Can You Microwave Takeout Boxes?

I lean on my microwave for food prep tasks more than any other appliance in my kitchen. When it comes to reheating takeout meals though, it’s not always clear whether the packaging they come in is safe to use in the microwave.

So, can you microwave takeout boxes? The answer depends on the type of material involved, but it pays to err on the side of caution and avoid doing so unless the packaging clearly states it’s safe.

In the rest of this article I’m going to explain what you need to look out for, so you can reheat your takeout without worry!

Microwave Safety

Before delving into the specifics of takeout boxes, we need to set out some basics about how microwaves actually work.

Microwaves work by emitting electromagnetic waves that excite water molecules in the food, causing the food overall to heat up.

While microwaving food in most containers is safe, some materials can pose health risks or damage the microwave.

Safe Containers to Use

Microwave-safe containers are clearly marked and are typically made of glass, ceramic, or microwave-safe plastic. 

These materials don’t leach harmful chemicals into the food and are designed to withstand the heat generated by microwaves. 

Containers labeled “microwave-safe” – or bearing a wavy-line microwave symbol – can be confidently used for reheating.

Takeout Boxes and Materials

What does this mean for your takeout boxes though?

Takeout boxes, commonly used by restaurants and food delivery services, are usually made from various materials. 

This is what you need to know about each type, and what it means for your microwave.

#1 Cardboard/Paperboard

Traditional paperboard takeout boxes, often used for dry food items like fries or pizza, are not suitable for microwave use. Microwaving them can cause the box to catch fire or release harmful chemicals into the food.

#2 Styrofoam/Polystyrene

Some takeout containers are made from polystyrene foam, commonly known as Styrofoam. Never microwave Styrofoam containers as they can melt, warp, or release toxic substances when exposed to high temperatures.

#3 Plastic

This one’s a little harder to call.

Plastic takeout boxes can vary in their microwave suitability. Those labeled as “microwave-safe” can be used for reheating, but others without this clear labeling should not.

Non-microwave-safe plastics can melt, deform, and potentially leach harmful chemicals into the food.

#4 Aluminum Containers

Some takeout containers are made of aluminum, often used for serving hot and greasy food. 

Microwaving aluminum containers is unsafe and can cause sparks and fires due to the metal’s reflective nature.

Safety Precautions

If the material isn’t microwave-safe – or you’re just not sure – what’s the best approach to take? Here are some options:

Transfer to a Microwave-Safe Container

If you really want to play it safe, transfer the leftover takeout to a microwave-safe dish or container. Opt for glass or ceramic containers, as they’re the safest choices.

Alternatively, you can use a microwave-safe plastic container, but make sure it’s clearly marked as safe for this purpose!

Check The Label

If you don’t have a microwave-safe container in your kitchen, look for any labeling on the takeout box that indicates it can be heated in the microwave.

If you’re in any doubt at all, don’t put it in the microwave. It’s always better to be safe than sorry in the kitchen.


Although microwaving takeout boxes might be tempting for convenience’ sake, it’s always better to exercise caution and put your safety first.

Many takeout boxes, particularly those made from cardboard, Styrofoam, or non-microwave-safe plastic simply aren’t suitable for microwave use.