This might be your fastest choice but if you are wondering about safety, well, this is you have come to the right place. It is possible to boil water in the microwave because it will take the liquid to its boiling point. But you want to be careful about superheating and burning.
Is Microwave a Safe Option to Boil Water?
You want to heat the water for no more than 1-3 minutes in a microwave. But not non-stop. After each 30 seconds, you want to stop the heating process and stir the water a little bit so that it is evenly heated.
While you’re at it, it is also helpful to remember that you want to boil small quantities of water at a time when you are using a microwave. This is a very useful little appliance which uses electromagnectic waves. When that happens, friction is created among the water molecules and heat energy is produced in a random pattern.
You might have to heat it for a long time to achieve uniformity. Otherwise you will only have pockets of hot water amid cool water. But that’s not safe. So, you take breaks and stir it. Luckily, there are no health issues connected to boiling water if you do it right.
How Does a Microwave Boil Water?
As mentioned before, when you place water in a microwave and heat it, friction is generated among the water molecules and they generate heat energy. This is why heating water in a microwave is the fastest option. In fact, water gets heated in a microwave faster than many other kinds of food.
Why This Is a Bad Idea
When you do heat up water for a long time in a microwave, water molecules get superheated. At least, that’s the risk. When the water gets super heated, water vapor produced due to the generated heat turns into bubbles when you jostle the water no matter the vessel the water is in.
At that point, you know that the water has reached its boiling point. But if you are not careful and even if you are, this kind of superheating can release water vapor very suddenly and it can cause an explosion. Although that is very rare, it is still possible.
And even though these explosions are caused simply by boiling water, they can be very dangerous and lead to injuries. And since it is virtually impossible to tell when water has reached an exceptionally high temperature, these dangers become more and more imminent when we use a microwave.
In comparison, water takes a long time to get heated when you do it on a stove or a kettle. That gives you more time but those who are restless might think of the microwave as a better option when it is not.
Another advantage that comes with heating water in a kettle or on a stove is that they might take a few minutes but they are never dangerous. That’s because they are not as much at risk of superheating as a microwave.
Now, sometimes, the containers used to boil water will have scratches that are not visible to the naked eye. These scratches make for an uneven surface for those bubbles unless the containers are brand new.
Apart from that, superheating is also a possibility any time you boil water in the microwave for more than 2 or 3 minutes. You cannot stop this once the water reaches its boiling point and it’s hard to tell when that happens. So, it is not recommended even though it’s possible.
The other danger to note when using a microwave is that there is a possibility of steam getting trapped under the colder layers of water. This is the buildup that might lead to an explosion. Stirring removes the risk of this happening.
Boiling Water in a Microwave: The Two Risks
If you have no choice but to heat water in a microwave, you should be aware of the two main risks: burning and superheating.
Even when you take extreme precaution, these two are always possibilities because the water gets heated really quickly, as do the containers. Here are the specifics of those problems.
- Burning: When the microwave water reaches a temperature of 212 degrees Fahrenheit, it is at its boiling point. This means both the container and the water are extremely hot. Exposing a person to these temperatures might lead to burns and scaldings. This could result in you experiencing blisters on the skin that might also lead to other problems.
Superheating: As you now know, water goes from its boiling point to the state of superheating really quickly. It is not noticeable by the naked eye because water bubbles are not created when you boil water in the microwave.
This leads to an explosion before you even have the chance to switch it off. And it might cause problems when you decide to take the container out of the microwave.
What you can do to try and avoid an explosion is to stir the water at 30-second intervals so that you can stop boiling water right around the time it reaches its boiling point. You can also be smart about it by following these guidelines.
- Check the Time: If you boil the water in intervals, you will be able to boil water in moderation, even in a microwave. That means you will have to check the amount of water that is being heated and stop it when you reach the one-minute mark.
- Use New Containers: New containers are less likely to have scratches which means they will have fewer uneven surface area. This will keep the water from being any more prone to explosions than it already is. And it is best to use microwave-safe containers that don’t have stretches or cracks.
- Check Boiling Point: You can use a long tool or a cooking stick to make sure that the water is not superheated. You should stick it to the sideways surfaces of the container gently. If you hear a noise that is like a burst, water will spill into the microwave and that’s your cue to stop heating it. This will also keep you safe from injuries.
- Stir Occassionally: As recommended before, you should stir the water every 30 seconds to gauge how hot it has become. This will keep you from getting to a stage where the water could spill and also avoid the state of superheating this ensuring safety to a certain extent.
- Wearing Protective Gear: Since all these precautions might still not guarantee safety, it is best to wear protective gear like gloves to reduce the amount of injuries you might experience in case the water spills on your skin. This will also help when you touch the surface of the container, which will be extremely hot when the water is boiling.
How Long Does It Take?
Typically, boiling just one small cup of water takes about one to three minutes in a microwave. That is if you are looking at reaching the boiling point. But when you are boiling water in a microwave, you should know exactly when it reaches the boiling point so that you can act quickly and stop it from overheating.
These specific details depend on the make and model of the microwave. The amount of water you are trying to heat and the wattage of the microwave are key factors in this process. Here are some guidelines to help you out.
- 600-watt microwaves take about 4 minutes for the water to reach its boiling point.
- 700-watt microwaves take about 3 minutes.
- 800-watt microwaves take about 2.5 minutes.
- 1,000-watt microwaves take about 2 minutes.
- 1,200-watt microwaves take about 1 minute.
But you should also keep an eye out for the settings of the appliance. Different brands offer different cooking settings, which influence the cooking time heavily. But it helps to remember that the lower the wattage of the microwave, the more time it takes to boil the water.
Boiling Water in a Microwave: The Process
Here is how you should boil water in a microwave if you have no other option.
- Step 1: Pick a container that is clearly marked as microwave-safe. You should select containers made of glass or ceramic.
- Step 2: Make sure the container is not covered with a lid or an equivalent of the same after you pour the liquid into it.
- Step 3: Get a chopstick that is not made of metal so that you can make sure that the water isn’t getting superheated. Wood is ideal for this purpose.
- Step 4: Be sure to stir the water every 30 seconds.
- Step 5: Tap the chopstick to check for superheating. By doing this, you can also allow the container to release bubbles and heat that is being built under the topmost layer and hence avoid spillage.
- Step 6: Be sure to wear protective gear like gloves or mitts when you are taking the container out of the microwave to avoid injuries due to spillage.
It is also advisable not to lean into the microwave while removing the container so that a wave of steam doesn’t hit your face.
Wrapping It Up
A microwave is a very handy device that can do a lot for you. But boiling water in it, while possible, might not be the wisest decision you will make. But if you have no other option, you now know what you can do to avoid dangerous consequences.