Challenge Yourself to Cook It Safe! Tips for Cooking with a Microwave or Conventional Oven
Every year, one in six Americans will fall ill due to some form of food poisoning. Many times it’s the result of not cooking food to the right temperature.
Cook It Safe! with these Four Steps:
Read and Follow Package Cooking Instructions
- Most convenience foods are not ready-to-eat products and must be properly cooked first. Reading the product label and package directions tells you whether the product needs to be thoroughly cooked or simply reheated. Be sure to follow all package instructions for microwaving food, such as covering or stirring the food or allowing a “stand time” between cooking the food and eating. These steps ensure the food is cooked evenly. Skipping these key cooking directions may allow harmful bacteria to survive and lead to foodborne illness.
Know When to Use a Microwave or Conventional Oven
Some pre-prepared products may appear to be fully cooked but actually consist of raw, uncooked product. It may be tempting to cook these foods quickly in a microwave, but doing so may result in unsafe food. Some convenience foods are shaped irregularly and vary in thickness, creating opportunities for uneven cooking. Even microwaves equipped with a turntable can cook unevenly and leave cold spots in the product, where harmful bacteria can survive.
It’s important to use the appliance recommended on the food package instructions. The instructions may call for cooking in a conventional oven, microwave, convection oven, or toaster oven. Instructions are set for a specific type of appliance and may not be applicable to all ovens.
Know Your Microwave Wattage Before Microwaving Food
- If your microwave’s wattage is lower than the wattage recommended in the package cooking instructions, it will take longer than the instructions specify to cook the food to a safe internal temperature. The higher the wattage of a microwave oven, the faster it will cook food. If you don't know the wattage of your oven, try looking on the inside of the oven's door, on the serial number plate on the back of the oven, or in the owner's manual. You can also do a "Time-to-Boil" test to estimate the wattage.
Always Use a Food Thermometer to Ensure a Safe Internal Temperature
To be sure food has reached a temperature high enough to kill any bacteria that may be present, use a food thermometer and test the food in several places. This applies when cooking in microwaves or any other heat source. For more information, review this chart of safe cooking temperatures.