Why did the glass tray in my microwave break?

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After the first cup of coffee in the morning, you decide it might be nice to have some oatmeal. You put the bowl inside the microwave, punch in the normal time, and turn around to watch Matt Lauer on the Today Show. You hear a slight thump and then a clink come from the direction of the microwave, but don't give it much thought. When the cook cycle ends, you open the microwave door to retrieve your steamy hot bowl of oatmeal. What greets you is an almost tumped over bowl of hot oatmeal and several chunks of a broken microwave glass tray. The first two words normally uttered when this happens to most people are "What" and "the" followed by several different nouns. (The nouns are chosen based on one's level of surprise and or anger at this event). While eating your oatmeal and taking a good look, several questions roll by...
  1. "Was it some force of nature that caused this to happen"?
  2. "Did I leave the spoon in the bowl"?
  3. "Do you think Mom will notice"?
  4. "Poltergeist activity"?
All of the above are indeed possibilities (actually Mom will notice, so that will be a reality). The true explanations are much more mundane...
  • The glass tray had a hairline crack or stress fracture that was not visible
  • It got a little too hot in one area
  • The expansion from the heat caused the fracture to expand and therefore crack and break
An accidental bumping of the microwave plate on the countertop while going from the microwave to the dishwasher might set up the above situation. The spoon your seven year old left in the mac and cheese might have arced and nicked a small piece of the glass. Whatever the cause, microwave trays break and they break for a lot of reasons.

All foods cooked in the microwave produce heat. Microwaves themselves are not hot, but the foods cooked in a microwave get hot - some much hotter than others.

Even though most microwave glass trays are tempered, they are not designed to hold up under high temperatures. You will see most microwave trays stamped with the words "For microwave oven use only" This is to let us know that it's probably not a good idea to use the trays in a conventional oven.

Any air pockets, cracks or gaps in the glass can enlarge under heat. Since glass isn't very receptive to being stretched, breakage can occur.

Some foods in particular produce lots of heat and quite often are present during microwave glass tray disasters. Here are the main contributors...

  • Potatoes Next time you 'bake' a potato in the microwave, try holding it in your hand for a few seconds after it's cooked.Hot? You bet it is. Now think of all the heat from that potato lying directly on the glass plate. Instead of cooking directly on the tray, place the potatoes on a microwave safe plate or stone.
  • Bacon If you love crisp bacon, there's no better way to cook it than in the microwave. The fat and grease from the bacon gets super hot however, so again, it's not a good idea to cook it directly on the plate. The best option here is to use a microwave bacon tray. This is usually a hard plastic tray with grooves and indentions that slightly elevate the bacon and channel away the grease to the outside. This makes for great bacon and much easier cleanup. Just be sure to place a paper towel on top of the bacon to catch the splatters
  • Popcorn Are you kidding? After all, it is microwave popcorn isn't it? - The greatest food invention since apples?  Did Orville Redenbacher lie to us on this one? Nah - Orville's a pretty cool old guy and microwave popcorn is indeed for the microwave.It goes back the the heat issue. Microwave popcorn produces a lot of heat. There's not much moisture in popcorn kernels - maybe just a molecule or two. Some kernels have no moisture at all. They're the ones leftover in the bag that didn't pop. The others have popped because the microwaves have superheated the moisture molecules causing the kernel to pop.  Inside the bag of popcorn, the steam is hot, the popcorn is hot, the butter is hot, and the bag is hot. Because of this, it's a good idea to stick around the kitchen while popping a bag. Bags of popcorn have been known to catch on fire. The smell of popcorn in the office breakroom in tantalizing. The smell of burned popcorn is horrible and sticks around longer than some employees. You'll get better results by elevating the popcorn on an inverted microwave safe plate, and it'll help you (or your boss) from buying a $40 microwave plate.
Sometimes a broken microwave plate simply results from an accident. A tiled kitchen floor will always win over a dropped glass plate. The glass will shatter and the tiniest pieces will hide from all manners of brooms, dustpans, and vacuum cleaners. These pieces will sometimes remain in hiding for several years until presented with an opportunity to meet a bare foot.

Whatever the reason you might find yourself with a broken microwave tray, just grab the trash can and a broom. While doing your best to clean up, be comforted in the fact that we can help you find a replacement. (We don't do floors though:)

Please visit our eBay store... Martin Microwave Inc.

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