Whether you purchased disposable plates from the store or you’re bringing leftovers home from your favorite restaurant, styrofoam is typically found in both types of food storage. Because of its durability and cheap production, styrofoam is commonplace in many food storage containers.
The convenience of both styrofoam and the microwave in your kitchen is hard to overlook. While putting food on a styrofoam plate or box in the microwave may seem effortless, it may be hazardous to your health. Overall, you can reheat styrofoam in the microwave, but the hard truth is, you probably shouldn’t.
While reheating styrofoam in the microwave isn’t necessarily recommended, we’ve all done it. The key is to not make it a habit, and we will explain why throughout this article.
Why Is It a Concern To Reheat Styrofoam in the Microwave?
If styrofoam is sold in so many markets and used by a variety of restaurants it must be safe, right? Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Styrofoam was initially designed for the building industry. This polystyrene foam is durable and cheap, but it was never actually meant to be used in cups, plates, and food storage containers.
Styrofoam is great at keeping beverages cold and food hot, but at what cost? Aside from the excessive time required to decompose in landfills, styrofoam is the culprit of some negative health benefits.
Containing a chemical compound known as styrene, styrofoam has been proven to leak into foods as they are reheated in the microwave on styrofoam-based food storage containers.
Is There Any Way To Safely Reheat Styrofoam in the Microwave?
Styrofoam is so convenient, it can be hard to wrap your head around the fact that you shouldn’t microwave it. Therefore, many people wonder if there are precautions that can be taken to allow you to safely reheat styrofoam in the microwave.
The answer is simply, no. Styrofoam is acceptable for food storage in the fridge, but it should not be heated.
In fact, styrofoam will begin to melt once it reaches 212 degrees Fahrenheit. When you leave your food on a styrofoam plate in the microwave for too long, you may have experienced the plate melt into your food. This is why.
Tips to Avoid Reheating Styrofoam
Sometimes it can be hard to tell if a food storage container is made of styrofoam, and other times it is obvious. Some containers even contain a styrofoam compound that makes them look like regular plastic, yet they are still unsafe for reheating in a microwave.
- If you are unsure if your container is styrofoam, transfer it onto a plate or glass dish just to be on the safe side. Don’t take the risk if you don’t have to. It only takes a few seconds to put your food on an alternative plate or bowl.
- Don’t use plastic wrap as a cover for food when reheating it in the microwave, as this product contains some of the same chemicals as styrofoam. Instead, use a paper towel, another plate, or a designated food cover to prevent splatters.
- Do not reuse commercial tubs to reheat food. Storing leftovers in sour cream tubs or butter containers is convenient, but food should never be reheated in the microwave in these containers.
- Avoid the use of any damaged plastic containers that are split, cracked, or broken, as reheating them in the microwave can cause the styrofoam to leach into your food.
Alternative and Safe Methods to Reheat Food
If you’re concerned about finding another way to reheat food safely, you have plenty of options. Styrofoam is widely used, but it isn’t the only type of food storage container available.
- Find a microwave-safe container that is clearly labeled. The FDA doesn’t regulate styrofoam being used for food storage, but they do regulate the safety of plastic cups and containers for use in microwave ovens. Products that are acceptable for use in this manner will be notated as such on their box as they sit on store shelves.
- Put your food in a glass or ceramic dish before reheating. To avoid the possibility of styrofoam food contact altogether, remove your leftovers from any plastic dishes and place them in glass or ceramic dishes, instead. We know these products are heat safe and don’t leach into foods.
- Use an oven or stove to heat your food. By following this rule of thumb, you will never use styrofoam. Any plastics would melt with oven or stove reheating, so it will force you to use glass pans, metal pots, or metal baking sheets.
- Use paper plates. As a great alternative to styrofoam plates, paper plates are both safe and biodegradable.
Our Take on Reheating Styrofoam in the Microwave
When you bring home leftovers from your favorite restaurant it can be tempting to stick the box in the microwave to warm them up later. We don’t suggest this reheating method, as it can break down, cause food leaching, and lead to serious health concerns. Instead, choose an alternative to avoid the potential use of styrofoam altogether. There are some great replacement options that you probably already have in your house.