MLA Citation: Bloomfield, Louis A. "Question 326"
How Everything Works 16 Jan 2018. 16 Jan 2018 <http://howeverythingworks.org/print1.php?QNum=326>.
326. What happens if you start the microwave oven with nothing inside?
The magnetron creates microwaves that travel into the cooking chamber and should be absorbed there. If there is no food (or rather no water-containing food), those microwaves will not be absorbed and will eventually find their way back to the magnetron. Eventually the magnetron will absorb as many microwaves as it emits. This situation is hard on the magnetron, which works best when it has very little radiation returning to it. That's why you should never run a microwave empty for more than a second or two.

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