What does it mean when a microwave gets hot on the outside?

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What does it mean when a microwave gets hot on the outside?

Picture this:

You try to open your microwave oven door and immediately flinch because it’s too hot. You haven’t faced this situation before and wonder why your microwave is hot? Is it normal, or do you need to stop using it? Can this hot microwave cause fire? And many such questions enter your mind, forcing you to find an answer. 

So, what does it mean if a microwave gets hot? Here’s the answer: Microwave ovens get hot while running at high temperatures for extended periods. Usually, this heat fades quickly, and the oven is safe for next use, but if the heat prolongs, the appliance’s magnetron might be broken. Also, if your microwave is near the stove, it can get pretty hot because of the external heat. 

Now, we know that microwaves can sometimes get hot because of different factors, but is there a solution? If you’re wondering about the same thing, read on and let us help you with this situation!

Should Microwaves Get Hot on the Outside? 

Microwave ovens are built to contain their heat and don’t throw hot waves outside while working. But when you leave a microwave on for an extended period or cook at high heat, it can get hot on the outside. This issue mainly arises because of thin appliance insulation and faulty heating elements. If your microwave has started to get extremely hot, it’s not normal, and you must repair it.

Your microwave won’t stay cold while working, and you’ll feel the heat upon touching it. But if this heat is unbearable or you spot smoke rising from your microwave, it calls for a quick repair.

A microwave generates heat by rotating water molecules present in your food and keeps the heat inside. But when its heating element is broken or the insulation is too thin, it gets hot on the outside.

A microwave oven’s magnetron generates heat waves that bounce against the metal surface and produce enough temperature to warm your food. These hot waves need uninterrupted ventilation to keep the microwave under normal conditions and keep your food from overheating. But when a microwave oven’s ventilation system doesn’t work, the heat remains trapped inside, resulting in dangerous overheating and arcing.  

So, the takeaway is, microwaves can get hot from the outside, but if it’s a recurring thing, something is wrong with your appliance. Either its magnetron is not properly working, or its vents are blocked; you must find the problem and solve it. 

Is it normal for a microwave to get hot on the outside?

Yes, it is pretty normal for the microwave to get hot on the outside like any other cooking appliance. When you set a particular temperature to warm or cook your food, some percentage of this heat comes from the microwave’s vents, resulting in appliance overheating. Almost all microwaves feel warm to the touch while working, but they only get hot when the temperature you’ve set is high.

If you expect a microwave oven to act cool while warming your food, that’s not happening. All electronic appliances release heat when they’re working, especially the cooking ones. However, the amount of heat a microwave oven releases doesn’t always feel uncomfortable. Unless your appliance’s magnetron is generating high heat and there’s no surface inside it to absorb that heat, it won’t get dangerously hot on the outside. 

The food inside a microwave oven also impacts its heating levels. Let’s say you’re warming leftover food in an airtight container. Now, the microwaves coming out from the appliance’s magnetron don’t have any moisture contents to pick on and rotate. If the microwave keeps working in this setting for an extended period, it will get very hot on the outside. 

Your microwave’s external heating level depends upon the way you use it. If you’re careful with the food and appliance’s temperature settings, it will work fine, and you won’t see a worrisome amount of heating rising from the appliance. 

Why do Microwaves get hot on the outside?

You’re using your microwave for some time and are careful with its temperature settings, but it still gets insanely hot. You want to know why this happens and if there’s something you can do about it; we heard you.

Here are the major contributing factors to your microwave oven’s overheating that can impact its performance in the long run: 

High Cooking Temperature

Some recipes ask you to preheat the microwave oven and run it empty before you start cooking, but this setting doesn’t always work. When you set a high cooking temperature, say 400F, a significant percentage of this heat finds its way out of the microwave, resulting in overheating.

Besides overheating the microwave, high heat can also overheat your food and cause minor injuries if you’re careless while handling it. Therefore, most microwave manufacturers recommend sticking to low-medium cooking temperatures to protect your appliance from heat abuse. 

Running the Appliance with Nothing Inside

Microwave ovens excite the water molecules rising from your food to cook it. But if you operate the microwave empty, it doesn’t have any moisture content to stimulate, and the waves bounce against metal surfaces only. This bouncing causes metal arcing and overheating that can risk your appliance’s safety.

So, if you must preheat the microwave, keep it brief and put the food inside before it gets unbearably hot. 

Faulty Microwave Vents 

Microwave ovens need proper ventilation to stay under optimal temperatures to prevent extreme heating and arcing incidents. But if your appliance’s ventilation system is blocked because of stuck-on food or its fans are broken, the heat remains trapped inside.

If the microwave works in this setting, it will get very hot on the outside, and its performance will be impacted. 

You should ensure your microwave’s vents are working fine and nothing is blocking its airflow. Sometimes grease and food particles can block a microwave’s vents, resulting in disturbed ventilation. But the good thing is, you can overcome this problem by keeping your microwave clean and airy. 

Overstuffing the Microwave 

Sure, heating a large food batch in one go sounds convenient, but this practice can risk your appliance’s safety. If you overstuff the microwave oven, its air circulation and ventilation get compromised because of the space shortage. 

This factor mainly comes to play in countertop ovens because they’re small and have less powerful vents. When this type of microwave is stuffed with food, it will soon get hot from the outside, eventually risking your appliance’s safety. That’s why it’s better to divide the food into multiple batches and avoid overstuffing the oven. 

Thin Insulation 

Some microwave ovens have low-quality, thin insulation that cannot withstand continuous heat generation. If you cook in a thinly insulated oven for extended periods, it will quickly pick up heat and show signs of overheating.

If you’re to purchase a microwave oven, make sure it’s from a credible brand and its insulation is thick enough to contain the extra heat.

If your old microwave has thin walls and you often face an overheating problem, always pick a low-medium cooking temperature. Don’t keep anything combustible near your microwave, and keep it clean.

These tips will prevent the damage of overheating and keep your microwave safe from multiple damages.

How hot does a microwave get from the outside?

Slight overheating is normal with microwave ovens because they use heat for cooking/warming your food. But if you notice fumes rising from a microwave or things sitting beside a microwave get damaged because of the heat, something is seriously wrong with it. Most microwaves are designed to contain the generated heat, and their glass parts are immune to overheating. 

But when your microwave’s door handle feels unbearably hot, you should quickly unplug it from the wall socket and step away. This high heat is because your appliance’s internal mechanism is not properly working, and you need professional help to fix it.

Claim your appliance’s warranty or call a repairer immediately, depending on your oven’s status. But don’t cook in this appliance unless you find a solution for the overheating problem.

Summing Up 

Microwave ovens are convenient kitchen appliances because of their quick working and easy handling. But thanks to some unpleasant incidents associated with microwaves, cooks are often skeptical about their safety standards. A common question new microwave oven users ask is if these appliances get hot from the outside, and if they do, how can they tackle this situation. 

That’s why we explained everything that can go wrong with your microwave to ensure you don’t face this trouble in the future. Here are a few takeaways for you:

  • Cook at low-medium temperature, and don’t let your microwave get extra hot. 
  • Don’t operate the microwave empty, but if you must, keep it brief.
  • Keep your microwave clean and make sure its vents aren’t blocked. 

Once you take care of these points, your microwave won’t get hot, and you’ll like its convenience!

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