Sometimes, when you order takeout, the delivery person takes way too long to get to your house, so your food comes cold. However, instead of accepting it and eating your cold food, you come up with a great idea — just stick in the microwave!
But is it really that easy? Is it even safe to put cardboard in the microwave? Well, the truth is — the answer is both yes and no. Now, before you think I’m messing with you, hear me out.
Can Cardboard Go in the Microwave?
As I said, technically you can put cardboard in the microwave, but you need to watch out for a few things first. For example, start by checking for any labels on the box. Does it say that it’s a microwave-safe container?
Also, does the cardboard have anything else on it? If it has any plastic or metal bits, you should never put it in the microwave. To start, if there’s a piece of metal on your cardboard, it could create a spark and destroy your appliance. What’s more, those bits will release toxins in the air and contaminate your food.
On the other hand, recycled cardboard can contain small amounts of plastic in it. So, if you see that little label on the box that says it’s recycled, I’d avoid putting it in the microwave.
You should also look for a plastic or wax coating on the box. You can check that just by running your fingers over the box. If it feels too smooth or slick to the touch, it’s not safe. That’s because, when heated, the coating will start to melt and seep into your food. Once that happens, your food won’t be safe to eat anymore.
I would also avoid microwaving cardboard containers that have ink or any sort of glue on them. Again, those two things will melt in the microwave and completely ruin your food.
How to Safely Put Cardboard in the Microwave
First, when you’re putting your cardboard container in the microwave, make sure it’s not empty. If you don’t put any food or liquid inside, the cardboard could get too hot, release steam, and catch on fire. On the other hand, if there’s something inside of it, like food or water, it’ll absorb some of the microwave’s heat, making it safe to use.
Also, always put your microwave on a low heat setting. It’s better that your container gets heated nice and slow, instead of trying to rush it. Once you’ve put your cardboard inside, don’t go too far from it. Stay close and peek through the glass once in a while to ensure it doesn’t get too hot or create a spark.
What’s more, you shouldn’t leave your containers inside of the microwave for too long. Remember, you’re not defrosting chicken, you’re just slightly warming something up. In fact, I would say your best bet would be just to put it in for around a minute or so, to ensure the best results.
While we’re on the topic of takeout containers, I wanted to quickly talk about whether you can microwave styrofoam. In theory, yes, it’s safe to microwave your food in styrofoam containers.
But again, you should always check if there are any labels on the box before you pop it in. If it’s safe to use in the microwave, it’ll have the word “micro” written on it or feature a “warm waves” symbol. However, just like with cardboard, you have to take some precautions.
First, don’t put your microwave temperature on high and don’t leave the box inside for more than a minute. In some cases, if there’s some fatty meat inside the container and the temperature is too high, your styrofoam box could actually melt.
Microwaving Cardboard Pizza Boxes
As you’ve seen, whether or not you can put cardboard in your microwave is kind of a complex question. On the other hand, answering whether you can microwave pizza while it’s still in the box is pretty simple — no, absolutely not.
To start, it’s not likely that you’ll come across a pizza box that’s small enough to fit inside your microwave. However, even if it does somehow fit, it’ll be too big and your microwave turntable won’t be able to spin.
On the other hand, it can also prevent you from closing the microwave doors altogether. And as we all know, if you can’t close the microwave doors, it won’t even work.
But if you’ve decided that it can fit, here’s another reason you shouldn’t do it — because it’s a fire hazard. Since the pizza box will be pretty much jammed inside, it can easily catch on fire and destroy your microwave.
Now, one alternative is to heat up the pizza box inside the oven. Make sure to preheat your oven to about 200°F and leave it inside for about 15 to 20 minutes. But again, there are plenty of better ways to get your pizza nice and toasty. Here are some of my favorite methods of heating up your pizza.
Microwaving Paper Plates
Growing up, I would put paper plates inside the microwave without giving it a second thought. It never occurred to me that I was putting something that’s easily flammable inside a heat source.
After a bit of research, I found out that it is safe because of the way the microwave produces heat. Microwaves actually heat up the water molecules inside of your food or beverage.
So, since paper plates don’t have a lot of those molecules, the paper’s not likely to burn. Even if you were to put wet paper inside, it still probably wouldn’t burn.
But just like you did with the cardboard, take some precautions when heating up paper plates. To start, don’t over-crowd the plate and only heat at low temperatures. Also, don’t leave the plate inside for too long because it can become too wet and actually fall apart in your hands.
Composting Paper Plates
Now, I know what you might be thinking — “Paper plates are pretty wasteful, you shouldn’t even be using them in the first place.” Even though this is true, some people live in huge households and have kids, so using paper plates instead of the washable ones is the easier option.
However, that shouldn’t be an issue, because nowadays, most paper plates are compostable. As long as they’re not coated with any chemicals, they’re safe to use in your compost.
Microwaving Coffee Cups
Picture the following scenario. You’ve decided you want to buy some bagels and coffee for breakfast, so you get in your car and go to the nearest bakery. However, by the time you come back home, the coffee is cold. So, you ask yourself, can I put my to-go cup in the microwave?
Technically speaking, you can. For example, a few years back, to be more environmentally-friendly, Starbucks came out with a microwave-friendly coffee cup. You can microwave it for about 50 seconds or less, and your coffee will come out perfectly toasty.
With that said, not every manufacturer has the environment’s best interest in mind. So, before you take the plunge, first check the cup for any symbols or indications that it is microwave-safe.
The coffee cups that don’t have any symbols on them probably have some type of glue or plastic in them. If you went ahead and heated them in the microwave, whatever is on the cup would melt and contaminate your coffee. Not only would the coffee taste disgusting and burnt, but it also wouldn’t be safe to drink.
Also, remember to take the lid off before you put your cup in the microwave. Again, if you don’t, the plastic will probably melt and it can even cause a small explosion.
To be on the safe side, always check for the “microwave-safe” symbols on your containers or cups. Also, make sure there’s food or liquid inside and set your microwave at the lowest temperature.
Don’t go too far from it and check periodically to see if everything’s okay. As long as you follow all of these precautions, you shouldn’t have any problems with microwaving cardboard.