Homemaker’s Column: Microwave Cooking
Christine J. Patrick, County Extension Agent – EFNEP
Microwave ovens can cook unevenly and leave “cold spots” where harmful bacteria can survive. For this reason, it is essential to use the following safe microwaving tips to prevent foodborne illness when cooking or reheating meat.
- Debone large pieces of meat. Bone can shield the core from thorough cooking.
- Do not cook significant cuts of meat on high power (100%). Cook large pieces of meat on medium power (50%) for longer times. This allows heat to conduct deeper into the core without overcooking outer areas.
- Stir or rotate food once or twice during microwaving and turn enormous food items upside down so foods cook more evenly and safely.
- When microwaving unequal size pieces of meats, arrange them in a dish or on a rack, so thick parts are toward the outside of the plate and thin slices are in the center. Cook on medium-high or medium power.
- Place a roast in an oven-cooking bag or a covered pot for safe cooking.
- Do not microwave whole, stuffed poultry. The cooking of meats is so rapid that the stuffing inside might not reach a sufficient temperature to be safe.
- Refer to the manufacturer’s directions accompanying the microwave oven for suggested cooking times.
- Observe standing times, so cooking is completed. Then remove it from the microwave and test for doneness in several places with a meat thermometer. Use the oven’s temperature probe to verify the food has reached a safe minimum internal temperature.
- Never partially cook food. When microwaving food to finish cooking on the grill or conventional oven, transfer the microwaved food to another heat source immediately.
- Remove meat from the packaging before defrosting. Do not use foam trays and plastic wraps, which are not heat-stable at high temperatures. Melting or warping may cause harmful chemicals to migrate into food.
- Cook meat, poultry, and fish immediately after defrosting in the microwave oven because some areas of the frozen food may begin to cook during the defrosting time.
- Only use cookware that is specially manufactured and labeled for use in the microwave oven. Do not use margarine tubs, take-out containers, whipped topping bowls, and other one-time-use containers in microwave ovens. These containers can warp or melt, possibly causing harmful chemicals to migrate into the food.
- Microwave plastic wraps, wax paper, cooking bags, parchment paper, and white microwave-safe paper towels should be safe. Do not let plastic wrap touch foods during microwaving.
For more information, check out HGIC 3586, Microwave Food Safety, on Clemson Home and Garden Information Center website at http://hgic.clemson.edu.
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