Safe Microwave Cooking
Microwave ovens do not cook food like other appliances. In a regular oven, hot air makes both the food and its container hot, while in a microwave, the air is cool. The microwave oven emits microwaves which cause food molecules to vibrate. The resulting friction causes heat. This heat can get hot enough to kill the bacteria in foods. However, there are a few limitations.
These microwaves heat the molecules on the outside of the food. This can, in turn, heat further inside the food, but usually there are cold spots. These cold spots are uncooked or unheated food where bacteria can survive. But, there are some things you can do to prepare food safely and deliciously in a microwave.
Arrange the food.
- Cut the food into pieces that are the same size, if possible. Cutting will give the food more edges and edges get more exposure to microwaves.
- Since outer areas receive more heat than the center, arrange thicker pieces on the outside of the dish.
Cover the food.
- Cover the dish with a lid, paper towel, or plastic wrap. Do not let the plastic wrap touch the food; see below. This will trap steam. This moist heat will destroy bacteria and help even the temperature throughout the food.
Rotate the food.
- Some microwaves have a rotating dish in the center. If yours does not, stop the microwave half way through the cooking time to rotate the dish.
Stir the food.
- Stopping the cooking half way through the cooking time to stir the food is the best way to ensure elimination of cold spots and bacteria.
Let it sit.
- Food continues to cook after the microwave turns off. This is due to the vibration of the outer food cells penetrating the heat to the inner cells. This is important for the thorough heating and killing of bacteria.
These guidelines are important whether you are cooking raw food or reheating a meal.
Last reviewedApril 2013by Brian Randall, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.