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If you have a top-tier microwave oven, you should be sure that you aren’t using the wrong dish for cooking in it. There are potential health risks if it isn’t rated for electromagnetic radiation or can’t withstand the heat of your oven. And not every microwave-safe container is suitable for a conventional range and vice versa. So, if you need to know the defining factors of oven safe vs microwave safe food containers, read on.
Before we break down which type of container is best, you need to know a few general rules for each cooking method. While there are differences that make something oven proof vs. microwave proof, there are safe containers for both. For example, a glass bowl should be fine in a microwave or oven, but if it has a plastic lid, you cannot use the lid in the oven. In addition, some plastic containers might differ in quality over reheating vs. conventional cooking in a microwave.
Look for a “microwave-safe” or “oven-safe” symbol on the bottom of your containers to ensure they are safe for your microwave oven.
As for what should never go in a microwave: do not use metal utensils like copper cookware in your microwave. Some aluminum cookware will work, but we still do not recommend it. This is because metal interacts with the magnetron heating element in your microwave, causing electrical sparks inside the cavity. It is best to use containers with the “microwave-safe” symbol on the bottom for a microwave.
When it comes to ovens, do not use plastic containers of any kind. They will melt in a regular oven, ruining your hot food and making a mess inside your range. Instead, for best results, look for a Pyrex glass or thick ceramic food container. That said, some ceramic bowls cannot handle prolonged oven cooking times, and you will get hairline cracks in the container, leaking food or hot water.
The same rules apply to convection ovens, so read our guide to Lightwave ovens vs. microwaves to ensure you know the best practices.
Oven-safe containers are typically made from glass, which is great for food safety and taste. However, even microwave-safe plastic containers can seep chemicals into foods if they melt or degrade. Therefore, a Pyrex glass container is ideal for reheating or baking alike for either appliance. That said, oven-safe containers are generally safer to expose to high-heat settings.
Baking containers need to hold up under the high stresses of repeated heating and cooling that come with use. For this reason, oven-safe cookware tends to be more durable. Similarly, microwaveable containers made from glass or stone should be similarly durable.
Since oven-safe containers are generally higher quality, they cost more than microwave-safe containers. That said, you can buy high-end microwavable glass-made containers meant to withstand oven temperatures as well.
Sparks from metal containers can damage not only your microwave but your home’s electrical system.
What happens if you put a non-oven-safe bowl in the oven?
Due to the high heat, a non-oven-safe bowl will deform and possibly shatter in the oven. This would not only ruin your meal, but you’ll want to clean your oven deep to remove spoiled food and glass from the cavity.
Is Styrofoam microwave safe?
While some Styrofoam containers are marked as microwave safe, we do not recommend using them in the microwave.
Can you microwave Ziploc bags?
Do not microwave Ziploc bags. While it seems convenient to defrost your food in the same bag you froze it in, Ziploc bags cannot withstand microwave heating and will melt.
STAT: In a US Department of Energy survey, only 2% of respondents making $200,000 or more per year reported owning a microwave. (source)