Microwaves make heating food convenient and easy. In just a few seconds, you can turn refrigerated leftovers into a delicious meal. Using a microwave is simple, but many people tend to make one mistake after heating their food that could cause health problems.
Read on to learn what you need to do after microwaving your food.
Let It Stand
The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) advises you to let your food stand for a few minutes after the timer has finished. Why should you do this? Microwave ovens work thanks to electromagnetic radiation. This radiation causes fat, water, and sugar molecules from food to vibrate and produce heat. Once you finish heating your food in the microwave, these molecules keep generating heat and slowly come to a standstill, and this process is called “carryover cooking time” or “resting time.”
The resting time varies depending on the density of the food you’re heating. For example, cooked turkeys are denser and require a longer standing time. Bread, vegetables, and fruits are less dense, so they don’t need as much time. Typically, you’ll see the standing time length on the product package. If you’re heating food you’ve cooked, let it rest for at least three minutes before consumption.
During resting time, the food temperature can increase several degrees, which is why it’s necessary to wait until it reaches safe levels. The resting time is a part of the process and should never be skipped.
Not letting the food rest after microwaving can lead to stomach problems. You could feel sick or even develop bacteria. In 2010, there was a Salmonella Chester outbreak related to frozen microwaved meals in several states. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a report that mentioned one of the possible causes could be inadequate resting time.
What Else Can You Do to Ensure Safety
Allowing your food to rest isn’t the only action you need to take to ensure its safety. According to the FSIS, it’s necessary to measure the internal temperature of your dish with a food thermometer after letting it stand.
Here are the recommended temperatures for different foods:
- Minimum 145 degrees Fahrenheit for fish, beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops, and roasts
- Minimum 160 degrees Fahrenheit for ground meats, eggs, and casseroles containing eggs
- Minimum 165 degrees Fahrenheit for poultry and any leftover food
The FSIS advises against cooking stuffed poultry in the microwave because the stuffing may not reach the required temperature for eliminating bacteria.
Tips for Using Microwave Ovens Safely
We’ve prepared several tips for operating your microwave safely and preventing injuries:
Follow the Manual
Every microwave comes with a user manual that explains how to operate it and ensure your safety. For example, you should never turn on an empty microwave or heat liquids longer than recommended.
Use Adequate Containers
Not all cookware is microwave-friendly. In most cases, containers are labeled for safe microwave use. If you don’t see the label, it’s essential to remember these guidelines:
- Avoid using metal pans and aluminum foil. Microwaves reflect off these surfaces, which reduces the oven’s efficiency and can damage it.
- Avoid using plastic containers if they aren’t labeled as safe for microwave use.
- Use ceramic, glass, or properly labeled plastic containers.
Don’t Overheat Water
Super-heated water, or water heated beyond the boiling temperature with no boiling signs, should be avoided. When you use a microwave oven to heat the water beyond its boiling temperature, a slight movement can cause it to explode. This phenomenon can cause severe burns and injuries.
To prevent this, add coffee or sugar to the water before heating it.
Check for Leaks
Although this doesn’t happen often, microwave radiation leaking is possible if the door latch, hinges, or seals are damaged. If you notice any of these issues, the FDA advises you to stop using the microwave. Additionally, don’t use it if the doors are bent, don’t close firmly, or are damaged in any way.
Enjoy Microwaved Food and Ensure Your Safety
Contrary to popular belief, cooking and heating your food in a microwave oven doesn’t end when the timer stops. To complete the process, you need to leave the food stand for at least three minutes.
Additionally, don’t forget to use the proper containers and stir your food, especially if you don’t have a turntable tray.