“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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