Beware: Microwave Cooking

Microwave ovens are convenient, there’s no denying that… but if you are cooking, and not just re-heating leftovers, they can be dangerous. If you are actually cooking in the microwave, be sure to read the following list of cautionary statements about cooking with a microwave. We’re not talking about what happens if you place tin foil in the microwave, although that is plenty dangerous. We’re talking here about the safety of the food that you cook in a microwave.

We are especially concerned with cooking meats, fish and poultry in the microwave since they can be harmful to consume if not cooked properly.


Safe Microwave Cooking

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 food borne illness, especially when cooking or reheating meats.

  • Observe recommended standing times in order for cooking to complete. Then, remove foods from the microwave and test them for doneness in several places with a meat thermometer, or use the oven’s temperature probe to verify the food has reached a safe minimum internal temperature.

  • Never partially cook food. If you are microwaving something to finish up on the grill or in the oven, be sure to transfer the microwaved food immediately from the microwave to the other heat source. Even if you just defrosted your meat, fish or poultry follow this rule since some of the frozen areas may have begun to cook while defrosting.

  • If your microwave does not have a rotating tray, be sure to stir your food at least once during cooking. Larger food items should even be turned upside down halfway through to ensure even cooking.

  • Only use cookware labeled safe and manufactured for use in the microwave. Don’t use margarine tubs, take-out containers, foam meat trays, whipped topping bowls and any other one-time use containers in microwave ovens. These containers are not heat stable and thus can easily warp or melt, causing harmful chemicals to actually enter your foods.

  • Microwave cooking bags, plastic wraps, wax paper, parchment paper, and white microwave-safe paper towels should be safe to use… but do NOT let plastic wraps touch your food while in the microwave.

  • Do not microwave bones, they can keep the meat from cooking properly.

  • Do NOT cook large pieces of meat on high power (100%), instead use medium power (50%) for a longer amount of time. This allows heat to reach deeper into the meat, without overcooking the outer areas of the meat.

  • When microwaving unequal size pieces of meat, be sure to place the thick parts toward the outside of the plate and the thin pieces in the center of the plate. Cook on medium to medium-high power.

  • Place a roast in an oven-cooking bag or a covered microwave safe pot to allow for even cooking throughout.

  • Do not microwave whole, stuffed poultry. Meats cook so rapidly in the microwave that the stuffing may be unsafe to eat since it may not ever reach sufficient temperature.

  • Refer to the microwave manufacturer’s directions that came with your oven for suggested cooking times.
  • Additional Info

    Check out our how long does a sponge last post to discover yet another use for your microwave.

    To find out how long other foods are good for, please visit the Dairy, Drinks, Fruits, Grains, Proteins, Vegetables and Other sections of Eat By Date or use the search function below.

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