The microwave is a staple in the modern kitchen. It’s used every day to reheat leftovers, heat coffee and tea, or even make popcorn for movie night. But with all the new products on the market today, it can be hard to tell which are safe and which aren’t! In this blog post, I will explore one of the most commonly used plastics in the industry: plastic number 5 or Polypropylene.
Is Number 5 Plastic Microwave Safe?
Type 5 polypropylene is most often considered the safest plastic to use in the microwave. The chemical structure of Type 5 plastic makes it perfectly suitable for microwave use. It can withstand high temperatures and doesn’t leach out chemicals like BPA (bisphenol A), which has been linked to reproductive and immunity problems, as well as neurological and developmental issues in children.
You may see the difference between type 5 and other types of plastic when you put it in the microwave. After being microwaved, containers made of Type 5 plastic will remain cool to the touch, while other plastics can get too hot and cause burns. This is a good indicator that it is safe to use in the microwave.
To be sure that your plastic is number 5, look for the recycling symbol located on the bottom of the plastic container. Specifically, it will have a triangle with the number 5 inside of it.
In addition to being more heat resistant than other plastics, type 5 polypropylene also stays clear even when exposed to the greasiest and stickiest foods. Moreover, number 5 plastic can also be run through the dishwasher.
But just because it’s safe to use doesn’t mean there are no dangers. Still, PP is susceptible to damage through wear and tear. If the container has scratches, cracks, or other imperfections, avoid using it any more than once. Instead, replace the item as soon as possible.
Is Number 5 Plastic Food Safe?
Yes, type 5 plastic is perfectly food safe. The FDA has approved 5 plastic for use in food packaging. The reason why it’s used so often is because it’s an excellent barrier to grease, moisture, and chemicals. This helps foods stay fresher longer, as well as helping prevent chemical reactions from occurring between the material and the food.
You can find plastic # 5 used in all sorts of food packaging such as:
- Margarine tubs
- Yogurt containers
- Medicine bottles
- Deli meat containers
- Disposable diapers
- Medicine bottles
- Plastic bottle tops
- Potato chip bags
- Packing tape
Can I Reuse PP 5 Plastic?
PP is the safest plastic for reuse. It does not contain plasticizers or additives that could leach out when it is heated in the microwave, washed in the dishwasher, or left under the sun.
However, I won’t recommend leaving it in the sun for long periods of time as it may degrade quicker than usual. Remember that PP is designed to be used in a refrigerator or kept in the dark, cool cupboard, not in direct sunlight. If you have left a food-grade number 5 plastic container in the sun for too long and it has changed color, then throw the entire thing away.
Is It Safe to Microwave Plastic?
However, not all plastics are the same. Some can be more prone to certain chemicals leaching out than others, and that’s a big problem because it means some of the plastic could make its way into your food.
The two key culprits are Bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates. These two man-made chemicals are often added to plastics during the manufacturing process to make them more flexible and durable.
Studies have shown that even at low doses, these two chemicals can affect hormones such as estrogen and testosterone, which can cause reproductive issues and other health problems. It’s also thought to have a negative impact on children, causing problems with brain development, immune function, learning abilities, and other health issues.
When heated in a microwave, these endocrine disruptors can break down and leach into your food. That generally means your safest bet is to avoid heating any plastic or putting it in the microwave. However, as mentioned before, the exception to this rule is type 5 plastic, which is considered microwave safe and BPA free.
Which Type of Plastic Is Safe to Use In a Microwave?
In general, steer clear of type 3 PVC, type 6 polystyrene, and type 7 polycarbonate. They are known to be carcinogenic and may leach BPA into your food.
Use with caution type 1 polyethylene terephthalate, type 2 high-density polyethylene, and type 4 low-density polyethylene. They are considered safe to store food since they are free of BPA but may become unstable when microwaved.
In order for them to be microwave safe, they must be reinforced with strengthening agents to prevent them from melting or losing their shape. Keep in mind that there is a difference between being resilient to melting and high-heat food safe.
Just because it can handle the heat doesn’t mean it won’t leach chemicals into your food.
What is The Best Way to Microwave Food?
Personally, I prefer to transfer cold foods or beverages that I want to heat to a container made out of microwavable material like ceramic and glass. I believe this is the safest way to microwave your food. Not only does it take away the risk of chemicals leaching out into your food, but it also lowers the risk of burns since there is no plastic involved.
What about the cover? Can you use those “microwave safe” plastic lids?
Well, the FDA says that they are okay to use, but if you have to ask the question, then I’d say don’t take a chance. Just use wax paper, parchment paper, a white paper towel, or a ceramic plate, and you will be fine.
Tips to Microwave Number 5 Plastic Safely
If you still want to use plastic number 5 for some reason, then it’s important that you follow these tips to ensure safety:
- Use a medium or low power setting. It’s best to exercise caution since the high-heat setting can be really powerful even when you microwave type 5 plastic.
- Do not nuke for long periods of time. Try and keep the time at about 3 minutes maximum.
- Inspect the plastic before microwaving. If you notice any cracks or deformities, throw them out; don’t put your food at risk.
- Don’t leave hot food in the plastic container. Even if you use a food container made out of number 5 plastic, the safest thing is to transfer the food into a ceramic or glass container before eating.
- Hover and stir the food. Make sure to stir the food every 30 seconds so it can heat evenly and not burn or break down too quickly.
In conclusion, we have to be careful about what type of plastic is microwave safe. We can’t just assume that because it can withstand high temperatures without melting, it will also not leach chemicals into your food when microwaved.
There are different ways to make plastics microwave-safe, and some types may still melt or lose their shape in the process. If you want a more sustainable option for reheating leftovers or chilling drinks, consider using glassware instead of plastic containers.