The Chinese Takeout Hack That'll Get You An Instant Plate

When you think of Chinese take-out, you probably imagine eating sweet-and-sour chicken or shrimp and rice out of a rather plain-looking white paper box. Much like how fast food is served in brown or white paper bags, take-out seems to always be associated with that white box — rectangular, squat, and with a metal or plastic wire handle to carry it around. For something that's been around since the late nineteenth century, the Chinese take-out box has proven to be remarkably resilient in what it does. Unlike the usual paper bags of fast food, the take-out box is more than capable of carrying anything from noodles to sauce-covered chicken without any leaks or spills.

So sturdy is this symbol of Chinese-American cuisine it can also double as its own form of plating. The take-out box can convert into a paper plate, simply through a bit of careful deconstruction. What is it that makes the box able to convert into a perfect two-for-one eating vessel? You may have heard of origami, the Japanese art of folding paper into unique shapes. The Chinese take-out box, while of course not associated with Japanese culture, actually follows the rules of origami somewhat, as the whole box is made from one single sheet of paper. It stands to reason, then, that if one sheet of paper could be folded up into the shape of a box, you could just as easily unfold it into a plate.

Just unfold the sides of the take-out box

To go about unfolding your Chinese take-out box into a plate, you will want to remove the wire handle should your box have one. If your box doesn't have a handle or you've already removed it, then find the sides of the box where the paper has been folded in and tucked under itself. Whichever side you start on is up to you, but what you should do is gently untuck the sides, coaxing the paper flaps out.

Once the sides are "opened," you check for staples around the sides, which hold the paper in its box shape. Remove these staples, if there are any, and then fold out each side of your box to form a rudimentary paper plate. In just a few minutes, you can easily have your own paper plate to enjoy your stir-fry or General Tso's chicken. If you're feeling particularly skilled, you could even try to refold the box back into its original shape for easy storage.

You can do a lot of things with Chinese take-out boxes

Even if you don't fold your Chinese take-out box into a plate, you're always left with the same end result: a box of coated paper covered in the remains of a delicious meal. It almost seems like a waste to just throw it out. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do with a leftover Chinese take-out box that will serve a useful and convenient purpose in your home.

One notable thing you can do is use the take-out box as a substitute paper plate for other foods. If you don't want to dirty a dish but don't have any paper plates to spare, you can use your leftover take-out box to make a quick and simple paper plate. Other uses for a leftover take-out box can include but are not limited to, being used to store other food items, to hold clutter such as pens, pencils, or paperclips, or even used as a simple gift box when wrapped. You could even use the box itself as a planter, as the durable and leak-proof construction and materials of the box make it good for holding soil, seeds, and water without spilling. Whether it's folding out into a plate, acting as storage, or serving to make your home a little greener, a take-out box is a surprisingly useful trinket.