Can You Microwave Paper Towels?

by Charlie
Rolls of paper towels

If you use paper towels in your kitchen, you may be wondering whether it is safe to put them in the microwave. In general, we are taught to only microwave things that contain some moisture, since this is needed for safe heating. You might question whether putting a paper towel in your microwave has the potential to cause a fire.

Can you microwave paper towels? Yes, you can microwave paper towels. Many people successfully microwave plain paper towels and as long as they are microwave-safe, there should not be any problem at all. They serve several purposes in the microwave, and as long as you do not overheat them, they are safe. However, if you were to leave a paper towel in a microwave on high power for an extended period, it might start to scorch.

What are Paper Towels Used For in the Microwave?

The most common use for paper towels in the microwave is to put over food dishes to prevent them from drying out and to catch any splatter that might occur as the food is heated. However, other uses include wiping up spills, catching drips, and microwaving bread effectively.

Paper towels make a popular cover for dishes; they are easy to grab and dispose of, and they will catch and absorb any splashes or spills that occur while you are heating the dish. They are also a good size to cover many containers, and they will allow some steam to escape without letting your food get dried up entirely.

Some people also use them to protect the surface of the microwave plate from scratches or potential chips, or to soak up any spills that run over the edges of their bowls or dishes.

Furthermore, if you want to microwave bread or bread products, putting a damp paper towel in the microwave will help them to retain their texture. Microwaved bread can otherwise turn rather “spongy,” so adding a damp paper towel can help to keep the microwave moist and stop the bread from getting dry.

Can You Safely Heat Paper Towels in a Microwave?

Yes, there are not really any dangers associated with heating plain white paper towels in a microwave. A plain paper towel is unlikely to be damaged by short bursts of microwaving, and it should not contain any chemicals that could leach into your food.

If you want to microwave a paper towel, there aren’t any issues that are likely to occur. It is always a good idea to keep an eye on anything you are microwaving, however, so don’t leave food unattended in a microwave, with or without a paper towel on it.

What’s the Best Method For Using Paper Towels in the Microwave?

If you are going to heat up food with a paper towel in there, it’s best to do so in short bursts, and consider using a low or medium heat. While few people have issues with the paper towel overheating and scorching, it is better to be safe than sorry.

It is probably best not to microwave a paper towel on its own. This will result in a very dry environment (as paper towels don’t contain much water) and could be considered unsafe – just as running an empty microwave could be unsafe.

However, you probably aren’t going to be doing this very often as there is no reason to. Provided there are other things in the microwave with the paper towel (ideally with higher water content), there should be no problem.

It is a good idea to check on your food every two to three minutes or so. This will let you know if the paper towel is getting unusually hot, and will also ensure your food doesn’t get overcooked.

If your food has a long cooking time, you should still be fine to use a paper towel – just keep checking on it regularly. If the towel is resting on top of the food and gets very saturated, you might want to change it for a fresh one to avoid getting bits of soggy paper in your meal, but otherwise, it should be fine.

Are There Paper Towels That You Shouldn’t Heat?

You may have noticed the specificity of plain white paper towels. That is because paper towels that are recycled, printed, or made of different colors may not be safe to use in the microwave. They might contain chemicals that are not safe to put in contact with your food.

If you want to use paper towels that have been recycled or that contain other colors, you should check the packaging to determine whether they are microwave-safe first. It is possible that inks or residual chemicals from the recycling process could affect the safety of your food.

Of course, many people purchase recycled paper towels and environmentally, this is the best option. If you aren’t sure whether the paper towels are safe to use, contact the manufacturer for advice.

What Can You Use Instead?

If you’re still in doubt or you want a less wasteful solution for covering your food, consider a microwave-safe bowl or plate on top of the dish you are microwaving. This will trap moisture and contain mess, but can be reused again and again.

Of course, this option does not catch drips that run down the side of the bowl and it doesn’t work to provide moisture for the warming of bread, but you can still use paper towels for those things if you want to.

A reusable option will cut down on costs and reduce your environmental footprint; while paper towels are convenient, they can be expensive, and even recycled ones are not better for the planet than a reusable plate.

Final Thoughts

There are no dangers associated with using paper towels in a microwave and you are very unlikely to be able to even scorch them, let alone set them on fire. However, you should always be near a microwave while it is in use so you can keep an eye on the contents and intervene quickly if something goes wrong.

Despite that, paper towels are considered safe to use in the microwave, and have several different functions that can make microwaving meals easier and better.

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