Food Safety Tips for Microwave Cooking

Arrange food evenly in a microwave-safe dish and add some liquid if needed. Cover the dish with a loose lid to let any steam escape. If you use plastic wrap, make sure it doesn’t come in contact with the food. Don’t cook large cuts of meat on high power (100 percent). Use medium power (50 percent) and a longer cooking time so the heat can reach the center without overcooking the outer areas. If your microwave doesn’t have a carousel, stir or rotate the food midway through the microwaving time. If you’re partially cooking food in the microwave before you finish it on the grill or in a conventional oven, transfer the microwaved food immediately to complete cooking.


Use a food thermometer to verify that meat, poultry, and casseroles have reached a safe temperature. But know that food continues to cook after the microwave is turned off, as heat flows from hotter to cooler regions. So allow dense foods like meat, poultry, quiche, and casseroles to stand for five minutes before you check the internal temperature. Foods that aren’t dense—cut vegetables, bread, soup, and beverages, for example—don’t need to stand.

Contrary to popular belief, rest and stand times for cooking are not designed to allow the food to cool so you can eat it without burning your mouth. In fact, rest and stand times allow food to continue cooking to reach safe internal temperatures. If you don’t like waiting, you can cook the food to a higher internal temperature on your instant-read thermometer. Otherwise, delay eating for however long the instructions say.

Additionally, don’t cook whole, stuffed poultry in the microwave. The stuffing might not reach the temperature needed to destroy harmful bacteria. Heat ready-to-eat foods like hot dogs, fully cooked ham, and leftovers until they’re steaming hot.


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One Reply to “Food Safety Tips for Microwave Cooking”

  1. I appreciate this article on safe cooking in the microwave oven. I do, however, have two suggestions: 1. I would be hesitant to cover food with plastic wrap for microwaving, even when the wrap does not touch the food surface. Other credible sources have recommended against this, because even the steam (and resulting condensation) can contaminate the food; 2. modern microwave ovens that do not have a carousel typically have the internal equivalent to a carousel. Rather than rotating the food, the newer machines rotate the distribution of microwaves, yielding the same results as a carousel. As a result, rotating the food manually is unnecessary, unless the oven is an older one or an entry-level machine without either carousel or the alternative.

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