How Emily Mariko's Viral Ice Cube Microwave Hack Actually Works

As we have learned, influencers influence the masses. So when Emily Mariko, a TikTok-famous lifestyle vlogger, shared a video of her heating a salmon and rice bowl in the microwave with an ice cube and piece of parchment paper on top, people naturally followed suit. Instacart tweeted that orders containing salmon and seaweed have doubled on the app since September 29, about a week after Mariko posted the original video, and the #salmonricebowl tag on TikTok currently has around 35 million views.

While the dish has inspired countless viewers to cook salmon and buy Kewpie mayonnaise, perhaps the most talked-about aspect of Mariko's recipe is the use of an ice cube. Some might be familiar with a typical way to reheat rice in the microwave: You add a tablespoon of water for every cup of rice and cover the bowl, which allows the water to create steam and keep the rice moist when heated (via Taste of Home).

Mariko's ice cube and parchment paper method works along the same lines. Christopher Arturo, a chef-instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education, explained to HuffPost that the ice cube releases steam, which is trapped by the parchment paper and then evenly heats the rice without drying it out. This trick doesn't work for all foods, Food Network adds; if you tried the same method for something containing more moisture, like a piece of cake, it would become soggy.

By why doesn't the ice cube melt?

Part of the hack's magic is that the ice cube doesn't melt. In Mariko's video, the TikToker can be seen picking out the still-intact ice cube after the rice had been heated in the microwave. Why doesn't the whole mass just melt, swamping the rice with more water than it could handle?

The Naked Scientists tackled this question back in 2009, long before the days of viral salmon bowls. Ice almost always melts at a lower temperature than water boils — but not in the microwave. This is because water molecules in ice are held together by very strong hydrogen bonds, which require a lot of energy to break. Water as a liquid doesn't have these tight bonds, which allows it to absorb heat from the microwave much faster.

In the TikTok hack, America's Test Kitchen shares, the rice, which contains some water, heats in the microwave and slightly melts the surface of the ice cube. Then, the tiny bit of water from the ice helps steam the rice to perfection. Whether or not you're making a salmon bowl, you can use this trick anytime you want to enjoy leftover cooked rice.