Can You Put A Plastic Bag in the Microwave?

Plastic storage bags are increasingly becoming popular in our kitchens.

However, most people are hesitant to use them since nobody has told them if you can put a plastic bag in the microwave.

Can you put a plastic bag in the microwave? This article is dedicate to give you more insights on the type of plastic bags to microwave and the safety tips to observe. Let’s dive in:

Is It Safe To Put a Plastic Storage Bag in the Microwave?

Yes, you can microwave a plastic bag provided it is microwave-safe, you place it on a microwave-safe plate, you leave a steam outlet and you use the right temperature.

You should only use a microwave-safe plastic bag in the microwave. Look out for a safety label, usually 3 wavy lines.

Microwave-safe plastic storage bags such as Ziploc bags are BPA-free hence won’t leach toxins into the food when heated.

They are used to conveniently store foods with sauces because it will be easy to reheat them instead of discarding the sauces.

You should maintain the microwave temperature at 110°C while microwaving plastic bags. Plastic storage bags tend to melt when subjected to extreme temperatures. 

Once they melt they can leach potentially harmful chemical compounds into the food.

If you have to exceed this temperature, you are advised to transfer the food to a microwave-safe dish.

The microwave-safe plate helps to contain juices and vapor that spill from the food. This keeps your appliance clean.

It also helps to counter potential explosion in case the vapor interacts with the electric current produced during the heating process.

It is even convenient if you place a disposable paper towel between the microwave-safe plate and the Ziploc bag. 

The paper towel absorbs the vapor and spills and you don’t have to clean the plate after use.

Heating food in a Ziploc bag could lead to pressure build-up and further cause the paper to melt. A vent is therefore left to allow passage for the steam that comes from heating food.

You are advised to zip the plastic bag or use pegs to hold the top. Covering food while heating helps to:

  •  Retain the moisture content of the food. High microwave heat could cause the food to dry up
  •    It allows even distribution of heat in the food so no unevenly heated spots.
  •    It also protects the food against contaminants.

You must be careful when picking the paper bag from the microwave. You should use oven gloves to remove the bags to avoid serious burns.

How Long Can You Microwave A Plastic Storage Bag?

Cooking time depends on the type of food being microwaved and the set power level. Reheating food in a microwave normally takes up to 30 seconds.

For example, if the food being microwaved contains liquids, the temperature must not exceed 100°C which is the boiling point of water. Boiling water could potentially destroy the plastic bag.

The amount of time spent in the microwave significantly influences the temperatures inside the appliance.

You are advised to follow the instructions in the user manual to see the recommended heating time for the food you intend to microwave.

Once you find out the ideal time, you need to set a timer. If your food is not ready by the time the timer goes off, you can add more heating time.

So if you intend to cook food for a longer time using plastic bags you must stop the microwave at intervals to keep the temperatures at a safe level. You must not exceed 110°C otherwise the plastic bags will shrink or melt.

What Type Of Plastic Bags Can Be Microwaved?

You can only use microwave-safe plastic to heat your food. The kind of plastic bag you choose must be free from BPA and dioxins which are cancer-causing toxins.

The plastic bag too must also have the capacity to withstand high-temperature heat.

Examples of microwave-safe plastic storage bags include:

  1. Ziploc bags (Ikea Ziploc bags and Great Value Ziploc bags)

The plastic storage bags have a plastic zipper which makes them ideal for storing foods with fluids such as stocks and sauces.

  1. Food saver bags

These plastic storage bags are enhanced with a nylon layer on their outer side which reinforces their strength.

Its strong nature allows it to withstand very high temperatures making it ideal for microwave use. They can therefore be used to cook even raw foods.

These bags can be vacuum-sealed therefore no need to cut them for venting.

  1. Freezer bags

These kinds of bags are used to store frozen foods. Since they are microwave-safe, you can defrost the frozen food under low temperatures and then complete the process under higher heat.

Freezer bags are thicker than other plastic bags and hence might take more time to heat.

  1. Stasher bags

These kinds of plastic bags are reusable and can last long if well taken care of.

All the above plastic bags are made from the same polyethylene material which is dioxin-free.

The food to be microwaved in these bags must have little or no oil at all. Oil will burn the plastic bag when heated.

You must always observe the venting precaution when using the above bags. Temperature levels too must be observed.

Please note that Microwave popcorn bags ARE NOT MICROWAVE-SAFE and should not be used in the oven. They contain high levels of perfluorinated compounds which are a potential health hazard.

How To Microwave A Plastic Bag Safely

These are the steps you will follow when you microwave a plastic bag:

  • Choose the right plastic bag to microwave. The plastic bag must be microwave-safe and not been microwaved before.
  • Fill the plastic bag with food leaving at least one-inch free space. The food you intend to microwave must not be oily.
  • Place the plastic bag on a microwave-safe plate. This plate will contain liquids in case of spillage.
  • Cut a vent on the plastic bag to let the steam from the food pass through.
  • Adjust the power button on the microwave to a minimum. Plastics tend to melt when exposed to very high temperatures.
  • Set the timer on preferably for 5 minutes.
  • Dispose of the plastic bag immediately after the microwave unless you are using a stasher bag.

Safety Tips To Observe When You Microwave A Plastic Bag

You should always remember the following when you microwave plastic storage bags:

  •  Make sure the plastic bag you intend to heat is fit for microwave use. If you are not sure, do not microwave it.
  •   Always read the directions availed in the user-guide manual regarding heating plastic bags in the microwave.
  •  Make sure the food you intend to heat in a plastic bag is oil-free. Hot oil will melt or deform the plastic bag.
  •   Always create a vent on the plastic bag to let the hot steam out. Otherwise, the steam will burn the bag.
  •   Do not reheat a plastic bag in the microwave unless you are sure it is safe to do so. However, some plastic bags such as stasher bags can be reused without any negative consequences.
  • Always observe your appliance’s temperatures. The melting point of these plastic bags is 110° C hence do not cook food beyond this temperature.
  • Always heat your food for short periods. Prolonging the heating time causes high-temperature build-up which will consequently melt the plastic bag.
  • Never overstuff plastic bags with food. Always leave a one-inch space between the food and the plastic bag.
  •    Always use an oven glove to remove the hot plastic bags from the oven to avoid burning your hands.

If you still feel uncomfortable microwaving plastic bags, you can consider paperware, ceramic bowls, or even Tupperware. All these are microwave-safe.

To Wrap It Up

There are several microwave-safe plastic bags available in the market such as Ziploc bags, freezer bags, and stasher bags. 

These bags are convenient for reheating food in the microwave and are free from dioxin toxins.

It is not possible to know whether a plastic bag is microwave-safe just by the look so always check for a microwave-safe label.

You will have to follow the above safety tips to ensure you microwave your plastic bag effectively.

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