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This season’s hottest vegetable is literally on fire.

Max Bonem
May 16, 2017

Microwaves are good for a great many things. For instance, you can easily make popcorn in one, or bake a mug cake, or reheat day-old Chinese food (although sometimes it’s best left cold). One thing that microwaves are not so good at, though, is cooking raw vegetables.

Over the past few years, stories and videos of specifically carrots catching on fire in microwaves have started popping up periodically. However, this phenomenon, known as “arcing,” isn’t exclusive to carrots as kale, green beans and bell peppers are all susceptible to this as well.

However, what is arcing exactly? According to the USDA, it’s when your food causes sparks to form after being exposed to microwaves. This phenomenon has two causes: The food's mineral content and the shape of the food itself.

Microwaves function by creating electromagnetic waves that cause the water, fat and sugar molecules inside food to vibrate and thereby, heat. While an electric field is created throughout the inside of the entire microwave, the electricity’s intensity will vary, which is where your food comes in. When any nutrient and mineral-rich food is cut up into smaller pieces and placed inside a microwave, each piece of whatever is being cooked will take on a different amount of electricity and this discrepancy will sometimes cause sparks to form.

Additionally, the amount of minerals found in the vegetables themselves also plays a major role. While all vegetables collect minerals from the soil, root vegetables in particular, including carrots, are likely to contain even more minerals. The added minerals create an environment in which charges are then more likely to occur.

Basically, certain vegetables, including carrots, are such effective conductors of electricity that they can act as miniature lightning rods under certain conditions inside a microwave. Of course, the sparks caused by your vegetables won’t necessarily harm the food, but the vegetables might end up being cooked unevenly or taking on a burnt taste. Also, always make sure to add some kind of moisture when microwaving vegetables as a dry environment leads to an increased risk of fire. If you'd prefer not setting your microwave on fire, though, here are 25 carrot recipes that you can cook using your stovetop or oven instead.