Why Does Salmon Explode in The Microwave? (Explained)

Categorized as Microwave Cooking
why does salmon explode in microwave

In the kitchen, microwaves are a modern convenience that can be used for everything from cooking to defrosting. But there’s one thing that’s especially surprising about them: they can make your food explode.

Some of the most dramatic microwaved-food explosions happen to salmon. Cooking a nice piece of salmon in the microwave oven seems so easy and foolproof, but there are certain things you need to know before you cook it.   

So why does this happen? And what’s you can do to minimize the mess and ensure your microwave doesn’t smell of burnt fish forever after?

Why Does Salmond Explode In The Microwave?

There are all sorts of explanations for why salmon explodes in the microwave. Some say it’s because the fish is too thick; others say it’s because of the moisture content. But the real reason is actually due to the fact that salmon is an oily fish.

When you microwave anything fatty, the fat heats up to above the boiling point of water. At one point, the hot fat comes into contact with droplets of moisture in the fish, and that’s when things really get messy.

The water boils instantly, turning into steam very quickly. As the steam expands, it exerts such a lot of pressure that the salmon “explodes.”

It’s not limited to salmon, by the way, any fatty fish will have a higher likelihood of exploding in the microwave compared to less fatty varieties.

It includes mackerel, tuna, and sardines, all of which contain significant amounts of oil throughout their whole bodies.

What Can You Do To Keep Salmon From Exploding In The Microwave?

The simplest thing that you can do to try and minimize the risk of explosions is to prick little holes in the skin of the salmon with a fork before you microwave it. This helps create an escape route for the steam and reduces the pressure buildup.

Another tip is to make sure the salmon is as dry as possible before placing it in the microwave.

Some people advocate leaving it out in the refrigerator for an hour or so to ensure that most of the moisture has evaporated, but others say that you can simply pat it with some kitchen paper before cooking.

How To Microwave Salmon

Fish can be tricky to microwave. It has a tendency to overcook when you’re not careful, leaving you with a dry, rubbery hunk of flesh that makes your taste buds want to sob.

However, there is no reason to shy away from the microwave when you want to cook up a nice little dish of salmon.

It may sound wrong and disgusting if this is the first time you have heard about cooking salmon using microwaves, but you’ll get over your trepidation real quick once you taste your first perfectly microwaved piece of fish.

The guiding principle for cooking salmon in a microwave is to remember the name of the game is steaming because that’s essentially what you’ll be doing.

When you microwave salmon, the idea is to keep it moist and tender so it won’t turn into a dry, unappetizing mess.

Here’s how I usually go about microwaving fish.

  1. Place the salmon fillet in a microwaveable bowl or container.
  2. Add a seasoning of your choice. Salt, paper, and oil are the normal standards, but you can be creative and experiment with different spices and herbs.
  3. Add a teaspoon or 2 of liquid. Wine is usually the liquid I use, but water is fine too. If you feel adventurous, you can try using fish stock, citrus juice, or milk.
  4. Prick your salmon several times with a fork to reduce the risk of it exploding.
  5. Cover the dish completely with a microwaveable lid or plastic wrap.
  6. Microwave the salmon on high until it is done. The time for doneness will carry depending on the thickness of the fish and the strength of your microwave. Thicker fillets like salmon will take around 4 to 5 minutes in a 1,000-watt.
  7. Let the dish stand for one or two minutes before removing it from the microwave as it will be extremely hot.

How To Remove Salmon Smell From Microwave?

But even if you find a way to minimize mess, you’ll still end up with an unpleasant-smelling microwave afterward. To get rid of all traces of fishy smells in your microwave, my magic combination of ingredients is white distilled vinegar and water!

Here’s how I use it:

  1. Prepare the solution. Take 1 cup of vinegar (1/4 pint, 150 ml) and the same amount of water.
  2. Place it in a jug or bowl.
  3. Put the jug inside the microwave and turn your microwave on high for 10 minutes.
  4. Open your microwave and get a cloth to remove the jug from the microwave, this will help protect your hand from the steam.
  5. Take a soft cloth and wipe the inside of the microwave. If your microwave has a turntable, you will need to remove it and then wipe both sides of it. Be careful when removing the turntable as it can be very hot.

That’s it, your microwave should smell fresh and clean.

Final Thoughts

Timewise it doesn’t make much of a difference regardless of what cooking method you use unless. You can turn on the oven, heat up the grill, or use the microwave, and all will require, on average, the same amount of time.

The difference with the microwave is it provides a convenient way to cook up fish on days when you don’t feel like spending a lot of time in the kitchen.

Remember, if you want to microwave a fatty fish, you need to prick it with a fork a few times to prevent it from exploding in the microwave.

After you have pricked your fish, you can add seasonings and liquids of your choice. Then, wrap it in plastic wrap and cook it for a couple of minutes.

Depending on your microwave’s wattage and fish sizes, cooking time may vary. Check your fish every few seconds to avoid overcooking.

If you’re curious about other foods that can explode in the microwave, be sure to check out our other posts on soup, butter, and potatoes. By being aware of these potential dangers, you can avoid any unwanted explosions in your kitchen!

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!