Can you Microwave Plastic Wrap?

Have you ever wondered if it’s safe to put plastic wrap in the microwave? At some point in our lives, we all have had leftovers that we want to reheat, and there are several ways to do it, but the method people frequently use is by microwaving them. You place the food on ceramic ware or a microwave-safe container and stick it there. Easy as that! 

And usually, we cover the food to avoid having splatters all over the microwave’s interior. Often, the covers we use are a paper towel, a microwave-safe lid, or another plate.

But have you ever tried using plastic wrap? Despite the old myth that plastic wraps and plastic, in general, are carcinogenic, is there any scientific proof that indeed confirms this? Without further ado, let’s find out if it’s safe to put it in the ‘wave.

Can you microwave plastic wrap?

Here’s a piece of great news for you! Yes, you can use plastic wrap in the microwave, per the FDA (Food and Drugs Association) and USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) report. 

Although, don’t go wrapping up your food in plastic wrap just yet! There are several things to keep in mind when opting to use it.

First and foremost, make sure that the plastic wrap you are using is microwave-safe labeled. Always check the box and information when buying from the grocery because some brands aren’t. Luckily, several brands like Glad®, Kirkland, Saran Premium, and Restaurantware are among those that offer BPA-free and microwave-safe plastic wraps.

Now that we know that we can use plastic wrap in the microwave, why don’t we find out what plastic wrap is and its history?

So, what is plastic wrap?

In 1933, a lab worker named Ralph Wiley had accidentally discovered the compound PVDC (Polyvinylidene Chloride) used in plastic wrap at Dow Chemical Company located in Michigan, USA. It’s a synthetic resin produced by the polymerization of vinylidene chloride.

PVDC was initially used on US fighter planes and automobile upholstery to protect them from several elements. But, in 1949, the compound was developed further, and Dow introduced Saran Wrap, the clear, thin, and clingy plastic that we know today that is sold in rolls to wrap and preserve food. 

In recent years though, it is alternatively made out of LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene), a type of plastic that is softer and more workable than PVDC. LDPE is also considered safer for the human body. Although, plastic wraps made out of this compound do not have the “cling” that PVDC-made plastic wrap possesses. However, the issue of LDPE-made plastic wrap is remedied by adding LLDPE (Linear Low-Density Polyethylene), which increases the tensile strength of the film.

Aside from the US, Japan also changed its plastic wrap formulations due to environmental concerns aside from costs. 

How do you heat food using plastic wrap in the microwave?

What are the Do’s and Don’t when using plastic wrap in the microwave? First, the food and the plastic should never touch. When heating or reheating food covered in plastic wrap, it’s best to leave a gap or air space between the food and the plastic for safer measures.

Never reuse plastic wrap or torn plastic wrap as potentially it could catch on fire—even the microwave-safe ones. Therefore, you should always use fresh plastic wrap every time.

Always use a bowl regardless of the type of food. A deep dish or a shallow, wide bowl will do the trick as long as you confirm that the plastic wrap is tightly clinging to its sides and will not loosen while the bowl is being spun and heated inside.

Additionally, poking holes in it will help avoid the plastic from popping due to the pressure of the sealed environment. It will also help you release that steam that may burn your skin once you remove the plastic wrap after the food is heated. Microwave ovens may cause food to produce steam when the water molecules in the food vibrate due to the microwaves produced by an electron tube called a magnetron. 

Food that is high in fat, sugar, or has excess oil in it isn’t good to cover with plastic wrap. The reason is that these types of food tend to get hotter faster than other foods and consequently will splatter towards the film and melt it. I suggest using a plate instead. Moreover, who would want melted plastic mixed with their food, right?

How long can plastic wrap be microwaved?

It’s a good rule to remember that microwaving plastic-wrapped food should not exceed more than 5 minutes. Especially not in higher temperatures reaching more than 150 degrees Fahrenheit (65° Celsius). Even though plastic wrap can withstand a temperature reaching 212 degrees, it does not melt until within the temperature range of 220 degrees (104° C)  to 250 degrees Fahrenheit (121° C)

Thus, if you keep the microwave oven at a low power setting, you may heat the food for longer than the time recommended. But, for a higher power setting, never expose the plastic for more than 2 minutes. 

Some may advise that you can heat plastic wrap in the microwave at a low setting for longer than 10 to 20 minutes— I suggest that if you do try this out, give it at least 1-minute intervals every 3 minutes to keep the temperature in check and avoid the plastic wrap from melting.

But, also keep in mind that not all microwave ovens are the same. Some may heat food faster, even at a lower setting. You know your microwave best, so adjust the temperature accordingly whenever you heat plastic wrap-covered food.

To wrap things up

Plastic wrap is a-ok and safe to use in the microwave as long as you keep in mind the few things I shared with you. Never forget to leave an air space between the food and film, never fill the bowl up to the brim, but also don’t forget to puncture tiny holes to let the steam escape. 

In addition to your new knowledge, plastic-wrapped food heated in the microwave will not cause you cancer. Plastic does not contain dioxins that cause the illness. No scientific evidence proves this claim, according to Cancer Research UK. 

Now that you know this information, you can warm your food in the microwave covered in plastic wrap without worry. Enjoy!

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