Frozen Vegetables Spark in the Microwave

Frozen vegetables can spark in a microwave when plasma is produced.
Frozen vegetables can spark in a microwave when plasma is produced. Monica Rodriguez, Getty Images

When I was naming things you shouldn't microwave, I didn't list frozen vegetables. However, WSCH in Portland is running a news story (complete with video) about frozen vegetables sparking when being microwaved. At least two Texas consumers have reported seeing sparks and small flames during the first few seconds of microwaving Green Giant frozen mixed vegetables. The USDA says the vegetables are perfectly safe to eat and that the sparking probably is due to the presence of naturally-occurring minerals found on the produce. Personally I'd guess it's similar to the plasma phenomenon seen when microwaving grapes. I have never seen flames on my veggies while nuking them, but I don't usually watch them cook, so I might be missing out on some entertainment.
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Stephanie says:

The same thing happened to me when I microwaved frozen Great Value (WalMart brand) mixed vegetables. It also sparked when I microwaved Del Monte green beans. Not sure what the issue is. I even cleaned the microwave completely to be sure it wasn’t because of any build up per the recommendation of other sites.

Edward says:

I just bought a new micro as the tech said mine was broke when the Sam’s Club Mixed veggies sparked. I bought a new microwave and it does the same thing. Tried different plates, etc, same thing.
I wonder if there is not something in the bags to keep freshness that has some ore in it. I wish the FDA would test this instead of blowing it off.

Greg says:

I am having the same thing happen, but just recently. I’ve microwaved frozen veggies for years and this never happened, so why is it all of a sudden nationwide?

Elayna says:

Same thing has been happening to me. I thought it was my microwave, as it was a bit old. So, I just got a new, pretty expensive one. Same thing! Plus, what is even more strange is that I use Stop & Shop’s Natures Promise organic frozen vegetables. It’s also happened with Cascadian Farm Organic Peas & Green Beans. They all spark like I put metal in the microwave plus some smoke and burn.

Rebecognize says:

We had peas spark, and then today sweet potatoes that were already cooked and I warmed them up and got sparks. They were fresh and never frozen. Both times for me it was from reheating cooked veggies (for baby food). Weird.

Charles says:

This just happened to me with a fresh sweet potato. I steamed it in the microwave with the skin on and it was ok. Later I cut it up into small chunks and re-heated it in the microwave and the sparks flew.

Eric says:

This just happened to me while heating up some green beans. I did some playing around with it and found that if I have a a few pieces in the microwave not touching each other, then there are no sparks. If I touch two of them together, then the sparks and small flame fly! Craziness!

Lori says:

I just had it happen with a sweet potato that was baked yesterday, but I cut the leftovers into chunks and heated it today. It leaves little black marks where the sparks came from and you can even smell it! It also happened a few days ago with some frozen green beans that I had already cooked but was reheating. It’s never happened before… what is going on??

Micah says:

I chop fresh serrano chilis en mass and then freeze them to keep later meal preparation more simple. Today my chilis burst into flames when I defrosted them in my microwave! I took off the offending chili the off the plate the first time it happened and tried again – same thing happened! Wild!

Tiffany says:

This is really alarming. I’ve had this happen on several occasions when reheating green giant previously frozen vegetables. Vegetables should not contain enough of any ore to cause this sparking.

James says:

I used to get this when microwaving Aldi’s cheapest mixed frozen veggies. (Australia).
The only thing in my mind that causes this is metal. Yes, you can see the burn-holes in the pieces of carrot and beans! So I just don’t buy them!

Jonathan Green says:

I’ve had this same problem, small sparks coming from food (green beans but also potatoes under plastic foil). I wonder if it’s static electricity (the microwave has a turntable inside on plastic wheels). Or simply a microwave antenna which is sending out the wrong kind of waves? Never had this problem with my old microwave (bought 14 years ago, never any problems) but the new one is really scaring me. Don’t think this can be healthy at all…. Are microwaves checked by any government body at all before they hit the shelves?

Heather says:

I have had the sparking with many frozen veggies and canned green beans. I never have the sparking if they are covered with water. But yesterday I reheated some cooked “fresh” green beans and the sparking still happened, there was just a small amount of water in the bottom. So I guess fresh, frozen or canned it will still happen.

Kelsie Rodgers says:

Basically, it has to do with higher mineral contents (iron, magnesium, zinc, potassium) in certain veggies and other factors related to the microwaving process itself.

If you read the ingredients on the side of a frozen veggie bag, nothing is listed but the vegetables (no preservatives, etc.). People also experience the same thing with fresh vegetables.

I think we are all jumping to “worse case” conclusions. Yes, it’s scary when things spark and catch on fire, but the reason can be very simple (and benign).

Ben says:

I added a cup of water to properly load the microwave and it stopped sparking.

Sarah G. says:

This has happened to me with fresh, organic vegetables as well! I have cooked/boiled sweet potatoes and carrots for my young son, and on several occasions afterward when I have gone to reheat them in the microwave for him, they immediately start sparking and have emitted flames! This has never happened in all the years I have used the microwave, and now 3 times in the past 6 months.

Steve M says:

We were just heating up some Birds Eye Steamfresh and they sparked started smoking and my Microwave shut down. The Microwave is less than a year old and was not cheap. Anyone else have it break their Microwave?

Richard says:

I am having the same issue happening with fresh green beans straight from my garden. We cooked the fresh snapped green beans earlier in the evening. Later I put some in the microwave to munch on before going to bed. They lit up and caught on fire. It is not something coming from the frozen beans or the bags, mine have never seen the freezer or a bag.

Monica says:

I am also here because I thought it might be my microwave but guess not! I starting looking into this today since I had FRESH cauliflower that I cooked a few days ago, spark when I reheated it today. In the past this has happened to me with frozen-then reheated veggies and I just assumed it was due to something when they are frozen but now that it has happened with fresh veggies I am stumped. At least I now know I am not crazy and our microwave is just fine.

(36) Debbie says:

I’ve also had it happen with ham. I separated the diced pieces because thought it might be because they were touching, but it didn’t work. Interesting to think that covering them with water seems to be the best solution.

Jammin says:

It happened to me with broccoli today. I am thinking that the culprit has either to do with newer microwaves or (conspiracy theory coming straight from my butt) all the increased radio waves due to cell phones and the internet. This didn’t used to happen years ago with old microwaves. The earliest report I can find of this happening is from 8 years ago. I’m stumped!

Lora says:

I placed frozen chopped onion, celery, bell peppers (combo) in my microwave last night, on a microwaveable paper plate and sparks and fire and smoke started immediately. I wonder if there’s pieces of metal from the machines at their processing plant???

Matt says:

I’ve had a few different brands (organic and inorganic) spark and flame in the microwave in the past few months. My mom uses microwaves for everything and has never seen this until now. So, I think the many comments on here stating it is from the minerals in the food are right, but the fact that it is happening more and more and no one had reported it in the past makes me think that they have higher levels of minerals and maybe there is a limit to how high the mineral levels can be (and what types) in order to still be safe. Cooking them in pans instead does not solve the problem, you just don’t get the burning. You still have the high levels of metals that are seemingly a new phenomenon. Hate to say it, but Bill Gates is on the record for funding private geo-engineering to combat global warming, spraying nano particles of aluminum and barium into the air, all over the planet. Organic veggies or not, soil samples have shown an 800% rise in these metals. They are not benign in these forms.

James Gast says:

Just had frozen bell peppers arc/caught foam plate on fire. Years ago it was broccoli. Microwaves are now 1000 or 1100 watts -- much more powerful than earlier ones. The combination of natural minerals (iron, potassium, etc.) in the ice and those edges of pieces
become “jump arc gaps” like a spark plug. But sweet potatoes and chicken pieces Why? How?

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Your Citation
Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Frozen Vegetables Spark in the Microwave." ThoughtCo, Sep. 1, 2021, Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2021, September 1). Frozen Vegetables Spark in the Microwave. Retrieved from Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Frozen Vegetables Spark in the Microwave." ThoughtCo. (accessed September 25, 2022).