Insider tip: The coconut cake that won a contest for Waldorf’s Decoyise Brown, who’s featured in today’s installment of Washington Cooks, is seriously, fabulously, over-the-top good. You’ll find a link to her recipe at the end of Bonnie Benwick’s story; or if you don’t feel like cracking coconuts, you can sample the cake at Eatonville restaurant beginning Memorial Day weekend. Also in today’s Food section, David Hagedorn goes in search of local clams in the waters off Virginia’s Eastern Shore, then brings ’em home and cooks ’em up. David will be on hand for today’s Free Range chat, so if you have a question about clams — or anything else remotely having to do with food — bring it on.
We’ll have an hour, which usually isn’t enough time to get to every question. That’s where I come in, grabbing a leftover from the message bag and answering it in this space. Here’s one from a previous week:
I was nuking a banana (makes ’em as sweet as fried), and a few seconds in, the stem end started to emit a flame! Never happened before. The oven immediately filled with smoke. I don’t think the flame reached the top of the oven, but I don’t know. Should I buy a new oven, just to be extra safe? I’d rather not spend the money if not necessary, and the oven does still work, but I’m leery about using it without your approval.
Are you fearful that a faulty oven caused the banana to flame out? Or are you thinking that the fire did some damage that will make the oven unsafe? Regardless, it’s possible that neither is the case.
The first thing you should do — always! — is call the manufacturer and ask about a possible cause for the flame. I don’t even play a microwave repairman on TV, so I’m not a technical authority. Better to go to the source.
However, I can tell you that sometimes in microwaves, things ... just ... burn. It’s not common, but if you enter the words “microwave” and “fire” in a search engine, you get millions of hits. Granted, many of them are for YouTube videos of college students performing risky experiments, but many are not. Potatoes and sweet potatoes are particularly famous for causing microwave fires, as a black char mark inside my very own oven attests.
If it had happened to me, and if the manufacturer gave me the go-ahead, I’d keep using the oven, but at least for a couple of weeks I wouldn’t leave the room while it was on, just to make sure it was a one-time event.
As to whether your microwave is still usable, I’m not in your kitchen looking at it, but a customer service rep for LG appliances told me that if there’s no visible damage to the oven, “it’s safe to use” after a small fire.
Do you know what to do when something catches fire inside a microwave? The two most important things are: 1. Turn the oven off; that stops the fan that’s feeding air into the oven; and 2. Don’t open the door! Let the fire eat up the oxygen inside the closed compartment and burn itself out. Also, unplug it if you can. If you have a built-in oven, you might not be able to get to the cord easily or even safely, but you should always know where it’s plugged in, just in case.
The federal Office of Research Services has a list of 10 fire safety tips for microwaves that’s worth reading. Hey, you paid for it, so check it out. Might come in handy someday.