Why Do Potatoes Explode in Microwave and How To Prevent It?

Categorized as Microwave
Why Do Potatoes Explode in The Microwave

We’ve all been there. You’re in the middle of cooking dinner, and you realize you’re out of potatoes. So you run to the grocery store, pick up a few spuds, and head home. But then disaster strikes – you put them in the microwave, and they EXPLODE!

What gives? Why do potatoes explode in the microwave? Read on to find out!

Why Do Potatoes Explode in The Microwave?

It’s not just potatoes that can explode in the microwave – any type of food high in water content can. When you put food in the microwave and heat it, the water inside turns to steam. If there is no way for the steam to escape, it builds up pressure until eventually – POP! – the container explodes.

Potatoes are more likely to explode in the microwave than in the oven because the rate of heating is faster, and there’s less time for the pressure from the steam to escape naturally.

In the oven, however, the potato cooks more slowly, so it has time to release its steam before explosive pressure forms. This is why exploding potatoes are often found in microwaves and not ovens.

The good news is potatoes don’t always explode in the microwave. In fact, it only happens once in a while. So as a spud lover, you don’t need to swear off microwaving potatoes for good.

If you’re still not convinced, take a look at this video.

As you can see, nothing happens! So don’t be afraid to cook up a few spuds in the microwave.

How To Prevent Potatoes From Exploding In The Microwave?

There is one simple trick that you can use to make sure your potato won’t explode every time you put it in the microwave: poke a few holes in it with a fork.

By pricking the potatoes before microwaving them, you vent the potatoes and create an escape route for the steam.

When you put a pricked potato in the microwave, it immediately starts releasing its steam. And, because there’s nowhere for the steam to build up pressure, the potato doesn’t explode.

In addition to piercing or pricking the potato with a fork, you can also cut four 1/2″ slits around the center of the potato. This works for the same reason as pricking it. It allows the steam to escape.

Whether you have a sweet potato or one of the white- or yellow-fleshed varieties, it’s a good practice always to prick or cut a slit your potatoes.

But what about tiny potatoes, like fingerlings or new potatoes?

New potatoes have more surface area than regular potatoes, making them less prone to explode in the microwave. However, this doesn’t make them exempt from the potential danger of exploding potatoes.

Fingerlings and other small potatoes should still be pierced or cut before microwaving if you don’t want to risk an explosion.

Does the Microwave Remove Potassium From Potatoes?

Write that potassium, an essential mineral, is not affected by cooking in the microwave.

Microwaving potatoes does not remove the mineral potassium. Instead, it is a healthy way to cook potatoes because it retains more nutrients than other cooking methods like boiling or oven cooking.

When you cook vegetables in water, the boiling process leaches out soluble vitamins to the water, which you usually throw away. But when you cook vegetables in the microwave, there’s no need to drain.

The cooking method allows nutrients to stay locked in the food, so they don’t get thrown down the drain with the cooking liquid.

While ovens expose food to longer cooking times and higher temperatures than microwaves, resulting in a loss of nutrients.

Microwave cooking times are much shorter than boiling or oven cooking times, so microwaved vegetables retain more vitamins and other nutrients because there is less opportunity for them to break down.

As you may already know, steaming vegetables is considered one of the healthiest ways of cooking vegetables since it preserves more nutrients.

When you compare cooking potatoes in a microwave to steaming, it turns out that the nutrient levels in microwaved potatoes are about the same as those prepared by steaming.

How To Microwave a Baked Potato

I know, I know. This is the most groundbreaking topic you’ve ever heard of. But trust me, there are people out there who don’t know how to microwave a potato properly.

So sit down, get comfortable, and prepare to learn the best way to nuke a spud.

It might seem daunting at first, but with these easy steps, you’ll have it mastered in no time. And once you do, you can move on to more complicated tasks like making a baked potato casserole. Your potatoes will thank you!

Here are four simple steps to make the best-baked potatoes ever in the microwave.

  1. Clean the potato by scrubbing and running it under tap water.
  2. Poke several holes in the potato with a fork.
  3. Place the potato on a microwavable plate and microwave for 3-4 minutes.
  4. Add your favorite toppings and enjoy!

1. Wash The Potato.

The first step in the process is to clean your potato. This is especially a must if you or your family members like to eat the skin. After all, you don’t want your potato riddled with parasites or other nasties, now do you?

You’ll need to give it a thorough scrub to get all of the nitty-gritty off, make sure it’s rinsed well and dried well.

2. Poke The Potato.

Did you know that one of the most important steps in making a baked potato in the microwave is to poke it all over with a fork?

It’s true! Stabbing the potato allows steam to escape, which prevents it from exploding in the microwave. Additionally, it also makes the potato fluffier and more tender. So don’t skip this step – make sure to pierce your potatoes before microwaving them!

3. Microwave The Potato.

Now that you have washed and poked your potato, it’s time to put it in the microwave. Make sure to place it on a microwavable plate or in a microwavable bowl.

The cooking time for a baked potato in the microwave depends largely on the size, density of your potato, what you’re looking for, but there are some general guidelines that can help to get started.

A good rule of thumb is to start with 3-4 minutes of cook time, followed by a flip and another 3-4 minutes. If you think your potato needs another few minutes in the microwave, do it!

Keep flipping and experimenting with the cooking time until you reach your desired level of tenderness!

Don’t be afraid to experiment with the cooking time – different potatoes will require different amounts of cook time. It may take a little bit of trial and error to figure out the perfect cooking time for your microwave and your potato.

4. Top the potato.

The best part of microwaving a potato is all of the delicious toppings that you can add to it! You can go crazy with the toppings, and there are many different options to choose from.

There are endless possibilities when it comes to toppings for a baked potato.

You can keep it simple with a pat of butter, some sour cream, and salt and pepper. Or, go all out and add cheese, bacon.

Or if you’re looking to try something new and exciting, then why not try pesto with freshly grated Parmesan or a smear of miso and a sprinkling of furikake?

Don’t be afraid to try different things and experiment with toppings no matter how weird or strange they may sound—you’ll never know how amazing it can be until you try!

Final Thoughts

The reason potatoes explode in the microwave is because of the high water content in them. When you heat the potato up, the water turns to steam.

Think of the potatoes’ skin as some kind of pressure vessel. As the steam builds up, it causes the pressure inside to increase. Eventually, the container can’t hold it in any longer and pop the skin.

The best solution is to prick them. This lets the steam escape and lowers the pressure.

If you’re curious about other foods that can explode in the microwave, be sure to check out our posts on soup, butter, and salmon. All of these foods have the potential to cause a kitchen disaster if not handled properly. So be careful and stay safe in the kitchen!


Microwave cooking and nutrition – Harvard Health Publishing

By Rosie Elliott

I’m Rosie. I’m a professional chef with experience in Western, Mediterranean, and Italian cuisine. I’ve been cooking for over 15 years, and I have two daughters that keep me busy!