Can You Microwave Takeout Containers? (What to Know)

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Perhaps the best part about enjoying really good food from your favorite restaurant is being able to bring home what you couldn’t finish. But what’s a person to do when they get home only to realize there aren’t any clean plates to enjoy their leftovers on? So that begs the question, can you microwave takeout containers?

Luckily, many restaurants choose microwavable to-go boxes that can easily be placed in the microwave. This way, you can enjoy your leftovers warm without worrying about dirtying more dishes in the process. With that said, not all to-go containers are created equally, and certain containers should never be microwaved.

Can You Microwave Takeout Containers?

Some takeout containers are microwaveable, and some aren’t. This guide will tell you which to-go boxes are okay for the microwave and which ones you should avoid microwaving. We’ll also give you examples of a few well-known restaurant chains that offer microwavable to-go boxes when you leave.

What Happens to Plastic in the Microwave?

The durability, lightweight-ness, and flexibility of plastic makes it a popular choice for takeout containers in the restaurant industry. But how safe is this material for reheating food in a microwave? A common concern around microwaving plastic is how much, if any, of the additives in the material are leaching into your food.

These additives can sometimes be harmful to the body, so only certain plastics should be put in the microwave. Among the most common additives found in plastic is bisphenol A, otherwise known as BPA. BPA has been known to cause issues within the body’s endocrine system and has also been linked to issues with obesity, diabetes, and a number of other medical conditions.

How to Tell if a Container is Microwave Safe

You can usually tell if a plastic container is microwavable by looking at the underside of the container base. If it isn’t indicated through written word, you’ll likely see a logo that means it’s microwave safe.

Every plastic product is required to have a specific number. This number refers to the resin identification code that indicates the type of plastic material the container is made from. To find this number, look for the recycling triangle. There are seven total categories plastic can fall under:

  1. Polyethylene terephthalate: soda bottles, mayonnaise jars, etc.
  2. High-density polyethylene: laundry detergent, hand soap containers, etc.
  3. Polyvinyl chloride: plumbing pipes, electrical wiring, etc.
  4. Low-density polyethylene: plastic bags, squeeze bottles, etc.
  5. Polypropylene: yogurt containers, food storage, etc.
  6. Polystyrene or Styrofoam: packing peanuts, food storage, etc.
  7. Other: fiberglass, nylon, and other plastic that doesn’t fall under categories 1-6.

What are The Safest Microwavable Containers to Use?

The safest types of plastic for use in the microwave are typically going to fall within category #5 (polypropylene). This plastic is typically very durable and is most often labeled as microwave-safe by manufacturers.

You’ll also want to try to go for a plastic that is both BPA and phthalate-free to best avoid chemical leaching. However, the best possible option would be a microwave-safe paper food container, like what Sysco supplies to many restaurants.

Keep in mind, though, cardboard and other paper products tend to get flimsy when they’re exposed to high heat. For that reason, you’ll want to be extra careful when removing them from your microwave.

Microwavable To-Go Containers by Restaurant

Have you ever wondered whether your favorite restaurant chain uses microwave-safe to-go boxes? Look no further because we have the answers for you. Here are some of the most well-known restaurant chains and whether or not they offer microwave-safe takeout containers.


Sysco is a wholesale restaurant food distributor that supplies to-go containers to most of your favorite restaurant chains. Whether you’re taking home fast food or your leftover meal from a five-star restaurant, chances are pretty good that the container was supplied by Sysco. Sysco’s classic paper cartons are microwave safe and are designed to reduce condensation and preserve your food for longer.

Olive Garden

Olive Garden’s to-go containers are both microwave and dishwasher safe. This is especially great for anyone who wants to reduce their waste by reusing their containers for other purposes.

In fact, Olive Garden containers are known to last an incredibly long time and work well for packing lunches for school or work. Olive Garden boasts more than 850 restaurants across the United States and regularly donate food to various non-profits within a restaurant’s service area.


Unfortunately, Applebees take out containers are NOT microwavable. They are, however, made from 100% post-consumer plastic and can be recycled after being thoroughly rinsed.

Applebee’s was first founded in Atlanta, GA in 1980. Since then, this massive restaurant chain has opened almost 2,000 locations across the United States.

Panda Express

Panda Express to-go containers are microwavable, recyclable, and dishwasher-safe. Not only can you reuse these containers over and over again but once they reach the end of their life, you can recycle them after thoroughly rinsing them out.

Panda Express began as a husband and wife-owned Asian restaurant and the chain now has more than 2,200 locations nationwide. Additionally, there are also several Panda Express locations throughout Asia.

Bibibop Asian Grill

Bibibop Asian Grill uses containers that are microwave safe, but you must remove the lid before reheating your food. The restaurant also warns that the bowl is flimsy when warm and to use caution when removing it from the microwave. Bibibop currently has 42 locations throughout the United States and is continuously expanding.

Cardboard Pizza Boxes

Cardboard is generally considered a microwave-safe material. However, whether or not you can microwave your pizza inside the cardboard box will depend on the box size and the internal surface area of your microwave. Large pizza chains like Pizza Hut and Dominos offer personal pan pizzas that can likely fit in a standard-sized microwave.

Parting Thoughts

Whether or not your restaurant to-go box is microwavable will depend on the material it’s made from. Remember to check the underside of your container for any indication of microwave safety. Look out for the resin identification code, if any, and be sure to remove any metal parts before starting up your microwave.

Regardless of what your to-go container is made from, we hope this guide has been helpful for you.