Safe Microwave Cooking
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
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, even cooking.
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 later use.
Use a food thermometer or the oven’s temperature probe to verify
the food has reached a safe temperature. Place the thermometer in
the thickest area of the meat or poultry—not near fat or bone—and
in the innermost part of the thigh of whole poultry. Cooking times
may vary because ovens vary in power and efficiency. Check in several
places to be sure red meat is 160 °F, whole poultry is 180 °F, and
egg casseroles are 160 °F. Fish should flake with a fork. Always allow
standing time, which completes the cooking, before checking the internal
temperature with a food thermometer.
Cooking whole, stuffed poultry in a microwave oven is not recommended.
The stuffing might not reach the temperature needed to destroy harmful
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.
Reheating in the Microwave Oven
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
Containers and 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 oven.
- Stories about the dangers of chemicals leaching from plastic into
microwaved food have circulated on the Internet for years. As a result
of these urban legends, many consumers are concerned and unsure. Please
be assured, plastic containers or packaging labeled "Microwave
Safe" are safe and should be the only type of plastic used in your
The FDA carefully reviews the substances used to make plastics designed
for food use. These include microwave-safe plastic coverings that keep
food from splattering and microwave-safe containers that hold frozen
dinners. Even microwavable popcorn bags, which look like paper, actually
contain a metalized plastic film that allows them to reach high temperatures
so the corn can fully pop.
Under the food additive provisions of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic
Act, new substances used to make plastics for food use are classified
as "food contact substances." They must be found safe for
their intended use before they can be marketed.
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