Can you put paper plates in the microwave or is it safe? Did you have a little gathering and find yourself overwhelmed by the amount of clean up and washing up after everyone left?
Did you swear to use paper plates at the next party but found yourself frowning and wondering.
A microwave offers the greatest convenience of all kitchen appliances when reheating foods or beverages quickly.
But knowing what containers and utensils are safe to microwave is integral to warming your food without ruining its taste or your appliance.
The containers you’re heating your food in might be prone to melting or, even worse, burning—which could start a fire.
And since you’re wondering are paper plates microwavable it is essential to understand how paper plates behave when heated in microwaves.
Are Paper Plates Microwave Safe?
The short answer is Yes.
Relieved, aren’t you? Why wouldn’t you be? After all, paper plates can be disposed of after use, which means heating food on paper plates will save you the hassle of cleaning utensils.
But the real question is, are there any conditions in which it is unsafe to use paper plates in the microwave?
The answer to this question is yes, as well.
Most paper plates are plain white and free from aluminum or plastic coating. These kinds of paper plates are safe to use in a microwave.
However, printed paper plates with or without aluminum or plastic coating are liable to burn in the microwave.
Throughout this article, we will explore the when and how of, can you put paper plates in the microwave?
These are just a few safety tips and precautions that will keep your appliance and your family safe.
Does Paper Catch Fire in the Microwave?
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), most paper products, such as paper plates, paper towels, parchments, wax paper, and more, are safe to microwave.
Brown paper bags, coffee cups, and newspapers, however, are unsafe for use in the microwave as they can emit toxic fumes.
If exposed to high heat, these items can catch fire pretty quickly as well. So, it’s best to avoid putting these in the microwave.
But plain white, ink-free, tin-free paper plates will not catch fire. Read on to learn why.
How Do Microwaves Work?
Microwaves generate electromagnetic radiation, which stimulates water and other molecules in your food. This movement results in friction, which, as we all know, turns into heat energy.
The compounds in paper items will determine whether a mishap will occur when the paper item is heated in a microwave.
Since inks and dyes have water content, your printed paper plate will behave like your food when heated in a microwave. It will get hot. The dyes and inks will separate from the paper. These will leech into your food, rendering it unsafe to consume.
Plates containing or made from polystyrene also have water molecules that are likely to reach high temperatures in a microwave.
This temperature might be beyond what your paper plate was manufactured to sustain, thus turning it into a fire hazard. This is why you should avoid using plastic-covered paper plates when reheating your food.
Paper plates are generally made from recycled scrap paper or other products that are by-products of the paper-manufacturing process.
They contain the same chemicals you would find in wood, such as cellulose, resin, and oil, albeit in smaller traces.
However, none of these have been scientifically proven to release any harmful substances into food when heated with microwave radiation.
By now, you should not be as anxious and worried as when you were wondering, are paper plates microwave safe?
Can You Microwave Paper Plates – Essential Safety Tips?
If you follow these guidelines you shouldn’t have a problem with microwaving paper plates.
1. Use Paper Plates to Reheat Not Cook Food
We recommend that you only use paper plates to reheat food in the microwave. Cooking requires lengthy heating durations, which might cause food to release liquids.
This will make the paper container soggy and ruin your meal. It may also make the plate too hot to touch. If you’re not expecting this, you’re likely to burn your fingers.
This is even more dangerous if you have young children. For everyone’s safety, it’s best to limit each heat cycle to between 30 seconds and a minute.
Do not put empty paper plates in the microwave either. The food on the plate absorbs the microwaves.
In the absence of food, all of the microwaves will be absorbed by the paper plate, increasing the risk of overheating, drying, and even catching fire.
2. If the Food is Oily Use A Stack of Plates
Are you reheating frozen vegetables or a slice of pie? One plate should be plenty.
But if you’re reheating anything saturated in oil, such as a greasy pizza or something deep-fried, it’s best to use three or more plates, depending on how thin they are.
This will absorb some of the grease that might leak during the heating. It will also preserve the plate’s integrity—it won’t disintegrate and mix with your food.
It is advisable to place the paper plates on a small dish to avoid spills in the microwave that you will have to eventually clean.
3. Cover Foods that Might Splatter
If you’re heating any foods with high moisture content, such as foods with gravy, like spaghetti, pasta, or stew, cover these with a plain paper towel to catch any splats.
Do not use plastic wrap to cover the food as plastic also contains water and is likely to leach chemicals into your food.
Plastic will also trap microwaves and steam, increasing the likelihood of a food explosion. If you must use plastic, buy special sheets that are microwave safe.
4. Remove Anything that Might Start A Fire
Remember to quickly scan all the plate’s contents and the plate itself to remove anything that might catch or start a fire in a microwave.
Cookware metal, fruits like grapes, and brown paper bits are a no-no in a microwave.
Also, keep in mind that not all paper plates are made the same. Paper plates reinforced with sugarcane fibers are safe for microwaves.
However, since you don’t know what the contents of recycled paper plates may be, don’t risk using them.
The best thing to do is to check the packaging or online information before microwaving them.
It should have a small FAQ section with questions like, can you put paper plates in the microwave? Either that or a symbol, directions of use, or something to let you know of potential issues.
5. Only Heat in Small Durations
Say you’ve checked the label now, you know the plates are safe to microwave, but still, there’s no harm in exercising further caution.
If you’re wondering how long can you microwave paper plates, our estimate is three minutes at the most before the paper starts showing slight signs of burning or melting.
The safest course is to stick to 1-minute intervals of microwaving with breaks if more heating is needed. Try not to test the endurance of the plate. It’ll only lead to a ruined meal.
Are paper plates microwavable? Yes, as long as:
- They are plain white
- They are not coated in any plastic or aluminum
- They do not have any print/ink on them
- Have a label on them or on the packaging that says they’re safe to microwave
- You’re only using them for reheating food and for a limited duration
So, can you put paper plates in the microwave? We hope you have got the answer now.
In addition to this blog, we also recommend that you quickly peruse your microwave’s safety instructions listed in the operational manual.
Read Next: Learn if you can put Ziploc bags in your oven.