We select and review products independently. When you purchase through our links we may earn a commission. Learn more.

Why Some Foods Pop in the Microwave

A bowl sits inside a microwave with a paper towel over top.
Shea Simmons/LifeSavvy

There are some foods you want to have pop in the microwave—like a bag of popcorn. But no one wants to open the door to food-splattered walls. So what causes some foods to pop in the microwave?

Turns out, steam is the biggest culprit when it comes to microwaved food popping.

When food has high water content and high viscosity—like tomato sauce—steam can get “trapped” in pockets beneath the surface.  Those little storms of steam need somewhere to go, especially in thicker sauces where they start to run into resistance. Eventually, so much pressure builds up that, you guessed it: they pop.

So, what can you do to keep your sauces and soup from creating a Jackson Pollock inside your microwave?

Your best bet is to neutralize the steam as much as possible by stirring your dish every 30 seconds to a minute. You can also reduce the power level on your microwave, which will heat up your food slower and more consistently so you’ll see fewer eruptions.

If you’re tired of wiping down your microwave every time you heat up foods with a high water content, dig deeper into the science behind it. Heat things up slowly, stir often, and if all else fails, keep the paper towels handy.

Stacey Koziel Stacey Koziel
Stacey Koziel is a news writer at LifeSavvy. She's worked as a freelance writer for over ten years, focusing on family and lifestyle content. She also has a background in marketing and social media, and is always eager to talk (and write!) about the latest TikTok trends. Read Full Bio »
LifeSavvy is focused on one thing: making your life outside of work even better. Want to know more?