwave or a boiled egg is reheated in a microwave. 

They began their research by watching YouTube videos of eggs exploding in the microwave, IFL Science reported.  According to researchers Anthony Nash and Lauren von Blohn from Charles M. Salter Associates in San Fransisco, about 30 per cent of the eggs exploded after being taken out and poked with a sharp object. The rest exploded while still in the microwave.

Then they replicated the effect by hard-boiling eggs (probably to cut down on mess from flying yolk), placing them in a water bath and then heating them in a microwave for three minutes, IFL Science reported.  According to the study, the sound of the egg ‘explosions’ covered a range of 86 to 133 decibels, which can be as loud as lightning or a chainsaw.

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The research proved that is was unlikely that the man lost his hearing as a result of the egg explosion. (Too late, it seems, for the restaurant he sued, which reportedly settled the case out of court.)

“On a statistical basis, the likelihood of an egg exploding and damaging someone’s hearing is quite remote,” Nash said according to IFL Science. “It’s a little bit like playing egg roulette.”

The experiment found that in both the exploded eggs and those that didn’t explode, however, that yolk’s temperature was much higher than the surrounding water. 

IFL Science said that this, “may be due to the protein in the egg trapping pockets of water in the yolk” or because the yolk is more susceptible to the microwave radiation than the water.

“When these pockets are disturbed, either by poking the egg or biting into it, they all boil in a chain reaction and explode, the report explained.

While it probably won’t affect your hearing, it’s definitely not a good idea to bite into one that has been boiled in a microwave, unless you want to end up with boiling yolk searing your face.

Have you microwaved an egg before? Did it explode?