Can Paper Plates go in the Oven?

April 22, 2022
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Paper Plates in the Oven: Don’t Do It

There's nothing like the convenience of a disposable plate that doesn't need to be washed after use. So, if your microwave is on the fritz, you might be eyeing your oven and wonder-can paper plates go in the oven?

I understand firsthand how tempting it is to toss a paper plate in the oven. However, jumping the gun before doing your research can have devastating consequences. Between the years 2014 and 2018, firefighters responded to nearly 173,000 cooking fires in the United States.

In this article, I'll help you understand the following:

  • When it's safe to use paper plates in the oven
  • When it isn't safe to heat them
  • How paper plate fires happen
  • Tips for heating paper plates
  • Alternatives to paper plates

The Dangers of Putting Paper Plates in the Oven

While it's safe for some types of paper plates to go in the oven, it's crucial to keep it away from the heat if you're unsure whether the plate is oven safe. Otherwise, you could encounter the following issues:

  • Oven fire
  • Toxins seeping into the food
  • Unpleasant and potentially harmful odors

Unlike putting a plastic plate in the oven, where you can see the material melting, paper plates often have more hidden toxin side effects.

That's especially the case if you keep your oven set at a low enough temperature where the paper doesn't catch on fire, but the heat is still altering its composition.

Paper Plates That Are Always Too Dangerous for Ovens

Fire and toxin consumption are the two biggest concerns when putting paper plates in the oven. While you can ward off the potential of a fire by keeping your oven below 450°F and using oven-safe plates, identifying toxins isn't as cut and dry.

So, below are some signs that your paper plates may contain toxins:

  • Dyes
  • Shiny coating
  • Any other texture that strays from a plain paper feel

You shouldn’t put paper plates in the oven - especially if they’re dyed or coated

Many paper plates come with printed, colorful designs. Although these can be fun to use at birthday parties and 4th of July cookouts, these dyes can seep into your food when you heat them in an oven.

Furthermore, any texture on your plate that doesn't feel like paper is cause for concern. That's because heat from your oven will deteriorate it, causing you to potentially ingest toxins and create a mess in your oven.

Identifying Paper Plates That Are Safe to Use in the Oven

The only type of paper plate safe to go in the oven are those with an "oven-safe" label on their package. These are often plain white paper plates that don't have any coating on them.

Such paper plates have high heat resistance, meaning that they'll usually release steam when they get hot instead of burning. Furthermore, they don't have air molecules.

Needless to say, you should never put a paper plate in an oven over 450°F, regardless of whether the dish is oven safe. That's because even heat-resistant plates will eventually catch fire if the temperature is hot enough.

How Can You Tell If a Paper Plate Is Oven Safe?

If you already threw away your paper plate's packaging, try checking the bottom of the plate. Often, it'll say "oven-safe" if it has oven-friendly material.

A Dyed and Coated Paper Plate - it Should Never Go in the Oven

If your paper plate has a waxy, shiny texture? If so, it likely contains aluminum or resin. Both of these materials can catch on fire and often come with toxins that'll release when you heat them.

Should you be unable to find confirmation from the manufacturer that it's safe to put your paper plate in the oven, don't do it. The risk of ingesting toxins or setting your oven on fire isn't worth the short-lived joy of having a warm meal.

Can Paper Plates Catch on Fire?

Yes, paper plates can and will catch on fire. In fact, even though the answer to "Can paper plates go in the oven?" is "sometimes," the reality is that all paper plates will catch on fire if they become hot enough.

The reason for this has scientific backing, as a paper product can burn anywhere from 424°F to 475°F.

That said, many factors influence when and how fast paper plates burn, including:

  • Moisture content
  • Material
  • Thickness

So, you should never leave any paper plate (even an oven safe paper plate) in the oven unattended and always ensure you keep the temperature low.

Will a Paper Plate Catch on Fire in a Toaster Oven?

Yes, paper plates can catch fire in a toaster oven. Therefore, never try toasting food on a paper plate.

In fact, paper plates often have a higher chance of catching fire in toaster ovens because the heating coils are usually closer to the plate than in an oven. Furthermore, they circulate the air faster than many ovens, causing the plates to heat quickly.

Therefore, even if you keep your toaster oven set well below 450°F, you shouldn't put a paper plate in it.

How to Reheat Food on a Paper Plate in the Oven

To reheat food on an oven safe paper plate, use an electric stove. If you have a gas stove, the carbon dioxide emissions from the plate could mix with the flame and cause a fire.

Also, you should ensure that there's a minimum of one inch of space between the plate and all four sides of the oven. The more room, the better, though, as it'll prevent the paper plate from overheating too quickly.

Finally, although I've been talking about the importance of keeping your oven set below 450°F when using paper plates, the reality is that this is a high number.

So, read the paper plate manufacturer's instructions. More likely than not, they'll recommend a much lower temperature to use. I always recommend following the paper plates instructions above anything I share with you here to maximize the best safety practices.

Using Paper Plates for Cooking in an Oven

Paper plates aren't suitable for cooking in an oven, even if they're the plain white variety.

The reason being is that cooking food almost always takes longer and requires a higher heat level than reheating. So, your paper plate will need to stay in the oven for excessive amounts of time at high temperatures, even if it's the oven-safe variety.

If you have a convection oven, you run an even higher risk of using it for cooking food on a paper plate. The reason is that the hot circulating air reaches all sides of the plate evenly and quickly.

In contrast, traditional ovens don't offer a whole heat experience. As a result, cooking food on a paper plate in a convection oven can cause these plates to catch fire faster.

Oven Safe Materials You Can Use

The next time someone asks you, "Can paper plates go in the oven?" you'll know to point them to the paper plate's label.

However, the reality is that although some paper plates are technically safe to use in ovens, there are many better-suited materials you can transfer your food to. Examples include:

  • Glass
  • Ceramic
  • Cast iron
  • Stoneware
  • Stainless steel
  • Parchment paper
  • Silicone baking mats
  • Aluminum Foil (wrap up your food)

So, even though it'll cause you to put a little more elbow grease into cleaning, pull out that ceramic plate your mother-in-law gifted you or the stoneware you use for company and heat your food with more peace of mind.

Materials Unsafe for Ovens

Paper plates are unique because some varieties are safe for ovens while others aren't. Examples of items you should never place in the oven include:

  • Wax paper
  • Paper Towels
  • Plastic
  • Potholders
  • Oven Mitts
  • Non Oven Safe Glassware

When it comes to paper products, aside from oven-safe paper plates, you should avoid putting all other types of paper in the oven.

Safer Alternatives for Heating Paper Plates

I understand your concern if you're hesitant to use a microwave oven for heating food on your paper plate because of radiation. However, a properly constructed and sealed microwave oven poses an extremely low radiation risk.

Consider oven safe paper plates or tin foil - not paper plates - to heat food in the oven

As with ovens, most plain white paper plates are microwave safe. However, certain other paper plates are microwave safe too.

Therefore, check the package or bottom of your paper plate to see if it's safe for use in a microwave oven. It may come as little surprise, but it's typically a safe option if you microwave paper plates without a glossy surface.

Alternatively, if you have fried food that you want to reheat, move it from your paper plate into an air fryer. Turn the air fryer to 350°F - 400°F and wait 3 - 4 minutes. Then, place the food back onto your paper plate and enjoy a safely warmed meal.

Frank Salvatore

Hey there - I'm Frank Salvatore. I created this site as a comprehensive kitchen resource. You'll find everything you need to know about everything in your kitchen. From appliances to utensils and layout - it is covered on this site!

About Me
Frank Salvatore
I created this site as a comprehensive kitchen resource. You'll find everything you need to know about everything in your kitchen. From appliances to utensils and layout - it is covered on this site!
Learn More About Me
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