Food Safety Tips for Microwave Ovens
The use of microwave ovens for thawing, cooking and reheating food is convenient and makes our day-to-day lives a lot easier and faster. It's important to remember that foodborne illness can occur as a result of improper food handling techniques or unsafe microwave cooking practices.
Thorough cooking is one of the best ways to kill bacteria that may be present in food. Keep in mind that microwave ovens can cook food unevenly. Always use a digital food thermometer to cook food to a safe internal temperature. Remember to read the manufacturer's instructions as microwave ovens vary in size and power.
The following safe food handling tips will help you prevent foodborne illness.
Defrosting food in a microwave oven
- Remove food from packaging that is not microwave safe, such as styrofoam trays or some plastic containers before defrosting. As these are not heat stable, they could melt or warp, potentially causing harmful chemicals to leech into food.
- Use only containers, lids and wraps that are labelled or known to be microwave safe.
- Never leave food in the temperature danger zone of 4ºC to 60ºC (40ºF to 140ºF) for longer than two hours. Set a timer as a reminder when defrosting.
- Defrost food completely before cooking it in a microwave oven. Frozen and thawed portions in the same food can lead to uneven cooking.
- Cook food immediately after defrosting.
Cooking food in a microwave oven
- Remove food from all non microwave safe packaging prior to cooking.
- Cut food into small pieces for even cooking. Smaller pieces cook more evenly.
- Arrange food items evenly on microwave safe cookware to promote uniform cooking.
- Cover the food with a microwave safe lid or microwave safe plastic wrap that does not touch the food. Covering food in the microwave will help trap steam, which will help cook the food evenly and thoroughly. Leave a small gap so that steam can escape.
- Ensure that cooking times are adequately adjusted based on the power of your microwave oven. Food will take longer to reach the proper internal temperature (see temperature chart) in a lower powered microwave oven.
- Rotate and stir food several times during cooking to ensure that the heat is distributed evenly and that it is cooked to a safe internal temperature.
- Remember to use a digital food thermometer.
- Follow the cooking instructions for your recipe or instructions on the food packaging and observe standing times for microwaved food after cooking. Standing times complete the cooking and allow for better heat distribution within the food.
Meat, poultry and seafood
- Debone larger pieces of meat and poultry since bones can cause uneven heating.
- Place thicker portions of meat and poultry around the outside of the dish.
- Cook larger pieces of meat at 50% power for a longer period. This allows the heat to penetrate further into the dish without overcooking the outer portions.
- Turn the pieces at least once during cooking.
- Never cook whole, stuffed poultry in the microwave. The size and density of the bird does not allow for even cooking.
- Never partially cook meat, poultry or seafood in the microwave. If you're using microwave cooking to speed up the total cooking process, immediately finish cooking the food by using another cooking method such as a grill, an oven or a stove-top.
Reheating leftovers in a microwave oven
- Reheat leftovers to a safe internal temperature of 74ºC (165ºF). Use a digital food thermometer.
- Rotate and stir food midway through reheating to distribute heat evenly. If your microwave oven does not have a rotating tray, you can also manually rotate the plate several times during cooking.
- Avoid placing reheated food back in the refrigerator. Reheat only the required amount of food and place the rest of the leftovers back in the refrigerator.
- Remember, do not reuse trays and containers that come with microwave convenience foods or take-out. These trays and containers may be designed for one-time use only or may not be safe for microwave use.
Using a digital food thermometer
- Take the food out of the microwave oven before you check the internal temperature (see temperature chart). Residual heat and steam in the microwave oven cavity can affect the temperature reading.
- Check the temperature of each piece of meat, poultry or seafood in several places, especially in the thickest part, to ensure that the safe internal temperature has been reached.
- Make sure the digital food thermometer does not touch bone, metal, glass, dish or packaging materials.
- Always wash your digital food thermometer in warm soapy water in between each temperature reading, to avoid cross-contamination.
Internal Cooking Temperatures
You can't tell by looking. Use a digital food thermometer to be sure!
|Pork (pieces and whole cuts)
|Beef, veal, lamb and pork
|Others (for example, hot dogs, stuffing, leftovers, seafood)
What the Government of Canada does to keep our food supply safe
The Government of Canada is committed to food safety.
Health Canada establishes regulations and standards relating to the safety and nutritional quality of foods sold in Canada. Through inspection and enforcement activities, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency verifies that food sold in Canada meets Health Canada's requirements.
For more information on food safety, please visit the Government of Canada's Food Safety Portal and the Canadian Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education's Be Food Safe Canada program.