Can You Put Plastic Ready Meal Trays in the Oven?

Plastic ready meal tray in oven

The convenience of ready-made meals has become a staple in many UK households, offering a quick solution for busy individuals. However, when it comes to heating these meals, questions arise about the safety of the plastic trays they come in.

Can you put plastic ready meal trays in the oven? Or are they only intended for microwave use? Read on to find out.


Can Ready Meal Trays Go in the Oven?

You can put most plastic ready meal trays in the oven. These plastic trays have been tested at high temperatures and designed explicitly for withstanding heat. However, using non-approved plastic ready meal trays in the oven can lead to melting, warping, or releasing harmful chemicals.

Therefore, it’s important to double-check the packaging of the specific ready meal before assuming it’s safe to do so. Not all plastic trays used for ready-made meals are made from the same type of plastic—some are oven-safe, whereas others are only intended for microwave use.

There are two ways that you can check whether or not the plastic used for packing your ready meal is suitable for conventional or fan ovens:

  • Check for the oven-safe plastic symbol: Plastic that can withstand the hot temperatures inside an oven is often marked with an oven-safe plastic symbol. The symbol is an image of an oven and will be printed on the plastic tray itself. Don’t confuse this with the microwave-safe symbol, which depicts a microwave with wiggly lines inside.
  • Ready the cooking instructions: If you cannot find the oven-safe symbol, refer to the cooking instructions on the packaging of your ready meal. Here, it will advise you on all the available cooking methods, including how to oven-bake the dish. The plastic is likely unsafe for oven use if there are no oven instructions.

Peeling plastic film of ready meal


Can You Bake with Plastic Film?

Ready meals typically come in a plastic tray with a transparent plastic film over the top. Although the trays can generally be put in the oven (remember to check), the plastic film cannot. It’s typically designed for microwave use and cannot withstand the temperatures inside your oven.

If you want to bake a ready meal in the oven, removing the plastic film before placing it in the oven is best. If cooking in the microwave, don’t remove the film—leave it in place to remove splattering, but pierce several holes in the top to allow steam to escape.

This information will be specified in the cooking instructions detailed on the packaging, so refer to this for more specific guidance.


How You Cook Ready Meals in the Oven?

Cooking ready meals in the oven is straightforward. You can do it by following these steps:

  1. Check it’s oven-safe: Look at the packaging of your ready meal to check that the plastic tray can be put in the oven safely. Refer to the cooking instructions and look for oven-safe symbols on the packaging. If oven-safe, continue with the following steps.
  2. Remove the plastic film: Remove the plastic film from the top of the ready meal and throw it away. This piece of plastic is to help prevent spills when heating food in the microwave but isn’t safe for putting inside hot ovens.
  3. Place on a baking tray: Put the plastic tray that your ready meal is in on a baking tray and then in the oven rather than directly on an oven shelf. Even if the plastic tray won’t melt in the oven, the high temperatures can cause it to soften and lose its shape during cooking.
  4. Put in the oven: Put the baking tray inside a preheated oven and bake for the time specified on the product packing. Always use the oven temperature given in the cooking instructions for best results.

If the packaging does not explicitly state that the tray is oven-safe – either through the use of symbols or cooking instructions – you can still cook it in the oven. However, before heating, you’ll need to transfer the tray’s contents to an appropriately sized casserole dish or other oven-safe cookware.

Alternatively, cook the ready meal in the microwave or microwave oven by piercing the plastic film, putting the ready meal inside the microwave, and heating it for several minutes. Check the plastic tray is safe for microwave use first, as microwaving non-suitable plastics can be a threat to your health.

Indian ready meal


Can You Put a Plastic Tray in the Oven?

Ready meals are designed to be heated, so their plastic trays are usually tested and treated for them to withstand high temperatures. This makes these quick and simple dinners even more convenient, reducing the preparation time and amount of washing up you have—win, win!

However, not all plastics are intended for oven use. Many of the plastic trays you’ll find in the kitchen are designed for holding and storing food rather than heating. These plastics will melt at high temperatures, becoming a challenge to clean up and releasing toxic fumes in the process.

Therefore, never assume you can put all plastic trays in the oven—even those intended for holding food. Some types of plastic trays you should not put in the oven include:

  • Plastic takeaway containers and lids
  • Microwave-safe plastic trays
  • Plastic tray for packaging non-ready meals
  • Polystyrene packaging (e.g. polystyrene pizza trays)
  • Polystyrene takeaway boxes

Top Tip: You can learn more about the different types of plastic and whether they are oven-safe in our article here: Can You Put Plastic in the Oven?