Wood has been used by humankind since the dawn of time. It has been used to light and sustain fires, dig, fend off enemies and wild animals, and also to store food. It is therefore quite understandable if you’re questioning whether you can microwave wood. After all, wood doesn’t have any BPA or dioxins that may leach into your food.
But, can you microwave wood?
You cannot microwave most wood appliances since they may catch fire or char, but you can microwave wood skewers provided you first soak the wood skewers in water for at least 30 minutes before putting them in a microwave.
How does microwaving affect the properties of wood?
The way a microwave works is very simple.
A magnetron produces microwaves that pass through whatever is in the microwave oven. These microwaves then increase the rate at which water molecules vibrate in the substance being microwaved. This increased vibration of water molecules then causes an increase in temperature of the water molecules which then conducts the heat generated to nearby molecules. Eventually, the temperature of the substance being microwaved increases.
In the process, due to increased temperature, water molecules turn to steam and are released. This is why after microwaving food frequently, the food seems drier with each microwaving cycle.
This happens too when you microwave wood
Water molecules vibrate at a higher rate, increasing the temperature and the water molecules turn to steam.
Unfortunately, unlike food, steam is not released easily since wood does not have as many pores. As temperature increases, and as steam builds up, the wood cracks or splinters to let out the steam. If the wood is left too long in the microwave, the increased temperature may then cause it to char.
When observed closely, it is noted that the forceful expulsion of steam from wood causes the wood’s cell structures to rupture. This in effect leads to reduced mechanical strength of the word, including but not limited to compressive strength, shear strength, and tensile strength.
Additionally, wood tends to become more porous and more permeable which is a plus, for wood treatment industries since resins and preservative chemicals can then be easily added to the wood.
How to dry wood in a microwave oven?
While you can’t microwave food in wood dishes and bowls, you can dry wood in a microwave oven.
Here’s how to do it:
Step 1: Cut the wood to sizeable pieces
Chop up the wood to small sized pieces that would comfortably fit inside your microwave. If your microwave is large, and wood can fit either way, even better.
Step 2: Measure weight of the wood
Weigh the different pieces of wood you want to dry, and take note of their weights.
Step 3: Stack the wood in the microwave
Put the wood in the microwave, arranging them in a manner that would allow for easy circulation of air, and also allow for easy removal from the microwave oven.
Step 4: Set the microwave to defrost setting
If your microwave does not have this option, set the heat setting to minimum heat or approximately 30% power. Doing this ensures the wood does not ignite or char in the process.
Step 5: Set timer to one minute intervals
Step 6: Remove the wood from the microwave
Once the timer gets to zero, using an oven mitt or a dry cloth remove the wood from the oven and wrap the wood pieces in newspapers.
Set the wrapped wood aside for a while, and if you have another batch, repeat Steps 1 to 6, and if possible, wipe any moisture that may have formed in the microwave before adding another batch.
Step 7: Weigh the wood again
Measure the weight of the microwaved wood pieces and take note of any changes in weight.
A drop in weight suggests some moisture has been lost.
Repeat this cycle as necessary until the wood is properly dried. If the wood begins to char, stop the process and remove the wood from the microwave.
You can use a moisture metre to check on the wood’s moisture levels, however this is not necessary. But to be sure whether the wood is completely dry, check for its moisture level. A 20% moisture level means the wood is dry.
Always remember to wrap the wood pieces in dry newspaper after removing the pieces from the microwave. The newspaper helps absorb the moisture at a higher rate, than if the wood was left to cool on its own, helping avoid any cracking of the wood.
Wood versus metal in microwaves
Neither can be used in the microwave without risk of fire, charring, or damage to the microwave.
As mentioned above, wood can either crack, deform or char when used in the microwave. However, wood skewers can be used in the microwave provided they are soaked in water for at least 30 minutes before being put in the microwave.
Metal skewers, or any metal appliances on the other hand cannot go inside a microwave. This is because, while microwaves go through other substances, they can’t go through metal and simply bounce off them.
This now presents a challenge.
The magnetron keeps on emitting other microwaves, with the reflected microwaves still bouncing off the metal appliance. Eventually, the microwaves become too much causing an increase in temperature which rises with each second the microwave is on. In the unfortunate event, the microwave oven may start to have sparks and if unmonitored or shut down, it may catch fire. This is why metallic appliances, or those coated with metallic paint, or have metallic strips are not allowed in a microwave oven.
Faqs About Microwaving Wood
Is wood allowed in the microwave?
No, wood is not allowed in the microwave since it can crack, splinter or char.
However, wooden skewers may be used in the microwave provided they are soaked in warm water for at least 30 minutes before use in a microwave.
Is it safe to microwave wooden bowls?
No, it is not safe to microwave wooden bowls. Wooden bowls are not designated as microwave friendly.
While they do not leach any toxins into food, microwaving wooden bowls may cause them to splinter or char, and in some cases cause any adhesives or glue used in the wooden bowls to melt.
Can you microwave wood skewers?
Yes, you can microwave wood skewers.
However, if you don’t want your wood skewers to cook along with your food, and maybe char or splinter; you have to first soak the wood skewers in warm water for at least 30 minutes or more, preferably.
You can use plain water, or use a marinade infused with your preferred spices.
Can you put wooden toothpicks in the microwave?
No, you cannot put wooden toothpicks in the microwave.
This is because the wooden toothpicks will crack, splinter and maybe even catch fire and release toxic fumes in the microwave.
What material is microwave safe?
Ceramics, tempered glass and certain microwave safe plastics can be used in the microwave; whereas any metallic appliances, or materials coated with metal or metallic paint cannot be used in the microwave.
The reason why use of metal appliances in a microwave is not encouraged is because microwaves bounce off metallic surfaces. And when too many microwaves are bounced back to the magnetron – the component that produces microwaves in a microwave oven-, the microwave oven may be damaged.
Materials that are microwave safe are those that are designated by their manufacturer’s as microwave safe since they have been designed with improved tolerance to heat. Additionally, materials designated as microwave safe should also be free of BPA or any dioxins, which are released when subjected to heat, and may contaminate any food that comes in contact with such materials.
What happens if you microwave bamboo?
Bamboo may crack, splinter or char. This is because a microwave works by increasing the vibration of water molecules in food, or any other material placed in a microwave.
Since bamboo may have some residual water molecules, increased vibration of these water molecules causes an increase in temperature, and since bamboo does not have sufficient pores to let out the steam that’s generated, this may cause the bamboo to crack.
If the bamboo is left too long in the microwave, increased temperatures may cause it char.
Can you microwave bamboo?
No, you cannot microwave bamboo dishes or bowls. However, you can microwave bamboo skewers provided you first soak the bamboo skewers in warm water for at least 30 minutes or more before using the bamboo skewers in the microwave.
A microwave works by increasing vibration of water molecules in food, consequently causing food temperature to rise. Bamboo, just like any other wood product may have some water molecules inside, and when used in a microwave, water molecules in the bamboo vibrate at a higher rate, causing increase in temperature, and since the bamboo doesn’t have pores to let out steam the bamboo may crack or splinter, and if left in the microwave longer the bamboo may char or ignite.
Can you put wood in the oven?
Yes, you can put wood in the oven. However, this is only if you want to dry the wood any other use is not advisable.
Additionally, when using an oven to dry wood, ensure you use the low heat setting, and don’t let the wood stay too long in the oven since the wood may char, or burn when left in the oven for too long, or even when using a high heat setting in the oven.
Can wooden kebab sticks go in the oven?
Yes, wooden kebab sticks can go in the oven.
However, it is crucial that you prepare the wooden kebab sticks first.
To do this, soak the wooden kebab sticks in preferably warm water for at the very least, 30 minutes, but doing so for one hour would be great. Doing this will ensure your wooden kebab sticks do not cook along with the food, or even get charred in the process.
Alternatively, you can do this with a twist. You can also soak the wooden kebab sticks in any excess marinade left, or soak the wooden kebab sticks in a mixture of warm water and your preferred spices, again for at least 30 minutes but preferably one hour.
Can you put bamboo skewers in the microwave?
Yes, you can put bamboo skewers in the microwave.
To ensure your bamboo skewers do not get charred in the process, soak the bamboo skewers in warm water for at least 30 minutes, before putting the bamboo skewers in the microwave.
Can you microwave chicken skewers?
Yes, you can microwave chicken skewers. However, you run the risk of having the skewers splintering or burning up, but you can prevent that. Here’s how:
Before you put the chicken skewers in the microwave, soak the wooden skewers for at least 30 minutes then thread your skewers and you’re good to go, but remember not to microwave the chicken skewers for extended periods of time.
Never use metal skewers in the microwave, and as for plastic skewers, ensure that the plastic has been designated as microwave safe by its manufacturer.
While you cannot microwave large wood appliances like wood bowls and dishes, you can microwave wood skewers or even bamboo skewers. Just remember to soak the wood skewers or bamboo skewers in warm water for at least 30 minutes or more before threading the skewers and putting them in the microwave. You could also soak the wood skewers in a marinade of your choice, but ensure you water down the marinade to have more liquid content in it.
Also remember not to microwave wood skewers over extended periods of time, regardless of whether you soaked the wood skewers in water before use.
Check out this video for more