If you’ve been surfing the Internet today, you might have noticed that quite a few places are pointing out the dangers of microwaving eggs. Why?
Well, it all stems from research being presented this week at the 174th Meeting of the Acoustical Society. Researchers Anthony Nash and Lauren von Blohn from Charles M. Salter Associates in San Francisco have been looking into this phenomenon.
The researchers were investigating this after a man filed a lawsuit claiming he’d suffered severe burns and hearing damage from a hard-boiled egg that exploded in his mouth after it had been microwaved at a restaurant. That lawsuit was eventually settled out of court, but the research continued.
And the results, well, were inconclusive. The researchers began by watching YouTube videos of eggs exploding in microwaves, such as the one below.
They then did their own research and found that eggs sometimes explode in microwaves, but about 30 percent of the eggs survived being in the microwave, and only exploded after being taken out and poked with a sharp object.
The eggs in this experiment were hard-boiled, placed in a water bath, and then heated for three minutes. Those that survived were removed and placed on the floor, when the researchers pierced them with a meat thermometer to make them explode.
They found that about a foot away, the sound covered a range of 86 to 133 decibels. That’s similar to a chainsaw or thunder at the upper level, but as the egg explosion is so brief, it’s unlikely it could cause any hearing damage. The explosion itself, well, that seems kind of dangerous.
“On a statistical basis, the likelihood of an egg exploding and damaging someone's hearing is quite remote,” Nash said in a statement. “It's a little bit like playing egg roulette."
Interestingly, though, they found that in both the exploded eggs and those that didn’t explode, the yolk’s temperature was much higher than the surrounding water. This suggests the yolk is more receptive to the microwave radiation than pure water.
This may be due to the protein in the egg trapping pockets of water in the yolk, which are then superheated well above the boiling temperature of tap water. When these pockets are disturbed, either by poking the egg or biting into it, they all boil in a chain reaction and explode.
All in all, it’s probably not a good idea to microwave hard-boiled eggs, and it’s definitely not a good idea to bite into one if it has been microwaved.