Cook and reheat foods safely when using your microwave

Follow these food safety tips to help prevent foodborne illness during microwave cooking.

The convenience of a microwave oven can be a cook’s delight, however, if food is cooked or reheated in the microwave and not handled correctly, consumers risk suffering from a resulting foodborne illness. 

It is important to follow these tips from the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS):

Microwave ovens can cook unevenly and leave "cold spots" where harmful bacteria can survive. For this reason, it is important to use a food thermometer and to test the food in several places to be sure it has reached the recommended safe temperature to destroy bacteria and other pathogens that could cause foodborne illness. To promote uniform cooking, arrange food items evenly in a covered dish and add some liquid if needed. Where possible, debone large pieces of meat as bones can shield meat from thorough cooking.

Remember to cover the dish with a lid or plastic wrap. Allow enough space between the food and the top of the dish so that plastic wrap does not touch the food.  Loosen or vent the lid or wrap to allow the steam to vent. The moist heat that is created will help destroy harmful bacteria and ensure uniform cooking. Cooking bags also provide safe, even cooking.  Stir, rotate, or turn foods upside down (when possible) midway through the microwaving time to even the cooking and eliminate any cold spots where harmful bacteria can survive. Even if the microwave oven has a turntable, it's still helpful to stir and turn food top to bottom.

Also, make sure to never partially cook food in the microwave and store it for later use because any bacteria present would not be destroyed. When partially pre-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.

As with all kitchen surfaces and utensils, remember to clean the inside of the microwave following the manufacturer’s recommendations. This will help to ensure a food safe means of cooking and reheating your food for you and your family.

Enjoy using your microwave, and if you have questions about cooking foods, their preservation, or food safety, contact your local Michigan State University Extension office.

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