Is a Christmas pudding containing coins safe to microwave?
November 27, 2013 8:35 AM   Subscribe

I made three Christmas puddings on Stir-up Sunday, with the intention of giving two away to two families with small children. As is traditional, I included a coin in the pudding. I really don't want to add to the faff of Christmas with toddlers so I was going to suggest that they microwave the pudding. Today it occurred to me that there's a chunk of metal inside each of them so perhaps that suggestion isn't as clever as all that.

I've tried googling this, but with mixed results - some people say it's fine as long as you don't touch the side of the microwave with the metal, some people say the metal needs an edge, some say absolutely not, the whole thing is a stupid idea.

I'd be game for experimenting myself, but I don't have a microwave.
posted by calico to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I hope the parents of said toddlers know that there is a choking hazard in their food....
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 8:37 AM on November 27, 2013 [7 favorites]

I would not give pudding that has been microwaved to toddlers.

I would not microwave pudding with a coin in it.

I would DEFINITELY not give pudding that has been microwaved AND has a coin in it to toddlers.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:37 AM on November 27, 2013 [11 favorites]

(My toddler was burned at a Thai restaurant by black rice pudding that had apparently been warmed in the microwave and had VERY hot spots.)
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:38 AM on November 27, 2013

There are dangers. From a pure risk assessment standpoint I would say no to this. Potential downsides, other than choking.

- the metal winds up sparking & damaging their microwave
- the metal winds up getting superhot and damaging the person eating it
- the metal winds up breaking down rendering the food inedible
posted by jessamyn at 8:42 AM on November 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

So as to forestall the choking hazard discussion: yes, the parents know. Generally what would happen in a house with small children - and happened in my youth - is you'd present the pudding to the table, serve it, slice it up and then check through the portions given to children for the coin before giving it to them.
posted by calico at 8:43 AM on November 27, 2013 [5 favorites]

Ah, OK, since many Americans will be reading this thread, I think a clarification is in order that this is "pudding" in the British sense of "dessert" (I think? Pudding is a general word for dessert in the UK?) and not in the American sense of a gloopy dessert mostly made of milk. (Wikipedia)

I still would not microwave anything with a coin in it. Slice it up and take the coin out first.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:46 AM on November 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Apologies, quite right, I'm talking about this sort of Christmas pudding. Will now try to retire to a distance & stop thread-sitting!
posted by calico at 8:49 AM on November 27, 2013

This is unlikely to hurt your microwave. If there's enough water in the microwave, particularly if it's in contact with the metal, you can safely microwave _exposed_ metal. Try defrosting frozen OJ (top removed) so it slides out of the container. No arcing, even with the metal bottom.

Your pudding might not have enough water in it to keep the coin from becoming extremely hot though. More to the point: unless you're prepared to microwave it pretty long and low it's more than likely going to heat pretty unevenly. I would reheat in the oven during the main course.
posted by mce at 8:57 AM on November 27, 2013

I would imagine that the coin would be well-protected from arcing. I know people who microwave paper bags stapled shut (with a metal staple) to make popcorn, with no sparks or problems.

The consensus at my house is that the pudding might get scorched around the coin, because the coin is conductive, but other than that it's probably fine.
posted by leahwrenn at 8:58 AM on November 27, 2013

You can do a quick experiment yourself. Get a tea cup of water, put a spoon in it, and put it in the microwave oven. Turn on the oven as if you were making a cup of tea.

Observe what happens. Not much. You get a cup of tea. The spoon will be warm, but that is simply because it is sitting in hot water.
posted by JackFlash at 9:39 AM on November 27, 2013

Fellow Brit here. Longstanding Christmas pudding guru.

I personally would not microwave a Christmas pud with coins in it. I would give microwaved pud to toddlers - it is no more or less dangerous than anything else and they need to get used to it. Christmas pudding is like marmite - it is important to get kids in training early. Furthermore, it is the most almighty faff to cook a Xmas pud any other way.

The correct process is (as per several years of tried and tested experience):

- Microwave the Xmas pudding
- Add coins to 3/4 of the pud. Know which part has no coins - you can do this by making a mark in the pud if you need to.
- Place the pudding on a plate that curves up. Put the pudding and plate on a tray.
- Heat up a mixture of vodka and brandy in a 50:50 ratio till it bubbles; you can use just brandy, but adding vodka gives a more consistent flame
- Poor the mixture on your pudding

At this point you need at least one additional person, preferably two

- Light the pudding. If you are a secret smoker, then a good idea is not to just casually pull your lighter from your pocket. For safety, matches are better anyway.
- Pick the whole caboodle up and walk your pudding to the table
- One helper should be spooning alcohol onto the flames as you walk; the second should be switching off the lights in the room where you are taking the pudding, having first made sure there are no obstacles.
- Try not to burn yourself. A good tip is to let the least drunk person hold the flaming pudding. Also, anyone with long eyebrows should not participate in this part of the process.

Then you serve the pudding. Kids first, from the coinless part. Mush it up a bit, which serves to double check for coins and releases heat. Then adults. You should have brandy butter and brandy cream. If the pudding is too hot to eat you need to prime your maiden aunt to start this year's debate from the following selection of perennial topics:

- Brandy butter is the only way to go; brandy cream is an abomination
- Would anyone actually eat Christmas pudding if it weren't for Christmas
- How can I fit this in after all this turkey? Do humans actually have a special "dessert" stomach?
- The pudding from [insert supermarket] last year looked nicer than this one

Then you eat. If you can fit it in.

Make sure to leave some left over for Boxing Day. You let the pudding cool in a fridge and then you cut into slices and fry the next morning in butter as part of your breakfast, in the style of clootie dumpling. The trick is to get a very small amount of caramelised crust.

Then you eat. With brandy butter, ideally. Normally at this point 3/4 of the family is looking at you like you're a lunatic. But you're not. One in twelve people in the UK is Scottish, so for a large family gathering of 12 or more odds are that one of you is Scottish, which you can spot by the fact that they are eating fried Christmas pudding.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:51 AM on November 27, 2013 [46 favorites]

I think just re-steaming it (something they are probably familiar with) would be easier than telling them to microwave it and then having their microwave and the pudding get destroyed (on the off-chance that happens). From what I understand, it's really just a set-it-and-forget-it-for-a-few-hours thing, no? I mean, why chance it?

Note: I do not own a microwave, so reheating things on the stove/oven isn't seen as a tremendous amount of work to me. This could be coloring my statement.
posted by melissasaurus at 10:12 AM on November 27, 2013

There are stupid risks, and risks worth taking. At holidays, the oven is in use and warm. Wrap the pudding in a very damp cloth and tuck it into the warm oven, which can be off, or on really low. In my house, the microwave is usually overtasked.

Plum pudding is a Christmas tradition at our house. Even better than using vodka, get some Everclear, which is 190 proof or something, basically rocket fuel. The Everclear came from my grandfather's medical practice and still packs plenty of wallop. Brandy, too, for flavor. 'Hard' sauce = butter + powdered sugar + brandy. It's delicious. No one knows the exact measurements because, brandy.

Mom always fancied up the plum pudding plate with fresh holly. She had a heavy hand with the Everclear and brandy. One year she wrapped the plate in foil, which became a problem. As she brought the flaming pudding to the table in the darkened dining room, the holly caught fire and blazed merrily. She set the plate on the table. The foil had acted as a wick and shortly after, the tablecloth caught fire as the alcohol seeped into it. My brother-in-law and I were madly snapping pictures as everyone hollered and flapped their arms until somebody realized that everyone had water glasses, and the pudding was doused. I was only a little disappointed not to have a visit from the fire department. The pudding didn't take on too much water, and only a little bit was too charred to eat. It was delicious and festive, and totally worth the scorch mark on the table to have such a fantastic memory.

MuffinMan, you are welcome at any holiday at my house, any time. Although we have never had leftover plum pudding. I'll make (buy) extra.
posted by theora55 at 1:11 PM on November 27, 2013 [6 favorites]

Everyone, I'm so sorry it took me so long to come back to this - I plead Christmas.

In the end, I gave both puddings away with strict instructions not to microwave. Such feedback as I've had suggests that all went well, and no toddlers were harmed. Particularly as one of the families doesn't like Christmas pudding so gave it away to their in-laws anyway. Ah well.

As I say above, I don't have a microwave, so my pudding was steamed for a couple of hours. Fate being what it is, this was the pudding that I'd forgotten to put any coins in anyway. Here is a terrible picture of the pudding aflame, if you're interested.

I have learnt my lesson for next year - coins can go inside if I'm positive it'll be steamed, otherwise not. For further reassurance that small children are unlikely to be harmed by this old tradition, I'll just mention that the flaming alcohol, and the alcohol inside the pudding, and the alcohol in the sauce you serve it with are all quite important parts of the Christmas pudding ritual, so the amount given to toddlers is very small indeed, and cut through with a spoon before serving. The right texture for one of these things is somehow gooey and crumbly at the same time, so coins are easily found.

[MuffinMan: I have been caught out by the Mystery of the Non-Smoker With a Lighter in Her Pocket before, and made sure to ask someone for matches this time.]
posted by calico at 6:31 AM on January 10, 2014

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