Microwaving with Plastics

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How Can I Know if a Plastic Container is Right for Use in the Microwave Oven?

From cold storage to reheating, different plastics serve different purposes in the kitchen. Many of today’s plastic containers and wraps are specially designed to withstand the high temperatures that can be generated in the microwave oven. All you have to do is check the item or its packaging label and follow the instructions.

There are three things you can look for: Some products use the term “Microwave Safe;” others carry an imprinted microwave symbol – you’ll see this a lot on reusable plastic storage containers; and still other products simply provide instructions for proper microwave use on the packaging label. Any of these is an indication from the manufacturer that a product has been designed for safe use in the microwave in accordance with the directions provided.

Of course, using a plastic item in the microwave that was not labeled for microwave suitability, isn't necessarily "unsafe." All plastics intended for food use – whether designed for the microwave or not – must meet stringent FDA safety standards before they can be marketed to consumers. But unless a product is labeled for microwave suitability, you won’t have the assurance of knowing that an item was tested and evaluated for this purpose. The concern is that, if used inappropriately, an item may warp or melt when exposed to extremely hot foods, and accidental burns could occur.

To play it safe, look for plastics that are labeled for microwave use and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Note that plastics such as butter tubs and deli containers are designed for cold food storage and are not intended for reheating. If your container isn’t labeled for microwave use, it’s best to choose something that is.

Plastics that are designed to withstand microwave temperatures will be labeled or marked accordingly. Because reusable food storage containers generally outlast their packaging labels, these items are often imprinted with a microwave symbol like this one. This is the manufacturer’s way of helping you remember that an item is intended for microwave use.

The resources below can help you learn more.

Resources and Links

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