Thursday, November 5, 2009

"Fun With Kitchen Chemistry"

or "Kitchen Chemistry Gone Wrong".

Back story: Every time I cook bacon in my microwave, the inside of the microwave stinks of bacon for days. Days and days. The smell doesn't come out by wiping the inside with hot soapy water or with Windex. I cooked some bacon on Tuesday morning for a quiche we had for dinner that night. And while the smell of bacon cooking could be considered a good thing, it definitely loses some of its appeal after a few days.

This morning I thought I'd try deodorizing the microwave. I started with a one-cup glass measuring cup. I added 1/2 cup water and 1/4 cup lemon juice. I thought I'd add some salt and see how that worked. And then things started going wrong.

I went to the pantry for the salt and while merrily spinning the lazy susan looking for salt I spotted the baking soda. I thought "Aha! Baking soda would be even better than salt because I know baking soda deodorizes!"

You can probably see where this is going. Unfortunately I didn't see it going there myself.

Picture it: I'm standing there in front of the pantry with my measuring cup nearly full of lemon juice/water and I poured a little bit of baking soda into the cup. Things got exciting really fast and before I could remember that lemon juice and baking soda make for quite a spectacular meeting my cup runneth o'er. Literally.

Now there's a big, foamy, lemony mess dripping on to the floor, down my arm, and all over my bare feet.

When the excitement died down there wasn't much left in my measuring cup. I figured what the heck, I might as well see if it deodorizes the microwave. I put it in there and set it for 3 minutes, thinking that if it boiled and created some lemony steam it might work better.

The lemon/water/baking soda solution did foam up more while it was cooking but it wiped right up. And it did work. There is no longer any trace of old bacon smell in the microwave.

The weird thing was the color change. It started out basically clear - the color of lemon juice and water - and after it cooked for three minutes it was really a really dark amber.

(Any kitchen chemists out there that can explain why the color changed?)

Anyway, the moral of this story is that a watered down solution of lemon juice and baking soda will deodorize a microwave oven, but you should do your mixing in a big container. Preferably over the sink.


  1. Honey, you don't need the baking soda. Just put the lemon-water in, wait until it's boiling, and then wipe it out. That should do it.

  2. you can also just put cut citrus fruit in a bowl of water and let it cook! Its wonderful!