Have you ever taken leftovers to work or school in a plastic container, only to find it warped and misshapen after reheating? Those disposable plastic tubs simply aren’t meant for the high heat of microwave ovens. Not to mention, tossing container after container contributes to the global plastic pollution problem.
The good news is, you don’t have to rely on flimsy plastic to store and reheat food on-the-go. Reusable microwave-safe containers are a versatile, eco-friendly alternative for carrying meals, prepping ingredients, and keeping leftovers fresh. With the right containers, you can quickly reheat leftovers or entire meals in the microwave at home or work.
In this article, we’ll highlight the top 5 reusable container options ideal for microwaving. We’ll also share tips on how to select the right microwave-safe containers for your lifestyle and safe reheating practices. Read on to find your new favorite food prep essentials!
Skip the Plastic – Enjoy the Perks of Reusable Microwave-Safe Containers
Before diving into the best microwave-safe containers available, let’s overview the key benefits of choosing reusable over disposable options:
Every time you reach for a reusable container over a single-use plastic tub, you’re preventing waste and plastic pollution. Americans throw away 25 billion styrofoam cups and an additional 36.4 billion plastic utensils annually. Just imagine the positive impact if we collectively switched to reusables! With a set of durable containers, you can pack lunch or leftovers 1000+ times versus relying on disposables.
Heating plastics in the microwave can cause chemicals within those containers to leach into food. This includes endocrine disruptors like BPA and phthalates. By switching to non-toxic materials like glass, stainless steel or food-grade silicone, you avoid exposing yourself to these harmful chemicals.
At first, a set of reusable containers represents a larger upfront investment than grabbing a pack of cheap plasticware. However, when you calculate long-term use, reusables save money over time. Plus, brands that offer warranties add even more value for your initial container purchase.
Thanks to leak-proof lids and lightweight materials, it’s simple to transport delicious home-cooked meals anywhere you go in a reusable container. Whether commuting to the office, going on a picnic or just running errands, reusable containers make portability a breeze. Their versatility also lends well to perfectly portioned meal prep.
Now that you know the advantages of microwave-safe reusable containers, let’s explore the top container options on the market.
The Best Microwave-Safe Reusable Containers
With a vast range of materials, sizes and designs available, it can feel overwhelming selecting the right reusable containers for your needs. Here, we break down the top 5 microwave-safe styles along with their unique benefits and potential drawbacks.
1. Glass Storage Containers
When you think microwave-safe, glass containers likely come to mind first. Glass is naturally microwave-safe and able to withstand high reheating temperatures. Glass doesn’t absorb stains or odors either. However, it’s heavier and more prone to breaking than other materials.
- Naturally microwave-safe and non-toxic
- Allows you to monitor food while cooking
- Withstands freezing temperatures
- Doesn’t absorb stains, odors or flavors
- Can be washed in the dishwasher
- Heavier than other materials
- Risk of breaking or chipping
- Not as portable for on-the-go use
- Gets hot quickly, so requires handling precautions
Ideal Uses: Glass food storage works well for meal prepping ingredients, keeping leftovers and reheating individual servings. The see-through material lets you view contents without removing the lid.
Popular high-quality brands like Pyrex, Anchor Hocking and Glasslock all offer glass containers in a range of sizes. Look for models with snap-tight lids for leak resistance.
2. Stainless Steel Bento-Style Containers
For a lightweight and durable alternative to glass, stainless steel containers make an excellent choice. The bento box-style options feature removable compartments perfect for meal prepping balanced meals.
- Nearly indestructible and dishwasher safe
- BPA-free and food-grade materials
- Lightweight for easy transport
- Compartments allow food separation
- Keeps food hot or cold for hours
- Can get hot to the touch after microwaving
- Not see-through
- Handwash recommended for some models
- Prone to condensation on lids
Ideal Uses: Bento boxes lend themselves nicely to prepping well-rounded meals, from grains, proteins and veggies. The divider compartments cut down on mixing flavors and textures. Stainless steel provides even microwave heating.
Quality brands like Bentgo, Thermos and Uvex offer bento sets that includes different sized containers and removable dividers. Look for leak-resistant seals on the lids.
3. Silicone Microwave Containers
If you’re looking for ultra lightweight, flexible containers, food-grade silicone is tough to beat. Silicone provides a soft, collapsible alternative to rigid plastic food storage. Though often brightly colored, it is translucent, letting you see contents.
- Lightweight, flexible and collapsible
- Resilient material won’t crack
- Translucent to view food contents
- Dishwasher and microwave safe
- Lid options: snap-top, collapsible, silicone
- Safe for freezing and boiling
- Can absorb stains and odors over time
- Not as structurally sturdy as other materials
- Avoid metal utensils that may puncture silicone
Ideal Uses: Silicone microwave containers are fantastic for reheating single servings like leftover soups, oatmeal and pasta dishes. Their light weight and compact-ability make them ideal for packed lunches.
Popular brands offering quality silicone microwave container sets include POPCO, Sistema and Ziploc. Look for BPA-free models clearly labeled as microwave-safe.
4. Microwave-Safe Ceramic Bowls
For a homey vibe, ceramic bowls offer character plus versatility. Modern ceramic mixes create durable, lightweight bowls that can transition from microwave to table. Stoneware and porcelain options retain heat well, creating a double boiler effect.
- Provides cozy aesthetic for serving
- Durable yet lightweight
- Retains heat for serving soups, stews
- Often safe for oven, microwave and freezer
- Promotes even cooking
- Handwash recommended to preserve glazes
- Porous material prone to staining
- Risk of breaking/chipping with drops
- Contents can get hot quickly
Ideal Uses: From breakfast oatmeal to pasta bakes at dinnertime, ceramic bowls allow you to reheat and serve in the same vessel. Their heat retention abilities lend well to chili, mac and cheese and other saucy dishes.
Quality ceramic microwave bowl options include Corelle and Temp-Tations. Verify microwave-safe before purchasing.
5. Microwave-Safe Silicone Lids
If you already have a refrigerator stocked with glass and plastic storage containers, consider microwave-safe silicone lids. These affordable covers stretch to fit over most bowls, plates, mugs and jars temporarily. Their flexibility allows steam venting.
- Stretches to cover unlike sized containers
- Allows steam venting while covering food
- Soft, pliable material easy to use and store
- Withstands temperatures from -40 to 446°Fahrenheit
- Collapses down flat for storage in drawers or bags
- Prone to staining over time
- Not a long term lid replacement
- Condensation droplets can fall onto food
Ideal Uses: Silicone lids offer a quick solution for reheating leftovers in shallow bowls or mugs. They allow you to convert non-microwave-safe containers into temporary microwave-safe vessels. Keep a few on hand for impromptu reheating needs.
Highly rated silicone lid brands like POPCO and Silicone Zone offer budget-friendly multi-pack options. Look for food-grade, BPA-free silicone.
As you can see, there are excellent options when it comes to selecting reusable microwave-safe food containers. The right choice comes down to assessing your reheating and food storage needs. Next, let’s go over the key factors to consider when shopping for containers.
How to Select the Best Microwave-Safe Containers for Your Lifestyle
Once you know the pros and cons of each main material, it’s time to narrow down your selection. Keep the following factors in mind when picking microwave-safe containers for your lifestyle:
Consider Intended Use Cases
How you plan to use your new microwaveable containers can guide you toward the ideal material and size options. Important questions to ask:
- Will this primarily store leftovers for a few days or prepped meals for up to a week? Glass and stainless steel work better for longer storage. Silicone and ceramic are better short term options.
- Are you looking to reheat more liquids like soups or solids like pizza? Glass and ceramics fare better for liquids thanks to sturdier material. Collapsible silicone containers work well for solid foods.
- Do you need a portable container to take meals on-the-go? If so, avoid glass and opt for lightweight silicone or stainless steel.
- Will you use for single servings or family-style portions? Single compartments or smaller containers optimize single-serve reheating.
- Do you plan to reheat full plated meals or leftovers? Larger compartments or bowls suit full meals. Mini containers suit leftovers.
Factor In Your Lifestyle Habits
How you cook, prep and dine day to day can point you toward containers that best fit within your habits. Assess aspects like:
- Activity level – if you’ll often transport containers in bags for work, school or outdoor adventures, avoid glass and opt for silicone or stainless.
- Kids or others who will use the containers – choose durable stainless or silicone if use will be rough versus glass.
- Dish washing access – handwash-only options like ceramic take more effort. Dishwasher-safe glass, silicone and stainless offer convenience.
Consider Microwave Wattage
The power level of your microwave also impacts how well different materials heat food. High watt microwaves above 1000 Watts can generate very high heat and work best with materials like glass and ceramic that have high heat tolerance. Lower 700-900 Watt microwaves work better for silicone containers.
Prioritize Design Factors That Suit Reheating
Since the containers need to perform well and safely in the microwave, design factors like the following matter:
- Shallow or deep profile – shallow work better for quick single serving reheats. Deep containers hold more but may heat unevenly.
- Snap-on, vented or open lids – venting lids prevent splatter and allow steam to release. Open tops require a paper towel or splatter guard.
- Compartment configurations – having dividers or sections helps separate food types and flavors.
Consider Care Requirements
To get the most mileage from your containers, assess washing expectations:
- Hand wash only? This takes more time but preserves finishes of materials like ceramic.
- Dishwasher safe? Look for containers durable enough to withstand high heat and detergent.
- Stain resistance – glass and silicone have high resistance. Stainless steel can discolor. Porous materials like ceramic absorb stains.
- Prone to warping? Silicone’s flexibility prevents warping. Avoid thin plastic prone to warping.
Set a Budget
Finally, factor cost into your selection process. If you’ll use containers daily, investing more into durable glass, steel or ceramic options can make sense long-term. For occasional use, affordable silicone sets offer convenience. Mix and match different materials to optimize usefulness.
By taking stock of your current habits and assessing your priorities, you can identify the ideal microwave container material and size selections for your needs.
A few final pro tips as you shop:
- Purchase a container variety pack to first test which you like before committing to a full set.
- Freeze silicone lids before use to prevent condensation from dripping into foods.
- Use paper towels or parchment liners to prevent staining with saucy foods.
- Allow proper venting space so steam can escape from containers during reheating.
Now that you know how to select the best microwave-safe containers, let’s go over some reheating safety tips.
Safely Reheat Leftovers and Meals With Your Containers
Microwave-safe doesn’t automatically equal using them safely. Follow these reheating tips and precautions whenever cooking with containers:
Use Only Microwave-Safe Materials
Double check that your containers, lids and any utensils are all specially manufactured to be microwave safe. Never microwave materials not deemed safe for high heat.
No Metal in the Microwave
Metal lids, foil and utensils don’t belong in microwaves as they can damage the appliance or cause electric arcing.
Follow Manufacturer Guidance
Adhere to any reheating directions provided for your specific containers. This includes what foods can and cannot be microwaved.
Don’t Overfill Containers
Leave at least 1-2 inches of headspace when reheating to prevent overflow as ingredients bubble and expand.
Allow Steam to Vent
Without a venting lid, either keep part of the top uncovered or drape with a paper towel to let steam release.
Handle with Care
Use pot holders when removing hot containers from the microwave. Silicone grips help handling hot glass. Allow a minute for standing before opening lids.
Avoid Microwave Edges
Don’t place small containers like single-serve silicone cups near the turntable edges where uneven heating occurs.
Arrange Multiple Containers in Ring Formation
When reheating several containers, arrange them in a ring toward the center of the turntable for even distribution of heat.
Stir and Rotate
Stirring or turning containers halfway through reheating distributes heat for more consistent outcomes.
Check Internal Temperatures
Especially for reheating meat, poultry and other foods safely. Use a food thermometer to ensure proper temperatures are reached.
By following these simple microwave safety tips, you can feel confident in safely using your new reusable containers.
FAQs About Reusable Microwave-Safe Containers
You probably still have a few questions when it comes to using alternative containers in the microwave. Here we answer some frequently asked questions:
Q: Can all glass and ceramic containers go in the microwave?
A: No, they must be specifically labeled as microwave-safe. Unsafe ceramics or glass with certain properties or metal can overheat and break.
Q: What happens if I microwave a regular plastic container?
A: It poses risks like warping from the high heat, melting to the food, or leaching chemicals into food that disrupt hormones. Only opt for BPA-free plastic tubs labeled as microwave-safe.
Q: How do I prevent splattering inside the microwave?
A: Splatter happens from steam buildup. Use vented lids, leave an opening, or drape with paper towels to allow escape. Stirring food halfway through also helps.
Q: Why do my glass food containers get so hot in the microwave?
A: Glass is an excellent conductor of heat. Allow time before handling hot glass containers. Silicone grips on jars help insulation. Never microwave glass that’s cracked.
Q: How can I reheat leftover pizza in containers without it getting soggy?
A: Place the slice on a microwave-safe plate and cover with a paper towel to absorb moisture. Reheat pizza in short 30 second bursts then check, repeating as needed. The paper towel prevents it from getting soggy.
Start Reheating Meals the Eco-Friendly Way
Reusable microwave-safe food containers offer a convenient, safe solution for carrying delicious home-cooked meals and reheating leftovers. With a variety of materials to choose from, assess your habits, lifestyle and priorities to determine the best options for your needs.
Glass, stainless steel, silicone and ceramic all provide excellent alternatives to wasteful disposable plastic containers. With proper care and microwave safety practices, they can provide reliable reheating for years of daily use. Ditch the disposables and make the switch to reusable containers your next eco-friendly goal!
Try out one new reusable container type this week to discover your favorite for reheating everything from last night’s dinner to perfectly portioned work lunches. Your wallet and the planet will thank you.