Always Follow The 2-Minute Rule When Microwaving With Paper Towels

For the times it'll take too long to warm up leftovers using a range, the microwave is there to get the job done in a fraction of the time. Yet, ideal as it may be to pop plates into the appliance, some rules should be abided by to avoid dangerous situations. Of the many microwaving dos and don'ts, the most important has to be following the 2-minute rule when using paper towels.

Ask anyone how they'd heat a plate of food in the microwave, and most would agree that the first step is to cover the dish, both to minimize the risk of splatters and to better trap heat for even cooking. As for how to cover the plate, specialized (usually plastic) covers do exist, but a sheet or two of paper towel works just as well. However, there is a problem with using the paper product — it can pose a serious fire hazard.

While using the 2-minute rule won't totally eliminate the risk of a fire, keeping a reasonable limit on how long you're subjecting what is essentially tinder to microwave radiation is not a bad idea. Along with ensuring a safer heating/reheating process, the 2-minute rule can also help you track the progress of your leftovers and the paper towel more effectively, helping prevent an accident before it happens.

Does this rule apply to all paper towels?

We only recommend using plain, white paper towels, as they're the least likely to trigger a reaction in comparison to recycled paper towels or those with printed designs, which might contain materials or dyes capable of igniting. It's wise to read the packaging on the rolled towels, as some might contain traces of nylon or metal, which is a microwave no-no, obviously. 

It's also wise to work with a single layer of paper towels when covering plates; stacking or folding the towels will trap more heat, encouraging a spark. To eliminate this possibility, you can dampen the paper towels; not only will a wet towel be less likely to catch flame, but it can also promote the production of steam to better reheat food. Plus, the weight of a wringed-out paper towel can prevent it from flying around as the carousel spins, and — depending on the model — the exhaust runs. 

Despite these other precautions, checking in on your paper towels every 120 seconds for extra-long nuke sessions is important to avoid a potential mishap — it might take a bit longer, but it's worth waiting those extra few seconds.