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Can You Use A Paper Plate In A Microwave?

Microwaves have always been seen as the lazy answer to every potential cooking problem, a mainstream view that was perpetuated by Gordon Ramsay who would frequently chastise and criticize any chef he found using one on his hugely popular primetime show, Kitchen Nightmares.

He might be a world-famous chef, but Ramsay didn’t do the humble microwave any favors when he lambasted it on a semi-weekly basis, and despite being a favorite culinary weapon of choice in American kitchens for nearly half a century, it’s never really recovered from Gordon’s regular, savage assaults. 

Can You Use A Paper Plate In A Microwave?

But that doesn’t mean that the microwave doesn’t have a legion of devoted fans who were unswayed by Ramsay’s missives, it does and thanks to its continuing versatility, that fanbase is still growing.

Admittedly it isn’t growing as fast as it was before Ramsay made his feelings about microwaves public knowledge, but it’s still a popular way for busy Americans to heat, cook and prepare their meals.

But if you’ve ever wondered how dextrous and adaptable a microwave really is, and what it can do, then you’ve come to the right place. 

We’re here to answer the questions that chefs like Gordon Ramsay don’t want you to ask and to prove that there are some things that a microwave can do that a conventional oven can’t.

Right at the top of that list of questions is can you use a paper plate to heat food in a microwave?

Every kitchen amateur knows that if you tried to heat up anything on a paper plate using a conventional oven then said plate would catch fire in seconds, but what happens if you try to use the same plate in a microwave?

Will it go up in flames or will it, and the microwave be safe? Let’s find out, shall we… 

Are Paper Plates Microwave Safe? 

The idea that you could use disposable crockery in any sort of oven would probably have scared your great grandparents to death, as heat and plastic, paper and polystyrene have never been the best of bedfellows.

And while most disposable crockery isn’t safe to use in a microwave, as it can burn, melt and blister, paper and plastic (provided they’re microwave safe) plates are for the most part the exception to the rule.

So, can you use paper plates to heat food in a microwave? Yes, you can but there are a number of caveats that you should be aware of if you’re going to use them in one. 

The first thing that you’ll need to pay close attention to is the power setting that controls the amount of heat that a microwave will unleash while it’s in use.

If you’re going to use a paper plate, if you can and you know how to do it, you should reduce the power setting to around fifty percent, to be on the safe side, and try to keep the cooking time to under or around the two-minute mark.

In other words, if you want to be really safe and make sure that there’s absolutely no danger of anything untoward happening when you use a paper plate in a microwave, only use them as a base to reheat food on, don’t attempt to try and actually cook anything on a paper plate. It won’t end well. 

But don’t panic and think that what we’ve just told you means that you can’t use a paper plate in a microwave, because you can.

You just need to be careful and realize that there’s a world of difference between a china plate and a paper plate and while you can go as crazy as you want to with the former in a microwave, you’ll need to show, and use, a little more restraint with the latter. 

Microwave Safe Paper Plates 

Even though you can use paper plates in a microwave, there are some plates that aren’t microwave safe.

The only way to be certain that a paper plate is actually microwave safe is by searching the packaging for a manufacturer’s guarantee that should indicate where, and how the plate can be safely used.

But as some manufacturers don’t include that information on the packaging, there are a couple of tell-tale signs that you can use to tell if it’s safe to use a paper plate in a microwave.

If the plate is white or has a pattern stamped into the paper, then it’s a pretty safe bet that it’s okay to use it in the microwave, and if it’s greaseproof as well, then you can be doubly sure that it’s okay to put a slice of pizza on it and throw it in the microwave to warm it up. 

Paper plates that aren’t really safe to use in microwaves are the ones that are covered in a thin film of plastic that’s usually covered in a lurid, multi-colored design.

Why? Because plastic and paper react differently to microwave heat, and while the plate won’t catch fire, the plastic film can bend and warp, which can and will change the shape of the plate and can potentially lead to it spilling whatever was on it inside the oven.

And who will have to clean the mess that the warped plate left behind? That’s right, it’ll be you. It’s a simple rule, the plainer a paper plate is, the more likely it is to be microwave safe. 

What A Minute, What About The Greaseproof Thing? 

Ah yes, you’re right we did mention the greaseproof rule too, didn’t we?

Okay, the problem with heating anything up in the microwave is that it works by agitating and exciting the water molecules in the food that it’s being used to cook, and the energy that the water molecules release as they’re being bombarded by the ovens microwaves is released as heat.

This is essentially how a microwave works, it creates energy by exciting liquid molecules and that energy that’s created is then released as heat. 

When the food being reheated has a high fat and grease content like pizza does, the grease oozes out onto the plate that it’s on, and if that plate is paper and the paper it’s made from isn’t greaseproof, as soon as you try to lift out of the oven, the grease is going to make the paper lose all of its rigidity and strength. 

And what happens to a paper plate that’s lost all of its rigidity?

It bends as soon as you try to pick it up, which means that it will dump whatever is on it in the oven or on the floor and you’ll be left with no pizza and another mess to clean up that could have been avoided if you’d used a greaseproof microwave-safe paper plate

The Other Paper Plate Microwave Don’ts

While it’s tempting to use a little foil to cover whatever you’re going to heat on a paper plate, in an attempt to direct and focus all of the more limited microwave power that you’ll be forced to use because you’ve elected to use a paper platform rather than a china one onto whatever it is that you’re heating up… Don’t. 

That’s the road to microwave madness, as the foil will begin to spark ( we’re sure that you’ve seen how microwaves react to any form of metal and as you know, it never ends well) and those sparks could if there’s any grease on the paper plate, start a paper inferno inside your oven.

But as you already know that you should never, ever under any circumstances put any kind of metal inside a microwave, that isn’t something that you’d do, is it? 

A Brief Recap Of The Paper Plate Microwave Rules

Okay, now that we’ve cleared all of the do’s and don’ts of paper plates and microwaves up (we know, there aren’t a lot of them, but the few there are, are incredibly important), it’s probably a good idea to run through, and go over them again just to make sure that you remember them. 

Power – Turn the power down. The less you use, the less chance there is that the energy levels could warp and distort the paper plate that you’re using and cause it to fail structurally, which can lead to you losing whatever it was you were heating up before you get a chance to actually eat it. Keep the power setting around the fifty percent mark and all should be well. 

Reheat Only – While paper plates are safe to use for brief periods in a microwave, you don’t want to push that safety limit too far by actually using them to cook anything on. Remember, two minutes at a time and not a second longer, and the paper plates should be fine. 

The Plainer The Plate, The Safer It Is –  If you’re planning on using a paper plate in your microwave, the golden rule is to stay plain. Make sure the plates are just made of paper and aren’t covered in a pretty pattern that’s been printed on a thin layer of plastic.  If you’re in any doubt about what kind of paper plate is and isn’t safe, just go for the plain old white paper plate, and you won’t run into any warping plastic problems. 

Greaseproof – If you want to keep the food that you’re heating where it’s supposed to be, which is on your paper plate, try to make sure that the plate that you’re using is greaseproof. Trust us, you’ll be a lot happier if it is. 

The Final Microwave And Paper Plate Word

So, now you know as much about paper plates and microwaves as we do, and you know that as long as you’re careful and keep a close eye on whatever it is that you’re using them to reheat, then it’s safe to use them in a microwave. 

Jess Smith