Microwaves and safe food

Are you properly using your microwave when cooking or reheating food?

According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service, over 90 percent of American homes have at least one microwave oven. Microwave ovens are great time savers for busy families and individuals. The obviously popular microwave is a great tool for cooking at meal-time or when reheating left-overs for a quick, easy meal or snack. It is important to remember that microwaves don’t kill bacteria unless the food is heated long enough.

Microwaves will kill bacteria and keep food safe when foods are heated to a safe internal temperature. To reach a safe temperature, the microwave needs to generate enough heat to kill bacteria that is present in the food. Food that is not heated long enough or to the right temperature can still harbor bacteria. When using the microwave be sure to remember that microwaved foods can cook unevenly. Some microwaves have a turntable inside the oven, but those too can cook unevenly and leave cold spots where harmful bacteria can survive.

Michigan State University Extension recommends following some simple tips when heating or reheating in your microwave to ensure your food is safe:

  • Reheat foods to a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit and confirm the temperature with a thermometer in several areas of the food.
  • Follow the package instruction for heating the food, including both the cooking and standing times listed. The standing time is how long food should stand before it is eaten. Standing time is an important part of the cooking process and should be followed so food is cooked to a safe temperature.
  • Cover food that is being heated in the microwave.
  • Stir food and rotate during the heating process to help decrease the hot spots that arise due to uneven cooking.
  • Only reheat or cook foods in the microwave in containers that are labeled “safe for use in microwave.”
  • Keep your microwave clean and maintained.

The microwave oven can be a great convenience for preparing meals and snacks. Make sure your microwave heating techniques are adequate to keep bacteria from ruining your meal.

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