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All of them can be used in microwave, as far as I know. But the question is which one should be preferred?

What are the pros and cons on the basis of which we can decide which one to prefer?

Out of microwave safe bone china, glass, and silicone wares which should be preferred for heating food in microwave?

Can there be a speed difference w.r.t heat reaching the food in the vessel due to its material?

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+100

Yes, there's a difference in the intensity of microwaves reaching the food depending on the container.

I found, and reffed a few numbers for material's reflectivity and transmission of microwaves in this question: Should I cover food while reheating it in a microwave?. Turns out that between metal glass and plexiglass, the plastic has the best properties with reflection of 16% of microwaves and transmission of 83% to the food inside the container.

There don't seem to be a lot of studies of this effect, so I can't say which of bone china, glass, or silicon would be preferable, but you could probably get a pretty good idea by placing empty containers of each type in a microwave for a minute or two, and seeing which remained coolest.
That material would have the least absorbance.

Similarly, heating a few hundred ml of water in containers of each type for a minute, and measuring the final, non-boiling, water temp would tell which material had the best transmission.

You want the container that a) does not get hot by itself, and b) heats water to the highest temperature in a short period of time.

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As Shalryn hinted to, not all glass is the same.

Although I would recommend glass also, I wouldn't recommend something like a thin colored glass cup, as they can't typically take the thermal shock of heating.

What happens is that the glass absorbs microwaves differently than the food being heated; if you're heating a liquid, the top of the glass above the liquid can stay cool while the portion touches the liquid heats up from conduction with the liquid. Not all glass can take that strain, and it breaks. (the opposite happens in the oven, the stuff above the liquid line heats while the part in contact stays cooler.

In theory, every piece of glassware that is rated for the oven should be safe for the microwave, but I'd be wary of colored glass, as they're typically colored using metal. (eg, I have blue glasses, which is often cobalt). Things that are neither oven save nor microwave safe include:

  • Metal rimmed glasses
  • Glass with air bubbles trapped in it
  • Thin walled containers (anything less than a typical mug thickness)

One test for microwave-safe containers is to heat the glass in the microwave on high for a couple of minutes (possibly more if you have a low-wattage microwave), and see if it heats up. If it does, it's definitely not microwave safe. When I've done the test, I check every 30 seconds or so and stop if it's warm.

inserted: You may want to place another microwave-safe container with water in the microwave when testing (see comment from Ecnerwal). If you do this, you'll also need to increase the time, to let the test container absorb enough microwaves (as a good portion will be absorbed by the water)

... but that really only checks to see if it absorbs microwave radiation (which was a frequent problem when microwaves were new). It won't test for thermal shock, which may not happen the first time, but after a few uses.

These days, new products will be advertised as 'microwave safe' or possibly as not microwave safe, so if you're unsure, stick with the ones that claim to be safe.

As for speed issues -- if the container breaks and you have to clean up the mess (and can't eat the food, then yes. I don't know how much the vessel absorbing microwaves actually affects speed ... the part in contact with the food will conduct heat to the food (especially if it's liquid or relatively wet). You might be slowed down wondering if it's safe to eat after microwaving something in plastic, and finding the rim partially slumped. (which I have no idea if it's safe. When I was a grad student, I'd probably have eaten it. Now I'd likely pitch it)

  • I forgot to mention that I had assumed that the glass would be microwave safe. – Aquarius_Girl Dec 6 '16 at 10:29
  • @AquariusTheGirl : In that case, I'd go with glass ... just because it's easiest to clean. – Joe Dec 6 '16 at 12:58
  • One test for microwave-safe containers is to heat the glass in the microwave on high for a couple of minutes (possibly more if you have a low-wattage microwave), and see if it heats up. - if you are doing that without anything in the container (or at least in the microwave as well as the "test container") that does absorb, it's a great way to break a microwave, as a relative who liked to use one as a timer but sometimes didn't use the timer setting proved. – Ecnerwal Dec 7 '16 at 3:41
  • @Ecnerwal : Do you know how long they were heating for when it broke? I suspect it was for a longer time, but I'll go add a warning. – Joe Dec 7 '16 at 11:09
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    I don't know the length of time, but I do know that my microwave manual specifically advises against running without something in there to absorb the energy. From a manufacturer website: Running a microwave with no load can cause serious damage to electrical components. When food is placed in the oven, microwave energy generated by the magnetron is absorbed by the food. When no food is in the oven, there is nothing to absorb the energy. The energy bounces around the cavity and is channeled back through the waveguide. This can cause arcing, fire and may burn out the magnetron. – Ecnerwal Dec 9 '16 at 20:34
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I wouldn't use bone china, as the clays often contain metals that can damage your microwave over time, and if the china is true bone china, microwaving will shorten its lifespan, as it is not designed for cooking. Between glass or silicon, I think it's just a matter of preference. I prefer the sturdiness of glass over the softness/floppiness of silicone, so I use microwave-safe borosilicate glass vessels. As to speed difference, I would assume that bone china would interfere with the microwaves and lengthen the time it would take for the radiation to heat the food as needed.

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