In a world of chinaware, microwave-safe plastics, and glass dishes, there are people who still use wooden bowls and containers for their food containment needs. Wood isn’t just used as a chopping block for slicing meat and dicing vegetables. With that said, can you use wood in the microwave?
So is wood microwave safe? Keep on reading to find out. It mostly depends on the temperature, wood thickness, and length of the microwaving process.
Is Wood Microwave-Safe?
No, wood isn’t safe for microwaving. No, it shouldn’t be microwaved. You’re already pushing it if you microwave a bowl for more than 10-15 seconds. Beyond that can result in damage. Dishes, utensils, and bowls made of wood should stay far away from the microwave oven.
Wood isn’t microwaveable (or “microwaveable”, if you prefer that spelling). It won’t spark up like a Yule log because your microwave oven isn’t a fireplace or fire pit. Metal tends to spark out more dramatically in the microwave, thus making it more of a danger in destroying the appliance.
The Danger of Microwaving Wood
As for the danger from microwaving wood, it roots from its tiny water content that can cause a wooden bowl or spoon to warm up rather quickly. Eventually, it could warm up so much it’d crack from the sudden rise in heat.
Wood doesn’t go up in flames easily, but the thinner the bowl the easier it will burn. Also, like when burning logs, the thickest logs can end up in flames if you make the flame temperature high enough. A microwave can reach unbelievably high temperatures in a short period of time.
When a Wooden Bowl is Microwaved Safely It’s Mostly Luck
There are workarounds to this, like using a different container for reheating food. Don’t get too excited about claims from others that they microwaved a wooden bowl just fine. They were merely lucky and most of the time, sooner or later, wood will get damaged from microwaving.
It’s like how you wouldn’t even dare put a wooden bowl inside a conventional or convection oven like it’s a kiln. It’s actually worse with microwaves because the appliance heats up things from the inside out.
A bowl can also crack, warp, or even set on fire if microwaved long enough from within, its moisture from within heats the wood up to superheated levels. Even though outwards, wood is a good insulator, from within it can easily heat up and break.
Why Isn’t Wood Microwave-Safe?
Wooden bowls have no issues in dealing with hot foods such as curries, stews, soup, porridge, and so forth. Why shouldn’t it take the heat possible from microwaves?
Wooden anything—like bowls, utensils, or whole chopping blocks—shouldn’t be microwaved. Thicker wood can deal with the microwaving but only to a certain point still. Even though wood is a natural insulator that keeps your food warm after they’re taken from the pot, they can’t survive microwaving.
Hot food exuding conductive heat is different from microwave radiation exciting water molecules to the point of heating the wooden something from inside out. A bowl of wood protects your hands from excess heat.
Your Wooden Bowl Can Become Unglued
Another problem when it comes to microwaving wooden objects is the fact that not all of them are caved from the same piece of wood. Instead, some of them are sawed off in sections then glued together to form a dish, utensil, or work piece.
Glue joints can fall apart due to heat. The hotness induced by a microwave can reliquify the glue and make it lose its stickiness and bonding power. The glue won’t necessarily fail but as it becomes liquid at a certain temperature that’s not even all that hot, the bond is then released.
Don’t put crockery with gold or silver decorations on it into the microwave. Aluminum foil or plastic stuck unto wood can result in sparking or going up in flame.
Getting Better Glue or Adhesive
Some wood pieces can prove more resilient than others when microwaved. Check the manufacturer’s data for heat limits on your adhesive. You can make the wooden something more microwaveable by gluing it together with a glue that has a higher temperature limit.
You can also try microwaving a sample piece and see if it’d work. However, when push comes to shove, it’s best to err on the side of caution.
Wood vs. Metal in the Microwave
While metal has a tendency to reflect microwave rays and thus the colliding rays can cause sparking—collision is more likely with crumpled tin foil because of all its edges that induce arcing and sparks as well—wood instead has to deal with self-destruction.
Metal can either deflect rays to the point of not letting them cook food or they can make the rays bounce twice or more times on the food, leading to it becoming superheated to a burnt or even flaming crisp.
So metal causes sparks or arcing while all other materials—takeout plastic, Tupperware plastic, wood, and glass let the microwave rays pass through them, thus they reach the food and turn up the food heat.
Further reading: What Happens When You Put Metal in a Microwave?
How About Wooden Utensils?
Wood has its own microwave limits that could lead to its bending, splintering, and so forth. However, there are those who claim you can use wooden utensils in the microwave. Maybe for the sake of stirring the food, it’s fine. Not for prolonged microwaving though.
All materials except metal can go inside the microwave with a couple of caveats. Plastic spoons and forks could leach off plasticizers. Wooden spoons, forks, or chopsticks can suffer the longer they’re microwaved.
If your wooden utensil has metal in it, like fasteners, screws, nails, and so forth, it’s better to not microwave them. The water and metal can work in tandem to make the wood burn up like in a kiln. Both can become superheated and cause wood damage.
Items to Consider
Although wood is more of a natural insulator that keeps your food warm and protects your hands from excessive heat, it’s not quite like ceramics when microwaved. Wooden temperature can go up from the inside due to its moisture content from within.
Ceramic has no such weakness. The only way ceramic becomes hot is by heat conduction from hot food. Ironically, while wood is better at dealing with heat conduction from the outside than ceramics, it can break or even burn from within when microwaved.