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Can You Microwave Paper?

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The question, can you microwave paper, often arises when it comes to microwaving our food. Selecting the wrong types of materials can often be risky when it comes to selecting utensils to put into a microwave, so is it safe to use paper in the microwave? 

The answer is a bit more complicating than yes, or no. Thin paper products will catch fire when microwaved for a short period of time. In contrast, thicker paper goods can withstand the heat, but bonding glues or wax coatings can melt and leach onto food items when heated.

There are different types of paper, which ultimately determines whether or not it can be used inside a microwave. Some paper can be microwaved for extended amounts of time, while others may not withstand the extreme heat. 

Paper utensils, cups and trays that are used to hold food are often used by individuals as a medium for microwaving food. Also, a lot of fast food chains serve food in paper bowls and trays which people often microwave later on. 

Hence, we often ponder over whether to microwave that utensil or not. Using the wrong type of material inside a microwave can be very dangerous and pose a serous safety issue.

In this article, we are going to talk about paper and whether or not it can be used safely for microwaving. Read on to find out more on whether or not you can safely put paper into the microwave.

Can you use paper in the microwave?

Well the simple answer to this question would be, it depends on the kind of paper you are using in the microwave. In addition, you have to evaluate the intended use of the paper product.

Thin paper that can tear easily is dangerous to use inside a microwave, the minimal density can cause the paper to burst into flames after a few seconds as the thin layers heat up quickly. Thicker paper can be heated, however the potential for cross contamination from chemical compounds is highly probable when microwaving food. 

  • Newspaper: The paper is thin and cannot withstand extended periods of heat without catching fire. Furthermore, the ink on the newspaper can leech into food items making it extremely unhealthy to consume.
  • Paper towel: Paper towels are commonly used to cover food in the microwave. The moisture from the food absorbs into the paper, therefore mitigating the risk of fire.
  • Parchment paper: Parchment paper is designed for oven use, so you can microwave them without much risk.
  • Tissue paper: Sanitary napkins, facial tissue and toilet paper are a big no. The paper is very thin and can catch fire easily when exposed to extreme heat. 
  • Utensils: Paper cups and other paper utensils usually are thick and do not catch fire easily. They can be used for long periods inside an oven without the fear of them catching into flames.
  • Wax paper: Wax papers are made to use inside an oven, so you can microwave them without cause for concern.

The key to safely microwaving paper is the thickness, which largely affects the potential of catching fire. Be sure that you do not microwave paper items for more than 5 minutes, as prolonged heat can burn the edges and increase the potential of catching fire.

Fire is an inherent danger; however, chemical cross-contamination is a hazard that must also be discussed when heating food in contact with paper products.

Is it safe to microwave paper?

Sturdy paper does not catch fire easily in a microwave. However, thin and flimsy paper tissues, or single layer sheets, have a high chance of catching on fire. 

The thin surface area heats up quickly and ignites into flames. There is a high chance that even 5 secs of microwaving thin paper can set it on fire, causing damage to your oven. 

Look for paper which is thick, sturdy and does not bend easily. Food trays, cups, bowls found at fast food chains and grocery outlets are usually thick enough to withstand the pressure of the item inside and also endure transport. 

Disposable paper containers tend to get heated up inside a microwave and do not catch fire so easily. Although thick paper can be safely microwaved for up to 5 minutes at a stretch, the glue thats holds a Starbuck’s paper cup and the coating that lines a McDonald’s wrapper make them risky paper products to heat food in the microwave

Can you microwave paper?

Can you microwave paper safely?

When handling food items that have been microwaved in paper, be very careful as the paper can get heated to high temperatures. The recommendation is to use gloves to remove hot items from the microwave oven.

The surface of the paper usually remains hot for quite some time after taking it out of the oven. You should wait for the paper container to cool down sightly before using it.

The type of paper you are using depends on whether it can be safely used in the oven or not. Paper that tends to break or tear easily is generally a big no for a microwave.

On the other hand, thick paper which can withstand higher pressure levels and does not tear easily can be used inside an oven. No matter what, paper should be used cautiously and sparingly, carefully observe the microwave while in use to ensure the paper does not dry out and catch fire.

How long can you microwave paper?

Although there is no estimated time for microwaving paper, you might not want to nuke for longer than 5 minutes on your regular food holders and bowls. 

In general, 5 minutes is enough for the food to get warmed up and ready for you to eat. Microwaving paper for more than 5 minutes may lead it to burn in areas where the paper is thin. 

Parchment paper and wax paper on the other hand are designed for oven use. You can use them for baking and other cooking purposes inside an oven. 

Cooking papers can be used for more than 30 to 45 minutes at a stretch. They are coated with a special kind of wax which allows the paper surface to get heated easily without catching on fire, making these types of paper ideal for heating in a microwave.

Tips to Safely Microwave Paper

While some paper products can be safely heated in the microwave, others may experience potential hazards like fire and melting chemical bonds that can leach into food.

  • Microwave paper products on medium heat or 50% power level to reduce the risk of setting fire due to extreme heat fluctuations. 
  • Make sure you set the oven temperature to 176 degrees Fahrenheit or 80 degrees C. This is a perfect temperature for the paper to get heated without burning up.
  • Only use thick bowls and trays inside an oven; always make sure to remove any tissues and napkins that might be surrounding the food.
  • Try using a microwave cover over the food as this will reduce cooking time by trapping steam and evenly heating food more efficiently.
  • Always wear heat resistant gloves when removing the food. The surface of the paper containers can be very warm, release steam and cause burn injuries if touched with bare hands.
  • Do not reuse paper containers in the microwave. Paper gets dry and crispy when heated up. Repeated use can even cause thick paper to burst into flames.

Microwaving Paper: Final Thoughts

The above article provides you with a complete guide on using paper inside a microwave. Paper should be used carefully inside a microwave oven, and you should check the quality of paper being used before putting it inside an oven. 

It is fairly safe to microwave sturdy utensils and thick bowls provided by fast food outlets, however adhesives and glues used to create a waterproof seal can become toxic when overheated. Therefore, water can only be heated in paper cups for a short amount of time. 

If you have been using paper products in the microwave without adverse side effects, the continue with caution. Use your common sense when selecting the right kind of paper for microwave use and everything will be well.