Can You Microwave Chinese Food Containers? The Facts

microwaving chinese food container

Are you a fan of Chinese takeout? Do you often find yourself with leftover containers piled up in your fridge? Well, before you pop them in the microwave for a quick reheat, have you ever wondered if it’s safe to do so? This is a question that many people have debated over the years. Some say it’s perfectly fine to nuke your Chinese food containers, while others claim it can release harmful chemicals.

In this article, we’re going to dive deep into this topic and help you figure out if your favorite Chinese takeout containers are microwave-friendly or not. So, sit tight and get ready to learn some food container safety tips!

Can You Put Chinese Food Containers in The Microwave?

No, you cannot put the Chinese food containers in the microwave. Most Chinese food containers are made from styrofoam that won’t withstand the heat from microwaving and will end up melting and potentially creating a dangerous fire hazard.

However, there is indeed a type of microwaveable Chinese food takeout box that you can safely use in the microwave.

This box is made from Oyster paper pails that can better withstand heat in the microwave. Just be sure to check the packaging to see if it is microwave-safe. But even then, it’s best to avoid microwaving your food for more than a couple of minutes.

For an optimum microwaving experience, it’s best to transfer them into a different container first. Glass or ceramic containers are usually your best bet.

Plastic containers with a microwave symbol on them are also generally okay to use. Just be careful not to overheat your food and always follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer.

What Are Chinese Food Containers Made Out Of?

There are two types of Chinese food take-out containers that you might come across in many American Chinese cuisine restaurants: the white, styrofoam kind and the brown, Oyster paper pails.

As discussed before, styrofoam kind of containers should not be microwaved because of many risks it poses, like melting and creating a fire hazard.

On the other hand, Oyster pail containers are made out of folded, waxed, or plastic-coated paperboard.

It is originally designed to hold oysters, but due to its durability, low price, and lack of leakage, it has become a popular container in many restaurants, including Chinese restaurants.

When it comes to microwaving, it can be microwaved without any problems as long as there are no metal clamps on it. If the container has a metal handle, you should remove it before microwaving it.

How To Tell if a Chinese Food Container Is Microwave Safe?

There are many ways to tell if a container is microwave safe.

One way is to look for the symbol of microwave on the container. If you see this symbol, it means that the container has been tested and proven to be safe for microwaving.

Another way is to look for “microwave-safe” written on the packaging. The addition of this wording usually means that the manufacturer has tested the container and found that it is safe for microwaving.

However, just because a container doesn’t have the symbol or doesn’t say “microwave safe” on it doesn’t mean that it can’t be microwaved. It just means that the manufacturer hasn’t specifically tested it for microwaving.

In these cases, it’s better to be safe than sorry and avoid microwaving the container.

Why Does Most Chinese Food Re-Heat So Poorly in the Microwave Oven?

It’s no secret that most Chinese food doesn’t taste as good when it’s reheated in the microwave. I’m not exaggerating here, either; I have talked to many people who say the same thing.

But why does most Chinese food re-heat so poorly in the microwave oven?

There are a few reasons for this:

The first reason is that many Chinese dishes are cut into small or thin pieces, which makes them easy to cook in the first instance, but means that they can become mushy or undesirably soft when reheated.

Second, Chinese restaurant sauces are usually made up of oil and water-like liquids thickened with cornstarch or other thickeners.

And these sauces can thicken undesirably when reheated. After the dish is cool, the next time you heat it, the sauce will often pool in the container and not coat the food evenly.

Related: How to Make Microwave Cornstarch Chunks

How to Safely Reheat Your Chinese Food

When it comes to reheating Chinese food, the sauce is key. Rather than leaving the job to the microwave to only end up with a soggy mess, it would be a lot better to use the sauce to reheat the leftover Chinese food.

Here’s how you can do it:

  1. Drain the sauce
  2. Make a small amount of additional sauce using wine, soy sauce, and oils
  3. Prepare a small amount of the thickener. You can use cornstarch paste, Tapioca starch, wheat flour, etc.
  4. After the sauce is ready, heat it in a pan until it’s very hot.
  5. Add the leftover Chinese food to the pan, and then stir fry it over medium-high heat until both the food and the sauce are hot enough.
  6. And then re-thicken the sauce before putting the food on a plate.

This will give you much better results than reheating the Chinese food in the microwave oven.

The rice is a different story, though. You can use your trusty microwave to heat up the leftover rice easily.

To reheat the rice, put it in a microwave-safe bowl, add a tiny bit of water, and drape a wet towel over the top of the bowl. This will help create a moist environment, making the rice more pliable and less likely to dry out.

You can also add a tablespoon of broth or water to the rice if you want to give it more moisture. Then microwave it on high for about three to four minutes until the rice is hot enough or until the temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.



Chinese food should not be microwaved for two reasons. First, most Chinese food containers are not designed to withstand microwaves and will melt. Second, reheating Chinese food in the microwave simply makes it taste worse.

Instead, try reheating your Chinese food using the sauce. The only component of Chinese food that you can safely microwave is rice.

Simply put it in a microwave-safe bowl, add some water, and drape a wet towel over the top. Then microwave it on high for about three to four minutes.


What are other ways to reheat my Chinese food?

There are a few ways to reheat your Chinese food. You can try using a stovetop, an oven, or even a steamer.

Can I store my leftover Chinese food?

Yes, you can store your Chinese food in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. However, it should be packed in a clean food-grade container or airtight bag.

If you want to keep it longer, you can freeze it for up to 2 months (although I would not recommend it), providing that it is properly wrapped in a sealable container or freezer bag.

By Rosie Elliott

I’m Rosie. I’m a professional chef with experience in Western, Mediterranean, and Italian cuisine. I’ve been cooking for over 15 years, and I have two daughters that keep me busy!