Can You Microwave Chinese Takeout Boxes? The Truth You Need to Know

Have you ever wondered if it’s safe to microwave your Chinese takeout container? Many of us have done it without a second thought, but the truth is that some food containers are not meant to be microwaved. In this article, we’ll dive into whether or not you should microwave your Chinese takeout boxes and other common food containers that should never go in the microwave. We’ll also give some tips on how to safely reheat Chinese takeout.

Can You Microwave Chinese Takeout Boxes?

Chinese takeout is a popular and convenient option for a quick meal. However, it raises the question of whether or not you can safely microwave those containers your favorite foods come in.

Different Types of Containers Used for Chinese Takeout

Most Chinese takeouts are packaged in paper boxes, aluminum containers or Styrofoam trays. Some restaurants use plastic containers which vary in size and shape.

Materials Used in These Containers

  • Paper boxes: usually made from thin cardboard material
  • Aluminum Containers: lightweight with a plastic top
  • Styrofoam Trays: known as expanded polystyrene (EPS)
  • Plastic containers: , either microwavable recyclable (PP#5) or non-microwavable (PP#6)

Safety of Materials when Microwaved

Paper boxes, aluminum containers, and plastic containers marked microwavable should be safe to use in the microwave. However, styrofoam containers are not microwave friendly due to their melting point.  

The Effects of Microwaving Chinese Takeout Boxes

Microwaving any container that’s not labeled “microwave safe” can cause harmful chemicals to seep into your food. Plus, some materials tend to melt down causing them to mix into your food and altering its taste.

Potential Health Risks Involved

Sometimes the harmful chemicals released from heated polystyrene foam have implications on human health upon ingestion such as persistent headaches, fatigue and other symptoms.

In conclusion, be mindful of which container you microwave your Chinese takeout in. Always check for labels that indicate whether or not it’s microwave-safe or opt for using glass plates/bowls to reheat.

How to Safely Reheat Chinese Takeout

Sometimes when we order Chinese takeout, there’s just too much food to finish in one sitting. The next day, you may want to reheat the leftovers for lunch or dinner, but how do you make sure it’s safe and tasty?

Alternatives to Microwaving Chinese Takeout Boxes

Microwaving your leftovers is quick and convenient, but it’s not always the best option. Certain dishes like stir-fries or fried rice can end up mushy or dry in the microwave. Try these alternatives:

  • Stovetop: Heat a non-stick pan over medium-high heat and add a little bit of oil. Once hot, add your leftovers and stir occasionally until heated through.
  • Oven: Preheat your oven at 350°F (180°C) and place your leftovers in an oven-safe dish. Cover with foil and heat for about 20 minutes or until hot.

Best Practices for Reheating Chinese Takeout

No matter what method you choose, make sure to follow these tips:

  • Add moisture: Add a splash of water or broth to prevent your food from drying out.
  • Cover up: Use a lid or cover with foil to trap steam inside the container, so that everything gets heated evenly.
  • Cut into smaller pieces: If reheating meat dishes like beef and broccoli or orange chicken, cut them into smaller pieces before reheating so they cook more evenly.

Tips for Storing and Reheating Leftovers

If you’re planning on having leftovers later on in the week, it’s important to store them properly. Here are some tips:

  • Refrigerate: Store your leftovers in airtight containers and place them in the refrigerator within two hours of getting your takeout.
  • Freeze: If you won’t be eating the leftovers for a while, it’s better to freeze them. Make sure to label the container with the date you put it in the freezer.
  • Thawing: When you’re ready to eat, plan ahead and let your frozen leftovers thaw in either the fridge or microwave instead of reheating directly from frozen.

Following these steps will help make sure that your reheated Chinese takeout is not only safe but also tasty!

Other Common Food Containers You Shouldn’t Microwave

While plastic containers are often a concern when it comes to microwaving, there are other common food containers that you should avoid putting in the microwave as well. If you’re not sure whether a container is safe to use, it’s best to err on the side of caution.

Containers to Avoid:

  • Metal Containers: Most metal containers or foil wrapping can cause sparks and even lead to fires in microwaves. The only exception is if the container has a “microwave-safe” label, which means it has an insulating layer that prevents sparking.
  • Paper Bags: Paper bags can catch fire easily as they have air gaps between their fibers that intensify heat. So never use them for microwaving even if they look plain and seem safe.
  • Brown Paper Wrappers: Any paper with ink or glue, like brown paper wrappers used on fast-food sandwiches, bags of popcorn or baked potatoes should never be placed in the microwave oven because they contain substances which can release chemicals and fumes into your food when exposed to high temperatures.
  • Styrofoam Containers: Though Styrofoam may seems safe, it is actually hazardous when heated. It releases toxic particles like CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons)which deplete ozone over time and harmful chemicals such as styrene which contaminates food upon heating.

Identifying Safe Containers:

To find suitable containers for microwaving follow these guidelines:

  1. Always check for labels stating “microwave-safe” labeled by independent testing institutions like NSF, UL, and FDA that indicate the containers tested are safe to use in microwaves.
  2. Look for glass or ceramic containers marked as microwave-safe. These materials do not contain harmful chemicals and can tolerate high heat produced by microwaving.
  3. Avoid using container types that tend to absorb heat such as plastic tubs, old/scratched microwave dishes, and even aluminum foil because they can heat up too much and may burn or singe your food!

Remember that microwaving food in unsafe containers can not only damage your appliance but also affect your health significantly. So it’s essential to take proper precautions while reheating food in the microwave.


Microwaving Chinese takeout boxes may seem like a convenient option for reheating leftovers, but it’s important to use caution when doing so. Containers made from materials like plastic, styrofoam, and aluminum can release toxic chemicals into your food when heated. Be sure to transfer your leftovers into microwave-safe dishes before reheating them.


Can I microwave cardboard pizza boxes?

No, cardboard pizza boxes should not be microwaved as they can contain harmful chemicals and dyes.

What about metal containers?

Metal containers should never be microwaved as they can cause sparks and damage the appliance.

Is it safe to put plastic wrap over my food before microwaving?

It depends on the type of plastic wrap. Make sure you’re using wrap designed specifically for microwave use and avoid wrapping acidic foods as they may cause the plastic to break down.

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