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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 resulting in 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 get more even heating and 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
Food Safety and Inspection Service
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 03/2015
- Update Date: 03/06/2015