It’s mind blowing. We’ve been told NEVER to put metal in the microwave. But then, we look in a new microwave and it has a big ol’ metal rack right there in the middle! How can this be?
And what is the metal rack in my microwave for?
The metal rack that comes inside of new microwaves can be safely used for cooking multiple items at once (e.g. one on the rack, and one on the spinning tray). The metal grilling rack is also useful for more evenly cooking and defrosting because it heats the food from all angles.
But, doesn’t this metal rack cause sparking (like other metal objects in the microwave)? And how can you make sure that you are using the rack safely? We’ll cover these questions and a few others next:
How to Use the Metal Rack in a Microwave
There are a few important considerations for properly using the metal rack in your microwave. Here’s a video from Samsung (one of the biggest appliance manufacturers) which provides an overview for how to use the metal rack in their microwave ovens:
This video touched on a few of the most important points for safely using the metal grilling rack. We’ll cover these, and a few more below:
1. Make Sure the Rack Is Installed Properly
To avoid sparking and other issues, it’s important that the metal rack is installed using the plastic hooks on the inside of the microwave.
The metal rack should not come into contact with the sides (or back) of the microwave. If the rack gets placed incorrectly, and does come into contact with the microwaves metal sides, then this can create sparks.
But, don’t worry too much about this, because the rack was designed to slide right into place on these plastic hooks, so it’s pretty easy to get right.
2. Remove the Metal Rack When Not in Use
The microwave comes with the metal rack inside, but according to Frigidaire, you should avoid storing the metal rack in your microwave.
In other words, if you’re not actively using the metal rack, then you should go ahead and remove it from the microwave and store it on a shelf, in a cabinet, etc.
3. Remember to Rotate Food
Unlike the spinning tray at the bottom of a microwave, the metal rack is fixed. As a result, if you are cooking or reheating a meal inside your microwave, you might need to rotate or turn the food part way through cooking.
If you miss this step, then your food may not cook fully or evenly.
If you are cooking a pre-packaged meal, like a TV dinner or Hot Pocket, the packaging will likely include instructions. Check the instructions to see if there is a specific time that they recommend turning the food.
4. Do Not Use a Browning Dish
According to GE Appliances, you should avoid using a browning dish on your microwave’s metal rack, because doing so could damage the rack.
As you’ve seen from the earlier points, the microwave racks are fairly specific in their design, and if the rack is damaged or warped that could cause other problems.
5. Avoid Popping Popcorn
I have a Frigidaire microwave, and they recommend that you also avoid popping popcorn when the metal rack is installed.
One potential issue with popping popcorn, is that when the popcorn bag expands, it could push the metal rack off of it’s hooks. This could then cause several issues, including potentially sparking.
6. Do Not Run the Microwave Without Food
When your microwave contains a metal rack, you should also avoid running the microwave if it’s empty (e.g. no food inside).
It’s probably good practice to avoid ever running the microwave when it’s empty, but this is especially true when your microwave contains a metal grilling rack.
7. Use Microwave Safe Dishes
The video from Samsung also mentioned the importance of using microwave safe dishes. Just because you’re using the grilling rack, doesn’t make you exempt from other normal microwave safety precautions.
So, use microwave safe ceramic, microwave safe plastic, etc. And you should be all set.
Next up, let’s spend a little time on issues with the metal rack sparking.
Metal Rack Sparking in Microwave
If your microwave rack begins sparking, then it’s very likely that there is an issue with how it is mounted. See the short video from LG below to learn more about this issue:
If you do see sparking inside of your microwave, then you should stop the microwave immediately.
Then, you should check to see if the rack is improperly installed and if it is coming into contact with the walls of the microwave at any point.
Also keep in mind, that microwaves are usually designed to work with the specific rack that came with the unit. So, using a different metal rack may cause additional issues. Personally, I would avoid using a metal rack other than the original one that came with the microwave.
If you are using the original rack, it appears to be installed correctly, and for some reason your microwave is still sparking, then there may be a mechanical issue. Reach out to the support line of your appliance manufacturer for more information.
How Can a Microwave Have a Metal Rack?
Alright, now for the curious minds, let’s talk about how a microwave is able to have a metal rack in the first place.
The metal rack that comes with a microwave is specifically designed to avoid the conditions required to create sparks.
Sparking in a microwave is usually caused when metal comes into contact with the microwave’s internal metal surfaces (back, sides, etc.), or when there is metal inside that has points or edges. For example, forks, aluminum foil, or twist-ties, can all cause sparking in a microwave.
Microwave racks avoid contact with the microwave’s metal siding, because it is elevated, and held in place with plastic hooks. And microwave racks are also designed to avoid the types of edges that encourage sparking.
There is a lot of science that goes into all of this, but that is the simplified explanation. If you’d like a deeper understanding, below is a great video from the Huffington Post, which illustrates how the microwaves emitted by a microwave oven, can create sparks with certain shapes of metal.
Before watching this video, let me add the classic “don’t try this at home” disclaimer. This is interesting for informational purposes, but please avoid putting any metal (other than the original microwave rack) inside your microwave oven.
Can I Leave the Metal Rack in My Microwave?
You should remove the metal rack from your microwave unless you are actively using the rack. You should not store the rack inside your microwave. And if you are only using the bottom spinning tray in your microwave, then you should also remove the metal rack because it can prolong cooking times.
Can I Put a Plate in the Oven?
Plates can go in the oven if they are labeled as oven-safe. This label is usually found on the bottom of the plate. Common plate materials that are oven-safe are glass, ceramic, metal, and cast iron. If you put a plate that is not oven-safe in the oven, it could crack or break.
What Happens if You See Sparks in Your Microwave?
Firstly, stop your microwave immediately. Typically it means metal has accidentally been placed inside the microwave like a knife or fork, or perhaps a mug with a metallic finish. Remove the item and try again. If it keeps sparking, replace everything in the microwave with a basic ceramic mug, fill it half way with water. Try it again. If it sparks again stop using your microwave. Unfortunately you will need to have your microwave repaired or replaced.