Cooking Safely in the Microwave Oven
| Microwave ovens can play
an important role at mealtime, but special care must be taken
when cooking or reheating meat, poultry, fish, and eggs to make
sure they are prepared safely. Microwave ovens can cook unevenly
and leave "cold spots," where harmful bacteria can survive.
For this reason, it is important to use the following safe microwaving
tips to prevent foodborne illness.
Microwave Oven Cooking
- Arrange food items evenly in a covered dish and add some
liquid if needed. Cover the dish with a lid or plastic wrap;
loosen or vent the lid or wrap to let steam escape. The
moist heat that is created will help destroy harmful bacteria
and ensure uniform cooking. Cooking bags also provide safe,
- Do not cook large cuts of meat on high power (100%). Large
cuts of meat should be cooked on medium power (50%) for
longer periods. This allows heat to reach the center without
overcooking outer areas.
- Stir or rotate food midway through the microwaving time
to eliminate cold spots where harmful bacteria can survive,
and for more even cooking.
- When partially cooking food in the microwave oven to finish
cooking on the grill or in a conventional oven, it is important
to transfer the microwaved food to the other heat source
immediately. Never partially cook food and store it for
- Use a food thermometer or the oven's temperature
probe to verify the food has reached a safe minimum internal
temperature. Cooking times may vary because ovens vary in
power and efficiency. Always allow standing time, which
completes the cooking, before checking the internal temperature
with a food thermometer.
foods to the following safe minimum internal temperatures:
- Cook all raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops, and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145 °F as measured
with a food thermometer before removing meat from the heat source. For safety and quality, allow meat to rest for at least
three minutes before carving or consuming. For reasons of personal preference, consumers may choose to cook meat to higher
- Cook all raw ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal to an internal temperature of 160 °F as measured with a food thermometer.
- Cook all poultry to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer.
- Microwaving stuffed, whole poultry is not recommended. The stuffing might not reach the temperature needed to destroy harmful
bacteria. Cook stuffing separately to 165 °F.
- Cook egg dishes and casseroles to 160 °F.
- Reheat leftovers to 165 °F.
- Cooking whole, stuffed poultry in a microwave oven is
not recommended. The stuffing might not reach the temperature
needed to destroy harmful bacteria.
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- Remove food from packaging before defrosting. Do not use
foam trays and plastic wraps because they are not heat stable
at high temperatures. Melting or warping may cause harmful
chemicals to migrate into food.
- Cook meat, poultry, egg casseroles, and fish immediately
after defrosting in the microwave oven because some areas
of the frozen food may begin to cook during the defrosting
time. Do not hold partially cooked food to use later.
- Cover foods with a lid or a microwave-safe plastic wrap
to hold in moisture and provide safe, even heating.
- Heat ready-to-eat foods such as hot dogs, luncheon meats,
fully cooked ham, and leftovers until steaming hot.
- After reheating foods in the microwave oven, allow standing
time. Then, use a clean food thermometer to check that food
has reached 165 °F.
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Containers & Wraps
- Only use cookware that is specially manufactured for use
in the microwave oven. Glass, ceramic containers, and all
plastics should be labeled for microwave oven use.
- Plastic storage containers such as margarine tubs, take-out
containers, whipped topping bowls, and other one-time use
containers should not be used in microwave ovens. These
containers can warp or melt, possibly causing harmful chemicals
to migrate into the food.
- Microwave plastic wraps, wax paper, cooking bags, parchment
paper, and white microwave-safe paper towels should be safe
to use. Do not let plastic wrap touch foods during microwaving.
- Never use thin plastic storage bags, brown paper or plastic
grocery bags, newspapers, or aluminum foil in the microwave
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May 24, 2011