How can I keep my salad cold in the microwave?

I think this was never intended to be a real question. Physics should NOT have migrated it to us. I am sure it was a joke or a prank.

The user who asked it has deleted their profile, as evidenced by the grey silhouette icon for them.

While some of us have had a moment of fun providing somewhat snarky answers, in all seriousness I think this question should be not just closed (as not a real question under the "rhetorical criterion") which I have already voted for, but deleted entirely.

  • 3
    The author wasn't deleted - they never had a profile on SA. If you follow the migration link back to Physics, you'll see there's an author's profile linked there.
    – Shog9
    May 1, 2013 at 17:41
  • 1
    I definitely agree that Physics shouldn't have migrated it - or, at least, not without asking in meta.cooking first. It seems to be a generalised issue that people are happy to kick a question they don't like to a different stack without asking themselves whether that stack would consider it on topic. May 3, 2013 at 9:55
  • @PeterTaylor They probably should've checked, but I would've immediately told them yes, go ahead. It's a question about cooking equipment, which is an explicit part of our scope, so I don't exactly blame them for not checking. (Side note: generally the best thing for mods to do is check with other mods, because asking a meta question and waiting for answers and votes takes a while, and migration is best done reasonably quickly if it's going to be done at all.)
    – Cascabel Mod
    May 3, 2013 at 14:55
  • 1
    @SAJ14SAJ: I'm not sure what you think would be the point of this joke or prank, but I assure you that as far as the Physics moderators are aware, this is not a prank question.
    – David Z
    May 3, 2013 at 19:05
  • @DavidZaslavsky The comments on your own site answer that question.
    – SAJ14SAJ
    May 3, 2013 at 19:11
  • @PeterTaylor Actually, I've learned that we have better ways to deal with bad migrations now, so there's really no need to ask - if as far as you can tell it's on topic for our site, other sites are welcome to migrate here. We can then treat it as a brand new question posted on our site, to be answered or perhaps closed, with the bonus that a mod can send it back if necessary.
    – Cascabel Mod
    May 3, 2013 at 19:34

2 Answers 2


tl;dr: If you accidentally put salad on your plate of leftovers before heating, and you had a magic microwave shield, wouldn't you just throw the shield on it? Why can't someone ask if this exists?

Full answer: I definitely disagree. Questions can be both valid and fun. Yes, there's an easy, obvious solution to the problem, but it's interesting (and sometimes even useful) to ask about alternate methods. What if you had something that wasn't so easy to just yank off the plate? In this case there aren't really very good alternate answers, but it's still worthwhile mentioning the reasons it's difficult to shield something in a microwave. That's really much less basic and obvious than a lot of other questions we're perfectly happy to have.

After thinking a little more, I think I've realized why I've had such a strong reaction to the attempts to not just close but delete this question. I honestly think the community's judgment has been unfair here. It's a specific, well-written (and fun) question, and we as a community should assume the best of our users (even if they came from another site), not treat it as a prank. Imagine what you'd do if one of our respected 10k users had asked it, instead of someone anonymous from another site. We should respect all our users.

The OP was curious (and said so in the comments) about whether there was a way to do this. They chose to ask the question in a lighthearted way, with a specific example, but still explicitly said what they were looking for. If it had been written in a completely dry form ("are there any food-safe materials I can use to partially or totally shield something in the microwave?") would anyone have had this reaction? The fact that the question is both clearly written and fun should be taken as a good thing, and the fact that we don't have a good answer doesn't mean there's something wrong with the question.

  • That being said, the question already has 4 close votes. While I wouldn't bring a mod-close hammer down on it, if the community votes to close the question, then the question is closed.
    – yossarian
    May 3, 2013 at 0:04
  • @yossarian It's the kind of thing that I would absolutely have voted to re-open if I weren't a mod. Maybe this is a little cynical, but I feel like there's a knee-jerk "this is funny/stupid, so it can't be a real question" reaction here, when it's actually an answerable kitchen equipment question.
    – Cascabel Mod
    May 3, 2013 at 0:06
  • Yes, as a mod, since our votes are final, I wouldn't vote on that question one way or the other.
    – yossarian
    May 3, 2013 at 13:45
  • Just letting you know that I agree (and I'm not a mod). I did not vote to close.
    – Mien
    May 3, 2013 at 18:34
  • Sure, it's specific, but is it practical? I don't really think so, and I definitely don't think it solves a real culinary problem.
    – Aaronut
    May 4, 2013 at 0:53
  • See also: Joke Questions: Please Refrain
    – Aaronut
    May 4, 2013 at 0:55
  • @Aaronut Am I really the only one who's accidentally put something on a plate, then thought "I wish I didn't have to scrape that back off (possibly dirtying another dish) and heat the rest (cooking the residue onto the plate), or put the food to be heated on something else (dirtying another dish)"? I know it's a stupid little thing, and a stupid mistake, but I don't like jumping from that to "this can't possibly be a real problem, so it's not worth discussing solutions."
    – Cascabel Mod
    May 4, 2013 at 1:50
  • And as for jokes, if I'd asked it, I wouldn't be trying to trick/troll the community; I figure we should assume good intentions from others as well, unless there's evidence to the contrary.
    – Cascabel Mod
    May 4, 2013 at 1:51
  • I think you may be the only one, yes. Well, you and the author!
    – Aaronut
    May 4, 2013 at 1:54
  • I think the question askers also have to respect the community, as they are asking for our time and expertise in providing an answer. The reason I reacted so strongly to it as a prank is the first thing I asked myself was this: if the question was exactly the same, but the oven was a conventional oven, not a microwave, would this be a good question? While there are some applications to prevent the radiant mode from over browning, no one expects food in an oven to stay cold. That is just common sense, and it would be an obvious prank to ask how to achieve it.
    – SAJ14SAJ
    May 4, 2013 at 7:04

I voted to close it as off-topic.

It could indeed be an interesting question, after some editing. But it hasn't been edited—and remember closing is not permanent. Its not only acceptable but encouraged to edit your closed question to fix the problems, then ask for it to be re-opened. Closing is on the pathway to deletion, but only if the problems aren't fixed.

So, yes, OP could edit the question to ask, "How can I shield part of what I'm microwaving, to prevent it from cooking as much?" I'd not vote to close that, and were it closed, I'd vote to re-open. That's the kind of question a cook would know the answer to (if there is one).

Someone else could edit it—but we seem to be discouraging that kind of editing.

As it stands now, answers would have to talk about blocking microwaves, heat conduction, arcing, etc. (Because every cook would just not plate the salad until after heating the chicken—there is even a nice picture to show how silly it'd be for a cook to do it that way.) In fact, the answers do talk about things like that. That's not a question for a cook, it's a question for a physicist. But we already know physics.SE doesn't want it (and, if I remember correctly, migrating a question twice breaks things anyway).

Physics.SE decided not to have fun talking about weird microwave contraptions. But instead of doing something reasonable (closing as NARQ), they migrated it to us. One of their mods needs to be reminded to only migrate questions that'd be a good question on the target site.

  • Why do you say we're discouraging editing? (And I pinged their mods earlier; I'm sure that part will get sorted. I did also ask a question that I don't see how they could justifiably close: physics.stackexchange.com/questions/63198/…)
    – Cascabel Mod
    May 3, 2013 at 18:50
  • Also, why is it off-topic? It's about equipment. Is the problem that it asks for a list (oh no!) of materials? (I went ahead and edited to change that phrasing.)
    – Cascabel Mod
    May 3, 2013 at 18:51
  • @Jefromi I was under the impression that editing that doesn't respect the author was discouraged? We'd essentially be editing to not ask the author's question, but a related (and better) one instead.
    – derobert
    May 3, 2013 at 20:09
  • Personally, to me it wasn't so much off topic (clearly it is on topic) as Not A Real Question or as Derobert wrote: NARQ.
    – SAJ14SAJ
    May 3, 2013 at 20:09
  • @Jefromi "kitchen equipment" being on-topic has to be limited by the theme (cooking) of the site, otherwise questions about how to tape the pipes when replacing the kitchen sink would be on topic (instead, those should be asked on home improvement)
    – derobert
    May 3, 2013 at 20:15
  • @derobert I see, yes, that's quite true. I edited it in a way that I feel completely respects the original intent, though, and is also fairly close to what you asked. The difference between "a list of materials" and "what can I shield it with" is not a huge change in intent.
    – Cascabel Mod
    May 3, 2013 at 20:16
  • @Jefromi That's just getting it closer to failing to be "practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face"...
    – derobert
    May 3, 2013 at 20:18
  • @Jefromi Maybe we should just disregard the author's intention and change it to the better question. Of course, its accumulated several answers now, which would be rendered irrelevant or at least silly ("wtf is this answer talking about salad?")
    – derobert
    May 3, 2013 at 20:22
  • @derobert I feel like the "not an actual problem" reason in this case is like saying "you're not allowed to ask about whether this is possible, because we think that the normal way to do it is good enough", which seems really unnecessarily unfriendly. It's like we're so caught up in the fact that the OP picked the example of a salad, and asked for the ideal/impossible thing (perfect shielding) that we're unwilling to try to give an answer. I understand why you voted this way, of course, I just don't personally agree.
    – Cascabel Mod
    May 3, 2013 at 20:25
  • Actually, in this case, the user in question does not have an account on our site and is not getting notified about comments and answers (and has visited physics since then) so it's a bit of a special case - the question is probably abandoned by the OP, so I'd say edit away.
    – Cascabel Mod
    May 3, 2013 at 20:36
  • @Jefromi AFAICT, OP only asked about salad. If its just an example, then editing it out would still be respecting the author's intent. But at this point, that'd leave a bunch of answers looking silly...
    – derobert
    May 3, 2013 at 20:38

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