Safe microwave defrosting

Microwave defrosting helps to jump start meal preparation, but special care is needed to be sure you are thawing your food safely.

The convenience of a microwave is a real time saver, especially when it comes to defrosting frozen food. Remembering to take meat or a frozen meal out of the freezer and allowing adequate time to thaw in the refrigerator requires intentional pre-planning. Many busy families prefer to use their microwave to thaw food as it is the speediest method however Michigan State University Extension recommends you follow important food safety factors to ensure your meal is prepared safely.

When you take frozen food such as meat out of the freezer, remove the store packaging, including foam trays and plastic wrap. This type of packaging is not heat resistant at high temperatures. It will likely melt or warp causing harmful chemicals to migrate into food. Place the frozen food in a microwave safe container and cover loosely. Select the defrost feature on the microwave, which is generally set at 30 percent power.

Many microwaves automatically rotate food allowing for even thawing. If the microwave does not automatically rotate food then halfway through the thawing process open the microwave door and carefully turn the container. Defrosting will take seven to eight minutes per pound, depending on the wattage of the microwave and the size and thickness of the food item.

As food is defrosting in the microwave, the edges of the food may begin to warm or slightly cook while the inside of the food remains frozen. Uneven thawing is the major food safety concern, which dictates why food must be immediately cooked once it is thawed. During thawing the microwave raises the temperature of food and if it enters the danger zone, 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, bacteria begins to grow and multiply. Remember frozen food still contains bacteria even though they are inactive. When a food’s temperature rises, bacteria becomes active once again. Promptly cooking thawed food will kill most bacteria. It is not safe to thaw food in the microwave and then put it in the refrigerator or a cooler to cook or grill later. Always cook microwave defrosted food immediately. Be sure to use a food thermometer to make sure food reaches the proper internal temperature during cooking to prevent food borne illness.

The microwave is truly a favorite kitchen appliance whether it is reheating, cooking or defrosting, you cannot beat the convenience. Understanding how to safely defrost food, especially different cuts of meat, using the microwave just takes a little know how on how to thaw, cook and serve delicious family favorites.