Safe Microwave Cooking
Barbara Willenberg, Former Associate State Nutrition Specialist
Jo Britt-Rankin, State Nutrition Specialist
Use potholders to take food out of the microwave. Container can get very hot depending on how long food is cooked.
Avoid a steam burn by tilting the lid away from you when opening a container.
If you make popcorn in your microwave, be very careful when opening the bag. The rush of steam can cause serious burns. Never make microwave popcorn in brown paper grocery bags. They are not clean, they contain chemicals that could be harmful and they could catch on fire while in the microwave.
Stick foods like potatoes and egg yolks with a fork before cooking to keep them from exploding.
Keeping Baby Safe
Don't warm your baby's bottles in the microwave. Even though the bottle feels cool, there may be hot spots in the milk that could burn your baby's mouth and throat.
Baby food containing lots of eggs and meats may have a warning label not to heat in the microwave. These foods tend to build up hot spots and splatter when the door of the microwave is opened. You or your baby could be seriously burned.
Baby food jars can explode if heated with the lids on. Always take lids off before heating baby food. Use a medium or low heat setting until the food is warm. Stir food several times during heating to keep steam from building up. After heating, stir food, let it stand and taste it before feeding it to your baby.
Large bones can keep meat from heating evening. Cut bones out of meat before cooking it in the microwave. Turn meat several times during cooking.
Cook meat in a covered dish or roasting bag. This helps form steam, which cooks meat more evenly.
Reheat leftover meat and casseroles in a covered dish. Use a medium setting so food will heat all the way through without burning the outside or causing a lot of splattering.
To make sure meat and poultry are safe and completely cooked, let them stand outside the microwave for the full-recommended time of your recipe. Make sure they are covered with a lid or foil.
Be extra careful with pork
Be extra careful with pork. Cook it in a microwave-roasting bag at 30 to 50 percent power for a longer period of time.
The best way to tell if meat or poultry is completely cooked to a safe temperature is to use a meat thermometer. If you don't have one, stick the meat in several places. The juices should be clear, not bloody, with no pick color.
- Clean up spills inside the microwave and around the door seal right away. Food left on the door seal can keep the microwave from sealing properly.
- If you thaw perishable food in the microwave, cook it right away or refrigerate it. Don't refreeze the food or let it sit in the microwave when it is off. Germs that cause food poisoning can grow and the food may become unsafe.
- Your instruction booklet will tell you which containers are safe to use in your microwave. It's not a good idea to use food containers, like margarine tubs, to heat food. The food may get hot enough to melt these containers.
- It is not safe to can foods in your microwave. The temperature is not high enough to kill dangerous food-poisoning germs. Also, pressure builds up in sealed canning jars, as the liquid gets hot. This can cause the jars to explode. Cases have been reported where the explosion blew the door off.
- Make sure your microwave is plugged into a properly grounded outlet.
- If a fire occurs in your microwave, turn it off right away, unplug it and keep the door closed. To prevent fires, make sure the exhaust outlet, found on the top, side, or back, is not blocked.
- Never operate your microwave if the door is broken or will not close all the way. You can be seriously injured.
Last Updated 10/25/2007