Can You Microwave Paper Plates?

Can you microwave paper plates? We take a look at whether these kitchen staples are microwave-safe.

Keeping things clean can be tough at a party or potluck. Think about your last backyard barbecue or birthday party; dirty dishes end up stacked high and haphazardly, silverware gets scattered and appetizers need to be kept warm, cold and plentiful. Sound familiar? Now is not the time to be serving food on your family’s finest plates!

If you’re hosting a party, paper plates are lifesavers. But you might want to check twice before sticking one in the microwave to reheat your leftovers. Here’s why.

Did you know your microwave has a silent mode?

Is It Safe to Microwave Paper Plates?

We know that things like metal can be dangerous in the microwave, but generally, most paper plates are OK to heat up according to the USDA. The key word here is “most,” because not all paper plates are made equal. (Learn more about when you can put aluminum foil in the microwave.)

If your disposable plates have a microwave-safe label, you’re good to go. But if you tossed the packaging and are unsure, err on the side of caution. The paper plates with a decorative sheen could be coated in a thin layer of plastic, says Whirlpool, which might not react well in the microwave. Though some plastics are safe to use, others aren’t, which is why it’s important to check for the microwave-safe label before heating anything up. Read our explanation here on whether you can microwave styrofoam or not.

While your safest bet is a plain white paper plate, other paper products like napkins, towels and parchment paper should be safe to heat in the microwave as well. But try to avoid any printed or glossy materials, and when it comes to paper products like newspaper or brown paper bags, the USDA says steer clear, especially if there’s any metal involved. Takeout containers with metal handles, we’re looking at you. (Learn more about whether you can put plastic in the microwave.)

Tips for Microwaving Paper Plates

  • Look for a label that indicates whether the plates are microwave-safe. Read any messaging on the packaging before you toss it out, to confirm that your plates are OK to heat up.
  • Remember that paper plates are fairly thin, so it’s best not to heat up greasy or oily food on them.
  • If you’re unsure if a paper plate is microwave-safe or not, it’s best to err on the side of caution. Use a microwave-safe dish like glass or a piece of parchment paper instead. (Discover when you can microwave cardboard.)
  • The less time in the microwave, the better. Even if your paper plate is microwave-safe, it’s best to not keep it in the microwave for too long—don’t use it for over two minutes. It’s possible that even microwave-safe things can be damaged if they’re exposed to high heat for a prolonged period of time.

Hannah Twietmeyer
Hannah is a writer and content creator based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with a passion for all things food, health, community and lifestyle. She is a journalism graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a previous dining and drink contributor for Madison Magazine.