Can you microwave Plastic Tupperware? (Here are the Risks)

Tupperware are plastic containers invented to make food storage easy and convenient. They are not only used for storing food, they are also used for packaging meals when you’re on the go, and they can be used to reheat food in the microwave.

There are ongoing conversations and debates concerning the safety and the use of plastic Tupperware to reheat food in the microwave. And you are probably reading this because you want clarity and you want to know [more] about its safety, possible risks, and other helpful tips when it comes to using plastic Tupperware in the microwave.

In putting this article together, we carried out extensive research so that we have appropriate answers to questions about product composition, usability, the safety of Tupperware containers in the microwave, and any possible risks.

What is the makeup of Tupperware?

Most Tupperware products are made of Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) and polypropylene or plastic (PP). However, a major concern with plastic containers is the presence of chemicals such as Bisphenol-A (BPA), which according to the National Institute of environmental health council, can leak into food from storage containers.

Back in 2012, the United States Food and Drug Association (FDA) banned the use of BPA in baby bottles and plastic cups

So What is BPA?

BPA is a chemical compound used in the making of hard and clear plastic containers. It is considered harmful and dangerous to humans.

While all Tupperware brand containers in the USA and Canada since 2010 have been scientifically tested and proven to be safe and BPA free, plastic containers still contain some level of BPA, though minimal.

After conducting a series of reviews, the FDA has permitted low exposure to BPA in adults. According to the FDA, exposure to five micrograms of BPA per kilogram of bodyweight per day is safe.

Is it safe to microwave Plastic Tupperware?

Yes, it is safe to use plastic Tupperware in the microwave. However, you must confirm its safety by checking for the microwave-safe seal on the container. 

You must confirm the safety of the plastic container, as not all Tupperware containers are microwave safe. 

Reheating food in a plastic container that is not marked as microwave safe is risky. This is because the container will not be able to withstand the heat in the microwave (clearly because it was not built for it), and this will result in the plastic container melting. 

Now, apart from the container melting from the heat, there is also the possibility of harmful chemicals from the plastic seeping into your food, which can cause health problems.

Never assume all plastic Tupperware containers are microwavable. Look out for the safety symbol before placing it in your microwave.

The microwave safety symbol is three wavy lines at the bottom of the container.  

Additionally, there are some who advise that plastic containers that are not microwave-safe should not be used to store food either. They argue that toxic chemicals can still get into the food even in that state.

How to Microwave Plastic Tupperware Containers?

Whether the Tupperware container is marked as microwave-safe or not, ALL plastic containers melt when exposed to excessive heat. And when this happens, harmful toxic chemicals will be released into your food.

Another thing to bear in mind when reheating food in Tupperware is that the lid (cover) must be on. I know people who prefer to reheat their food with the lid off.  But I suggest keeping the Tupperware lid (cover) on while reheating your food.

When the lid is on, food splatter in the microwave is prevented. Also, with the lid on, your food will not dry out, and it will heat up evenly.

When reheating food in the microwave, the lid for your Tupperware should not be tightly sealed. It should be placed loosely to allow steam to evaporate.

The lids of microwave-safe Tupperware containers often have vents attached to them. These vents are placed to help the hot air escape during the microwaving process, and it also prevents food splatter.

While reheating food in the microwave, ensure to leave the Tupperware vent open.

Do not worry If the Tupperware container you have does not have a vent. While having a vent can be useful, its absence is not overtly problematic.

How long does it take to microwave Tupperware containers?

Tupperware containers are made with plastic, and so when used in the microwave, timing is very important because you want to avoid the container melting from excessive heat.

The recommended time when using Tupperware containers in the microwave is between 2-3 minutes. But with regular checks at intervals.

There may be instances where your food requires a longer time,  and that too is okay. The important thing is that you keep your eye on it. Also, in such a scenario, you should bring out your food and stir it a bit before putting it back in the microwave.

It has also been recommended that your microwave be set on medium heat when reheating food in your Tupperware container.

Do not microwave frozen food that is in a Tupperware container. Not only will this require a longer time in the microwave (which may end up melting the plastic), frozen food is known to expand inside plastic containers as they heat up. This expansion will then cause your container to be distorted (impact from the heat exposure) or even crack due to the rising temperature. 

How long can you use Tupperware containers?

This depends on the quality of the containers and how well you cared for them. One of the many advantages of Tupperware containers is that they can be used several times before being thrown out.

However, If you have a container that has melted from previous use,  even if the damage is considered little, you are better off throwing that container out. 

Do not reason that it is just a small portion of the container that has been affected, because continuous use of that container means exposing your food to harmful chemicals over and over again.

If your Tupperware container has not been damaged in any way, then, by all means, make use of it as many times as you want. Some suggest a Tupperware container can be used at least 25 times before it’s considered unusable. 

Dangers of microwaving Food in Tupperware containers

Many experts discourage microwaving in plastic containers, even though it is proven to be safe as long as the container bears the symbol of microwave safety.

The reason why many discourage this is because of the ongoing research that points to harmful toxins present in these containers.  Continuous usage means these chemicals get into food over and over again.

Following concerns about BPA, which led to its removal from the majority of Tupperware containers. Researchers found that the BPA chemical has been replaced by and large with Bisphenol-S (BPS).

This preference for BPS is apparently because it is believed to be more resistant to “leeching.” But further studies on this chemical replacement have shown that it is just as worrisome as its predecessor. 

I agree with chefs, scientists, and researchers who advise that an alternative be used where there is an option for that. An alternative such as a microwave-safe ceramic dish or glass bowl.

Tips to remember when using Tupperware in the microwave:

Below are some important things to bear in mind when using Tupperware in the microwave:

  1. Ensure that the Tupperware container you are using is microwave safe. You can easily determine this by checking the bottom of the container for the three wavy lines.
  2. If the container does not have the microwave-safe symbol, do not use it in your microwave.
  3. The estimated time for Tupperware in the microwave is between 2-3 minutes. However, in an instance where more time may be required, regularly check your meal and, at intervals, stir your food to ensure it heats up evenly.
  4. Timing is everything when using Tupperware containers in the microwave, this is because exposure to excessive heat will cause the plastic to melt, and it will cause toxic chemicals to leak into your food.

Wrapping up

Tupperware containers are convenient and affordable, and the majority of them are microwave-safe. However, if you have any concerns about using plastic containers in the microwave, then you are better off using a microwave-safe ceramic dish or glass bowl as an alternative for reheating your meal.

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