Can You Microwave Takeout Containers
What to know

Can You Microwave Takeout Containers?

In 2021’s modern world where Covid-19 exists, most people opt to eat indoors instead of outdoors or at restaurants to err on the side of caution and not catch the coronavirus bug. It’s because of the pandemic that there’s been a rise of home deliveries with the food stored in takeout containers.

So can you microwave takeout containers? No. Some, you can microwave but generally, no. They’re not made for microwaving usually unless otherwise indicated by a microwave-safe label or symbol on the bottom of the container.

Can You Microwave Takeout Containers?

Can you microwave takeout or to-go containers when delivered to your home? Some can be microwaved and others cannot. The plastic ones with microwave-safe labels on them are your safest bet. Don’t microwave any cardboard takeout boxes though. You could use glass or ceramic dishes marked “heatproof” or “microwave-safe”:

Some Takeout Containers can be microwaved:

  • Ceramic dishes, glass.
  • Towels, paper plates, and napkins
  • Wax and parchment paper

Most restaurants and food providers put their dishes inside special cardboard or plastic containers (very rarely do they use anything fancy like metal or porcelain in light of how expensive those materials are).

Can You Microwave Takeout Containers
Can You Microwave Takeout Containers

Further reading: Which Food Containers Are Safe for the Microwave?

Only the Cheapest Materials are Used on Takeout Boxes

The cheapest materials are used for containing takeout or to-go food. Most of these cheap materials aren’t microwaveable or reheatable via microwave at all since the containers are mostly made to temporarily house takeout dishes.

If you want to reheat takeout, use ceramic or microwave-safe Tupperware. Err on the side of caution and don’t bother microwaving straight from the takeout container.

What’s Wrong with Cardboard Takeout Boxes?

There’s zero likelihood that cardboard takeout boxes of any sort are microwaveable. Some of them might even have a glossy plastic layer on top of them to contain greasy food like hamburgers or anything with soup or sauce. That plastic might not be BPA-free.

The plastic layer could contaminate the food when heated. As for other cardboard types, they could very well catch on fire. Even though microwave ovens don’t use conductive heat to cook or reheat food, it could set cardboard with low moisture in them on fire.

What’s worse is that some cardboard have metal inside of them like staplers that could create sparks and fire or have glues in them that become undone when heated via microwave.

Read more: Can You Microwave Cardboard?

Why Can’t You Microwave Plastic Containers without Microwave-Safe Labels?

The safest takeout container for microwaving is one with the label and symbol indicating it’s microwave-safe at the bottom of it. It’s like the recycling symbol on most cans that indicate they could easily be recycled or you can make money handing them out at recycling centers.

You can’t microwave plastic containers that aren’t microwave-safe or lacks the microwave-safe label because there’s a good possibility of them melting or ending up in flames if you were to use them in the microwave oven for a long period of time.

BPA-Free Containers with No Damage

Even if your unmarked, microwave-unsafe plastic container could withstand the heat and not melt, it could still leach off BPA and other plasticizers unto your food that could contaminate it. BPA affects your hormones negatively.

A true microwave-safe container has the label because it’s been deemed by the FDA as BPA-free when microwaved. Even so, if it has any damage on it you shouldn’t microwave it. Only “nuke” undamaged and properly labeled plastic containers in your microwave oven.

 Rubbermaid Brilliance Storage 14-Piece Plastic Lids | BPA Free, Leak Proof Food Container, Clear
Rubbermaid Brilliance Storage 14-Piece Plastic Lids | BPA Free, Leak-Proof Food Container, Clear

Why Is Tupperware Microwaveable Yet (Most) Takeout Containers Are Not?

Tupperware food containers are thicker than the average cheap takeout container. Even the microwaveable food containers are less microwaveable than your average Tupperware food container. To be more specific, you can repeatedly microwave Tupperware.

In contrast, most food containers are one-time use only, which means they’re also microwaveable exactly once before they end up too compromised for reuse. It’s no surprise that the cheaper of the two containers are less reusable.

To-go containers that have microwaveable or microwave-safe labels should be tested for how microwaveable they are. The label should indicate safety as approved by the Food and Drug Administration. However, you can never be too safe.

What is safe for the Microwave?

Ceramic, glass, and containers with a waxy finish are safe to use for microwaving. Some Chinese takeout containers are therefore microwave-safe, but to be safe make sure that it’s specifically labeled as microwave-safe. Without that label, the box will be deemed non-microwaveable.

Additionally, remove the metal handles of these containers prior to microwaving. You’re also good with paper plates, parchment paper, and paper towels, but not all cardboard is created equal. Some cardboard go up in flames or burn when microwaved.

The cardboard used by paper plates are specifically formulated to resist burning from microwave rays.

How to Test If a Container is Microwaveable

To test if a container is microwaveable, heat it up along with a mug of water for a minute. If the container isn’t cool to the touch afterwards and instead almost as hot as the water you microwaved then it’s not microwaveable.

Microwave-safe materials like ceramic, glass, and microwave-safe plastic allow the microwave rays to pass through them without them heating up. They should also be thick enough to insulate themselves from the hotness of the heated food.

For the most part, cardboard and plastic containers are too flammable, thin, or affected by microwave radiation to be used with a microwave oven.

Takeout Boxes and Containers 101

Takeout boxes and containers tend to save you from needing to wash the dishes. However, the extra effort is worth it when it comes to microwaving leftovers. Once you take out the food from the fridge, it’s best to discard these temporary cardboard or plastic containers.

Put your fast food or restaurant takeout in a separate ceramic plate, porcelain bowl, or glass dinnerware. The to-go containers might be microwaveable but they’re mostly used for food transportation. How microwaveable they are is mostly an afterthought.

The exception would be TV dinners, microwaveable convenience store food, and the like. These contain BPA-free sturdy plastic. However, they’re one-time use containers. Put the leftover food from your TV dinner in a separate microwave-safe container.

Over the Horizon

Here’s the nitty-gritty regarding whether or not takeout containers are microwaveable. It isn’t just about whether or not the container is able to survive being microwaved for 1-2 minutes or more. It’s instead about leaching plasticizers.

A truly microwave-safe container doesn’t only resist melting when microwaved—it should also not leach off BPA unto your microwaved food. Plasticizers like BPA can leach unto your food, contaminating it. When BPA becomes part of your diet affects your hormonal balance for good measure.


  1. Emily Cappiello, “Are To-Go Containers Microwavable?“,, July 26, 2019

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