Microwave Food Safety

There are traits unique to microwave cooking that affect how evenly and safely food is cooked. "Cold spots" can occur because of the irregular way the microwaves enter the oven and are absorbed by the food. If food does not cook evenly, bacteria may survive and cause foodborne illness. Simple techniques ensure that meat and poultry microwave safely.



Remove Food From Store Wrap Prior to Microwave Defrosting: Foam trays and plastic wraps are not heat stable at high temperatures. Melting or warping from hot food may cause chemicals to leach into food.

Cook Meat and Poultry Immediately After Microwave Thawing: Some areas of frozen food may begin to cook during the defrosting time. Holding partially cooked food is not recommended because any bacteria present would not have been destroyed.

Remember to Take Food Out of the Microwave: Do not forget about a food item that has been thawing in the microwave. Food should not be left out of refrigeration more than two hours.


If you are not sure if pottery or dinnerware is microwave safe, place the empty utensil in the microwave alongside a cup of water in a glass measure. Microwave on high 1 minute. If the dish remains cool, it is safe to microwave. If the dish gets warm or hot to the touch, do not use.


Safe Utensils for Microwave Cooking: These include glass and glass ceramic cookware and those labeled for microwave use.

Do Not Use Cold Storage Containers: Margarine tubs, whipped topping bowls, cheese containers and others can warp or melt from hot food, possibly causing chemical migration.

Wraps and Bags: Wax paper, oven cooking bags, parchment paper and white microwave paper towels should be safe to use. Avoid letting plastic wraps and thin plastic storage bags touch foods during microwaving. Never use brown grocery bags or newspaper in the microwave.


Heat leftovers and precooked food to at least 165 ° F. Food should be steaming and hot to the touch.

Cover foods to hold in moisture and provide safe, even heating.

Microwaving baby food and formula is not recommended because uneven heating can result in scalding a babys mouth. If microwaved, stir food, shake bottles and test for lukewarm temperature.



De-Bone Large Pieces of Meat: Bone can shield the meat around it from thorough cooking.

Arrange Food Items Uniformly in a Covered Dish and Add a Little Liquid: Under a cover, such as a lid or vented plastic wrap, steam helps destroy bacteria and ensures uniform heating. Oven cooking bags also promote safe, even cooking.

Cook Large Pieces of Meat on Medium Power (50 Percent) for Longer Times: This allows heat to conduct deeper into meat without overcooking outer areas.

Stir or Rotate Food Once or Twice During Microwaving: Turn large food items upside down so foods cook more evenly and safely.

Do Not Microwave Whole, Stuffed Poultry: Cooking of meat is so rapid, the stuffing inside might not reach a sufficient temperature to be safe.


Never Partially Cook Food: When microwaving food partly done to finish cooking on the grill or conventional oven, transfer the microwaved food to another heat source immediately.

Use a Meat Thermometer or the Ovens Temperature Probe: This is important to verify the food has reached a safe temperature after cooking.

Check in Several Places to Be Sure Red Meat is 160 ° F; Poultry, 180 ° F: Ovens vary in power and efficiency. Observe standing times given so cooking is completed.

Source: USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service. Microwave Food Safety. June 1997.

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