Can you put styrofoam in the oven? is a typical concern, particularly in an era when takeout and delivery are becoming more popular. It may be tempting to reheat leftovers or takeaway food in your oven, but is this a safe choice if the food is in a styrofoam container?
You may imagine that since styrofoam is recognized to be microwave safe, it would also be oven safe. The most crucial thing to know is whether or not this is unsafe, so before we try it, let’s see whether styrofoam is safe in the oven.
- What is styrofoam?
- What is it used for?
- What Temperatures Can Styrofoam Withstand?
- What is the Melting Point of Styrofoam?
- What Happens When You Put Styrofoam in the Oven?
- What Is the Purpose of Styrofoam Packaging for Food?
- Microwave Safe vs Oven Safe Styrofoam
- What If You Accidentally Burn Styrofoam?
- Microwaving Food Safely
- What Should You Use Styrofoam Containers For?
- In Summary
What is styrofoam?
The Down Chemical Company, which manufactures Styrofoam by the extrusion of polystyrene foam, owns the trademark. The term’styrofoam’ in the United States refers to a form of expanded polystyrene.
Before we go any further, let’s look at the distinctions between extruded and expanded polystyrene.
Extruded polystyrene is created by a method that involves combining it with other materials and then melting them together.
Molds using polystyrene beads are filled with expanded polystyrene insulation, heat, or steam. As a result, they grow and stay together.
Polystyrene is a plastic substance formed from the monomer’styrene’ that is utilized in the manufacture of numerous everyday items.
When polystyrene is converted into a foam-like substance, it is primarily prized for its excellent cushioning capabilities. This form of polystyrene is 95% air, making it exceptionally buoyant.
A careful examination of a lump of styrofoam reveals several white spheres. These are particles that have been enlarged to create a certain item, such as a cup or box.
These polystyrene beads are much smaller than the previously inflated beads seen in styrofoam. If you have these beads on hand, you may do a few experiments to learn how styrofoam is manufactured.
If you place these beads in a metal mold that you can shut securely, filling it up to a third of the way, then boil for a few minutes. When you remove the mold and let it to cool, you will see that the beads have grown significantly.
When polystyrene beads are microwaved with a tiny quantity of water or steam, they expand as well.
What is it used for?
Many takeout food containers, plates, and cups are made of Styrofoam. This kind of packaging is very lightweight and ideal for cold food preservation.
It is the most popular kind of packaging used when having food picked up or delivered.
What Temperatures Can Styrofoam Withstand?
If you’ve ever handled a styrofoam container in your hand and felt how light it is, you may be apprehensive about using it in a hot environment. It seems like the box will vanish instantly.
What is the Melting Point of Styrofoam?
As previously stated, styrofoam is made of expanded polystyrene beads. The melting point of these beads is 464 °F (240 °C).
However, styrofoam containers will soften long before the temperature reaches this level. The temperature of 212°F (100°C) is sufficient to soften containers constructed of this material. (That is merely the temperature required to bring water to a boil!)
Given this knowledge, it is advised to use extreme caution if a styrofoam item is in close proximity to heat.
What Happens When You Put Styrofoam in the Oven?
When you place a styrofoam container or cup in a hot oven, it begins to decompose.
If you leave Styrofoam in a hot oven, it will melt and transform into a mushy and sticky mess. Because styrene is included in styrofoam, some oil may be released when it is burned. The latter is an oily liquid made of an organic component.
To do this, your oven must be very hot, approaching the melting point of polystyrene.
What Is the Purpose of Styrofoam Packaging for Food?
Why is it that styrofoam containers that food typically arrives in are often used if they are not oven safe? There are a few reasons why styrofoam is the market leader for restaurant and food containers.
Polystyrene is much less expensive than other packaging materials. Other environmentally friendly possibilities include biodegradable paper, bioplastics, and recycled metal. However, the expense of these materials makes it unprofitable for most delivery providers.
Insulation is one of the many advantages of Styrofoam. The foam provides high thermal insulation, which aids in keeping your meal at the proper temperature. You won’t have to worry about hot food becoming cold or cold food becoming heated while in transit.
Another advantage you’ve surely seen is how simple the containers are to transport. Styrofoam is incredibly light and keeps the form of the container quite well. As a result, it’s an excellent choice for transporting meals from a restaurant to your house.
Microwave Safe vs Oven Safe Styrofoam
Why is styrofoam microwave safe if it acts so horribly in the oven? Microwaves employ a cooking technology that uses a magnetron to induce the molecules in your food, mostly water molecules, to vibrate and generate heat. Because of the chemical makeup of styrofoam, this heating procedure does not impact it in the same manner that other items do.
General heating is used in ovens by imparting high, radiant heat to items through an electric heating coil. This will deliver the appropriate heat to the styrofoam, causing it to burn and melt, resulting in the previously described safety and health hazards.
Even so, you should always double-check that the styrofoam is microwave safe. Most of them are these days, but double-check before heating any styrofoam.
What If You Accidentally Burn Styrofoam?
When styrofoam is burned, it emits hazardous substances. The gas and chemicals released by burned styrofoam are harmful to the environment.
Not only that, but they may also be harmful to your health. One example of the harm caused by burning styrofoam is adversely impacted lungs.
But don’t be surprised if you’ve accidentally left a styrofoam container in the oven to cook a delivery dinner. Burning styrofoam once will not harm you or the environment significantly.
Microwaving Food Safely
If you’re still on the fence about putting styrofoam in the microwave, do it in the safest manner possible by following these basic rules:
- Transfer the food from the styrofoam container to a plate or microwave-safe container.
- To avoid sparks, don’t leave metal utensils in your meal.
- Spread the food out on the platter to ensure uniform heating and a safe internal temperature.
- When reheating extremely cold food, stir the meal or spin the dish to avoid leaving any cold patches that may harbor germs.
What Should You Use Styrofoam Containers For?
Cold food may be stored in Styrofoam containers. You may keep leftovers in a styrofoam container in the refrigerator.
Cold beverages may be served in Styrofoam cups. Hot beverages should not be served in these glasses. While styrofoam cups are supposed to keep beverages hot for longer and are pleasant to handle, they should not be used with hot liquids.
Instead, use paper cups for hot beverages. They are much more secure. Paper cups are also considerably simpler to recycle.
For acidic foods, you should also avoid using styrofoam containers. For example, a hot meal with tomato sauce should not be eaten from a styrofoam container.
This implies that beverages with high acidity levels, such as citrus juices and cocktails, should be consumed in non-plastic cups. Glass glasses, for example, are both stylish and environmentally friendly.
Avoid using foam polystyrene cups for alcoholic beverages, as well as bowls, plates, and containers for fatty meals.
In a nutshell, Styrofoam containers and cups may be used for anything that is not acidic, greasy, alcohol-based, or heated.
Food should not be heated in stryofoam. To prevent harmful elements seeping into your meals, transfer food from styrofoam plates, cups, or containers into an oven-safe or microwave-safe container. There are many safer items to use to cook your meals!