If you have ever ordered takeout, you have also received it in a cardboard container. Much food, and especially chinese food is served in these boxes to keep the food hot and easy to transport. When you need to reheat the food, you might wonder if you can use that same container. The short answer is yes you can, but with a few precautions, which we will describe further down.
Many places also like to give you just a little too much food. Luckily, there is something special about reheated takeout. You might wonder if you have to reheat it in the oven or if it is possible to use the microwave. It turns out that you can microwave cardboard. You just have to be careful of a few certain things, which we will explain in this article.
The most important things to keep in mind are things such as ink, metal pieces on the container. These either can’t be microwaved or will melt and get into your food. Something you don’t want to happen. There is also a risk of fire if you are not careful. Luckily the solution to this is quite easy. Just make sure the container has enough food in it.
In this article we will go through the safety concerns you might have and cooking times. Things such as avoiding fires and not overcooking your food.
Can you microwave food in a cardboard?
Yes, you can microwave food that is in cardboard. In fact, you should not try to microwave an empty cardboard. When microwaving food in a cardboard container, remember to be careful. You have to make sure that there are no parts made of non-microwaveable materials. This is things like metal or styrofoam.
Usually if it is not entirely made out of cardboard, it will be different around the edges or the bottom. These are usually places that are made of a different material.
How long should you microwave cardboard.
Now that you know you can microwave cardboard, how long should you do it for? This will depend on the amount of food and the wattage you use.
Most normal sized portions of things such as chinese takeout, will only need 1-2 minutes at 1000 watt. We recommended one minute and then stirring it before giving it the last minute.
If you are heating food, there is less danger when heating it up, so you can add 1 or 2 minutes if you want the food really hot. Be careful though.
In the case you are heating something liquid, like coffee or tea, then be careful. This can become very hot in a short amount of time, even if it is not boiling. This is called superheating and can be dangerous.
When is it safe to microwave cardboard
To make sure that it is safe to microwave cardboard, you have to take some precautions. If you are in doubt, it is best to stay on the safe site and use an oven.
Make sure that you read the following paragraphs, as there are some risks involved. By reading this carefully you can make an informed decision about whether you want to do it or not. Most of the time if the container does not say it is microwave safe, it is not worth doing.
What to watch out for when microwaving cardboard
Always make sure to check if the box has any warning symbols or text on it. It will often say whether it is safe to microwave. Don’t do it if it says otherwise, even if it “checks the boxes” of this article. The manufacturer knows better.
Below we have covered some of the most important things to keep in mind:
- Make sure there no parts on the container that is non-microwaveable. This is metal, plastic, styrofoam and the like.
- You have to put something in the cardboard container. This is often not a problem because it is the food you want to heat. If you don’t, it might catch on fire.
- Sometime takeout places will write on the container. Not all types of ink can go in the microwave, so be aware of that. The same goes for logos and wax layers that may be on it as well.
Usually pizza boxes, chinese takeout boxes, and paper plates are 100% cardboard. This means they can go in the microwave. It is not always the case so make sure to double check.
Will cardboard catch on fire in a microwave
Most peoples biggest fear when doing this, is the cardboard catching fire. This will not happen if you make sure to have some food in the container. Otherwise it can actually begin to burn. It will not happen instantly in case you accidently do it, but it can happen fast.
Cardboard is made of wood fiber. The containter has a certain amount of moisture. When you heat it in a microwave the moisture level drops and gets closer and closer to 0. When the moisture level get low there is a risk of fire. So the longer you microwave it, the higher are the chances it will catch on fire.
When you add food or liquid to the mix, this changes a bit. Now, there will be more moisture for the microwave to heat, and the cardboard will not drop its moisture as fast. This is due to the way microwaves work. They heat up the water particles in whatever you put in there. That also explains why you sometimes get hot and cold parts.
This is also why you should be careful of wax, ink and similar things on the cardboard. All these things contain water particles that will get hot and melt the wax ( or ink). You definitely do not want this to leak into your food.
Also, watch out if your container is made from recycled materials. Sometimes this means it contains things that are not meant to go in the microwave. In these cases it is best to avoid it unless the container says it is safe to microwave.
Although all these things might sound scary, they shouldn’t be. If you just double check the container and use common sense, you shouldn’t have any problems. If you are not comfortable using the microwave, use an oven instead. It will get the job done, albeit a bit slower. For some foods it will even taste better when reheated in the oven.
Another alternative is to put the food in a glass bowl or on a plate that you know can go in the microwave. This will often just be the easiest and safest thing to do. That way you don’t have to worry about missing any ink, wax, or metal on the container.
The 3 steps to microwaving cardboard
There has been a lot of information in thise article and might seem overwhelming. The 3 steps below summarize all you need to know. We still suggest you read the entire article though.
- Make sure it is 100% carboard. Sometimes they contain a little metal, writing in ink or other things. These can not be microwaved. Most of the time, a cardboard container will have it written on it whether it can go in the microwave.
- Put some food or liquid in the microwave at the same time. If you don’t do this, the cardboard can catch on fire. Adding food or liquid slows this way down. Still, try to keep the microwaving to 2 minutes or less.
- Microwave in intervals to make sure there are no problems. If you are reheating food, it is also recommended to stir every 30 second or 1 minute.
And if you are ever in doubt if you can put it in the microwave. Don’t do it and use an oven instead.
You are now comfortable microwaving cardboard containers. This can hopefully save you a bit of time in the future and help you when you need to reheat some food in a rush.
You might also enjoy: