Welcome to USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service Food Safety at home
podcast series. These podcasts were designed with you in mind - the consumer - who
purchases and prepares meat, poultry and processed egg products
for your family and friends.
Each episode will bring you a different food safety topic ranging from safe storage, handling,
and preparation of meat, poultry and processed egg products to the importance of keeping
foods safe during a power outage.
So sit back, turn up the volume and listen in.
Welcome to "Food Safety at Home." This is Gertie Hurley with the Food Safety and Inspection
Service. Joining me today is Kathy Bernard from the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline. Welcome
to the show, Kathy.
Thank you Gertie. It's my pleasure to be here.
When you are on the run or in a hurry, there is nothing more convenient than the microwave for
getting a quick snack or meal together. At dinnertime you are too tired to cook, so you take
out that casserole from last night to reheat in the microwave. Microwaves are convenient and
fast for cooking or reheating food. The question is do you know how to cook food safely with
the microwave? Kathy will give us some tips on how we can use the convenience of the microwave
to cook food safely.
Kathy, can you share with us some important factors to consider in microwave cooking?
Gertie, I think that there are two that are particularly important to consider. The first is
the cooking time. Cooking times depend on the wattage power of your microwave oven. So make
sure you know the wattage. Most microwave recipes are written for a 600-700 watt oven. Using
recipes from the owner's manual is the easiest way to learn how to cook with your microwave
oven. Microwave ovens usually range between 400-1200 watts. Check the owner's manual to find
the wattage of your oven.
The second factor to remember is that microwave ovens can cook or reheat food unevenly and leave
"cold spots," where harmful bacteria can survive. And as when using other methods of cooking,
always use a food thermometer to make sure the food has reached a safe minimum internal temperature.
Is there a certain way you should arrange the food to help in reheating and eliminating cold spots?
Yes. Arrange food items evenly in a covered microwave safe glass or ceramic dish and add some liquid
if needed. Cover the dish with a microwave safe lid or plastic wrap and loosen or vent the lid or
wrap to let steam escape. The moist heat that is created will help destroy harmful bacteria and
ensure uniform cooking. Cooking bags designed to be used in the microwave also provide safe, even
Often you read microwave cooking directions that say stir or turn the container.
Yes. In addition to arranging the food properly for the microwave, you should stir or rotate food
midway through the microwaving time to eliminate cold spots where harmful bacteria can survive, and
for more even cooking. Always allow standing time before checking the internal temperature of the
food with a food thermometer. This is important because food continues to cook and the cooking is
completed during standing time. During standing time, the temperature of a food can increase
several degrees. Because of this, it is advisable to let food rest or stand for a few minutes
after turning the microwave off or after removing food from the oven.
Can large cuts of meat be cooked in the microwave?
Yes. However, don't cook large cuts of meat on high power (100%). Large cuts of meat should be
cooked on medium power (50%) for longer periods. This allows heat to reach the center without
overcooking the outer areas.
What about cooking whole or stuffed poultry in the microwave? Is that safe?
We don't recommend cooking whole, stuffed poultry in a microwave oven. The stuffing might not
reach the safe minimum internal temperature needed to destroy harmful bacteria.
Can you partially cook foods in a microwave?
Yes you can however, when you partially cook food in the microwave oven to finish cooking on the
grill or in a conventional oven, transfer the microwaved food to the other heat source immediately.
Never partially cook food and store for cooking later.
We should use a food thermometer to tell if the cooked food is safe, right?
Yes. Use a food thermometer or the oven's temperature probe to check that the food has reached a
safe minimum internal temperature. Cooking times may vary because ovens vary in power and efficiency.
Always allow standing time, which completes the cooking, before checking the internal temperature
with a food thermometer.
Many people buy carryout food to reheat later at home. Can the food be reheated in these containers?
No. We don't advise that. Only use cookware that is specially manufactured for use in the microwave
oven. Take-out containers, plastic storage containers such as margarine tubs, whipped topping bowls,
and other one-time use containers should not be used for cooking in the microwave oven. These
containers can warp or melt, possibly causing harmful chemicals to migrate into the food.
Do not let plastic wrap touch food during microwaving. Never use thin plastic storage bags, brown
paper or plastic grocery bags, newspapers, or aluminum foil in the microwave oven.
What do you recommend that we use?
Use microwave-safe glass and ceramic containers, microwave-safe plastic wraps, wax paper, cooking bags,
parchment paper, and white microwave-safe paper towels. And remember to always use a clean food
thermometer to check that leftovers have reached 165 °F.
Thank you Kathy for this helpful information about microwave cooking.
You are quite welcome.
That's it for this segment. Kathy Bernard from the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline has joined
me today. Thank you Kathy. I'm Gertie Hurley. I'd like to thank you for joining us for
this episode of "Food Safety at Home" and remember, "Be Food Safe."
Well, that's all for this time. Thanks for joining us today for another episode of
food safety at home!
For answers to your food safety questions call USDA's toll-free meat and poultry hotline
at 1-888-mphotline. That's 1-888-674-6854.
You can also get answers to food safety questions online from our virtual representative
"ask karen" at www.askkaren.gov .
Let us know what you think of this podcast by sending your comments to
Thanks for tuning in.