Back during freshman year, I used to have a wall of shame list for my roommate. She managed to set multiple items on fire, and the list included the following.
- Burning a hole through the center of a cookie. She had nuked the already-cooked item for about 2 minutes just to “get it warm.”
- Placing a soup container (the milk carton kind) in the microwave. It had metal on the bottom. (In her defense, she didn’t notice).
- Burning popcorn. It appears to be a pastime in college dorms these days.
Many of these incidents resulted in me turning on a bajillion fans, opening the window, and praying that the fire alarm on our 10-story building would not go off. It’s hard enough being accepted as a freshman as it is. Lately I’ve been contemplating what exactly IS safe for the microwave, as I’ve been told that Styrofoam (such as the ever-popular to go containers) is not safe. Others disagree. So I did some research to get the low-down. Here’s the inside scoop:
- Microwavable takeout dinner trays are formulated for one-time use only and will say so on the package.
- Any utensil labeled for microwave use.
- Heatproof glass (such as Pyrex, Anchor Hocking, etc.).
- Glass-ceramic (such as Corning Ware).
- Oven cooking bags.
- Baskets (straw and wood) for quick warm-ups of rolls or bread. Line the basket with napkins to absorb moisture from food.
- Most paper plates, towels, napkins and bags. For optimal safety use white, unprinted materials.
- Wax paper, parchment paper, heavy plastic wrap. Do not allow plastic wrap to touch food; vent it to allow a steam escape.
- Heat-susceptor packaging.
- Most water bottles and plastic tubs or jars made to hold margarine, yogurt, whipped topping, and foods such as cream cheese, mayonnaise, and mustard are not microwave-safe. These materials are not approved for cooking and chemicals can migrate into food.
- Don’t microwave plastic storage bags or plastic bags from the grocery store.
- Don’t allow plastic wrap to touch food during microwaving because it may melt. Wax paper, kitchen parchment paper, or white paper towels are alternatives.
- If you’re concerned about plastic wraps or containers in the microwave, transfer food to glass or ceramic containers labeled for microwave oven use.
- Brown paper bags and newspapers.
- Metal pans.
- Foam-insulated cups, bowls, plates or trays.
- China with metallic paint or trim.
- Chinese “take-out” containers with metal handles.
- Metal “twist ties” on package wrapping.
- Food completely wrapped in aluminum foil.
- Food cooked in any container or packaging that has warped or melted during heating (USDA, 2011)
Another Helpful Tip:
- Before microwaving food, be sure to vent the container: Leave the lid ajar, or lift the edge of the cover. This will help you to avoid the volcano effect during heating.
Did you know? Styrofoam is actually a kind of plastic. It’s the brand name and it’s generic name is polystyrene. (Harvard Medical School, 2006)
I found this helpful chart you can use when reading labels:
|Type 1 – polyethylene terephthalate (PET)
|Type 2 – high density polyethylene (HPDE)
|Type 3 – PVC, polyvinyl chloride, vinyl
|Type 4 – low density polyethylene (LDPE)
|Type 5 – polypropylene
|Type 6 – polystyrene, styrene, polystyrene foam
|Type 7 – polycarbonate; “other” (can contain bisphenol A (BPA); most polycarbonate contains bisphenol A)
(Protigal , 2010)
Feel free to check out the links below for more information.
Harvard Medical School. (2006, July). Microwaving food in plastic: dangerous or not? Retrieved from http://www.health.harvard.edu/fhg/updates/update0706a.shtml
Protigal , S. (2010, May 18). Which plastics are “microwave-safe”? Retrieved from http://www.scn.org/~bk269/plastics.html
USDA. (2011, May 24). Microwave ovens and food safety. Retrieved from http://www.fsis.usda.gov/factsheets/microwave_ovens_and_food_safety/index.asp
*This is Bonnie’s first blog on RYH! You can check out her profile on the right-hand side to learn more about her.