A microwave’s true benefit is heating food in a very short period of time by using electromagnetic radiation, i.e. a microwave oven produces radio waves that are reflected within the metal interior and absorbed by food quickly.
The water molecules are agitated by the waves, so they generate energy and heat. The heat convection is constant within the time frame in which the food is microwaved and the food heats up quickly. That is how food heats up in the microwave.
However, if you decide to microwave food, you can’t just put it in the microwave. You have to put it in a container or on a plate first. So, many people choose paper plates for that purpose.
But, can you microwave paper plates? The answer is not as simple as you think. In some cases, you can, but not in others.
If you want to know the whole story, continue reading.
Can You Microwave Paper Plates?
There are many solutions that microwaves can offer. You can melt cheese in the microwave, reheat ground beef in the microwave, defrost chicken in the microwave, or thaw a turkey. But, it is essential that you do that using some kind of plate or container. Is a paper plate suitable?
Whether you are using Dixie paper products or some other brand, the general rule of thumb is that most paper plates are safe in the microwave and the USDA agrees with that.
However, there is not just one type of paper plate and not all types are suitable for this purpose.
The best thing you can do to check if your paper plate is safe for microwaving is to check the label of the product in order to know whether you can microwave a paper plate.
However, sometimes even that isn’t enough. In those situations, it is important to know which types of materials are microwave-safe and which are not, as well as some other important tips.
So, let’s first see what can and can not be microwaved.
Items That Can And Can Not Be Microwaved
If you are using the microwave every day, it is really important to know which items are suitable for the microwaving process and which are not, especially when you are not able to check the label of your product.
Which Are The Items That Can Be Microwaved?
So, here is all that can go inside the microwave safe and sound.
• Glass And Ceramics: Some types of glass and ceramic items might be not safe for the microwaving process, especially handmade items. Ceramic and glass bowls, plates, cups, and bakeware should be perfectly fine in the microwave. I prefer reheating fish and reheating pork chops in microwave-safe glass and ceramics because this helps preserve moisture.
• Some Types Of Plastic: This one is very important because many people don’t know that some types of plastic items can be microwaved and some can’t.
So, single-use plastic or plastic containers, plastic plates, and plastic wrap that are not labeled as microwave-safe can not be microwaved.
On the other hand, plastic containers for long-term use, including Tupperware, can freely be used in the microwave.
• Microwave-Safe Paper Towels And Paper Plates: Here, I won’t go into details when it comes to paper towels because more will be explained later, but I will just say that there are microwave-safe paper plates and, obviously, they can be used in the microwave.
The same goes for paper towels. However, it is not recommended to use recycled paper towels, as well as paper lids and brown paper bags or any type of paper products that are not microwave-safe because that can cause a fire hazard.
• Ziploc Bags: And, of course, we have those good old Ziploc bags that can be used for heating food, as well as for defrosting and reheating it safely.
What Are The Items That Can Not Be Microwaved?
Now, here are some items that you should avoid putting in your microwave.
• Cardboard: Cardboard is a paper product and it should be suitable for microwaving, right? Well, not exactly. Aside from paper, cardboard also contains some materials that are not microwave friendly like wax, glue, and others.
Some types of cardboard may even have metal handles and metal is the last material that you should put in your microwave.
• Styrofoam: If it doesn’t have a specific microwave-safe label, any type of product made from styrofoam should be kept out of the microwave, i.e. don’t microwave styrofoam if it is not microwave-safe.
• Aluminum Foil And Other Types Of Metal: No matter whether it is steel, iron, or any other hard metal, it is never good to keep food in that type of container because metal surfaces reflect microwaves which can lead to high heat and eventually be a fire hazard.
When it comes to aluminum foil, only an entirely flat surface of aluminum foil can be microwaved, but what are the chances of that really?
How To Determine If Your Paper Plate Is Microwave-Safe?
I hope that you have a bigger picture of microwaving various types of items after reading the previous chapter. I am sure that you will be able to fully understand why some types of paper plates are suitable for the process and others are not.
The first question is “How to know whether it is safe when you microwave paper plates?”.
Well, as I already said, all types of paper and paper items including disposable plates, paper towels, wax papers, napkins, and parchment papers are suitable for the microwaving process.
But, there is a catch. Some paper plates are not made from paper alone. There can be some other types of materials incorporated into your paper towels.
Nowadays, many types of paper towels have a plastic coating, i.e. a thin layer of plastic on the surface that makes the plate extra durable.
So, if you buy a paper plate that has a plastic coating, you should check whether it is microwave-safe.
If you see the specific microwave-safe label, you can freely use it in your microwave. However, if there is no label, don’t use it in order to be on the safe side.
If you are still not sure that your paper plate is safe in the microwave, there is one simple test that can be done and I will explain it below. But, before that, here are two frequently asked questions related to microwaving paper plates.
Can Paper Plates Catch Fire In The Microwave?
As I already said, almost every type of paper product is entirely safe in the microwave and it won’t cause a fire hazard.
That is especially the case with microwave-safe paper plates that are made from white paper. White paper plates in general should be perfectly safe.
However, there are a few exceptions. For example, newspapers can be dangerous because they will leak ink. Even brown paper bags are not suitable for the microwaving process.
Also, don’t ever put any item alongside a paper plate in the microwave that is not microwave-safe because it has the potential to cause a fire hazard. That especially goes for aluminum containers and cups.
Can Paper Plates Make Your Food Toxic In The Microwave?
There are some food-related items that contain so-called BPA chemicals or polyfluoroalkyl chemicals (toxic chemicals) that can make your food toxic. Fortunately, most food-related items are BPA-free.
However, if you see on the packaging that there is a harmful chemical in your paper plate, don’t use it for the microwaving process under any circumstances.
Keep in mind that you should always use plain paper plates in the microwave and avoid dyed plates because the microwaving process can cause the leaching of color that will find its way into the food and that food can be extremely dangerous for your health.
How To Check If A Paper Plate Is Microwave-Safe?
If your paper plate doesn’t have a microwave-safe label or, for any reason, you are not sure that it is safe to put it in the microwave, there is a simple test that can help you to decide.
STEP 1: You will first need to fill one bowl cup with water and prepare the paper plate that you are going to test.
STEP 2: Put that bowl or cup of water in the microwave alongside your paper plate and set the microwave at high temperature. The amount of time in which your paper plate stays in the microwave will be 1 minute, so set the time to 1 minute.
STEP 3: After that time frame, you can open up your microwave and carefully touch the plate. Don’t grab it because it is not ready for takeout just yet. Aside from that, it can be very hot as well.
STEP 4: If it is really hot, it is not microwave-safe because it has absorbed the radio waves and created heat and that is not something that it should do if it is really suitable for the microwave.
On the other hand, if you can grab it easily, i.e. if it is not that hot, it is probably microwave-safe.
How To Microwave Paper Plate Successfully
And, finally, when you make sure that your paper plate is microwave-safe, it is time for the microwaving process. However, there are still a few rules that you need to follow when microwaving your food, even if you make sure that the plate is microwave-safe.
• Safety first! Out of precaution, double check if there is a microwave-safe label on your paper plate or go through the process previously explained.
Just in case, check all the materials incorporated into the product just to make sure that there are no materials that are not microwave-safe.
• Make sure that you are not using any other item that is not suitable for the microwave process, alongside a paper plate. Do not use any metal items or aluminum foil. If you want to cover your food, use plastic wrap instead.
• Most foods are suitable for the microwave process, but some of them are not. Oily food isn’t suitable for the microwaving process at all because the plate will absorb the oil and become soggy.
• When microwaving any type of food on a paper plate, pay close attention to the time it stays in the microwave. According to USDA, the suggested time for microwaving food on a paper plate is 2-3 minutes.
• Temperature is also quite important when it comes to using a paper plate in the microwave. It is best to use the reheat setting of 50% power and heat it at 30-second intervals for no more than 2 minutes in order to keep it safe.
Also, when cooking in the microwave oven, you should “rotate food midway through the microwaving time to eliminate cold spots where harmful bacteria can survive, and for more even cooking”, as suggested by the USDA.
Microwave Your Paper Plates Safely
Cleaning up the dishes, scattering your silverware, and dealing with all that mess can sometimes be really exhausting. Because of that, people tend to use disposable paper products and one of the most popular is a paper plate.
Since the microwave is also the most popular kitchen appliance among many Americans, they tend to ask the question “Can you microwave paper plates?”. As you could have seen, the answer is positive.
However, there are some plane paper plates that are not so suitable for the microwaving process, especially those with a plastic coating, but some others as well.
Always be careful with that.