Are plastic bowls microwave-safe? (The Truth)

In today’s day and age, plastic consumption has increased exponentially. No matter where you look, you can find plastic kitchenware and containers. Tupperware is the most popular type of container for food storage.

But are plastic bowls microwave-safe? Or should you buy a different bowl for microwaving?

As a mother, I am constantly worrying about what my kids eat. So, it is obvious for me to look into different types of plastic’s effects on the human body.

After reading through many articles, I found out that the answer is both yes and no. Let me explain.

Why should you not microwave plastic containers?

Most plastic containers are composed of harmful chemicals. And these chemicals can latch on to the food, so I recommend you not to microwave them.

Plastic containers made with harmful chemicals should be avoided at all costs. Even if you are just using it to store fruits, the chemicals can latch onto the food.

However, the case gets more complicated when you heat the plastic container. Due to the heat exposure, the toxic fumes from the plastic container get released and makes the food dangerous to eat.

Not only that, non-microwavable plastic melts at high temperatures. And this melted plastic can then stick to the food and make it inedible.

However, not all plastic containers are bad. There are a ton of microwave-safe plastic containers present on the market. But you need to know which plastic is good and which is bad to make the best purchasing decision.

Why should you only get FDA-approved plastic containers?

The FDA, also known as the US Food and Drug Administration, determines which plastic is safe and which is not. The administration makes various determinations, such as which chemicals are safe to consume and which can be life-threatening.

FDA-approved plastic does not mean that there is no risk. But it means that this plastic is, for right now, the safest to use. Hence, you should only use FDA-approved and regulated plastic containers as they are your best bet.

When you are buying plastic containers from online sellers, read the listing. If the product description says FDA-approved, or BPA-free, the plastic container is safe.

How do you know if a plastic bowl is microwave-safe?

An easy way to know if a plastic bowl is microwave-safe or not is by looking at its bottom. If it has 5 written on the bottom, it means the plastic bowl is made of PP plastic, and hence it is microwave-safe.

Another great way to check if the plastic bowl is safe is by looking for a microwave-safe label. Usually, the microwave-safe bowls have a label.

But what if the plastic bowl has 3, 6, 7, or 1, 2, 4 written on the bottom?

All of the plastic containers with 3, 6, 7 symbols are not microwave-safe at all. And you should never put them in the microwave or heat them in any other way. I would also recommend not to pour hot liquids in type 3, 4, 7 plastic containers.

However, the plastic bowls with 1, 2, 4 symbols are sometimes safe to microwave. But in my opinion, you should still avoid microwaving them and stick with the plastic containers with 5 at the bottom.

Which containers are microwave-safe?

One of the easiest ways to find out which microwave-safe containers is to look for the microwave-safe label. This label is usually at the bottom of the container.

Generally, ceramic dishes and glass bowls are microwave-safe. So, you can use it in the microwave without worrying. However, it is still better to look for the microwave-safe label.

Moreover, you can also use paper plates, paper towels, napkins, and even wax paper in the microwave. But do not microwave these items for longer time intervals.

Lastly, the containers and things that you should never put in the microwave are;

  • Foam insulated bowls, plates, cups, and trays
  • One-time use plastic containers, e.g. takeout boxes
  • Brown paper bags
  • Dishes with metallic trims or metallic paint
  • Anything made with metal
  • Aluminum foil

Tips for Storing, Heating, & Eating Food

Now that you know how harmful plastic containers can be, only get the one that truly microwaves safe. But that is not the only thing that you should do.

Using plastic containers, in general, can be dangerous. So, here are some tips for storing, heating, and eating food.

  1. Always buy BPA-free and Phthalate-free plastic containers. It is easy to determine that by looking at the symbols at the bottom. Plastic containers with 5 symbols at the bottom are safe in general.
  2. Opt for a ceramic or glass bowl if you do not have a microwave-safe plastic container. These materials are microwave-safe and do not release harmful chemicals.
  3. While microwaving food, instead of covering it with plastic lids, use a wet paper towel. Because paper is safer to use than plastic, and damp paper towels prevent food from drying out.
  4. Never microwave disposable plastic containers. Manufacturers usually use the cheapest type of plastic to make disposable plastic containers. And hence they are not microwave-safe.
  5. Storing food in plastic containers is equally unsafe. So, use glass bowls or BPA-free plastic containers to store food.
  6. Do not place hot liquids in plastic containers that are not safe for the microwave. The warmth from the liquid can potentially release chemicals from the plastic into your drink.
  7. Do not freeze or thaw food in plastic containers either.
  8. Throw away old plastic containers, spoons, straws, etc. Because there is more leaching.

Frequently Asked Questions

What plastic should not be in the microwave?

Type 3, type 6, and type 7 should never be microwaved. These are one of the most harmful types of plastic.

An easy way to know if your plastic container is made with any of these 3 types of plastic is just to look at the bottom. If the container says 3, 6, 7, it is not microwave-safe.

Moreover, you should also avoid using these plastic containers for storing food in general. Even if you are not microwaving these plastics, they can still be harmful.

How long can you microwave plastic?

According to some studies, if a plastic container is FDA-approved, you can microwave it for up to 240-hours. After that time, I advise you to throw the plastic container away and use a new one.

At what temperature does plastic melt in the microwave?

The only microwave-safe plastic containers are made with type 5 plastic, also known as Polypropylene. This plastic melts at 339 °F.

An average wattage microwave gets up to 212 °F hot. In other words, microwave-safe plastic containers will not melt. However, I still recommend microwaving the container for smaller time intervals.

Moreover, if you have a higher wattage microwave that gets hotter than 339 °F, do not use any type of plastic container. Instead, opt for a glass or ceramic bowl as better suited for hotter temperatures.

Can you microwave black plastic containers?

No, you should not microwave black plastic containers.

Black plastic containers usually contain an unregulated amount of toxins. On top of that, these containers are also not recyclable due to their color. So, it is best to steer away from black plastic containers as much as possible.

Instead of using black plastic containers, look for BPA-free plastic containers or plastic containers made with type 5 plastic for a safer experience. 

Final Words

Now whenever someone asks, “are plastic bowls microwaves safe?” you’ll have an answer to give them. But before you leave, here are a few things to never forget.

Only the plastic containers that are made with type 5 plastic are microwave-safe. If the plastic container has 3, 6, 7 numbers written, it is neither safe for microwaving nor general use. So, steer away from this type of plastic container.

Lastly, if you are not sure if a plastic container is microwave-safe or not, use a glass or ceramic bowl instead. You can also use them to store food in the freezer as they do not contain harmful chemicals.

Related Article: Can You Microwave Chipotle Bowl?

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