Why Does Butter Explode in The Microwave? (Explained)

Categorized as Microwave Cooking
Why Does Butter Explode in The Microwave?

If you’ve ever tried to melt butter in the microwave, you know that it doesn’t always turn out quite as planned. It’s more than likely that you’ve ended up with a mess of greasy splatters all over the inside of your microwave.

But why does this happen? And more importantly, how can you prevent it from happening?

Here’s The Short Answer To Why Butter Explodes In The Microwave:

Microwaved butter can explode due to water separating from milk fats. Microwaves heat up water molecules, causing dormant droplets to turn into steam. This can cause a sudden release of steam and result in an explosion. To prevent this, cut butter into small pieces or use a microwave-safe container with a lid or vented plastic wrap to allow steam to escape.

Here’s the long answer if you’re looking for a more detailed explanation.

If you remember from your second-grade science class, oil and water do not mix. But thanks to the powers of emulsification, oil and water can peacefully cohabitate as a single mass in a form that we know as butter.

As long as the butter is placed at room temperature, the tiny droplets of water that make up the butter mixture will remain suspended in their respective pools of oil, never coming into contact with one another.

When the microwave energy is introduced into the equation, it causes the water molecules inside to vibrate at an incredible speed, heating them and melting the fat surrounding them.

Eventually, that water gets so hot that it turns to steam which needs to escape from its fatty prison until eventually, the fat can no longer contain the pressure, and kaboom!—the entire mixture explodes.

The key to reducing the chance of this happening is is to microwave on low power in short increments.

How To Clean Exploded Butter In The Microwave

If you’re one of those unfortunate souls whose butter decided to explode in the microwave, don’t panic! Getting the exploded bits out is fairly easy.

  1. Just use a foam cloth or sponge cloth to mop up the splatter. Keep wringing and rinsing the cloth until most of the splatter is gone.
  2. When you see most of the splatter is gone, take the same sponge cloth and add a drizzle of dish soap. Now wipe down the interior of the microwave with it.
  3. Next, soak the sponge cloth in water. We will use this to get rid of the soap. Keep wiping down with water until no more soap is visible.
  4. Once all the soap is no more visible, take fresh kitchen paper towels to dry your microwave and remove any remaining pieces of exploded butter.
  5. Repeat this process if you feel your microwave needs more than one round of cleaning.

Why Do You Want to Soften Butter?

Many baking recipes and many frostings call for softened butter or room temperature butter.

Room temperature butter refers to the semi-solid stage where butter is soft and pliable but still holds its shape.

In layman’s terms, when the recipe tells you to soften butter, it means letting the butter’s temperature rise to 65 degrees (cool room temperature).

The easiest way to know whether the butter is at the room temperature stage is to press a finger into it. If your finger leaves an imprint with little resistance, your butter is at the right consistency for incorporating into a recipe.

Soft is not the same as melted. Melted butter looks more like its liquid state. Soft butter still has a solid form, it’s just easier to press into with your finger.

If your butter is melted completely, it won’t be able to hold the air bubbles whipped into it, which will result in an un-fluffy cake or flat cookies. However, this doesn’t mean melted butter is completely unusable.

In some recipes, using melted butter that is then cooled is called for. For example, I prefer to use melted and cooled butter in making chocolate chips because it makes the finished cookie chewier.

The most common way to soften butter quickly is to cut it into small pieces and leave them on the counter at room temperature.

But this can be rather time-consuming, especially when the butter is just taken out straight from the refrigerator. So instead, you can speed up the softening process dramatically by using a microwave.

How to Soften Butter in a Microwave

Here are step-by-step instructions on how to soften butter in a microwave:

  1. Cut the butter into 1-inch pieces.
  2. Place The Butter Pieces On a Microwave-Safe Plate.
  3. Set Your Microwave to 50 Percent Power and Heat in 10-Second Increments.

As you can see, the process is very simple, and it really does take just a few seconds.

Also Read: How to Melt Butter In The Microwave Without It Exploding

Final Thoughts

There are many baking recipes that call for softened butter. Most cooking instructions recommend you simply let the butter sit on a counter for a while.

But if you’re in a hurry, there are other ways to soften butter quicker. One great way is to use your microwave.

But be forewarned; if you’re not careful, you might end up with a mess of exploded butter in your microwave. This doesn’t have to be the case if you know how to soften butter in a microwave correctly.

Butter explodes in the microwave if it is overheated. This is why I always recommend keeping an eye whenever you’re heating your butter in the microwave. Don’t leave it unattended because you might end up with a big fat mess to clean up.

Whether you want to soften or melt your butter, the key to avoiding its explosion in the microwave is to microwave on low power and at short intervals.

If you do end up with a mess of exploded butter, don’t panic! You can clean your microwave and remove all traces of your exploded butter quite easily with a sponge cloth, dish soap, and water.

Related Question

1. Why Does Butter Spark in The Microwave?

I’ve seen this question on many cooking forums. The simple answer is that there must be metal in the butter or container.

Could it be that the container you’re using to melt the butter contains some metal? Or could it be a piece of foil accidentally mixed with your butter? Or could it be that there is metallic paint on the foil or the container? Think about it.

If there is no metal, you can’t get an arc inside a microwave oven. It’s as simple as that.

If you’re curious about other foods that can explode in the microwave, be sure to check out our posts on salmon, soup, and potatoes.

Each of these foods has the potential to cause a lot of damage if they’re not microwaved properly. So, if you’re not sure how to safely cook these foods in the microwave, be sure to check out our guides.


Why Do Some Foods Explode in the Microwave?

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!