Are you a cook? Or do you love cooking with a microwave? You will agree with me that this is one technology that has beyond reasonable doubt proven to come in handy for anyone.
Microwaves have been in existence for decades now and served as time-saving alternatives for kitchen activities such as heating, defrosting and cooking of a variety of foods. But, one concern that has always been associated with this appliance and technology is the question can you microwave Styrofoam?
What Is Styrofoam?
Styrofoam is originally a trademark registered with Dow Chemical, which means that it is just a brand name, but has become generally synonymous with products used for temporal storage of food and beverages.
These products contain certain peculiar attributes. They are expanded with about 95% air, which gives it its foam-like structure and form. They are also light-weight and have insulation properties.
Styrofoam is popular with fast food establishments and restaurants. This is primarily because they are quite cheap and provide good insulation for keeping beverages and foods warm.
Pros And Cons Of Styrofoam
In reality, the term Styrofoam refers to a type of plastic that is made from a hydrocarbon polymer known as polystyrene, which itself is a product of a monomer known as styrene.
The various components of this compound make it somewhat versatile and usable in quite many capacities. This use ranges from its role in the construction industry as a great insulator to use as a substance for packing in the foodservice world.
There are limits to its versatility, as well as dangers it poses to the environment and the human body. Being a byproduct of petroleum makes this material unsuitable for the environment.
It is non-biodegradable; meaning that it is very difficult to breakdown and thus once disposed takes a toll on the environment. Should it find its way to water bodies, it ends up wrecking the aquatic and marine lives when ingested.
According to studies on human and animal health, the chemicals that make up this polystyrene compound in Styrofoam are considered carcinogenic and toxic to the body as a human being.
According to the FDA, any chance of leech into the food it holds can cause a lot of harm and damage to the body, particularly the reproductory system. This tends to happen when the material is exposed to high temperatures.
As a result of the danger it poses, which of course outweighs its benefits, many countries and cities began to ban the use of this material and product.
This has also led to more extensive research giving birth to another type of Styrofoam which not remains under intense heat, but also makes use of less hazardous and safer materials for its construction.
Can You Microwave Styrofoam?
“Styrofoam in microwave should only be considered safe when there is a label on it that says so. This is the FDA’s approved way to reassure the foam’s stability under extremely high temperatures. This way, there’s less chance of leech into the food it holds.”
Let’s get back to the question of whether it is safe to microwave Styrofoam. The answer is YES, but will depend on the type of Styrofoam in question. We have already established that Styrofoam now exists in two types.
Looking at the mechanism behind microwaving, they work by heating the molecules of water in the food being “microwaved”. This means that the Styrofoam pack is going to have to deal with high temperatures. This already disqualifies the traditional type of Styrofoam from being used under such conditions.
If you’re going to need microwaving, it is recommended to opt for the microwave-safe Styrofoam. This way you are sure of its stability and less leeching even amidst high temperatures thus reducing the risk of health damage to the barest minimum.
But, even though there are Styrofoam materials that are considered microwave-safe by FDA, it is also advisable to avoid overheating these products. This is to avoid any form of toxic release, whether from the direct heat of the microwave or as a result of the food getting too hot or burnt.
How To Determine If Is Styrofoam Safe To Microwave?
Whether or not, can styrofoam go in a microwave, is determined by the type of Styrofoam used. It is imperative that together with the requirements that must be met by manufacturers to be able to mark their product safe for use in a microwave, the FDA come up with an approval process and a way to easily and quickly know if the foam used or intended to be used to contain food is microwave-safe or not.
The resolve was to come up with a label of a symbol specially designed and stamped unto the exterior of the container, particularly the bottom.
The label generally comes in the form of a microwave-like symbol with wavy lines. All manufacturers of the Styrofoam packs and containers are expected to stamp a label of this special symbol on each of these containers.
But, there can be many variations of this standard symbol, due to varying international standards. This can make it sometimes difficult to clearly identify.
But, should there be any form of doubt on whether the Styrofoam is safe or not, kindly dispose or avoid using it in a microwave.
Final Words On Can Styrofoam Be Microwaved
Nobody wants to take any form of chance when it comes down to health. You also don’t want a technology that has existed for decades and simplified our lives to now be a source of harm. For this reason, you should fulfill the requirements for microwaving with a Styrofoam: using microwave-safe foam.
Even with meeting these requirements when microwaving, be careful when microwaving, so as to avoid venting the food or burning it. Personally, to be on the safer side, I would recommend that you transfer your food to a more suitable material such as ceramic or glass before putting it into the microwave.
If the option you have is a micro-wave Styrofoam, you can go ahead and use it.
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Last update on 2021-10-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API