| Script: Microwaving Convenience Foods Safely
Welcome to USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service "Food Safety At Home" podcast series, featuring topics for the safe handling, preparation and storage of meat, poultry and processed egg products. So, sit back, turn up the volume and listen in.
The microwave oven is one of the great inventions of the 20th century. More than 90% of homes in America have at least one. It makes cooking faster and easier. But do people always make sure food cooked in a microwave oven is safe before eating it?
Not always especially when microwaving frozen convenience foods. A couple of years ago, Salmonella bacteria in frozen convenience foods made quite a few people sick. The problem was that a frozen chicken product was breaded and looked fully cooked. Some consumers didnt read the label that indicated these products should not be microwaved. So they became sick a few hours after eating an undercooked product.
Microwave ovens can cook food just as well as other cooking appliances do. However, no all foods can be safely cooked in the microwave oven. To make sure, check the product label. How do you know when the microwaved food has reached a safe temperature?
The same way you can test food cooked using ovens, stoves, outdoor grills, and small appliances by using a food thermometer.
But thats the last step in getting food from the microwave to the table safely. Safe food starts with reading the package directions and following the recommendations.
If a range of times listed on the package says 3 to 5 minutes, its because some microwave ovens have a higher wattage than others. Higher wattage ovens would take 3 minutes, and lower wattage ovens could take 5 minutes. If your unsure of your microwave oven wattage, check out the FSIS podcast titled
Its always best to microwave the product for the shortest time given. If it hasnt reached a safe temperature, you can always add more time. But if you overcook and ruin the food, you cant take time away.
Microwave ovens can cook unevenly and leave "cold spots" in the food where harmful bacteria could survive. Halfway through the cooking time, open the door and turn the dish so the food cooks more evenly.
The center is the last part of the food to reach a safe temperature. Microwaves penetrate the food to a depth of 1 to 1½ inches. In thicker pieces of food, the microwaves don't reach the center. That area would cook by conduction of heat from the outer areas of the food into the middle.
When you think the food is hot enough, use a food thermometer and push the tip into the center of the food. Test the temperature there and in several other places to be sure it has reached the temperature recommended on the package. Then eat and enjoy!
Check your steps at
FoodSafety.gov to see how you can decrease your risk of food poisoning.
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Last Modified Nov 08, 2013