When it’s time to reheat food, whether it is leftovers or carry-out that came in styrofoam food containers, you may find yourself wondering, “Can you put styrofoam in the oven?” If not, how else can you warm up the food? In this article, we will discuss proper ways to prepare food so that you can enjoy hot foods safely.
A styrofoam container is a popular option for food storage and transport due to its cost and functionality. While it can preserve food and keep it hot or cold as necessary, if you try to heat styrofoam, you will end up with burnt styrofoam, tarnished food tainted by harmful chemicals, and a mess to clean up. Putting styrofoam in the oven or even the microwave will likely have disastrous results.
Can styrofoam containers be put in the oven?
No, styrofoam containers are not oven safe. This is primarily due to the composition of styrofoam. When the temperature reaches around 200 degrees Fahrenheit, the polystyrene beans will begin to soften and break down. This is problematic because the oven temperatures used to heat food are typically greater than 325 degrees.
It is not safe to place styrofoam containers in the oven because they will melt or decompose when subjected to high temperatures. As a result, the container will become sticky, oily, or melted liquid. The oily liquid is produced because of the styrene in the styrofoam. None of these attributes are desirable if you are trying to warm up your food. You would not want to eat food that has been tainted, so it is important to move the food into an appropriate container before heating it up.
What is styrofoam
The Dow Chemical Company trademarked the term styrofoam. Styrofoam was originally made from extruded polystyrene foam that was commonly used in the building industry. Styrofoam containers are a type of expanded polystyrene that is shaped through molds and makes a variety of disposable items such as plates, cups, and containers.
For extruded polystyrene, polystyrene is melted in conjunction with other ingredients. For expanded polystyrene insulation, molds are filled with polystyrene beads. The beads are then melted and expanded by exposing them to heat or steam.
Polystrene is a common plastic material. When it is transformed into a foam-like substance, it becomes light because of the air that is incorporated into it. This is why styrofoam is often used as a cushioning material.
Styrofoam containers are commonly used because they are convenient, lightweight, and have insulation properties. This allows the container to keep food warm or cold, as needed. They are cheap to make, which makes them a frequently used option in the food industry.
The polystyrene foam that is used to make styrofoam containers and dishes is cheaper than other options. However, it is less eco-friendly. This means that companies often have to choose between a more cost-effective option, such as styrofoam, or more eco-friendly options like bioplastics or biodegradable papers.
Why is styrofoam so commonly used?
Another reason that styrofoam tends to be so commonly used is because of its insulation benefits. As a result of the manufacturing process, styrofoam provides thermal insulation. This helps maintain the food’s temperature – either hot or cold. While styrofoam is often used to deliver hot food, it can also be used to create a cooler to keep beverages chilled.
The lightweight design of styrofoam also makes it very portable and easy to move around. This design feature certainly contributes to its popularity and ease of use.
However, there has been growing backlash against styrofoam products in recent years. These single-use containers are often viewed negatively because of their environmental implications and potential health concerns.
This has caused many cities and local governments to outlaw the use of styrofoam products, including disposable plates, cups, and take-out containers. Studies have found that it can take nearly 50 years for a styrofoam cup to decompose. Styrofoam containers also make up over a quarter of the landfill volume in the U.S. This has led to stricter rules surrounding the usage of traditional styrofoam containers.
There are also concerns about the styrene compound in styrofoam. Some studies have linked styrene to cancers. Since there is an increased risk of styrene seeping into food when the styrofoam melts, such as when you microwave styrofoam, there are concerns about their usage. This is why it is better to use a suitable container designed to store and heat up food.
Styrofoam containers cannot withstand high levels of heat. The melting point of the polystyrene beads is 464 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the beads begin to soften at temperatures of 212 degrees Fahrenheit.
This relatively low melting temperature is why styrofoam containers are not oven-safe containers. If you burn styrofoam, the styrofoam releases dangerous chemicals that are harmful both to you and to the environment. The safety hazards associated with burning styrofoam are a key reason you should not place the container in the oven.
Leaching occurs when hot liquids or food cause toxic chemicals in polystyrene to transfer into what you will eat or drink. This is a major concern with using styrofoam containers to warm up food. The components that make up the styrofoam container are not made of safe materials when considering the temperatures reached in the microwave or oven and what the styrofoam can withstand.
Storing cold food in styrofoam containers is fine, but styrofoam packing or foam polystyrene cups should not be warmed up. The melting point is too low and will cause the styrofoam to melt and leach harmful chemicals into your food or drink.
Microwave safe styrofoam
You may be wondering if it is safe to place to go food containers made of styrofoam in the microwave since the temperature is lower than the oven would be. Regular styrofoam containers should not be placed in the microwave. Even the microwave’s temperature is too high for the low-temperature threshold of styrofoam.
However, there is microwave-safe styrofoam available these days. Such a product can be used in the microwave. To see whether you were given microwave-safe styrofoam, check the bottom of the container. When in doubt, it is best not to place styrofoam containers in the microwave. Otherwise, toxic gases and chemicals will be released.
There are numerous hazards associated with styrofoam that explain why it is not safe to put it in the oven or microwave to warm up your food.
Styrofoam is combustible. If the temperature gets high enough, this means that it will catch on fire. Not only can styrofoam melt, but it can also catch on fire which poses a greater risk to your entire house.
In addition to being combustible, if the styrofoam does catch on fire, it will also produce a toxic smoke. Inhaling the smoke is bad for your health. This is another reason why you should not place a styrofoam product in the oven.
Finally, there are studies that have found that styrofoam packaging can release harmful chemicals when heated. This contaminates the food or beverage that you are trying to warm up. Leaching can occur even before the container completely melts.
Related: Can Wax Paper Go in the Microwave?
Now that we have established that it is not safe to place styrofoam containers in the oven, you may be wondering what other options are available.
You can put metals such as stainless steel or cast iron into the oven. These options are oven safe because they can withstand high temperatures.
Another good alternative is to use oven-safe glass dishes to reheat food. Tempered glass can endure higher temperatures. As an added benefit, you can also serve the food in the same glass container used for reheating food. If you opt to use a glass container in the oven, be sure that it does not have a wooden handle on it or any plastic material pieces.
You can place ceramic dishes in the oven as long as it is labeled oven safe.
Depending on what type of food you are looking to reheat, you may be able to use a cookie sheet. These flat pans are larger in size, which will allow you to spread the food out, which will help it heat evenly.
However, they tend not to have too large of a lip on the edge, so if the food is tall, it may spill over the side of the cookie sheet.
If you are trying to warm up messy foods, consider using aluminum foil as a base. This will help your clean-up process and maintains the integrity of your cookware.
It is easy to line your pans with aluminum foil before adding your food and placing the pan in the oven. Once you are done cooking, allow the pan to cool. Then, simply take the foil off the pan and throw it in the trash.
It does not take much heat to cause styrofoam to melt. This is true of styrofoam cups or even a styrofoam container. While the styrofoam will hold hot liquids like hot drinks well, it is not safe to place such containers in a microwave or oven.
It is better to use the container for storing food in the refrigerator until it is time to warm it up. If you want to eat hot food, transfer the food to a microwave-safe plate or dish. Alternatively, you can put the food in an oven-safe container and heat it up in the oven.
If you opt to microwave food, be sure that there is no aluminum foil or plastic wrap covering the food, as these elements are not microwave safe. Microwaving food safely is important to ensure that no toxic chemicals leak into your food or that you do not start a fire.
In essence, styrofoam containers are suitable food packaging options if you need to store food, but due to their chemical composition, they are not safe to use in the microwave oven or the oven, unless it is marked as oven-safe styrofoam.
Deciding between the microwave and the oven
Reheating food can be done in multiple ways but the two most common are via the oven or the microwave. There are a variety of reasons you may opt to microwave your food instead of using the oven to warm it up. One key benefit of using the microwave instead of the oven is the time factor. It is much faster to use the microwave than to allow the oven to preheat and then warm your food. This is especially important to consider if you are in a time constraint.
When deciding between using the microwave and the oven, you will also need to consider where you are and what appliances are available to you. For example, if you need to reheat food at work, you will probably only have a microwave available for the heating process.
Tips for microwaving food safely
If you are looking for a safe way to warm up cold food, follow these tips related to reheating food.
Choose a proper container
If you accidentally burn styrofoam, you will have quite a mess on your hands. Not only will the food be ruined and the container melted, but it can also create toxic smoke. Do not risk it. Instead, remove the food from the styrofoam container and put it on a microwave-safe plate or dish.
If you are not sure whether a dish is safe to place in the microwave, look at the bottom of it. It should indicate whether it is microwave safe or not.
Watch out for cracks
If you have a plastic container that has cracks or scratches on it, you should not place it in the microwave, even if it is labeled as microwave safe. These blemishes can release harmful chemicals into your food. Distribute food evenly
When you put the food into the microwave-safe container, it is important to distribute it out evenly. By spreading the food out so that it is level, you are allowing the food to heat evenly in the microwave.
Do not microwave metal
Do not leave metal utensils or dishes in the microwave. Failure to remove metal products can cause a fire.
Beware of cold spots
If you are warming up very cold food or frozen food, be sure to stir the food while it is being warmed up. This helps with even heating and prevents cold spots from developing. Not only will cold spots in your food not taste as good, but they can also harbor harmful bacteria.
In addition to stirring the food during the heating process, you can also change the container’s position at regular intervals to foster even heating.
Use caution when removing the dish
The dish or plate will be hot when you are done warming up your food, so be sure to use caution when you are taking it out of the microwave. Wear oven mittens or use a pot holder to safely remove the hot dish or plate.
Can you put styrofoam in the oven FAQ
Is it OK to heat up food in Styrofoam?
No, you should not heat up food in styrofoam containers. They are not suitable for warming up food in the oven or even in the microwave typically.
Can you put Styrofoam in 170 degree oven?
It is not advised to put styrofoam in the oven at this temperature. While it may be low enough that the container does not melt quickly, the food likely will not be warm enough to enjoy. It is better to use a microwave-safe or oven-safe dish to reheat your food.
At what temperature does Styrofoam Leach?
The polystyrene beads in styrofoam containers will melt at 464 degrees Fahrenheit.
At what temperature does Styrofoam break down?
Styrofoam begins to soften at 212 degrees Fahrenheit.
What should styrofoam cups be used for?
Styrofoam cups are great for cold drinks. Be careful using them for hot drinks as the beverage’s temperature may cause the cup to leach chemicals. Glass cups or stainless steel cups tend to be better options for hot beverages.
What oven-safe options are available to warm food up in a hot oven?
Consider using a glass dish or cookie sheet to warm food up in the oven since it is not safe to place styrofoam in the oven.