Is It Safe to Microwave Paper Plates?

published Apr 19, 2024
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head on shot of a white paper plate being placed into the open microwave
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe

I love my microwave. Whether it’s reheating leftover rice for lunch or popping my favorite popcorn for a snack, I always appreciate how easy, convenient, and efficient the microwave can be. There are some rules, however, to keep in mind when it comes to microwaving successfully. Obviously, microwaving metal is out of the question, and I don’t like the idea of microwaving plastic either. But what about paper? Can you microwave paper plates? Turns out, the answer is a little more complicated. Here’s what I found out.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe

Can You Microwave Paper Plates?

Yes, you can microwave paper plates, but there are some important factors to consider. According to paper plate manufacturer Dixie, “Our products can be used safely in a microwave for reheating food. However, the capabilities of the microwave, the type of food, and reheating practices all vary, so we do not make any specific guarantees about the use of our plates and bowls in the microwave.” They go on to say, “We advise using caution when reheating in a microwave and to always follow the microwave manufacturer’s directions.”

That said, the USDA says that paper plates (as well as paper towels, napkins, and even bags) are safe to microwave. However they note, “For optimal safety use white, unprinted materials.” This is to minimize the risk of ink transfer that can occur from plates with designs on them. The appliance brand Whirlpool notes that some disposable tableware is coated in a thin layer of plastic for extra protection and strength and says, “Before you microwave a paper plate or bowl, be sure that it’s clearly marked as microwave-safe.” Always a good rule of thumb!

Tips for Microwaving Paper Plates

  • Avoid overly wet or greasy foods to maintain the integrity of the paper plate.
  • Look for a “microwave-safe” label.
  • Avoid microwaving paper plates with printed designs.
  • When it comes to timing, shorter is better! Microwave foods on paper plates in short bursts of time, checking in between to make sure all is well.