Cup noodles can be a great quick delicious snack and personally I love having one from time to time. Some people like to put boiling water in them while others put them in the microwave to warm them up.
However, some noodle cups come with a warning advising you not to microwave them. So what's the deal? Can you microwave cup noodles and if not why shouldn't you?
I wanted to personally put this to the test so I ran an experiment of my own. I also wanted to do my own research and see if there are any potentially negative health outcomes associated with microwaving a cup of noodles in a styrofoam or plastic container.
Here's what I found:
You can microwave cup noodles and they will heat and cook fine. However, you probably shouldn't unless the cup is made of paper. Heating the styrofoam or PET plastic cups the noodles come in can leach harmful chemicals into your noodles that likely increases your chances of getting cancer. Paper cup noodles are fine to use in the microwave.
This applies both to microwaving your cup of noodles as well as simply pouring boiling water into your noodle cup and letting it sit. Both are likely to cause the leaching of harmful chemicals, but microwaving is worse.
We'll get into this more in the health section but first lets see if anything bad or explosive happens if you microwave cup noodles.
What Happens When You Microwave Cup Noodles?
Where I live the cup noodles always have the instructions to boil water, pour the boiling water in and then leave them to sit for a few minutes.
None of the noodle cups tell me to microwave them so I rarely do it. But I wanted to put this to the test and see what happened.
So I went and bought 2 cup noodles to test out. One was in a styrofoam cup and one was in a plastic cup covered in paper with an aluminium foil lid.
I placed them each in the microwave to see what would happen. Surprisingly the aluminium foil lid sparked and nearly caught on fire!
Check out my experiment below:
In the experiment you can see that the water in the cup of noodles heated up just find in the microwave.
I did 2 minutes and brought the water up to about 77ºC (170ºF) which was probably hot enough. However I would need to leave the noodles to stand for another 5-10 minutes or so for them to be nice and soft and cooked.
I did have one moment when the alfoil lid of the plastic noodle cup sparked and created some burns on the cup.
So if you have an alfoil lid make sure you remove that before microwaving.
Otherwise there were no major issues putting the noodle cups in the microwave for a couple of minutes.
You're not going to blow up your microwave or set your house on fire.
However, many people are worried about whether or not microwaving noodle cups may be bad for your health or increase your chances of getting cancer.
Can Microwaving Cup Noodles Causes Cancer? The Health Risks of Noodle Cups
While you might not kill yourself by setting your house on fire there is a good chance that you're increasing your chances of getting cancer by using styrofoam or plastic noodle cups and putting hot water in them.
It is NOT safe to put hot water in, or to microwave styrofoam cup noodles. They are proven to leach the probable carcinogen styrene into your food, likely increasing your chances of getting cancer.
This medical article proved that styrene was leached into water from styrofoam cups and water bottles and that temperature plated a major role in how much leaching of harmful chemicals occured.
The higher the temperature the more leeching occurred!
|Temperature (ºC)||Styrene (µg/L)|
This report concluded that:
Considering the toxic characteristic of styrene and leaching in water and other products, polystyrene (PS) material should be avoided for food packaging. Especially PS rigid and foam cups should not be used for hot drinks. Paper cups are safe for hot drinks and have no threat as from PS cups. It is also recommended that public awareness program shall be launched to avoid Styrofoam cups for hot drinks.
Given that noodle cups are designed to be used with boiling water at or above 90-100ºC this makes them highly likely to leach chemicals into your noodles.
The plastic noodle cup isn't much better either. According to scientists at Goethe University they found that estrogenic compounds can leach from this type of plastic into the water. Learn more here.
Paper cups on the other hand seems to be fine, but cardboard can leech these compounds.
Do I Recommend Microwaving Cup Noodles?
So after running the experiments and doing the research do I recommend microwaving cup noodles? My answer is NO.
I do not recommend microwaving cup noodles as both the styrofoam and plastic can leach harmful chemicals into your food at high temperatures. Instead put your cup noodles into a glass or ceramic microwave safe bowl and microwave or cook them in that.
This adds a little bit of complexity to things. One of the major benefits of cup noodles is that they are portable and disposable.
They come in the cup you need for cooking and eating out of which makes them really simple to make.
Having to transfer them to a bowl or glass cup is annoying and may not be feasible in all circumstances.
For me personally I don't think I'll ever eat out of a noodle cup again. Why take the health risk?!
If you can avoid them then do, but if you can't avoid them then limit your use of styrofoam and plastic noodle cups as much as possible.
Ultimately what you do and whether or not your microwave or put boiling water in your cup noodles is up to you. Hopefully now you're a little more educated so you can make an more informed decision.