Safe Microwave Cooking
Important Things to Do When Cooking in a Microwave
Arrange the food.
- Cut the food into pieces that are the same size, if possible. Cutting will give the food more edges and edges get more exposure to microwaves.
- Since outer areas receive more heat than the center, arrange thicker pieces on the outside of the dish.
Cover the food.
- Cover the dish with a lid, paper towel, or plastic wrap. Do not let the plastic wrap touch the food; see below. This will trap steam. This moist heat will destroy bacteria and help even the temperature throughout the food.
Rotate the food.
- Some microwaves have a rotating dish in the center. If yours does not, stop the microwave half way through the cooking time to rotate the dish.
Stir the food.
- Stopping the cooking half way through the cooking time to stir the food is the best way to ensure elimination of cold spots and bacteria.
Let it sit.
- Food continues to cook after the microwave turns off. This is due to the vibration of the outer food cells penetrating the heat to the inner cells. This is important for the thorough heating and killing of bacteria.
Food Safety Temperatures
- Large cuts of meat should be cut smaller. If that is not possible, then meats should be cooked on 50% power (medium) to allow the heat to reach the center without overcooking the outer areas.
Use a food thermometer to verify that the food has reached a temperature where the bacteria have been destroyed. Safe cooking temperatures:
- Red meat: 160˚F (71°C)
- Poultry: 165˚F (74°C)
- Pork: 160˚F (71°C)
- Leftovers: 165˚F (74°C)
- Cooking a stuffed poultry in a microwave is not recommended.
- Other containers labeled specifically for microwave use
- Aluminum foil
- Plates made of Styrofoam or plastic plates that do not say they are microwave safe
- Storage containers such as margarine tubs and take-out containers with metal handles
Microwave Oven and Nutrition
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics http://www.eatright.org
United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service http://www.fsis.usda.gov
Canadian Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education http://www.canfightbac.org
Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca
Cooking meat safely. Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service website. Available at: http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/food/food%5Fsafety/handling/hgic3580.html. Accessed April 10, 2013.
Cooking safely in the microwave oven. United States Department of Agriculture website. Available at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact%5FSheets/Cooking%5FSafely%5Fin%5Fthe%5FMicrowave/index.asp. Updated May 24, 2011. Accessed April 10, 2013.
Microwave cooking and nutrition. The Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide website. Available at: http://www.health.harvard.edu/fhg/updates/Microwave-cooking-and-nutrition.shtml. Updated June 2008. Accessed April 10, 2013.
Microwave ovens and food safety. Health Canada website. Available at: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hl-vs/iyh-vsv/prod/micro-f-a-eng.php. Published July 2005. Accessed April 10, 2013.
Microwave ovens and food safety. United States Department of Agriculture website. Available at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/pdf/microwave%5Fovens%5Fand%5Ffood%5Fsafety.pdf. Updated October 2011. Accessed April 10, 2013.
Safely preparing and reheating foods in microwave ovens. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website. Available at: http://www.eatright.org/Media/content.aspx?id=6442459585&terms=plastic%20wraps. Accessed April 10, 2013.
United States Department of Agriculture and United States Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. 7th Edition, Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, December 2010.
- Reviewer: Brian Randall, MD
- Review Date: 04/2013 -
- Update Date: 04/10/2013 -
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
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