Can You Microwave Paper Plates? Is It Safe? Find Out

logo by Editorial Staff | Updated on August 5th, 2022

A microwave is a useful appliance for swiftly heating meals. Is it, however, safe to microwave some goods, such as a paper plate? Is it possible to microwave paper plates?

Paper plates may be microwaved as long as they are composed entirely of paper. Microwaving paper plates with thin layers of plastic is not recommended. The addition of plastic might start a fire or generate hazardous gases.

microwave plate

The simplest method to tell if your paper plate is microwave safe is to look for a label that says microwave safe.’ If you don’t have the packaging, the paper plate should be fine in the microwave as long as it doesn’t have a plastic covering.

Most other paper items, such as wax paper, paper bowls, paper towels, and parchment paper, are also microwave-safe. However, do not use brown paper bags in the microwave since they cannot withstand high temperatures and may catch fire or generate harmful fumes.

Continue reading to discover more about microwaving paper plates and the wide varieties of paper plates available.

Can Paper Plates Be Microwaved?

Some office workers were intrigued as to whether standard copy paper would catch fire when placed inside a microwave oven. So they tested it on a piece of copy paper, placed it in the oven, and switched on the machine.

The paper did not burn. It just transformed into a heated piece of paper. Their testing shows that safe microwave paper items such as white paper towels, parchment paper, white copy paper, and white paper plates.

So, can paper plates be microwaved? Yes, these are completely microwave-safe! Napkins and towels may be microwaved as well.

While this is true, plastic-coated paper plates and paper towels aren’t completely free of plastic. These paper objects cannot be microwaved. As a result, the National Sanitation Foundation International strongly advises using microwave-safe paper products.

According to the NSFI, parchment paper, wax paper, and microwave cooking bags can be microwaved. Microwaving paper items is OK as long as they are composed entirely of paper and are not plastic-coated.

Some people have used paper towels to cover food that would be heated in the oven, and nothing harmful has happened.

To be safe, place the meal on a paper plate before placing it in the oven. It will also assist if the microwave oven has a glass turntable. Additionally, make sure the glass turntable is at normal temperature. If the temperature is too high, the paper plate may become burned.

You may also put a paper plate and a bowl of water in the microwave. Turn on the oven and set it on high for a minute. After then, check the temperature of the paper plate. If the paper plate is too hot to touch, it cannot be microwaved.

Concerning the Microwave

The microwave is quite simple to operate, and it cooks your food in minutes, often even less than a minute. But how does it function, and why aren’t all plates compatible with it?

The microwave, as the name implies, creates brief radio waves that bounce off the reflective inside surface of the microwave oven.

When microwaves penetrate through food, the water molecules are disturbed by the magnetic component of the waves, causing them to create energy and heat up.

It’s a complicated process, but microwaves heat the meal. They do it in a very efficient manner, passing through microwave-safe plastics, glass, and ceramics without heating them. It’s just the food.

As a result, glass and ceramic are completely safe to use in a microwave. Some plastics are also microwave-safe, although they must be labeled as such.

There are two primary reasons why a specific type of plate could be considered dangerous in the microwave:

It is made (wholly or partly) of microwave-absorbing materials:

If the plate absorbs microwaves, it will heat up in the same way as the food does, which is undesirable. For one thing, it will be too hot to touch or pick up.

Worse, if the heat is too intense, it may begin to bend and melt. As a result, the plate is effectively gone.

It is made (wholly or partly) of materials that are not microwave-safe:

Some things may become hazardous after being microwaved, either because they leave a residue or because they emit a specific gas or something similar.

These might render the meal unfit for ingestion, undermining the objective of reheating the dish for consumption.

Is Microwaving Paper Plates Safe?

So, once again, can you microwave paper plates? Paper plates may be used in a microwave oven. Most individuals prefer maximum ease when it comes to cooking and reheating food. That is why they use the microwave.

On the other hand, the sort of container you use inside the microwave is critical while cooking or reheating food. If you use microwave-safe containers, your food may melt, distort, catch fire, or be ruined.

While paper plates and other paper goods are typically safe to reheat meals in any microwave oven, always use caution.

Use simple white paper plates for the finest and safest outcomes. If you use non-white, adorned, or printed paper plates, you increase the risk of an unintentional fire. Chemicals from the extra colors and patterns may leak into the cooked meal.

Dixie is a well-known manufacturer of disposable paper plates and cups. It has been producing paper for a very long time. The firm claims that its paper goods are microwave safe.

Parchment paper, plain paper bags, paper napkins, paper towels, and wax paper are some other safe, microwaveable paper items. Brown paper bags, as well as newspaper and recycled paper, are prohibited.

When dangerous chemicals and certain materials come into touch with recycled paper, they can modify the composition of food. Brown paper bags are a possible fire danger since they quickly catch fire. Toxins may be present in newspaper inks, which can leak into food.

Consider the following steps while cooking or reheating meals if you wish to use paper plates safely in the microwave oven:

  • Place a slice of fatty and greasy pizza, bacon, steak, or chicken in a stack of two or three paper plates to warm. The additional plate layers will absorb excess oil. They will also give sturdy support to keep the food from collapsing when you take it out of the oven.
  • As an added precaution, prepare a dish plate before taking the meal from the oven. You may remove the meal from the oven by carefully sliding the paper plates onto the dish. Even if the paper plates bend due to the weight of the meal, the dish will sustain it, and the food will not fall off.

Will a Microwave Paper Plate Catch Fire?

Can you microwave paper plates without them catching fire? If you follow the proper measures, the paper plate will not catch fire inside a running microwave oven.

If you are merely reheating food, there is no chance of the paper plate catching fire. Reheating items in this oven takes only a few seconds, if not less than a minute.

Except for the section where the plate comes into close contact with the cooked meal, the paper plate would not even feel warm to the touch. No one has yet attempted to place a paper plate in a hot oven for days to test whether it will catch fire.

However, in theory, it would not. Objects that do not contain any moisture are unable to absorb the radio frequencies generated by an operating microwave oven. In other words, if the paper plate is fully dry, it will not be able to absorb the oven’s energy.

As a result, there is no danger of it catching fire inside a hot microwave oven.

Microwave ovens are designed to operate in bursts rather than continuously. Continuously using it for an hour may overload its circuitry and produce a short circuit. The oven may potentially catch fire.

Another point to consider is that paper does not carry electricity. That proves that it will not catch fire inside a functioning microwave oven.

However, the situation changes if you place a spoon or fork on top of the paper plate. If steel is ‘baked’ inside the oven, it will get hot. Its heat will pass to the paper, causing the paper and the oven to catch fire. As a result, don’t do that!

The same is true for ornamental paper plates. When you place a paper plate with silver decorations on the sides inside a microwave oven, the silver content of the decorations will get heated. If the paper plate is left in the oven for an extended period, it may catch fire.

Someone tried putting a piece of silver foil on top of a paper towel and putting these two objects in a microwave oven. He switched on the machine, and in about 20 seconds, sparks flew from the silver foil, igniting the paper towel.

So, if you put a simple paper plate in the oven and turn it on, nothing will happen.

However, suppose you place anything that may conduct electricity, such as any conductive metal, in addition to the paper plate. In that case, there is a great possibility of the paper plate catching fire.

What Can Cause a Microwave Paper Plate to Catch Fire?

Sometimes, paper items, such as paper plates, may burn inside an open microwave. For example, the paper plate may catch fire if the heating period is extended beyond the specified time.

When thin paper plates are heated for a lengthy period, they can catch fire. These papers contain both free and bound water, which may absorb microwave radiation. Thin paper plates have a flame point, which can burn at the plate’s edges if the heating period is too long.

While simple white paper plates are microwave safe, some paper items are not. They cannot be microwaved if they include ornamental patterns, metal residues, inks, or other conductive and hazardous components.

Certain inks are combustible; therefore, putting paper plates with inked lines in the microwave might cause them to burn. Don’t leave a paper plate with inked lines in the microwave for more than 30 seconds. Keep a careful check on it if necessary.

Covering paper-plated food with plastic wrap is also dangerous. When you microwave food for longer than necessary, the plastic wrap may melt, and its contents leak into the food, making it poisonous and harmful to consume.

Is it safe to use microwave paper plates?

If you reheat the food for more than 1-2 minutes, there is a good probability that the food will seep into the dish. This can ultimately destroy the paper plate’s structural framework and make it impossible to hold flat.

A microwave works by emitting electromagnetic radiation of a certain wavelength. This causes the water molecules within the material to vibrate, and the friction generates the heating reaction.

However, the water molecules might be absorbed into the paper and deform throughout the process. If cooked for a fair amount of time, there is no evidence that harmful compounds would be released from a nondecorative, plain paper plate.

Will the chemicals in paper plates have an impact on your food?

Another major uncertainty when it comes to paper goods is whether or not they contain chemicals that might seep into your meals. For this reason, many individuals will advise you not to microwave Styrofoam items. This is only one example.

Some plates contain BPA or a substance that is comparable to BPA. You should keep an eye out for this.

You should not microwave your plates if they contain BPA or a chemical called polyfluoroalkyl (commonly known as PFAS). Some of these items may even be microwave-safe.

Most microwave-safe items do not include them, but it is a good idea to check for them just in case.

If these chemicals are present in your disposable plates or dishes, you should not microwave them since they may leach into your food during the cooking process.

Most disposable plates are labeled as BPA-free, which is a good thing to look for!

Which Paper Plates Can’t Be Microwaved?

So now we know the answer to the question, “Can you microwave a paper plate?” Let’s now look at which paper plates cannot be microwaved. There is a method for determining if a paper plate can be microwaved.

Microwaving paper plates, parchment paper, paper towels, and paper napkins is not an issue, according to the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the United States. But there’s a catch: only if they’re white and don’t contain any prints.

As a result, printed paper plates cannot be microwaved. The reason is obvious–the ink may melt and leak chemicals into the meal that is being cooked. Paper items with foam insulation are likewise not microwaved safely. The foam has the potential to melt and leak into the meal.

Paper plates with metal ornamentation or traces of metal should not be used inside a dishwasher.

The microwave oven. The metal contents of the paper plate will get excessively hot, and the heat may cause the paper to catch fire. They can also create sparks, which can catch fire and set the plate on fire.

Recycled paper is also not safe. You have no idea what sort of paper the recycled paper is comprised of. Its basic material might be newspapers, brown bags, multicolored paper, etc. And you don’t want these contaminants to end up on your food.

In a nutshell, only white, non-recycled, print-free paper plates should be used in a microwave. Paper plates with decorations, those with foam insulation, and those composed of recycled paper and metallic parts should never be microwaved.

What Is the Symbol for Microwave-Safe plates?

Typically, the item will have the words microwave-safe on it, but it may alternatively simply have a microwave symbol to signify safety.

Whether you’re looking for a container, look for #5 as well to see if it’s microwave safe.

How to Perform a Microwave Safety Test on a Plate

Wait, you can test a dish yourself to see if it’s microwave-safe? Yes, you certainly can!

So, if the package of the paper plates is ambiguous or does not specify whether they are microwave safe or not, you may test them yourself.

You won’t have to risk them in the microwave, and you won’t have to toss them away and buy new ones.

However, before we get into how to test the plates, you should know that even microwave-safe plates should be left in the microwave for the shortest time possible because the longer anything is in the microwave, the more likely it is to absorb energy and generate heat.

But first, let’s get to the testing. Here’s a step-by-step tutorial to help you:

  1. Begin by filling a small basin halfway with water. Then, with the plate to be tested, place the bowl in the microwave.
  2. Set the microwave on maximum power and a one-minute timer.
  3. When the timer goes off, carefully touch the plate being tested. (It might be hot, so don’t simply grab it!)
  4. If the plate is quite hot to the touch, it has absorbed microwaves and generated heat, indicating that it is not microwave-safe.

This is a fast technique to evaluate if something is microwave-safe or not.

However, as previously said, the longer the microwave is on, the higher the wattage and the more likely something will go wrong with the plate!

And if the test doesn’t completely persuade you, it’s advisable not to take the risk. Especially since the paper plate may not get hot to the touch, it may contain toxic elements to the food and should not be consumed.

What is the best way to microwave paper plates?

Microwave paper plates on medium power for a short period of time to guarantee that there are no prints or metal trimmings on the paper plate or foils over the meal. Reheating is also affected by microwave capabilities, wattage level, and food type.

When using a paper plate to microwave, keep the following in mind:

  • Reheating: Paper plates cannot withstand high temperatures for lengthy periods, so they should only be used for meal reheating. The meal might flood the plate, making it harder to grip and causing structural damage.
  • Timing: Heat the meal for around 1-2 minutes, keeping an eye on the dish and stirring every 30 seconds to guarantee safety. Do not overheat the meal since this might cause excess moisture to be released and harm the plate.
  • Stack the paper plates as follows: After reheating fatty foods and partially frying vegetables and potatoes, stack the plates thickly to offer additional support. Two or more plates may be required depending on what is on the plate and the quality of the paper result. More than paper plates should be placed to keep the food from slipping off. After nuking, take a ceramic or glass plate and slide the paper plates onto it to avoid touching the hot surface and preventing the food from pouring off the floppy surface.
  • Cover foods to prevent spatter: When microwaved, the high moisture content in the meal generates splatter; therefore, cover it with a paper towel. When heating food, avoid using plastic wrap or a plastic plate unless it is labeled microwave safe. To avoid an explosion, keep a small hole open to allow steam to escape.
  • Avoid flammable materials such as foil, cutlery, and other metallic strips that might heat up and catch fire, causing the paper plate to catch fire.

How long can paper plates be microwaved?

Food should be warmed on paper plates for no more than two minutes. Set the power setting to reheat, stack paper plates if necessary, cover with a paper towel, and nuke for two minutes.

This will retain steam within the meal, preventing it from drying and allowing it to cook more evenly. To guarantee safety, keep an eye on the food while it’s reheating and pause to stir every 30 seconds for more effective heating.

Microwave Paper Plates Suggestions

Microwaving a paper plate is a simple process. Use a microwave safe, reheat on high power, prevent non-microwavable items, and keep the paper away from the heating source within the microwave.

Some extra precautions and advice for microwaving a paper plate are provided below:

  • Food should not be heated in a brown paper bag on a paper plate because it might catch fire.
  • When microwaving a paper plate, avoid using aluminum foil coverings. This can cause sparks to fly.
  • Twist knots should be avoided at all costs.
  • Never use the paper plate if it is empty. Heat can damage both the plate and the microwave magnetron. If there is no food for the energy to be absorbed, the probability of a paper plate catching fire is substantially higher.

Is it possible to microwave all foods on a paper plate?

While a paper plate will work OK in the microwave, it is not perfect for every occasion. Especially if your food is very oily or moist, this is due to how the liquid reacts with the paper plate rather than the microwave, yet heating it does not assist the problem.

When many foods are microwaved, fat and moisture are released. The paper plate will absorb the heated liquid and grease, causing it to fall apart. This implies that the plate may break apart if you try to take everything out of the microwave at once.

You could make a large mess, and you might even burn yourself in the process. Always consider how meals interact with a paper plate when heated before microwaving.


To summarize, can you microwave paper plates? Yes, most paper plates may be microwaved along with other paper items such as wax paper, paper bowls, paper towels, and parchment paper. Just make sure the paper plate is made entirely of paper.

Some paper plates are covered with tiny layers of plastic, which melt when heated to high temperatures. The most secure method is to use paper with ’microwave safe’ labeling.


Editorial Staff

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