A Moment of Science

Potato Bombs

Are you ready to learn more about potato bombs?

potatoes in a cardboard box

Photo: Glenn (Flickr)

When a potato is cooked in the microwave, the internal water boils and produces steam.

Put a potato in the microwave, turn up the power and a few minutes later: pop! The potato explodes. Ever wonder what causes this potato explosion?

The Secret

The secret is in the unique way microwaves work. Conventional ovens heat up the air inside the oven first then heat up the surface of the food and then heat up the inside. Microwave ovens cook the inside of the food right away, without heating up the surrounding air. They do this by using high frequency electromagnetic waves.

As the waves oscillate back and forth in the oven, the particles in the food oscillate and rub against each other. This creates friction inside the food. This friction heats up the food’s internal water, which boils and cooks the food. Foods with a lot of water, like pie filling, heat up faster than dry foods, like crust, which is why you burn your mouth on the moist filling.

Boil And Steam

When a potato is cooked in the microwave, the internal water boils and produces steam. Since potatoes have an outer skin, the steam builds up, creating pressure. Eventually, the built up pressure bursts the potato. Any item with a moist interior and a tough outer skin can explode in the microwave if you don’t create vents by piercing the skin before you microwave it.

Stay Connected

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from A Moment of Science:

Support for Indiana Public Media Comes From

About A Moment of Science

Search A Moment of Science