What is Microwave Safe?

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Updated August 17, 2022

If you’re shopping for the best microwave oven, you may need a few appropriate dishes to cook your food in. Non-microwave safe containers pose a health risk to you and your family. As the microwave’s electromagnetic waves heat your food, cheap plastic dishes will melt and may leak dangerous chemical compounds into hot foods. So, before you cook anything in your microwave oven, make sure you’re using microwaveable containers. Keep reading to learn what is microwave safe when it comes to dishware.


  • Microwave-safe dishes and containers are marked with a symbol on the bottom of the dish.
  • Never use metal containers or utensils while cooking with your microwave, as it can harm you and your appliance.
  • Test a dish by placing water in it and heating it for a minute. If the container is hot, do not use it in the microwave.

Guide to Microwave-Safe Dishes

Using non-microwavable containers in your microwave can be a costly mistake. In addition to the risk of ingesting toxic materials from the wrong plasticware, using foil-lined containers in the microwave may also affect your health. You can also damage the microwave itself or, worse, start a fire.

Insider Tip

Look for the microwave-safe symbol on the bottom of your dish before using it in the microwave.

Of course, if you do suspect that you’ve damaged your unit by cooking with the wrong dishes, you can easily repair some issues at home, such as replacing a microwave oven fuse. Alternatively, if your microwave turns off frequently or the microwave starts when the door closes, these might be other issues completely.

Plastic Containers

Microwave-safe plastic dishes don’t get hot in the microwave and are great to use. If a plastic container is microwave-safe, it should be marked on the bottom as such. We don’t recommend heating plastic containers from takeaway services, though. Those containers are usually cheaply made, and they are not suitable for reheating your leftovers. The same is true for water bottles and other disposable dishes.

Ceramic Dishes

Most ceramic containers are safe to microwave and should stay cool over long cooking times. That said, avoid ceramic plates with a metal handle or a metal rim finish.

Paper Plates

Even though paper plates are treated, they are entirely safe to microwave. That said, you may want to skip the paper plates if your cooking method involves wet or frozen food.

Metal Containers

Never use metal pans or aluminum foil in the microwave under any power setting. While aluminum containers are technically microwave-safe, you need the metal to be as flat as possible. Even tiny aluminum peaks or ridges can spark, potentially damaging the internal components of your microwave. If your microwave has electrical damage, learn how to fix a microwave door switch.

Styrofoam Containers

While some styrofoam containers are safe to microwave, most are not. So, if you do not see any clear microwave-safe markings, you shouldn’t use the foam container for food cooking.

How to Tell if Something is Microwave-Safe

First, turn your food container over and look for the microwave-safe symbol on the bottom. If you do not see makings that indicate whether microwave cooking is safe to do in this dish, you need to test it before you make pizza in a mug.

Take the container in question and place it in the microwave. Pour a cup of water into the container and cook it for one minute. If the cup of water gets hot, but your container is cool, it is a safe container. However, if the water and the dish are hot, it is a non-microwave safe container.

An easy way to know something isn’t microwave-safe? Paper or foil should never go in the microwave. Even if you’ve heard about opening a sealed envelope in a microwave, don’t do it. You’re risking fire danger.


Never use aluminum containers in your microwave. In addition to affecting brain health, metal might spark in your microwave and damage your microwave’s circuitry.


Are microwaves bad for your health?

While there are differing schools of thought on this, the vast majority of experts agree that microwave ovens are safe. Studies show that microwaving is the cooking method of choice for leaving the most nutrients intact. In addition, there are few potential health hazards from cooking with microwave energy. Lastly, the small amounts of microwave radiation produced by these appliances cannot affect people nearby.

Can you microwave paper towels?

You can use a paper towel inside a microwave. In addition, you can use other paper products like wax paper and parchment paper. Many cooking methods call for covering food with a paper towel to absorb water molecules. That said, never use brown paper bags in the microwave.

Can you microwave cardboard?

Do not microwave cardboard. While most paper products are microwave safe, cardboard contains chemicals like glue and paint. As a result, cardboard isn’t safe for any cooking method.

STAT: A US Department of Energy survey found that 21% of Americans aged 60 years or older use a microwave. (source)

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