You are in the kitchen heating up leftovers, or maybe you have a styrofoam cup of coffee in your hand, and it’s just not quite hot enough. You reach for the microwave to make it hotter faster. But can you microwave Styrofoam?
Generally, it is not advised to microwave styrofoam since its harmful chemicals can leak. Microwave-safe styrofoam, however, can be used for a maximum of 30 seconds.
The following article will go over what you need to know about microwaving styrofoam containers, like the materials that make up styrofoam, as well as the health hazards of microwaving this material. You’ll also learn why it’s hard to conclude one way or another if microwaving styrofoam is safe-it depends on the container you use!
Can You Microwave Styrofoam Container?
Since styrofoam is not microwave-safe, the answer to whether or not you can microwave Styrofoam can only be answered by telling you what causes problems with microwaving polystyrene food containers.
The reason why styrofoam is considered not microwave-safe is that it contains a chemical material called polystyrene, which is a petroleum-based plastic used to make foam insulation, plastic utensils, and containers.
Polystyrene foam is used in the industry for making styrofoam cups, styrofoam coffee cups, plates, and other containers because of its low cost and lightweight.
The con is that when extruded polystyrene foam is exposed to heat, it can break down into benzene and styrene, which both have been linked to many severe health issues and are presumed to have carcinogenic and neurotoxic for humans.
When these polystyrene containers are exposed to heat (even the surface of a cup of coffee), plasticizers from polystyrene can leak into the food or drink it contains. Some people can’t tell if their food has been microwaved or not because there are no tell-tale signs that they can see.
Can You Microwave “Microwave-Safe” Styrofoam?
Unlike traditional styrofoam, there is a type of Styrofoam that’s called “microwave-safe” styrofoam. This type of styrofoam has been designed and tested to reduce the number of harmful chemicals that could leach into your food or drink by keeping them locked inside the container.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that it is completely free of chemicals. There are still traces of chemicals on the container that can leak into your food and drinks. But, you should be okay to use it for heating food for a short period of time, no longer than 30 seconds with medium power level.
Do not microwave styrofoam cups or polystyrene containers for any longer than this, and it’s best to throw your food away if there are signs of leakage or a bad smell when you take the food out of the container.
If you do happen to use Styrofoam in your microwave for longer than 30 seconds, it’s better to be safe than sorry by throwing it away.
Safety Tips for Heating and Reheating Food Using Microwave
If you are interested in heating your food in the microwave oven, and you are using a styrofoam container, make sure to follow these safety measures:
- First of all, always make sure that the container you are using is microwave-safe and FDA-approved. If your styrofoam cup or plate doesn’t have a “microwaveable” label on it, don’t use it.
- The first thing you should do before heating up any food in your dish is to check if there has been any leakage from the container. If you notice a bad smell or any visible signs of leakage, don’t use the food and throw it out.
- Do not overheat the styrofoam container. Once you put the food in the microwave oven, use a clock or timer to ensure that you heat it for a maximum of 30 seconds.
- Watch the temperature of the microwave oven. It shouldn’t exceed 200 degrees Celcius or more, or else there is a risk of melting the container, leaking toxic chemicals, and causing burns.
- Leave a small opening in the styrofoam container for the steam to escape so that the container won’t overheat.
- Using a glass plate, bowl, or ceramic plate to heat your food in the microwave oven can be more effective than using styrofoam containers because they don’t leach dangerous chemicals into your food.
- This is the best tip of all-avoid using styrofoam in the first place! If you are unsure whether or not something can be microwaved, my advice is not to microwave food.
The Dangers of Overheated Styrofoam Plates or Containers
As mentioned above, overheating a styrofoam container is a sure way to ingest toxic chemicals.
When exposing styrofoam containers to microwaves, the molting of the polystyrene can result in chemical leaching into your drink or food, marked by a bad smell and an unpleasant taste much like what you would find in rancid oil.
More than that, there’s a chance the styrofoam may melt or even catch on fire.
Why Styrofoam is Bad for the Environment
They pile up in landfills; they line the streets of beaches and parks. They are everywhere when you walk through a city anywhere on earth. And who hasn’t wondered if we are using too much plastic waste every day? Styrofoam is one major source of pollution because it’s non-biodegradable and non-recyclable.
As you may already know by now, styrofoam has a chemical called styrene and benzene. These chemicals can be released from styrofoam when they are exposed to sunlight, creating harmful air pollutants that deplete the ozone layer and contaminate landfills.
When Styrofoam breaks down in a landfill, its chemicals can leach into soil and groundwater, affecting the topsoil and groundwater. Fish tend to absorb these chemicals through their gills, so they could also become sick when they swim in polluted waters.
Although some styrofoam can be recycled so that it wouldn’t have to go directly into a landfill, it can be difficult since there is too much trouble to recycle it.
What Is the Best Method for Reheating Leftovers Using a Microwave?
The best way to reheat your leftovers depends on what you have available. Not all items can be heated up in a microwave, and some need to be reheated differently. For example, items such as bread, fries, and crispy-coated foods tend to be better off reheated in the oven. That said, almost anything else can be heated up in a microwave.
The question is, what is considered the best method for safe and effective reheating in a microwave oven?
The answer is that there are several ways you can reheat food using a microwave oven. Creative cooks have come up with a variety of creative ways to safely and effectively heat food in the microwave ovens they use.
The most effective way to reheat leftovers is to use a glass dish with a lid that will fit inside the microwave oven. This helps keep steam from escaping, which keeps the food moist, and it prevents additional moisture loss by condensation. This technique, however, is not the most convenient for reheating leftovers.
Reheating food in a microwave oven using a plate or bowl can be more convenient than using a glass baking dish with a lid.
In this process, you place food on top of the microwave-safe plate and cover it with another microwave-safe object, such as a bowl or another plate. The lid keeps the steam from escaping, which helps keep your food moist and flavorful.
Another way to heat leftovers in a microwave is by using plastic wrap instead of a microwavable cover. Place the food on top of your dish or cooking container and then cover it with plastic wrap. Plastic wrap is not as effective at keeping moisture in as a lid, but it can be more convenient to use if you do not have the right fitting lid.
Another way to reheat food in your microwave oven is to place the leftovers on top of paper towels and cover them with another layer of paper towels. The food will still get moist as it steams, and you can reuse the paper towels. This technique is convenient if you have a lot of leftovers to warm up.
A final way to reheat food using your microwave oven is to use moist heat, which can be effective for vegetables, but not for meats or pasta dishes. The basic idea behind this method is that you place the food you want to reheat in a microwave-safe container, such as a casserole or glass baking dish.
Next, add some water and cover it with another microwave-safe object, like a plate or lid. The water will help keep your food moist while it is being heated by the microwave oven. As an added benefit, this technique also works for defrosting foods.
1. At What Temperature Does Styrofoam Catch On Fire?
Styrofoam will easily catch fire when heated to about 360°C.
2. Can You Microwave Coffee in Styrofoam?
The only way to be sure it’s safe to microwave your coffee in Styrofoam is if you notice it has a microwave-safe and FDA-approved label on it. If not, don’t take the risk and just use glass or ceramic containers instead.