Microwave Cooking: Keeping It Safe

— Written By N.C. Cooperative Extension

Do you carefully read the directions for cooking frozen prepared entrees or vegetables in the microwave? You’ll find directions that may include the following information: (1) Remove tray from box. (2) Cook on High 5 minutes and 30 seconds. (3) After cooking, let stand in microwave 1 – 2 minutes. Carefully remove tray from microwave. Carefully remove cover and enjoy.

Some of you may think that the stand time recommended for microwaveable foods is optional, it’s just so you don’t burn yourself. 

The fact is that the stand time is not about cooling the microwaved food, but rather is an important part of the cooking process.  Stand times are usually just a few minutes and the time is necessary to bring the food to a safe internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit as measured with a food thermometer. 

To ensure safety with microwave cooking, always read and follow package instructions, know your microwave’s wattage, and use a food thermometer to ensure food has reached a safe internal temperature. 

Directions on packaging are often given assuming you are using a 1000 to 1100 watt microwave oven. Ovens vary; cooking times may need to be adjusted. The higher wattage of a microwave oven, the faster it will cook food; the lower wattage the more time it will take to make it safe to eat. To be safe, buy a digital food thermometer to test the internal temperature and follow all cooking directions, including the stand time.

Eleanor Summers
Extension Agent
Family & Consumer Sciences