Published on 12/23/98

Microwaved Eggs Can Burst With Flavor, or Just Explode

Microwaved eggs can burst with flavor.

Or just explode.

It's your choice.

"Eggs can be microwaved with good results. But they need close attention," said Elizabeth Andress, an Extension Service food, nutrition and health scientist with the University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences.

Andress said poaching, scrambling, "baking" or frying eggs work well in a microwave oven. Boiling or otherwise hard-cooking eggs in the shell won't work at all.

"The shell acts like a wall to trap heat inside," Andress said. "Pressure builds up from steam being created inside from the heating."

Eventually, the shell won't be able to contain the pressure inside, and the egg will virtually explode.

That's the most violent, messiest way to explode an egg in the microwave. Unfortunately, it isn't the only way.

yolkbrk.jpg (44404 bytes)
J. Cannon, UGA CAES

AN EGG YOLK can explode in the microwave, like uncracked eggs, if you don't break the membrane that surrounds it. Steam pressure can build up within the yolk and cause it to explode and create a nasty mess inside your microwave.

"If you don't 'pop' or pierce the membrane around the yolk, it can also explode from steam pressure that will build up during cooking," Andress said. "Use a clean toothpick or the tip of a small paring knife to break the yolk membrane."

As long as you do that, you can fry eggs in your microwave.

"Use a custard cup or low-rim dish containing melted butter or greased with a vegetable-oil spray," Andress said. "Break the egg into the container and pierce the yolk. Microwave it at 50-percent power."

Use the 50-percent power setting anytime you microwave unbeaten eggs. "Because the yolk contains fat, it cooks faster than the white," Andress said.

For poaching, break a whole egg into a small, deep container with one-third cup of water. Gently prick the yolk, cover with plastic wrap and cook on 50-percent power. Then pour off the water, or lift the egg out with a slotted spoon.

You can break whole eggs onto the top of other dishes, such as hash or ham slices, to bake, Andress said. But again, prick the yolks before you cook.

Perhaps the best way to microwave eggs, though, is to scramble them. Microwaved eggs cook quicker and with less messy cleanup. And the flavor can be delightful. But they still need close attention.

"Eggs are scrambled best in small quantities in a glass bowl with melted butter or margarine," Andress said. "Pour the beaten eggs into the prepared bowl. Cover the bowl with waxed paper. Microwave it until the eggs are slightly firm."

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J.Cannon, UGA CAES
MICROWAVE COOKING eggs can be tricky. Don't serve them if the yolk is still partly liquid for food safety reasons. "Finish cooking" is the key -- let the heat in the eggs finish cooking them. Cooking them completely in the microwave will likely overcook them and you'll have rubbery eggs.

After the first minute, stop the cooking process every 30 seconds and stir. "Stop microwaving just before the eggs are completely firm and stir them," she said. "Then let them stand to finish cooking."

To be safe, don't serve the eggs if they're still partly liquid. "Finish cooking" is the key, she said. But let the heat in the eggs finish the job. Otherwise, they'll overcook.

Remember three basic rules of microwaving eggs.

  • Stop and stir beaten eggs every 30 seconds or so.
  • With unbeaten eggs, always prick the yolk and cook on 50-percent power.
  • Don't even think about hard-cooking an egg in the shell.

In fact, even reheating a hard-cooked egg can be dangerous, Andress said.

"When a hard-cooked whole egg is reheated in the microwave," she said, "the yolk reheats faster and will get hotter than the white."

After reheating, the outside of the egg may be just right, but the inside can be hot enough to burn you.

"It would be best to cut the egg before reheating it," she said. "At least cut and test it before eating it." Andress said at least one person learned that lesson the hard way.

"She heated a previously hard-cooked, peeled egg in the microwave," she said. "The outside didn't seem that hot, and she bit into the whole egg. The yolk 'exploded' inside her mouth, and the hot pieces burned her lower lip and gums."

Dan Rahn is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.