Can You Microwave Plastic Wrap?

by Charlie
Plastic Wrap

If you use plastic wrap in your kitchen, the chances are that you’ve sometimes wondered whether it’s safe to put it in the microwave. We all know that covering foods in the microwave is a good idea and minimizes the mess of spattering foods that are getting hot, but do you know whether microwaving plastic wrap is safe?

We are becoming increasingly aware of the dangers of plastics and heating plastics, and so you might be wondering if it’s okay to put plastic wrap over bowls or dishes in the microwave. Does heating it cause the plastic to degrade and leach chemicals into your food?

Can you microwave plastic wrap? So far, there is little or no evidence that plastic wrap cannot be safely used in the microwave. It has been discovered that under extreme circumstances, tiny amounts of chemicals can leach out of plastic wrap when heated, but these are well within safety limits. No studies have found links between heating plastic wrap and any diseases such as cancer.

Why Might You Use Plastic Wrap in the Microwave?

There are two main reasons for using plastic wrap when microwaving food. The first and most obvious is that it prevents foods from splattering all over the microwave’s interior. The second is that it helps to trap moisture in the food and prevent it from getting dried out. Because of the way microwaves work, both of these are important to consider.

Many foods, particularly tomato-based or liquid ones, tend to spit when microwaved. This is because the intense heat is causing pockets of steam low down in the food. This rises to the surface fast, and causes a splatter as it breaks free. Putting something over the top of a bowl will contain this mess.

It will also help to stop all that steam from escaping everywhere and getting lost. If you don’t put something over the bowl, you may find that your food dries out fast, and you end up with an unappetizing meal.

Because plastic wrap creates a good seal over the top of any container, it’s an attractive choice for microwaving with.

Is Plastic Wrap Safe to Heat?

Plastic wrap seems to be safe to heat in the microwave. However, the general advice is not to allow the wrap to touch the food. That means you can cover a bowl or dish with plastic wrap, provided there is air between the food and the surface of the plastic.

This may be because a substance commonly used in the manufacture of plastic, Epoxidized Soybean Oil (ESBO), breaks down well when in contact with fatty substances, so if you are heating plastic wrap next to a particularly fatty food, it might behave differently than in other circumstances.

However, on the whole, it is thought that plastic wrap is safe to heat in the microwave, so you can do so if you feel comfortable with it. Unless further study changes the existing evidence, it doesn’t seem that there are any dangers associated with this practice.

How Should You Heat Plastic Wrap in the Microwave?

When heating plastic wrap in the microwave, there are a few things you should do. Firstly, set your microwave to low power or medium power so you are not getting the wrap excessively hot. Secondly, you should put your food in a deep dish so that there is no contact between the surface of the food and the underside of the plastic wrap.

It is a good idea to microwave for less than two minutes at a time, as well. This will ensure you are keeping an eye on the food and the plastic wrap, and minimize the chance of something going wrong. If you notice that there is a strange smell, remove the wrap and discard the food. This should not occur.

What are the Alternatives to Microwaving with Plastic Wrap?

If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of putting plastic wrap in the microwave, you might be wondering what your other choices are. Although so far, science says that it’s safe to heat plastic wrap, you have plenty of other options if you would prefer not to do so.

The most obvious one is to put a plate on top. This is especially true if you have plates that fit well on top of your bowls or dishes. They will serve the same purpose as the plastic wrap, although they may not be quite as effective at containing the steam or preventing mess.

Alternatively, you can put a paper towel over the top. This will also prevent splattering and help to trap steam, but it may absorb a lot of the moisture from the food. If you aren’t careful, you could end up with a soggy paper towel that has slumped down into your dish, and a mess all over your microwave.

A glass lid is another option, provided it does not have a metal rim. Many glass and ceramic bowls come with fitted lids. As long as they are advertised as microwave safe, you can put these in, and if they fit well, they will provide a great alternative to the plastic wrap.

One of the benefits of not using plastic wrap is that other lids make it easier for some steam to escape because they rarely create a perfect seal. This is good if you are going to heat food for some time; although you want to trap some steam, you don’t want too much pressure to build up in the container.

Final Thoughts

Plastic wrap is – as far as everyone knows – safe to microwave for short periods of time on a low heat. You should not leave plastic wrap in the microwave for longer periods, especially if you are using a high heat. This heat could cause the plastic to degrade, and it might leach chemicals into your food.

Make sure that the wrap is not touching your food by using a deep dish, and check on it regularly. If you think the plastic wrap is getting too hot, remove it from the microwave and allow it to cool down, or swap it for a plate or other microwave-safe lid.

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