Can You Microwave Chinese Takeout Boxes? (A Straight Answer!)

If you are into Asian cuisine, chances are you’ve come across a Chinese takeout box. These boxes are made by Asian manufacturers and help you carry your leftovers from the restaurant or order takeout.

So, can you microwave Chinese takeout boxes? The answer to this question isn’t a complete yes or no. Reason? Not all Chinese takeout boxes are microwave safe.

And how do you tell whether a Chinese takeout box is microwave-safe or not?

Well, although these containers are usually made to accommodate their local consumers, the food recycling and identification codes are international. This means that they have a recycling number and labels indicating whether they are microwave safe or not.

Identifying the labels will help you know what to place in the microwave and what not to. For instance, if you see 2 to 3 squiggly lines on the takeout box, it is safe for microwave use.

If the box doesn’t have the lines but has a text written on the bottom that they are microwave-safe, it indicates that it’s microwaveable.

However, if the box doesn’t have any microwave-safe label or has squiggly lines enclosed on a circle with a slash, don’t use it in the microwave.

What are Chinese Takeout Boxes Made of?

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There are 4 types of Chinese takeout boxes that you can come across in most Chinese cuisine restaurants: cardboard, paperboard, corrugated, and kraft.

Cardboard is the finest material when compared to the others. It has been used for decades, especially for shipping products.

Paperboard and corrugated are hard materials designed to offer maximum support. A box made from either material ensures zero leakage or food spoilage.

Manufacturers use Kraft to make Chinese takeout boxes because of its durable and sustainable nature.

When it comes to microwaving, you can microwave microwave-safe cardboard, paperboard, corrugated, and Kraft Chinese takeout boxes as long as they don’t have metal handles on them.

If the box has a metal handle, remove it before placing it in the microwave.

How Can You Tell That a Chinese Takeout Box is Microwave Safe?

can you microwave chinese takeout boxes

There are many ways to determine whether a takeout box is safe to use in the microwave.

One way is to look for the microwave-safe symbol at the bottom of the container. This symbol is indicated in 3 squiggly lines. If present, you can use the box in the appliance.

However, if the squiggly lines are enclosed in a circle with a slash, the box isn’t microwave safe.

The other way of verifying whether the takeout box is microwaveable is by looking for the words microwave-safe on the packaging.

If the packaging has the words, it simply means that the manufacturer has tested the box and found it safe for microwaving.

We have another article, Can You Microwave Silicone? Is It Safe? (Answered) You can read it anytime.

Is it Safe to Reheat Food in a Chinese Takeout Box?

You can reheat food safely in a microwaveable Chinese takeout box. The trick is not microwaving it for long since you don’t want it to overheat in your microwave.

For instance, if you use a cardboard Chinese takeout box and happen to leave it in the microwave for long, it can catch fire. Remember, cardboard is a relatively good conductor of heat hence catches fire easily.

And if microwaving a Chinese paperboard takeout box, leaving it in the microwave for long can lead to melting. Melting goes hand in hand with leaching toxic chemicals into your food.

The solution, therefore, is to reheat your meals for a limited period. For the best results, reheat in intervals of, at most, 1 minute.

Also, avoid reheating your food repeatedly since these takeout boxes aren’t designed for reuse.

Things to Know About Microwaving Chinese Takeout Boxes

Not all Chinese takeout boxes can be microwaved. If the box is microwaveable, here are a few things you should keep in mind when microwaving it.

1. Check the Label

Always check the takeout box label since chances are you’ll find instructions details about whether it’s microwaveable or not.

Check for a 3-wave icon (3 squiggly lines) indicating microwave safety. If the icon isn’t available, consider looking for written instructions.

The direction section will give details about heating your meal in the microwave on a microwave-safe Chinese takeout box.

2. Check for Metal

Some Chinese takeout boxes come with metal handles that make them unsafe for microwaving. Check out to confirm that the box doesn’t have any metal parts. If it has the handles, remove them before placing it in the microwave.

3. Microwave Temperature

Check the settings on your microwave and set it on the least possible level when microwaving the takeout box. Never use high temperatures to reheat a Chinese takeout box since you don’t want it to overheat and catch fire or melt.

4. Chemicals

Avoid any takeout box with plastic layers or waxy coating. You should also not use any cardboard box with printed ink.

The extra components can melt or release dangerous fumes harmful to your health when inhaled.

5. Type of Food

Avoid reheating meals with high water content as heat is generated fast if the box is closed. If the box is closed, pressure can build and cause an explosion when trying to escape.

Also, if using a Chinese takeout cardboard box, the heated liquid can jeopardize the integrity of the cardboard by making it soggy.


Can you microwave Chinese takeout boxes? The answer is yes, but only if the takeout box in question is microwave safe(i).

Always check to ascertain that the box is microwave-safe before placing it in the microwave. If safe, reheat it in the appliance under low-temperature settings and for a limited period.

When reheating the food, don’t close the lid of the box since it can lead to a buildup of pressure which can cause an explosion.