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Author Topic: Spoon in cup of hot liquid needed or cup will be likely to Break ?
greatbeast
I'm Dreaming of a White Sale


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I overheard my mother speaking to my nephew not long ago...repeating her often mentioned idea that you HAVE to put a spoon in a cup which will contain hot liquids or the cup will have a good chance of breaking.

I've looked on snopes, seen no mention of this bit of folklore, Googled the phrase "cup broken without spoon" without success.

Has anyone ever heard of a cup breaking in this fashion ? (Room temperature cup having boiling water added.)

--GB

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Ieuan ab Arthur
The First USA Noel


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Hi GreatBeast:

Over the years, I have often poured boiling water into cups - hey, that's how you make instant coffee, cup-of-soup, etc - and I can't recall having a cup crack due to this. Not to sound flippant, but manufacturers make their crockery with hot water in mind. That's not to say that it's not possible to crack a room temperature cup by pouring boiling water into it, but it's not an everyday occurrence.

The only use to a spoon (other than stirring, of course) of which I can think is that it would act as a radiator over time. A metal spoon is a good heat conductor and thus would increase the surface area for cooling.

So, unless you have some very poorly made cups, I don't think that it is necessary to put a spoon in to prevent it from breaking when hot water is poured in. I think that you may write this up to one of those things that mothers do - hey, it's one of the reasons we love them.

Ta ra 'wan,

Ieuan "Yum, cup-of-soup" ab Arthur

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Nick Theodorakis
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I haven't seen a cup break with hot water, but I've seen a laboratory sink break (loudly!) when a bunch of liquid nitrogen was poured into it (and no, it wasn't me).

Nick

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Sanity Zero
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I'm pretty sure they did an experiment about this in an episode of MythBusters on the Discovery Channel. From what I remember it was busted.
I think if you poured boiling water into a cup that you just took out of the freezer or for some other reason was cold it definitely could crack. But for normal situations, I don't think the spoon would do anything to save the cup.

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frogpond
Jingle Sales


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Exploding microwaved water.

According to this a nonmetallic utensil might prevent water from exploding upward from being boiled in a microwave. Perhaps that's the source of what you heard?

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animal73
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I heard something similar to the OP when I was younger. The version I heard explained that the metal spoon helped the coffee cool faster by conducting heat or something like that. It wasn't presented as "use the spoon or else", but as "use the spoon if you want it to cool quicker".


ETA I have cracked a cup with hot coffee before. (No spoon in it.) It was one of those kinda see-through blue glass type ones that I got from Disney. It didn't shatter into pieces, but I heard it crack a few times and I could see the cracks in the material...

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AliBaba
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I've never heard the 'spoon in the glass' thing for regular mugs or cups of other hot liquid. I always heard it for ice tea and ice coffee.
Doesn't sound like the Mythbusters covered it that way, but I could be wrong.

And I have seen tall ice-filled glasses break when hot liquid is poured into them. My understanding is that the metal spoon somehow conducts the heat better, thereby keeping the glass from breaking. Let me put it this way - I always use a spoon when making ice tea or ice coffee, and I haven't broken a glass yet. So, maybe I'm guilty of perpetuating another old wives tale, but it seems pretty harmless if the only damage I'm doing with it is dirtying a spoon. Especially since I'm the one who's going to wash it.

Ali "there is no spoon" Baba

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strange_little_girl
The First USA Noel


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You do need a spoon in a glass if you are going to pour boiling water into it to stop it from breaking.

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candycane from strangers
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quote:
Originally posted by strange_little_girl:
You do need a spoon in a glass if you are going to pour boiling water into it to stop it from breaking.

Not in my experience. What makes you say so?

ETA: This is not meant to sound snarky, I'm honestly wondering what this is supposed to do.

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Mycroft
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One of the standard reasons stated for the 'milk before tea' [for those not in the UK there has long been a debate as to whether you shound put the milk or tea in first when pouring a cup of tea] method is that with early english porcelain (late 18th/early 19th century) the cup would break if heated too rapidly - the spoon would serve the same purpose as the milk. This would not be a problem with bone china/earthenware (later/cheaper alternatives). On a slightly more recent (but still around 50 years ago) equivalent my neice broke my mothers set of glass cups by adding hot tea (she broke 4 before they could stop her)
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emmastarr
I'm Dreaming of a White Sale


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Glass cups+tea=bad 1970s idea.
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PrincessLeia
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I read in a kids' science book that adding tea to milk is a better idea than adding milk to tea. If you add the milk to the tea, you will burn/scorch the milk and it will taste funny. if you add the tea to the milk, the milk will heat up slowly and won't scorch, so your tea will taste better.

Although my grandparents prefer adding the milk before the tea because it eliminates the need to stir it.

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liebeslied
I'll Be Home for After Christmas Sales


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Aw heck, I like drinking tea from glasses. You can see your tea! The only time it broke a glass was when the glass already had a crack in it.

Last winter my mother brought down some "holiday" candles in glass cups. The cups shattered shortly after I lit the candles. We surmised that the seesawing temperatures in the attic had something to do with it. And they were pretty old.

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LyndaD
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Years ago, while working as a waitress, we'd use the spoon in a glass for making iced coffee. I never did it without the spoon, so I don't know if the glass (not mug) would have really broken without the spoon. But it does stand to reason that a glass tumbler, not made for holding hot liquids, would not be a safe container to pour just-brewed coffee in. Whether the spoon in the tumbler actually prevented it, I don't know.

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Troberg
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


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I've broken glasses by pouring cold liquid in them straight out of the dishwasher, so thermal stress can do that. A spoon will do nothing to help with that, though.

However, with a microwave, a spoon will help the formations of bubbles, which will get the water boiling easier, preventing superheating. As long as the water don't start to boil, temperature can go way above the boiling point and once it starts to boil (such as putting something in it), it can create something like a steam explosion as the boiling process expends the energy stored in the superheated water.

As long as water is boiling, it will never go above the boiling point, it will just evaporate faster if you add more energy. However, if it does not boil, you will put some extra energy on hold, which will be released very quickly and drastically once it starts to boil.

It's somewhat like what happens when a pressure boiler (such as in a steam engine) explodes to to a leak.

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/Troberg

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Ratboy
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quote:
Originally posted by Troberg:


However, with a microwave, a spoon will help the formations of bubbles, which will get the water boiling easier, preventing superheating.

What sort of spoon are you using? Metal spoons would interfere a bit and cause some sparks, wouldn't they?
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Troberg
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


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quote:
What sort of spoon are you using? Metal spoons would interfere a bit and cause some sparks, wouldn't they?
No, they just reflect the waves. Metal in itself is not bad for a MW.

There are two potential problems with metals.

One is that if you put the food in a metal container, such as a half empty tin can, very little microwaves will actually reach the food, while the rest will be bouncing around inside the oven, eventually going back into the emitter antenna, damaging the components.

The other is small gaps. If you have a metal object with a tiny gap, there may be sparks arching across the gap. You might sometimes see it between the "fingers" of a fork. A very ornate spoon could perhaps also generate some sparks, but any ordinary spoon is fine. Aluminium foil will also spark since it's covered in oxides, which also creates tiny gaps.

A spoon will hardly even get hot, what little heat it gets is what it picks up from the liquid it's standing in.

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/Troberg

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jimmy101
The First USA Noel


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[hijack]
Trober's post reminded me of a couple of fun things to put in a microwave.

1. Take a grape and cut it nearly in half but leave a small bit of skin holding the two halves together. Place in microwave and turn it on for a few seconds.

2. Take one of the 14 AOL CDs you have laying about and microwave it.
[/hijack]

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Lil' Molly
Deck the Malls


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[continuing hijack]
marshmallows are also fun
[/hijack]

I have broken a mug putting hot water in, but it was a very old one, so I assume there was strain on it already. I've also broken a sink in this way. My old apartment had a ceramic-dipped metal (cast iron?) sink and I was draining noodles into it and a piece of the sink exploded up with a sound like a gun shot. Scared the crap out of me.

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LemonLimeade
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Jimmy from what I've heard from people who say they've tried the CD thing it's best to do that outside in an old microwave you don't care about keeping. Now I've never tried it, so can't be positive, but they say the fumes are absolutely horrid and the stink is so foul you'll never get it out. Possibly dangerous fumes as well? (It seems logical, anyone know?)

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BelleMorte
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The only time I broke a mug with something hot was because the glass had been cold first. I probably shuld have let the glass warm up first.

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