Microwave ovens are fast, convenient and retain most of
the vitamins and minerals in the foods they cook. They are time savers when
it comes to defrosting and reheating.
Containers and Wraps
Because of the availability of a wide variety of containers
and wraps, there is some concern that appropriate microwave-safe ones are being
- Dual-oven trays designed for use in both
microwave and conventional ovens should be used only in the microwave. The
chemicals in the packaging material do not transfer to foods at microwave
oven temperatures, but they have recently been found to travel to foods at
conventional oven temperatures of 350 to 400°F, even if package directions
- Reusable containers from margarine, yogurt, cottage cheese,
whipped topping, etc., are not meant to be heated. Although many people store
leftovers in such containers, if they are used for reheating food, and the
food gets the container hot enough, the plastic can melt. This can start a
fire or burn the operators hand because the container becomes too hot
to hold. In addition, chemicals can be transferred to the food.
- Do not use trays and containers provided with microwave
convenience products. Often they are designed for a one-time use only.
- Oven cooking bags are safe to use in the microwave, and,
in fact, encouraged for cooking meat like poultry and large cuts of meat.
Safe temperatures (internal and surface temperatures) and even heating throughout
the food are promoted by their use.
- Do not let a wrap that is covering a dish, touch the
food. Some wraps are not heat stable. Their chemicals transfer into the food,
if the wrap touches the food. This happens especially when cooking times are
long and food gets to higher temperatures. Microwave-safe or heavy-duty types
of wrap should be used so it wont melt when in contact with hot foods.
- Use only plain white paper goods until tests show that
colored or patterned ones are safe.
- Never use brown grocery bags, newspapers, or recycled
materials. These may start a fire.
Frozen foods defrost safest in the refrigerator within a
day or two. When time is a problem, micro-defrosting is a safe way to defrost
foods quickly. Never defrost foods on the kitchen counter at room temperature.
Specific information regarding defrosting in a microwave
oven is given in the owners manual. Some food safety guidelines for micro-defrosting
- Remove food from the store wrap and place it in a microwave-safe
dish before thawing. Foam insulated trays and plastic wraps can melt or warp
from the foods heat. Chemicals may transfer into the food.
- Several times during the recommended defrosting time,
turn and rearrange the food, and rotate the dish. This allows more even defrosting.
When possible, separate food items and/or remove them as they defrost so they
do not over-cook.
- Use defrosted food immediately. Some areas in the defrosted
food may have started to cook. Bacteria can grow and multiply while the food
is waiting to be cooked.
- Because its so easy to forget about a food thawing
in the microwave, use a kitchen timer as a reminder. If thawed food is at
room temperature for more than two hours, it must be discarded.
- Do not refreeze meat that was thawed in a microwave.
Before the food has a chance to refreeze, bacteria can grow and multiply.
Since freezing does not kill bacteria - it only stops their growth - those
bacteria will still be there the next time the food is thawed.
The microwave has special advantages when it comes to reheating
foods. Not only is it a speedy way to reheat foods, it reduces the chances of
overcooked flavor and appearance that many reheated foods have. Some food safety
guidelines for reheating foods follow. Consult the owners manual for specific
- Be sure the food to be reheated was handled and stored
properly. Heating may not kill all the bacteria in food that was stored too
long or left unrefrigerated for more than two hours.
- Use microwave-safe containers and wraps that cover foods
being reheated to keep moisture in and allow for even heating. Food should
steam and not just boil around the edges. The center of the dish
containing the food should be very hot to touch. However, use caution when
removing the covering. Steam can burn.
- Reheat leftovers and carry-out foods to 160°F to
ensure that bacteria are destroyed.
- Do not reheat leftover stew frozen in a heavy-weight
freezer plastic storage bag in the microwave. The cooked food can get hot
enough to melt the plastic bags, if it is heated to the recommended 160°F.
The stew should be defrosted in the bag and then transferred to a microwave-safe
dish for reheating.
- Allow reheated foods to stand before eating them because
some foods may be hotter on the inside than whats expected.
Ground beef is so versatile, it is a popular choice of meat.
Because it is naturally tender, ground beef microwaves well on high or medium
high power. Although the short cooking time saves juiciness, there is not enough
time for browning to occur. Using a brown n sear dish can remedy this
situation. Toppings and brown sauces may be used to add color, such as:
- onion soup mix,
- brown bouquet sauce with butter, or
- sauces such as teriyaki, barbecue, Worchestershire, or
Some defrosting in the microwave tips follow.
- Unwrap a package of ground beef before defrosting.
- Shape affects defrosting time and the amount of attention
- flat, circular packages are easiest to defrost; and
- tubes should be rotated frequently and broken up
as soon as possible so the ends dont start to cook before the center
- Use immediately after defrosting.
Some adapting tips for cooking ground beef in the microwave
- Cover and microwave as owners manual indicates.
- Speed up cooking and obtain more even results by using
microwave-safe ring-shaped and circular containers.
- Use a colander set in a glass dish so the fat in the
ground beef can drip through; this is a good way to lower calories.
- Cooking time is determined by the thickness and type
of ground beef; hamburgers with a high fat content will cook faster than lean
- Cook hamburgers on a trivet set over a plate or dish,
so fat can drain into the dish.
- Cook patties until they are hot, steaming, and juices
run clear, with no evidence of pink color in the center (approximately 160°F).
Hot dogs are pre-cooked, so they only need to be heated.
A common error is to heat hot dogs too long in the microwave oven. When that
happens, they pop or explode. This can be avoided by pricking them with a fork
or making diagonal slashes on them. Hot dogs vary in size, and it follows that
larger ones take longer to heat.
- To microwave a few hot dogs on a plate, cover them with
waxed paper. Without sauce, a bun, or water for shielding, the ends of the
hot dog can overcook quickly. On medium high power, two hot dogs will cook
in 2 minutes, four in 3 1/2 minutes.
- To heat hot dogs right in the bun, place a napkin or
paper towel under the bun, so it can absorb the moisture. Otherwise, the bun
gets soggy underneath.
- Add sauces and condiments, such as ketchup, mustard,
and relish after heating to avoid toughening the bun.
Microwaving is the best way to cook bacon. The advantages
- no spattering,
- less curling,
- less shrinkage, and
- less mess to clean up if you microwave on paper towels.
Brown spots occur on paper towels due to the sugar in bacon.
A high sugar content may also cause the bacon to stick to the paper towel.
To microwave bacon:
- Place two layers of paper towels on a plate.
- Arrange bacon on towels and cover with another towel
to prevent spatters; layer bacon in between paper towels when microwaving
more than six slices. Cook bacon on a trivet in a cooking dish, so bacon drippings
can be saved for other uses.
- Microwave at high power about one minute per slice, or
four minutes per layer.
- Allow bacon to stand for five minutes; it continues to
Chicken is an excellent food for microwaving. Because it
cooks so rapidly in the microwave, chicken pieces do not get brown and crisp
like with conventional cooking methods. To make the chicken more attractive,
- sauce to cook the chicken in,
- browning agent,
- brown n sear dish, or
- prepared coating mix.
Some adapting tips for cooking poultry pieces in the microwave
- The size and number of pieces in a dish determines cooking
time; check the owners manual.
- Arrange chicken so that the meatiest portions are to
the outside of the dish.
- Use wax paper to cover the chicken while microwaving.
- Wing tips and leg ends may need to be shielded during
microwaving because they could cook before larger parts cook; use small strips
of aluminum foil.
- Chicken should be fork tender with no pinkness next to
the bone (approximately 180°F).
- Follow package directions if precooked products are being
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