The food customs vary from country to country and till the advent of refrigerator, the practice of keeping most cooked foods for the next day did not arise because of the empirical experience man had gained regarding the dangers of spoiled foods. Situation dramatically changed after cold and frozen foods became part of life in many countries and combined with the availability of micro oven the life became less tedious and cumbersome. However food safety concerns assumed critical importance because of low awareness about the cause and consequences of improper use of the kitchen gadgets. The dangers posed by improper handling of foods are well known to many but its seriousness is not often appreciated. Here is a set of cautionary advice for ensuring safety of foods in day to day kitchen chores.
Microwaves are often used as a quick way to cook, reheat or defrost foods. However, as with all other ways of heating food, it's important to remember that foodborne bacteria can only be killed by proper cooking. It is estimated that there are approximately 11 million cases of food-related illnesses in Canada every year. Many of these illnesses could be prevented by following proper food handling and preparation techniques.
To minimize the risks of food-borne illness, here are some steps to follow when cooking food in microwaves.
- Make sure to cook foods immediately after defrosting. Never re-freeze the foods that you have defrosted in the microwave.
- Remove foods from non-microwave safe containers and wrappings, freezer cartons, and styrofoam trays before defrosting and cooking. Only use containers or plastic wraps that are labelled as microwave safe.
- Food should never be left out at the danger zone (between 4ºC to 60ºC or 40ºF to 140ºF) for longer than two hours. Bacteria can grow rapidly in this temperature zone.
- Make sure to defrost foods completely before cooking them in a microwave. Frozen and thawed portions in the same food can lead to uneven heating.
- Cut food up in small portions and evenly arrange the food to minimize overlapping.
- Make sure you use a microwave safe cover or microwave safe plastic wrap to cover the food.
- Follow any cooking instructions for your recipe or instructions on the food packaging and observe the standing times for the food.
- If you are cooking meat in the microwave, make sure to use a digital food thermometer to check the thickest part of the meat and each individual piece. Make sure to also wash your digital food thermometer with warm, soapy water after each temperature reading to avoid cross-contamination
- Cooked foods are safe to eat when internal temperatures are:
- all ground beef products should be cooked to 71°C (160°F).
- food mixtures containing poultry, eggs, meat and fish should be cooked to 74°C (165°F).
- leftovers should be heated to 74°C (165°F).
- Never cook whole poultry, including turkey, in the microwave.
- Make sure to reheat any leftovers until steaming hot. Use a digital food thermometer to check if the center of the food reaches 74EC (165EF).
- Only reheat smaller portion sizes that you may want. Avoid placing reheated leftovers back in the refrigerator.