Is it Safe to Put Stainless Steel in a Microwave?

Microwave ovens convert electric power into radio waves, which are transmitted at a high frequency by the oven's magnetron. These microwaves bounce off the metal cavity walls of the microwave oven, and the resulting vibrations and high temperatures cook the food.

Woman using a microwave in kitchen
credit: Goodluz/iStock/Getty Images
Microwave ovens convert electric power into radio waves.

Warning

Pot of water boiling on a black natural gas stove.
credit: Tom Begasse/iStock/Getty Images
Metals reflect microwave energy, making them unsafe to use in the microwave.

Most metals, including stainless steel, reflect microwave energy, making it unsafe to use them in the microwave.

Function

Woman warms up food in the microwave
credit: TatyanaGl/iStock/Getty Images
Stainless steel can disrupt the microwaves' paths, causing arcing.

When stainless steel is placed inside a microwave oven, it can disrupt the microwaves' paths, causing arcing. Arcing is like a miniature lightening bolt. If it occurs repeatedly, it can damage the involved surfaces or even burn a hole through the wall of your microwave.

Effects

Man and woman preparing breakfast and smiling at one another
credit: Thomas Northcut/Digital Vision/Getty Images
Arcing shouldn't cause damage if the microwave is turned off immediately.

If the microwave is turned off immediately, the arcing should not cause any damage. Remove the stainless steel immediately and either replace it with a microwave-safe container or cook the food in a conventional oven.

Prevention/Solution

Food inside microwave oven
credit: ARGINVENTOR/iStock/Getty Images
Use microwave safe containers to cook food.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends using paper, glass, ceramic or plastic containers in microwave ovens instead of metals such as stainless steel because the microwaves can pass through them.

Significance

Contemporary Kitchen
credit: Fuse/Fuse/Getty Images
There are microwave ovens in more than 90% of American homes.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service, there are microwave ovens in more than 90 percent of American homes.