Paper plates are a kitchen staple in my household, and I bet they are in yours too! They’re inexpensive, disposable, and make clean-up easy. What’s not to love?
But can you microwave paper plates? The answer is a resounding yes and no. You can microwave paper plates that meet some guidelines. However, there are a few things you should keep in mind to ensure that your experience is safe and successful.
When it comes to microwaving paper plates:
- Do not microwave paper plates that have a plastic film
- Do not microwave paper plates with designs
- Only microwave PFAS-free paper plates
- Only microwave FDA and USDA approved paper plates
Read on to learn more about microwaving paper plates.
What are Paper Plates?
Believe it or not, not all paper plates are created equal. When asking, can you microwave paper plates, you want to make sure it’s a pure paper plate. Paper plates are made primarily from cellulose, which is a natural material that comes from plants.
Steer clear of paper plates that have a plastic film or plates that contain designs. The ink will leach into food when exposed to heat.
Are There Toxins in Paper Plates?
A poll conducted by Repurpose showed that “31% of Americans felt safer using single-use products during the pandemic because of germs. 55% used them during the pandemic because it was convenient.”
What a lot of use don’t realize, what we need more attention on, is the exposure of toxic chemicals we are exposed to everyday when we think we are safe using products in our kitchens!
Paper plates may be convenient and provide easy cleanup, but when microwaved they will leach toxic chemicals in your food!
What are Per-and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances?
Many paper plates contain a toxic chemical called PFAS (per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances).
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances are a class of man-made chemicals that have been linked to a range of negative health effects. They are toxic to both humans and the environment, and can be found in a variety of everyday items, including paper plates. The purpose of PFAS is to make products more resistant to water, oil, and stains.
There are over 4,000 different types of PFAS, and they can be found in everything from fast-food wrappers to nonstick cookware. They are also used in firefighting foam and have been found in the drinking water near military bases and airports. While PFAS are no longer manufactured in the United States, they are still being produced in other countries and imported into the US.
Exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances has been linked to a range of health problems, including cancer, reproductive and developmental problems, thyroid disease, and immunotoxicity. These chemicals can also build up in the environment, causing harm to wildlife.
Because of the potential health and environmental impacts of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, it is important to avoid products that contain them. If you must use these products, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to minimize your exposure.
How to Know if Your Paper Plates are Microwave Safe
The USDA has stated that only unprinted white paper plates should be used in the microwave. Along with that, use the below guide.
- Labeled as “microwave-safe.” Does the packaging specifically say whether you can or can’t use the paper plate in the microwave?
- Labeled as “PFAS-free.” We personally do not use paper plates unless it’s specifically noted that the paper plate is PFAS-free.
- Does not have metal trim. No metal, even if decorative, should be microwaved.
- Uncolored. Only microwave plain white paper plates to avoid toxin leaching from the color dye.
- Does not have a wax or plastic coating. The USDA does not recommend plastic or wax touch your food when heated in the microwave.
How to Microwave Paper Plates
After you’ve followed the instructions above and found a microwave-safe plate, it’s time to learn how to safely microwave it! Make sure it is pure white with no decoration, metal trim, or a wax or plastic coating.
Step 1: Place food on the paper plate. If greasy or oily, make sure you use 2 to 3 plates so it absorbs more of the grease and oil.
Step 2: Cover food if needed. Depending on how much moisture is in the food, it has potential to splatter. Avoid plastic wrap and aluminum foil when covering food. You can use a paper towel instead.
Step 3: Use a low-medium setting on the microwave. That be about 50% power from the highest setting.
Step 4: In 30-second intervals, reheat food up to 2 minutes maximum. Do not overheat.
If your food requires cooking or further heating, it might be best to switch to another microwave-safe container like Pyrex. It’s much safer to use.
Safety Tips for Microwaving Paper Plates
- Never microwave a plate in which the manufacturer has not placed a “microwave-safe” label on it. This should be 3 to 5 wavy lines and may include a picture of a microwave, but not required. It may also just use the words “microwave-safe” or “microwave friendly.”
- Never microwave a paper plate by itself in the microwave. Paper can catch fire if left unattended.
- Because paper IS flammable, never microwave a paper plate on the highest setting. It’s best to use it at 50% power.
- Never use aluminum foil to cover the paper plate. It can cause sparks.
- According to USDA guidelines, only microwave white, unprinted paper plates.
- For greasy or oily foods, you may need to use several plates stacked together so they absorb all the grease and oil.
- Use caution when taking the paper plate out of the microwave. It will heat up as well as the food. And depending on how greasy and oily the food is, the paper plate may now be flimsy.
- Only microwave a paper plate to reheat food, not to actually cook it. The paper plate will not be able to handle the high temperatures or duration required.
Final Answer to Can You Microwave Paper Plates
As long as you follow the tips we have listed above, you can safely microwave a white, undecorated paper plate in the microwave!
Do not microwave paper plates for longer than 2 minutes and only use a low-medium setting as to not overheat.
Our personal recommendation is not to microwave paper plates. Instead, use Pyrex or glass! it’s better for your health and the environment. But no one is saying you can’t eat from a paper plate once the food is heated! 🙂
FAQs for Can you Microwave Paper Plates?
Can You Microwave Colored Paper Plates?
No, you should never microwave colored paper plates! These usually contain a color dye which makes the plate that particular color. colors and dye should never be microwaved as these chemicals could leach into your food.
A 2018 report from the Center for Environmental Health showed that colored plates contain more PFAS than non-colored plates.
Can You Microwave Styrofoam Plates?
No, you should never microwave a Styrofoam plate! Styrofoam is a trademarked name. The material used to make what we know as Styrofoam plates is EPS, or expanded polystyrene.
Styrene has a potential risk of cancer.
Unless specifically marked as microwave-safe, do not microwave! And even, exercise with caution.
Can You Microwave Plastic Plates?
No, you should not microwave plastic plates. Most plastic plates are made with solid polystyrene. This refers to a #6 plastic and should never be used in the microwave or exposed to heat. Styrene has been noted as a possible carcinogen.
Do NOT microwave plastic plates unless the manufacturer has a microwave-safe label.
Are Dixie Paper Plates Microwave Safe?
According to Dixie, their plates are BPA-free, gluten free, and can safely be used in a microwave for reheating food only. However, you should always exercise caution and follow the microwave manufacturer’s directions.
Can You Put a Paper Plate in the Microwave for 3 minutes?
It’s recommended to not put paper plates in the microwave for longer than 2 minutes.