Microwave cooking and safety tips

Using a microwave for more than just reheating leftovers.

It is interesting to admit but I was around before microwaves were popular. Now they are often a part of everyday use in most homes so it is useful to understand what the best and safest use for a microwave is. Generally, reheating leftovers may be all we do with it. So what else can we use our microwave for?

Microwaves can be used for cooking but hot spots are an issue. So stirring often helps distribute the hot spots throughout, giving the food item a thorough heat distribution. Use a thermometer to check to make sure the food item reaches a temperature high enough to kill any bacteria that may be present. When using a thermometer in microwave cooking check the temperature of the food in several places.  Also, cover dishes that are being cooked in a microwave or else the food may dry out during the cooking process.

Thawing food in a microwave is also an acceptable practice when observing some simple rules to keep food safe. It is recommended to remove the food item from packaging. Place on a microwave-friendly bowl or plate. Turn the strength or power to defrost. Then select short periods of time to defrost the item, turning it often. Once the food has reached a defrosted level cook the food immediately because portions of the food item may already be cooked while others are not. It is not safe to hold or store partially cooked food for later use after it has been thawed in a microwave.

Heating and serving meals are another use for a microwave. Prepackaged meals generally come with instructions on the package. Read and follow the instructions carefully. It is important to allow the food to stand for the recommended amount of time for more even heat distribution and to allow time for the hot spots to cool.

It is important to know what dishes can be used in a microwave.

  • Dished labeled for microwave use
  • Heat proof glass
  • Oven cooking bags
  • Paper plates, napkins and paper towel
  • Wax paper, parchment paper, heavy plastic
  • Heat susceptor packaging

It is not safe to use Styrofoam packaging due to the chemicals that can be released during the microwave heating process. Do not use aluminum, aluminum packaging or any metals as they can cause sparks and fire.

Microwaves are an important piece of equipment in most homes. Michigan State University Extension recommends following food safety and manufactures directions when using a microwave.

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