Technically speaking you can microwave styrofoam plates in the microwave, but it’s not something I recommend.
Styrofoam is an excellent insulator, and it’s great for keeping food warm during transportation, but it’s not suitable for heating purposes.
In the rest of this article I’ll explain why, and also provide some alternative solutions to make your life that little bit easier!
Why is microwaving styrofoam plates not recommended?
Styrofoam is a form of plastic. When you heat it up in a microwave, it’s possible that harmful chemicals will leech into the food or drink that you’re heating.
That, in turn, causes an obvious risk to health that’s best avoided!
As the styrofoam heats in a microwave, it approaches a melting point. When this happens, it will release a chemical called styrene.
This is a toxic chemical. Suffice to say, you definitely don’t want to consume any of this stuff if it makes its way into your food or drink!
Alternatives to styrofoam plates
The good news is that there are some excellent alternatives to styrofoam plates. They’re not only safer for heating food, they’re also more environmentally-friendly too.
Consider some of these alternatives instead.
These are cheap, readily available, easy to recycle and are your best alternative for the microwave.
As always, check the packaging to make completely sure the paper plates are considered microwave-safe.
Paper plates can contain their own chemicals, although they’re considered harmless to humans when used for food.
In the same way that your glass turntable is safe for the microwave, so too are glass plates.
They’re not as common as your usual ceramic crockery, but they’re well worth considering if you want a styrofoam alternative that will play nicely with your microwave!
These are your standard plates that most of us have in our kitchens.
They heat up very quickly though, so do be careful when removing your food from the microwave.
What safety precautions should people take?
The most important safety precaution is to avoid using styrofoam plates in the microwave unless it’s absolutely unavoidable!
If you must microwave styrofoam though, keep the following in mind:
- Try to minimize contact between the food and the styrofoam wherever possible. This will reduce the surface area for any chemicals to leech across.
- Reduce both the power setting of the microwave, and the duration of time you run it through. This will minimize the amount of heat the styrofoam is exposed to, and reduce the risk of styrene being released.
- Avoid using your styrofoam plate if there’s any sign of cracking or other damage to the exterior.
Do styrofoam plates melt in the microwave?
A styrofoam plate can melt in the microwave, but how quickly it happens depends on a few factors:
- The thickness of the styrofoam plate
- The temperature setting of the microwave
- How long you run the microwave for.
To recap, although it is technically possible to microwave styrofoam plates, it’s really not recommended due to the potential health risks.
There are lots of alternatives, you likely already have at least one of them in your kitchen already, and they’ll be both safer and kinder to the environment too!
Mark’s a lifelong food fanatic and spent ten years working as an entertainment journalist. He now combines his love of food, drink and writing as the founder and editor of Viva Flavor. Read more