“Why can’t you heat a jawbreaker?”

In an effort to finally rid the house of our leftover Halloween and Easter candy, I snagged a copy of Loralee Leavitt’s Candy Experiments and began to flip through looking for a way to dispose of all those unwanted Peeps.

I hadn’t gotten very far before I found this:

Jawbreaker

The warning from Loralee Leavitt’s book on Candy Experiments that got all our wondering started.

And all I’ve been able to think about since is why? Why can’t you heat a jawbreaker?

The 30-second answer (That’s “tl;dr” for all you youngsters out there) 

Because jawbreakers often explode when heated, and you could get some serious burns.

The 3-minute explanation for “Because jawbreakers often explode when heated…”

The Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters devoted part of an episode to this. Apparently, even though all the layers of the jawbreaker are essentially the same thing (sugar syrup), the outermost layer stays hard when you heat it, while the inner layers become molten and liquid. You can’t tell that this has happened when you look at the jawbreaker, because hot jawbreakers look like cold jawbreakers.

But crack the surface of a hot jawbreaker, and it could explode, putting you at risk for some serious burns.

***DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME***

Watch the Mythbusters video instead.

Cover for Loralee Leavitt's Candy Experiments

Through some light-hearted scientific testing the Mythbusters team found that jawbreakers can heat up enough to melt the middle while leaving the outside intact in the microwave — or by simply being left out in the sun for a couple of hours.

When they cracked open the jawbreaker from the microwave in their simulated human jaws, it exploded.

When they cracked open the jawbreaker heated in the sun, it didn’t explode right away, but was still molten and hot in the center.

Ok. So don’t heat a jawbreaker. Message received.

But now I’m thinking about that microwaved jawbreaker. Why did it explode when the one heated in the sun didn’t?

What happens in a microwave that makes the jawbreaker explode?

But that’s a question for another post.

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About Shala Howell

I spent two decades helping companies like Bell Labs, Juniper Networks, and a genetic testing company that was later acquired by CVS translate some of the world’s most complicated concepts into actionable, understandable English. Now I'm working on a much harder problem -- fostering children’s curiosity and engagement in the scientific, artistic, and linguistic world that surrounds them. The first book in my Caterpickles Parenting Series, What’s That, Mom?, focuses on how to use public art to nurture children’s curiosity in the world around them. My next book will focus on science, and how parents without a science degree can answer their curious child's questions without enrolling in a college level refresher course. In the meantime, you can find me blogging about life with a very curious Eleven-Year-Old at Caterpickles.com, chatting about books and the writing life at BostonWriters.blog, and tweeting about books, writing, science, & things that make me smile at @shalahowell.
This entry was posted in Experiments, food, Science and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to “Why can’t you heat a jawbreaker?”

  1. rayworth1973 says:

    Thinning the herd.

    Like

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