Styrofoam has been a popular disposable container commonly used for takeout and delivery in the food and beverage industry. Although styrofoam is used to store and serve leftover food, is it ok to microwave styrofoam for 30 seconds?
To provide you with a straightforward answer — regular Styrofoam is not completely microwave safe, but microwaving styrofoam for 30 seconds really depends on factors like power level and design specifications of the material.
Microwave, being one of the most convenient kitchen appliances, is often used for heating and reheating the foods. But as we all know, not every material can be microwaved.
The most asked question by people is whether or not it is safe to microwave Styrofoam for 30 seconds. Let’s further explore the safety of microwaving styrofoam for a short period of time to learn more tips to remember when heating food in the disposable container.
Can styrofoam be microwaved?
Styrofoam is a synthetic material made up of extruded polystyrene foam, (XPS) which is a petroleum-based plastic used for serving and packing foods and drinks.
Styrofoam can melt and contaminate food with harmful chemicals if the wrong type of material is selected. Only use styrofoam that is labeled microwave safe when heating food in the home appliance.
Whether you are opting for a take-out at a restaurant or a counter service café, they may give you’re the food or the drinks in a Styrofoam container.
Styrofoam boxes or cups are commonly used for:
- Take-away foods
- Street-food on plates
- Coffee cups
- Cup noodles container
Most of the time, we bring these foods and drinks back to home and reheat them again before consuming. But is it safe to microwave the food or drinks served in Styrofoam, even if it is only for 30 seconds?
Is it safe to reheat food in Styrofoam for 30 seconds?
Though it is advisable to avoid microwaving Styrofoam as much as possible, there are some instances where you can. There are some situations, where you can actually use the Styrofoam in the microwave oven for heating or reheating the foods and beverages.
First of all, look for the microwave safe label (if there is any). Some of the Styrofoam containers are actually microwave safe and the label will mention it.
These containers have been tested and can easily be used for heating and reheating food or drinks.
Microwave-safe Styrofoam containers are designed in such a way that it can limit the release of the toxins to a great extent. These containers are FDA-approved and will have a label stating the same.
Secondly, there are some untreated Styrofoam containers which can release the toxins when they are heated and the temperature reaches about 200 to 224 degrees Celsius (392 to 435 degrees Fahrenheit). The toxins can be really harmful for the health as they can leach into the food or drinks.
Hence, it is safe to microwave Styrofoam for 30 seconds or less for a minimal heating. Stick to using microwave safe Styrofoam containers with medium power level and you should not cause any damage to the Styrofoam.
What happens when you microwave food in Styrofoam?
There are basically two types of Styrofoam available in the market, traditional and microwave safe. So, what actually happens to food that is microwaved in Styrofoam containers?
One is the traditional form which is made up of polystyrene. According to the studies, it has been seem that heating this regular form of Styrofoam can release harmful toxic compounds such as benzene and styrene that can cause severe damages to your reproductive system and potentially cause cancer.
Whereas, the second type of the Styrofoam is a newer version and is not like the traditional product. It is made up of a much safer materials that are designed to withstand the heat more efficiently and effectively.
If your coffee cups, cup noodle container or plates are made up of this form of Styrofoam, then you can use it for heating and reheating. But make sure that you use medium power and do not exceed more than 30 seconds to reheat the food or drinks as that can have a harmful impact.
Since Styrofoam is a plastic variant with foam finish, overheating it can result in the release of the hazardous substances, as mentioned earlier. These chemicals can trigger different health conditions in people including digestive issues, vision problem, failure of reproductive system and even cancerous symptoms can be found.
Nevertheless, you need to know some of the important tips before you go ahead and heat just any Styrofoam container in the microwave, even if it’s just for a few seconds at a time.
Tips to Microwave Styrofoam for 30 Seconds
If you are microwaving Styrofoam cups and plates often, then you need to know about some of the safety tips. As mentioned above, this material has been proven to be toxic if not taken proper care when reheating foods or drinks.
Here are some important tips for you to consider when microwaving Styrofoam:
- Look for the label: Do not forget to check the label for any confirmation about the Styrofoam being microwave-safe or a disclaimer for not using in microwave. Most of the time, the manufacturer will provide you with a warning or a label to let you know whether or not the container is safe to be microwaved.
- Do not overheat: As stated earlier, it is very important to check that you aren’t overheating the Styrofoam. You can surely microwave Styrofoam for 30 seconds, but not more than that.
If the temperature of the material reaches 200 degrees Celsius or more, the Styrofoam will start to melt and release toxic chemicals that can leach into your food and make it extremely harmful for your health.
- Make sure it can withstand heat: The traditional form of Styrofoam is more vulnerable to heat and can release the harmful toxins much faster. On the other hand, the newer version of microwave safe Styrofoam is made up of a much superior material with reduced concentration of hazardous substances, making it more resistant to heat.
- FDA-approved or not: To guarantee or to confirm whether or not that the Styrofoam is safe to be used, check for the FDA approved label on the bottom of the Styrofoam container. If the material passes through the stringent FDA evaluation, the product can be used to microwave for 30 seconds.
- Ventilation can make cooking safer: Many people like to cover the entire food to avoid mess during the heating process. Though this can prevent cleaning in future, it can be harmful. Not leaving a small opening for the steam to vent out of the Styrofoam container can cause overheating. So, make room for ventilation of the heat and steam.
Microwaving Styrofoam for 30 Seconds: Final Thoughts
It is quite evident that you can microwave Styrofoam for 30 seconds, but not more than that. Henceforth, whenever you put a Styrofoam cup, container or plate in the oven for microwaving, it is important to make sure it is FDA-approved and microwave-safe.
Stick to microwave safe styrofoam, and do not attempt to heat traditional styrofoam that is not intended for heating purposes. When using regular styrofoam, then don’t overheat by any means!
Always make sure the lid is open or has a small opening to vent steam. The ideal duration for heating a cup of coffee or a food in a Styrofoam container is 15 to 30 seconds on medium power level.
Though some forms of Styrofoam can be safely used in the microwave, it is still recommended to transfer food into one of the best microwave safe containers. Reduce the overall risk of exposure to harmful chemicals that you do not want inside your food.