I Tried Microwaving Ice With My Food To See if It Really Tastes Better

Emily Mariko’s food hack has people curious and confused. I spoke to an expert and tried the ice-in-microwave trick myself.
Koh Ewe
Emily Mariko puts ice in microwave for her viral TikTok salmon rice recipe.
Influencer Emily Mariko’s ice-in-microwave hack has people puzzled. I consulted an expert and put it to the test. Collage: VICE / Images: Koh Ewe

But Y Tho explores a plethora of funny, strange, and peculiar trends to provide long sought-after answers to questions that have been swimming in all our heads.

In her viral TikTok recipe, influencer Emily Mariko mashes salmon fillets and buries them under a blanket of rice. The next step has most people bewildered. She places an ice cube on top of the rice and covers the plate with a sheet of parchment paper, before popping it into a microwave. When she retrieves the plate from the microwave, the ice appears to be intact. She picks it out of the rice and tosses it out.


The rest of the video continues with Mariko’s signature ASMR cuts, as if microwaving ice cubes was as mundane as boiling water on the stove. But people just couldn’t get over that unusual microwave trick—and the fact that it was apparently a thing.

Her salmon rice recipe, posted on Sep. 29, along with other food-making videos shared around the same time—including a peach cobbler and breakfast toast—catapulted the TikToker to viral fame. Her follower count reportedly went from about 452,900 to over 5 million in the span of one month. As of writing, the salmon rice video has been viewed almost 32 million times. 

Soon, people were experimenting with microwaved ice cubes and posting their attempts on TikTok, marveling at how slowly ice seems to melt in a microwave. Articles were written to address the food hack, while others tried to explain the science behind it.

Like these people, I had questions: Why do people microwave ice with their food? Why doesn’t ice seem to melt in the microwave?

I prepared a bowl of ice cubes and microwaved it for 30 seconds, retrieving my bowl with half-melted ice cubes. OK, so ice does melt in the microwave, but just not as fast as one would expect from an appliance that can heat food up in mere seconds.

Ice cubes before and after 30 seconds in the microwave

Ice cubes before and after 30 seconds in the microwave. Collage: VICE / Images: Koh Ewe

“Ice does not melt the way most people think it will in a microwave,” Jason Latimer, a magician and science educator, told VICE. Latimer runs Impossible Science, an educational program that introduces scientific concepts to young people through household experiments.

Latimer explained that microwaves create heat by exciting water molecules through higher energy. 

“The heat is generated in the water in your food, but then conducts heat to all the food,” he said.

When it comes to ice, however, water molecules are held in place, unable to respond to the microwave. In this state, they can’t absorb energy and generate heat. 

“This is also why frozen food does not cook the same way as unfrozen food when you use the microwave oven. The water molecules in the frozen food just can’t rotate and absorb energy from the microwaves,” Latimer said.

After finding out why ice appears alarmingly unaffected (kind of) in the microwave oven, it was time to test how the ice cube would enhance food. And of course, I started with the obvious recipe: salmon rice.

Salmon Rice

This whole ice-in-microwave experiment wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t at least give Mariko’s famed salmon rice a go. The recipe seemed fuss-free, stirring together an intriguing mix of ingredients—rice, salmon, Kewpie mayonnaise, sriracha sauce, and avocado—that somehow combined to form a delicious-looking mess. 

I happened to have leftover rice in my refrigerator, so I separated the rice into two portions—one to go with an ice cube and one without—laid them on top of mashed salmon, and hit the start button on my microwave. 

salmon and rice in the microwave.

(L) Salmon and rice after being microwaved without ice. (R) The same dish microwaved with ice. Collage: VICE / Images: Koh Ewe

On the plate without ice, the rice emerged warm but quite dry—something I would have deemed decent enough to eat as a home-cooked meal. But when the second plate came out of the microwave steaming, wrapped in parchment paper with an ice cube still sitting on the rice, it made the first un-iced plate taste like an arid desert.

With the help of an ice cube, the leftover rice became piping hot and fluffy, as if it were freshly cooked. I instantly got the hype, as well as why people were frantically popping ice cubes into the microwave.

Latimer helped to break down the science behind this seemingly magical kitchen hack.

“The rice contains a small bit of water, and as the rice heats up, it melts the ice cube slowly,” he said. “The small amount of water is heated by the microwave, turning to steam, which then slowly steams the rice.”

Emily Mariko microwave salmon rice with seaweed and avocado.

My attempt at Emily Mariko's microwaved salmon rice. Photo: Koh Ewe

I ended up mixing both portions together, following the rest of Mariko’s recipe to make the salmon rice. Served with intensely appetizing colors and a kick of umami, it took all of one bite for me to decide that the viral salmon rice was definitely not an overrated plate of leftovers.


After watching Lizzo do it on TikTok, I balanced an ice cube on top of half a cupcake, covered it with parchment paper, and microwaved it.

The chocolate cupcake came out heavenly soft, with the ice cube visibly smaller. One bite in and it felt like I was eating a whole cloud. I munched away enthusiastically until I reached the center, where the ice cube was placed. That part had gone completely mushy from moisture. It was still edible (I think), but I enjoyed it a lot less.

microwaving cupcakes

(L) After microwaving the cupcake without ice. (R) After microwaving the cupcake with ice. Collage: VICE / Images: Koh Ewe

Surprisingly, the other half of the cupcake, which didn’t get the ice cube treatment, tasted almost as good. It was slightly less fluffy, I’ll admit, but I appreciate that it didn’t go all mashed potato on me. I personally like my cupcakes a little firmer and free from a soggy center. 


I had a bao (Chinese bun) that had been sitting in the refrigerator for a couple of days and had turned kind of dry. I had bought it from a newly opened bakery, taken by its cute appearance, and promptly forgot about it. But at least it turned out to be a valuable addition to my ice-in-microwave experiment—an ice cube could seriously enhance the mouthfeel of the dried-out bun, I thought. 

Cutting it in half to reveal a thick sweet potato paste in the middle, I microwaved half a bao with ice and the other half without. 

chinese bun in the microwave

(L) How my bun looked coming out of the microwave without ice. (R) How it was drenched in water when I microwaved it with ice. Collage: VICE / Images: Koh Ewe

After 30 seconds in the microwave, the unembellished bao emerged soft and steaming. I didn’t know how it managed to summon the moisture—given the dryness of its two-day-old state—but I was proud that my bao came through with a plump finish. 

The bao that was paired with an ice cube then covered with parchment paper, however, turned out quite similar to my chocolate cupcake—but even soggier. 

While parts of the bun that weren’t in contact with the ice cube remained intact, the parts that were, were absolutely soaked—by that I mean it looked like a sink sponge. I pinched off a small piece of the bun and gave it a little squeeze and water actually trickled out between my fingers. I polished off the dry parts of the bun but couldn’t bring myself to eat the soggy bits.


Siu Mai

A Chinese dumpling made of minced meat surrounded by a pleated yellow wrapper, siu mai is a dim sum staple that can also be found at my local supermarket’s frozen section. I popped a frozen siu mai into the microwave and found that it came out steaming even without an ice cube. It also felt bouncy and moist, making for a satisfying bite.

Since siu mai is typically steamed, I figured it could benefit from the extra ice cube moisture in the microwave. Pairing another siu mai with an ice cube, I covered both with parchment paper and turned on the microwave.

This time, the siu mai emerged perched in a puddle of yellowish water. It wasn’t the most appetizing sight, but I knew I should withhold judgment until I tasted it.

siu mai, siew mai, shumai in the microwave

Siu mais fresh out of the microwave. (L) Without ice. (R) With ice.Collage: VICE / Images: Koh Ewe

Despite being surrounded by water, the siu mai was strangely not wet. The ice cube didn’t add much to its texture, though, as the dumpling tasted pretty much the same as the un-iced version. Turns out, ice isn’t necessary for a siu mai to come out of the microwave tasting absolutely delicious.

Bonus Round: Ice Cream

I don’t know what I was expecting with this one, but since I had some matcha ice cream in the fridge, I was curious how it would fare in the microwave. It was partially ice, afterall.

On TikTok, some people share how they microwave their ice cream to get it melty and soft. Mine, however, came out an algae puddle.

ice cream in the microwave

Matcha ice cream before and after microwaving. Collage: VICE / Images: Koh Ewe

It didn’t look like the most appetizing thing, so I tried slurping it as if it were good soup. Except it wasn’t actually good (if you’ve ever tasted warm ice cream, I’m so sorry you had to go through that). I ended up pouring half of it away in regret, wasting scoops of perfectly delicious matcha ice cream.


By the end of my little kitchen experiment, it seemed like Mariko’s ice-in-microwave hack only works on certain foods, like rice. Whether or not an ice cube will make your food taste better, as I learned, depends on factors like how dry your food was before, how evenly the ice would hydrate your food, and how moist you prefer your food to be. 

I’d pick a slightly drier cupcake over a soft one with a damp middle any day, but I’m also pretty sure my yuck is someone’s yum.

Instead of the ice cube trick, some people suggest lightly wetting a paper towel and placing it on top of your food instead. I usually sprinkle some water over food that has dried up, and found that it does the trick as well.

But I get it, letting an ice cube transform your leftover dinner into freshly steamed rice definitely sounds like more fun.

Follow Koh Ewe on Instagram.