Can You Microwave Paper Plates? (Yes, but Follow These Precautions…)

can you microwave paper plates

Quick Answer: Yes, most of the time you can microwave paper plates. It depends on a few different factors, which we're going to explain. Fortunately, it's not tough to figure out whether your paper plates and products are microwavable or not.

Keep reading to find out how.

What Is Paper?

Let's get a little background of paper first...

Typically, the word "paper" reminds us of the stuff you use in your printer (aside from the ink). And trees.

Paper can actually come from a number of sources, including trees. It's the fibers of materials like wood, grass, cotton and recycled fabric that are smooshed together while they're wet.

The sheets of paper that we print and write on are just some of the paper products that we use on a daily basis. If we check our kitchens, we're likely to find a number of paper items. ​

These include:

  • Microwave containers
  • Cardboard cereal boxes
  • Napkins
  • Cupcake liners
  • Grocery store bags
  • Baking parchment
  • Disposable utensils
  • Paper towels

Read also: Our Top Microwave Toaster Oven Picks

Different Types of Paper Containers

Paper plates are some of the most common types of food containers you'll use, whether you buy them for an office party or just for convenience at home.

Other super common paper containers are:

  • To-go clamshells at restaurants
  • Recyclable bowls
  • Disposable cups

Paper plates tend to be on the thin side while cups and clamshell containers can be a little bit thicker. There are also heavy-duty paper containers that resemble cardboard, and many paper food and beverage containers are made out of recycled paper materials.

How Do You Know If Paper Is Microwave Safe or Not?

The general consensus is that there's no reason you can't heat up your meal in paper in the microwave. Plain paper, that is.

According to the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the United States Department of Agriculture, it's fine to microwave most paper plates as well as napkins, paper towels and parchment paper. As long as these items are white and unprinted.

Dixie, the famous maker of paper cups and plates, also informs the public on its FAQ page that Dixie paper products should be able to safely go in the microwave. That being said, they make no guarantees, which may be related to the fact that some of Dixie's products are printed.

You shouldn't microwave paper with ink on it, like newspapers or printed paper plates, as the ink can leak into your food and drinks. Nor should you put any paper products with foam insulation in the microwave for leakage and melting reasons.

What about recycled paper? Well, it's probably best not to microwave that, either. You never know what the recycled contents are—they can include inks and other things you don't want to wind up in your food.

To recap: Only microwave white, print-free paper containers and plates. Don't microwave products like newspaper, printed design plates and foam-insulated containers.

Labels on Paper

Lots of containers that can be popped in the microwave say so on the bottom. On glassware, ceramic cookware and plastic bowls, you're usually looking for a label stamped into the container that gives you the green light.

The thing is, paper plates probably aren't going to say "microwave-safe." But rest assured that if you follow the above precautions when reheating your food, you'll be A-OK.

Bonus Safety Tips

  • Don't heat up brown paper bags as they can catch fire in the microwave.
  • If you're not sure, stick with microwaving paper food containers and don't put non-food paper products in the microwave.
  • Read the manual that comes with your microwave for individual heating instructions.

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