Can you Microwave Paper Plate?

The microwave! One of the best inventions of modern times, won’t you agree? But as AMAZING as the microwave is, you can only get the best out of your microwave when you are clear on proper usages, such as: how to use a microwave and what is safe for the microwave.

Trust me when I say, knowing what is microwave-safe and the necessary precautions to take when using the microwave means choosing a quiet night over a chaotic night where your fire alarm goes off,  neighbors are yelling and firefighters are at your door-step (a night I never want to relive again).

What items are microwave-safe?

Dishware such as ceramic bowls and some plastic containers are safe for the microwave. And to make things easy, this microwavable safety is always put at the bottom of the bowl and/or container with the label: microwave safe.

But what of other items, for example, paper plates (an incredible invention for the I-don’t-feel-like doing-dishes days) are they microwave safe?

In this article, we answer this question and share helpful dos and don’ts when it comes to using paper plates in the microwave.

What are paper plates?

Paper plates are a staple at outdoor parties, concession stands, and picnics; but we tend to have them in our homes as well (most likely leftovers from events). Paper plates come in various colors, designs, and sizes. They are made from a mixture of paper-based based materials, such as plant fibers (wood pulp), plastic, and Styrofoam. They look lightweight but they are strong enough to carry just about anything you place on them (I have proved this countless times).

Some interesting facts about paper plates:

  • Used paper plates are not recyclable; this is because their contamination by food oil, grease makes it impossible for the recycling process to separate the grease waste and oil residue from the paper
  • Looking for a way to get rid of the numerous unused paper plates taking up needed space? Get them to a recycling depot because unused paper plates can be recycled.
  • Paper plates are biodegradable; in simple terms, this means that paper plates can break down in composition and release valuable nutrients into the earth.

Can you microwave paper plates?

Yes, paper plates are considered safe for reheating food in the microwave. The USDA also says that paper products such as paper plates and parchment paper are safer than polystyrene and brown paper bags when reheating food in the microwave.

Brown paper bags cannot be reheated in the microwave because they release toxic fumes that can get into food and also can cause a fire.

Getting back to paper plates though, a handy tip to note is that paper towels can only be microwaved for short periods of time; and the maximum time is pegged at 2 minutes or under.

To minimize risks, be sure to use paper plates that are labeled microwaveable.

Are paper plates flammable?

Paper plates are extremely flammable; so they must be kept away from non-microwavable items. Failure to do this can cause a spark, and it’s not the romantic type.

Get this, the color of the paper plate also matters when it comes to microwave safety.

Colorless paper plates are the preferred choice for reheating food in the microwave as the colored and decorated variations can be dangerous and harmful. This is because colored paper plates or decorated paper plates with ornaments and designs contain properties that can be flammable.

Chemicals from the colors can seep into the food causing a release of harmful toxins, which can cause health complications.

Make sure whatever is on the paper plate is microwave safe to prevent the hazard.

How to microwave with a paper plate?

First, set your microwave timer to 2 minutes or less. Also, you need to monitor closely to know how the paper plate is fairing under the heat. Close monitoring will eliminate the risks of flame or the paper plate melting from exposure to excessive heat, thereby releasing harmful chemicals into the food.

Secondly, you can stack your paper plates, this is especially necessary when you are reheating oily or greasy food. The stacking gives support especially when the quality of the paper plate in use is thin. Depending on what’s at play, you can stack 2 or 3 paper plates for reheating food in the microwave. Stacking also helps absorb the oil.

In a scenario where you get carried away watching reruns of Virgin River or The infamous 2022 Oscars and forget to monitor the microwave, the stacked paper plates will limit considerably the impact of the prolonged heat exposure on the plates.  

Finally, it is best practice to cover your food before reheating or cooking in a microwave. This rule of thumb is also applicable when using paper plates. Covering your meal in the microwave prevents splatter, and in my world that is one less thing I have to clean up. So Yay!

When it comes to covers avoid using aluminum foils, cardboard paper or anything metallic as a cover; they can heat up and eventually cause the paper plate to catch fire. Instead use a paper towel, or a plastic lid, whichever you use be 100 percent sure it is microwave safe.

How long does it take to microwave paper plates?

Reheating food in your paper plate should be for approximately 2 minutes. Set your microwave to reheat power level. Cover your food to prevent splatter and also to stop your food from drying out. Covering your food also ensures it heats up evenly.

Monitor. You have to monitor your food as it reheats in the microwave. This is very important to prevent a hazard. Your food does not need to stay for the entire 2 minutes.  Should you see signs that your meal is well-heated before the estimated 2 minutes timestamp,  you can go ahead and turn it off.

When bringing out your paper plate from the microwave, know that it will be hot. To avoid burns, you can use a kitchen napkin to handle the paper plate and lift it out of the microwave. You could also have a tray close to the microwave, where you then will carefully ease the paper plate into the tray.

Tips to microwave paper plates:

Paper plates are very convenient and easy to use, and its usefulness extends to the microwave. Below is a recap of important things to note:

  • Paper plates are safe to use in the microwave as long as they are not coated with plastic lamination or consist of some colored dye. They are considered the safest to use in their category.
  • Colorless paper plates are more suitable for the microwave. Colored paper plates usually have chemicals and other substances in them which makes the plate flammable. It is also harmful because due to its composition it can release chemicals into your food, which is damaging to overall health.
  • When reheating with a paper plate, be mindful of the temperature set. Do not set the temperature on high-heat; it is best to use the reheating setting in the microwave.
  • Maximum time for reheating is 2 minutes, but it could be less. Check your food every 30 seconds. There is really no need to have your food stay the entire 2 minutes if you can see clear signs your meal is heated enough and ready to eat.
  • Do not use aluminum foil to cover your meal. Instead, use paper towel or paper plates
  • Never run a paper plate in a microwave without anything on it; make sure there is food on the plate. The heat from the microwave can harm the plate, causing a fire hazard, and it can also damage the electrical wiring of the microwave.

Wrapping up

So there you have it, you CAN microwave paper plates but they must be microwavable paper plates with food.

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