Can You Put Paper Plates in the Microwave? – Government Responds

Cooking has evolved over the years, especially with the development of electrical kitchen appliances like air fryers, food steamers, and most importantly, microwaves. There are debates on how to safely use a microwave, including whether to put in paper plates.

Can you put paper plates in the Microwave? You can put paper plates in a microwave if they are not colored or printed. Also, you should avoid using paper plates that have plastic or metal attachments.

The Food Safety and Inspection Service mentions that if you want to use paper plates in your microwave, you should opt for white, unprinted materials since colored paper plates can contain dangerous toxins.

Can Paper Plates Catch Fire in the Microwave?

Paper plates cannot catch on fire in the microwave if they are made from plain white paper. If they contain plastics in the print or fragments of metal intertwined into the paper, there is a small chance of fire.

There are diverse types of paper plates, some of which include plain white paper, brown paper plates, and decorated or color-dyed paper plates.

Plain white paper plates are the safest to use in the microwave, while other paper products such as printed, decorated or color-dyed plates are more likely to catch fire in the microwave. Paper plates can also catch fire in the microwave when they are left empty for a long time and if they have any metallic fragments or decor in or on them.

Paper plates are not good conductors of either electricity or heat, and it is unlikely paper plates will catch fire in the microwave. However, when they are introduced to a lot of heat, that is, if the heating is stretched for a prolonged period, then the paper plate can catch fire in the microwave.

Also, the chances of a paper plate catching fire in a microwave increase rapidly if the paper plate is covered with foil, fork, and any other non-microwavable materials. To reduce the odds of having a burning paper plate in your microwave, you should ensure that it is not obstructed or put together with any of these defaulting materials.

Paper plates are made of useful waste such as resin, oil, cellulose, and other chemicals. These items usually do not catch fire when placed in a microwave. However, the ink that is used to design some paper plates can catch fire if used in an oven. So, be sure not to place a paper plate with decorations in a microwave to avoid fire hazards.

Why Do Paper Plates Not Heat Up in the Microwave?

Paper plates do not heat up in the microwave because they do not contain any water. They also do not heat up because they are materials that do not have both negative and positive sides, making them incapable of getting hot with microwaves.

A microwave is an electromagnetic wave with a high frequency. A microwave’s working mechanism will not allow an empty paper plate to put in the machine to be heated up because it does not have water in it and the microwave works only by heating the water molecules that food is composed of.

The heating process of microwave ovens is achieved by an increase in the vibration amplitude of the water molecules and their kinetic energy. This change raises temperature which in turn heats the food itself. The science behind this process is why the microwave oven is said to heat food from the inside out. An empty paper plate does not contain water molecules so it would not heat up.

Another reason why paper plates will not heat is that they are non-polar materials. This means that the paper has no negative or positive side. Microwaves cannot penetrate non-polar materials. This means that they cannot produce any energy when contacting this surface.

How Can You Tell if a Paper Plate Is Microwave Safe?

The only certain way to tell if a paper plate is safe for microwave use is to check whether it is specified on the packaging of the plate provided. The packaging states microwavable if the plates are ok to use in microwaves.

For anyone using a paper plate, if you want to be sure that it is microwave safe, you should check the packaging for the manufacturer’s instruction or guarantee. This should indicate how you can use the plate safely, avoiding fire hazards. Also, you can target plates that are made of 100% paper, since they are safer.

Some of the paper plates have plastic coatings and not all plastics are microwave safe. It is, therefore, the user’s responsibility to check the packaging of the plates to know if the ones with plastic coatings are microwave-safe or not.

Plain paper plates are the safest to use in the microwave. Printed, decorated, or color-dyed paper plates may increase the chance of a fire or may even leach chemicals into food being heated with these kinds of paper plates.

However, there is also a way to test the plates to know if they are microwave safe when they do not have a label on them stating whether they are safe or not. That way you do not have to throw them away or risk putting them in the microwave.

A step-by-step guide to help tell if a paper plate is microwave safe:

  • Fill up a bowl with water. Place the bowl in the microwave, beside the paper plate you want to test.
  • Start the microwave on high power and with a timer of 1 minute.
  • When the time is up, carefully checking the temperatures of both the paper plate and the water in the bowl.
  • If both the plate and water are hot, the plate is not microwave-safe as it has absorbed microwaves and created heat.
  • If the water is hot but the plate isn’t, then it is microwave safe.

This is a simple test just to know if the plates you have are microwave safe. If you are not convinced by this test, then it is best not to take the risk of microwaving with paper plates at all. This is because even if the paper plate might not be too hot to touch, it can contain materials harmful to food placed on it making food unsafe for consumption.

Note that even plates that are microwave-safe should not be overheated. They should be kept in the microwave for the least amount of time possible. The longer something stays in the microwave, the higher the chances of it soaking up energy and heating.

Is It Safe to Microwave Food on Paper?

It is safe to microwave food on paper if it is the right kind of paper. While some paper types are microwave-safe, some others are likely to catch fire or contain materials that make them unsafe for food.

By the right kind of paper, we mean paper towels, wax paper, parchment paper, paper plates, and bowls. These are all safe to use in general but not all are safe to use in the microwave. When it comes to paper plates the safest to use in the microwave is the plain white paper plates.

Paper products such as brown paper bags, recycled paper, or newspapers are not safe to use in a microwave. Recycled paper may contain materials or chemicals that are not safe to encounter food while newsprint inks may sport toxins that could get enter food. Newspapers are not clean enough for contact with food.

As much as it is said to be safe to microwave food on paper, the time and temperature settings should be closely followed to minimize the risk that comes with it. A reheat setting at 50% power level should be used and microwaving time should be kept to under 2 minutes.

Even though we have stated here that it is fine to use paper to microwave food, when it comes to specifically oily and greasy food, heating the food that contains any of this might not interact with the paper well.

When lots of foods are microwaved, they release grease and moisture and once this is absorbed by the paper plates they can start to fall apart. So, one should make sure to always think about how food will interact with the paper plates before they are heated in the microwave.

Besides using just paper to cover food before microwaving, you may be wondering what types of plates can be used. Are there ones that do not heat up as fast as others? I conducted some research within household forums to find instances of what others were using in the microwave. Here are the brands that others were suggesting.

Brands of plates that work well in microwavesPercentage of total responses
Corelle (click to have yours delivered) 58%
Ikea 9%

Can You Put Dixie Plate in a Microwave?

You can put a dixie plate in a microwave. Dixie plates are labeled microwave-safe by their manufacturers, meaning these paper products can be used in a microwave without worry.

Dixie plates are disposable paper plates. I recommend the 220-count package of dixie paper plates that is available on Amazon. Click here to have yours delivered. They are made using high-quality paper materials. According to the USDA, paper plates that have printed images, such as those that are manufactured by Dixie are safe to use in the microwave and are a better choice than plastic or polystyrene. Dixie plates are made using high-quality materials that offer increased resistance to damage.

A Dixie paper plate will handle your heaviest meal, be it dinner, a holiday meal, or even food at a special location. Durable paper plates and paper bowls like those made by Dixie are microwavable, cut-resistant, and have a soak-proof shield to protect against greasy or saucy food. They do not expel toxins as plastic or polystyrene products do.

Dixie plates also offer hassle-free convenience and are microwavable, making them perfect for reheating leftovers. They are also great for quick snacks at a get-together with family and friends.

However, you should note that a Dixie plate should not be used to cook food in a microwave, as overheating will disturb the integrity of the plate and the juice from foods may become absorbed into the plate causing it to go out of shape, break, or bond. They should only be used for reheating.

The heating time must also be noted. When these plates are used in a microwave, the timer should be limited to one or two minutes so you will not have to worry about food burning.

Also, when using a Dixie plate in the microwave never cover it with plastic wrap. If the wrap comes in direct contact with the food and if the heat is too much, it could melt the wrap and chemicals can migrate into the food which can cause serious health issues. Using a paper towel to cover food on the Dixie plate when it is in the microwave is much better.

Can You Microwave Styrofoam Plates?

Whether or not you can microwave Styrofoam plates depends on the type of plate in question. You should pay attention to whether the manufacturer mentions that the Styrofoam plate is microwave safe.

Styrofoam refers to a type of polystyrene foam used most in the building industry. A rigid vinyl polymer (thermoplastic polymer) is used in food and non-food packaging, construction, and manufacturing.

The best way to know if a particular Styrofoam plate can be microwaved is by reading the instructions printed on the packaging. The plates can also come with an image of a microwave drawn on them or have images with some wave lines showing the temperature range. This is also an identification that they are microwave safe.

Styrofoam is a synthetic material made of extruded polystyrene foam which makes it easy for the Styrofoam plates to melt easily and this can release harmful toxic substances into the food. The compounds that make up the toxic substance are benzene and styrene. They can cause damage to a user’s reproductive system and can also possibly cause cancer.

Some microwave-safe containers are made of Styrofoam, and they are free from dioxin and other harmful chemicals and carcinogens. These Styrofoam containers that are usually approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) always come with the label microwave-safe or microwave-proof. These plates can withstand heat and the elevated temperature of the microwave and will not melt easily.

So, it is best to check the packaging of Styrofoam plates before you reheat food in the microwave. The safest way to use the Styrofoam in the microwave is by using them to reheat food for 30 seconds with a maximum of 70% to 80% microwave power.

If the temperature used in reheating food in a Styrofoam exceeds 200 ℃, the plate will start to melt. It is best to stick with making sure the plate only spends 30 seconds in the microwave as this will prevent any health hazard. 

Overheating food with Styrofoam plates can result in the release of harmful substances mentioned earlier. In addition to the damage they can cause, when they are overheated, it can also lead to digestive issues and vision problems.

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Aron Blake

I am the lead copywriter on Homezesty and the Webmaster. I have a lot of experience in home renovations and the creation of style. I enjoy writing and sharing my tips on how to create the best living environment. My Linkedin Profile, My Twitter Account

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