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fire in the microwave!

  • s

please help me solve this kitchen mystery.
Tonight I put about 1.5 tbls of diced raw red pepper in a clean tuppperware container, sprinkled some water on it and stuck it in the micronda to blanch for 45sec-1.00min. I didn't cover it. I stuck my head in the pantry to check them out thru the microwave door, and lo and behold, it was sparking and finally burst into flame! Really! After my emotions overwhelmed my logic that red pepper can't burst into flame, I turned it off. About 15min later, I tried again, with haricots vertes in a different container, then warmed up a pumkin puree in the microwave. No problem. I've cooked red pepper before in the micro and never had this result. Is there something volatile in the skin/vegetable itself? What's going on?

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  1. I should think the fire was started in the Tupperware. I had plastic catch fire once when I was sterilizing a plastic sponge by microwaving it---everything burst into flames---I probably left it in too long. Your Tupperware, my plastic sponge, fire both times, makes sense to me. But My Husband the Chemist is sitting here telling me that's impossible, so what do I know. Board, has anybody else had a microwave fire involving plastic? Can plastic superheat, or something? Can it combust if it gets hot enough?

    1 Reply
    1. re: N Tocus

      I have had a sponge burst into flames after microwaving it for 3 minutes, the time recommended by Cooks Illustrated to kill germs...killed the sponge, too, LOL

      The only info in a google search about what kind of foods combust was that all foods may catch fire, so keep an eye on all of them in the microwave.

      Was it a GE microwave? The internet appears to be rife with bad GE microwave stories...I don't know about the truth or falsity of such, just reporting what I found in a google search.

    2. You can get a great spark from a almost halved grape!

      1. I don't think the fire came from the tupperware or the microwave. I just put a very small amount of finely diced red pepper in my Sunbeam microwave on a glass plate and covered by another glass plate and the top plate jumped up with flames coming out. It was only in for a few seconds. I uncovered it and tried again and still got fire. I have never had problems with my microwave and it is fairly new. I think it must be the pepper.

        1. Interesting. This happened to me a few months ago when my daughter was needing some cooked carrots for her baby.

          Two ounces or so of raw julienne carrots, about a TBSP of water in a pyrex dish. No plastic in sight. Within a few seconds......Spark-O-Rama. Scared the crap out of both of us. It's arcing, and it was from the carrots, not the container. Live and learn, I guess.

          1. I've had this happen and always thought a tiny piece of metal or perhaps soil started the sparking and it just sort of went from there!

            1. not sure why your pepper flamed, but my darling daughter started a fire in our microwave - instant oatmeal (in a mico-safe bowl). She forgot to add any water or milk. I never knew oatmeal could burn like that. So much smoke & the smell lingered in the micro for a week.

              1 Reply
              1. re: elfcook

                Maybe the trace metals in the vegetables(manganese, magnesium,iron,etc.) are causing this.

              2. Haha! My darling exchange student from last year had never used a microwave before. I showed her how, and it wasn't 24 hours until she threw half a leftover sub in foil in to heat it up. Nothing like hearing a teenage girl screaming in your kitchen. Smart kid, but she had several kitchen and laundry mishaps.

                1. Interesting!! My teen set a potato on fire in the microwave one time. It had only been going about 2 minutes, and she hollers at me that there's smoke coming out of the microwave. Sure enough, it had burst into flames. There was nothing in the micro but the plain plate it was on and the potato itself. The micro smelled like campfire for months! (In the picture, the glass bowl is in there because I put it on top of the potato to quash the flames.)

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: emilyjh75

                    Sweet potatoes are dangerous in the microwave! I pierced a couple and set them on a dish towel in the micro to absorb any drippings. Holy crap! It started smoking and the towel had a huge, orange glowing hole smoking. Another minute and I think it could have been a disaster.

                  2. It's probably the sugar in the pepper. Sugars can superheat in a microwave. You can get the same effect with a carrot.