Scientists Crack the Mystery of an Exploding Egg


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Scientists had an explosive thriller on their arms. A person suing a restaurant claimed an egg he bit into detonated loudly sufficient to break his listening to. Was this a legit criticism, or an try and capitalize in a litigation-happy tradition?

Nicely, after a scientific investigation, the person’s story is legit. Though microwave ovens have turn into a staple equipment in lots of kitchens, they arrive with oft-unheeded warnings that sure meals pose dangers to individuals when reheated. Potatoes and eggs are among the many commonest culprits of doubtless harmful microwaving mishaps.

The analysis crew’s investigation revealed that tiny pockets of water can super-heat inside microwaved eggs, bursting with doubtlessly dire penalties.


When potatoes get heated in microwaves, stress from steam can construct up beneath potato skins. This will lead potatoes to rupture in sudden, unpredictable methods, mentioned researchers at acoustical consulting agency Charles M. Salter Associates in San Francisco.

The lawyer of the insurers of the restaurant that obtained sued employed the acoustical consultants as professional witnesses to search out out extra about how eggs behave when microwaved. The person who sued the restaurant claimed he suffered extreme burns and listening to injury after a microwaved hard-boiled egg exploded in his mouth. (Many different particulars of the occasion, such because the restaurant, metropolis, date and time, stay confidential.)

Since there was little scientific analysis into whether or not exploding eggs have been loud sufficient to generate listening to injury, the scientists initially took the unorthodox strategy of reviewing YouTube movies the place individuals casually detonated eggs in microwaves. Nevertheless, as a result of these movies gave the impression to be extra for private leisure than for scientific exploration, they didn’t account for quite a lot of essential components, comparable to sound ranges, inside temperatures, or the assorted varieties and sizes of eggs.

In experiments, the scientists reheated practically 100 hard-boiled eggs in rigorously managed situations. First, the eggs have been positioned in a water bathtub and microwaved for 3 minutes, and the temperature of the water bathtub was measured each on the center and finish of the heating cycle. The eggs have been then faraway from the water bathtub, positioned on the ground and pierced with a fast-acting meat thermometer to induce an explosion.

A couple of third of the reheated eggs exploded exterior the oven. For these eggs that did explode, their peak sound stress ranges ranged from 86 to 133 decibels at a distance of 12 inches.

“I’d guess that the sound stress degree on the ear of a person can be 10 decibels larger. A single occasion comparable to this might not trigger listening to injury, for my part,” mentioned acoustical marketing consultant Tony Nash at Charles M. Salter Associates. He famous the U.S. Protection Division had information as to what ranges of sound stress “can result in listening to injury danger.”

The scientists discovered the yolks have been persistently hotter than the encircling water baths. This probably implies that yolks take up extra microwave radiation than pure water.

The researchers prompt that microwaved egg yolks can develop many small pockets of superheated water a lot hotter than water’s regular boiling temperature. When this unstable water will get disturbed — say, when the egg is bitten into — it may boil very quickly. “The discharge of steam could be explosive,” Nash mentioned. Nash and his colleague Lauren von Blohn detailed their findings Dec. 6 on the annual assembly of the Acoustical Society of America in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The case was in the end settled out of court docket. The researchers prompt their restaurant acoustics experiments ought to underscore the truth that “heating sure meals in a microwave oven could be harmful,” Nash mentioned.

Even perhaps eggs-tremely harmful.

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