Ten tips for using plastics when microwave cooking

It is important to your health and safety to use the right containers and coverings when cooking in your microwave.

Learn new ways to keep your food safe while microwaving with plastic.
Learn new ways to keep your food safe while microwaving with plastic.

Microscopic bits of plastic can get into our food from containers. The process is called leaching or migration.

Michigan State University Extension offers common sense tips when cooking in the microwave:

  • Materials suitable for microwaving, when used correctly, include oven bags, wax paper and plastic wrap purchased from the store. The plastic wrap should not touch the food.
  • Do not reuse oven bags, wax paper or plastic wrap.
  • Use of any plastic product with foods high in fat and sugar may cause melting. You can find this statement on most plastic wraps.
  • Foam insulated trays and plastic wraps on fresh meats in grocery stores are not intended by the manufacturer to be heated and may melt when in contact with hot foods, allowing chemicals from the container or plastic wraps to leach into the food.
  • Packaging materials, like plastic wraps on purchased food from stores and Styrofoam products should not be used in a microwave oven. To avoid a chemical migration problem, remove food from the packaging.
  • Containers like carryout containers from restaurants and margarine tubs should not be used in the microwave. These containers may melt or warp.
  • Discard containers that hold prepared microwavable meals after you use them because they are meant for one-time use, unless they state that they are reusable.
  • The Food and Drug Administration says that microwave safe plastic wrap should be placed loosely over food so that the steam can escape, and should not directly touch your food. Some plastic wraps have labels indicting that there should be a one-inch or greater space between the plastic and the food during microwave heating.
  • Never use plastic storage bags, grocery bags, newspapers or aluminum foil in the microwave.
  • Always read directions on wraps you are going to use in the microwave. Generally, microwave-safe plastic wraps, wax paper, cooking bags, parchment paper and white microwave-safe paper towels are safe to use.

There is no doubt that when preparing food in the microwave, covering the food helps protect against contamination, keeps moisture in and allows food to cook evenly. Just make sure that when cooking in the microwave you use microwave safe products. If you don’t see instructions for microwave use, you should use a different plate or container or wrap that you know is microwave safe.

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