Microwave Food Safety


Microwave ovens heat food unevenly, which means you should take extra precautions when cooking your next meal. Harmful bacteria can only be killed by proper cooking.

There are approximately 4 million cases of food poisoning in Canada every year. Many of these could be prevented by following proper food handling and cooking practices. Here are a few steps to follow when cooking food in microwave ovens.


  • Read all instructions on food packaging to see if the food is suitable for microwave cooking. Only cook frozen food (without first defrosting it) if the label says to “cook from frozen.” Otherwise, defrost food completely before cooking.
  • Before defrosting food in the microwave, remove it from Styrofoam trays, freezer cartons or non-microwave safe containers and wrappings and put it on a plate or in a microwave safe container.
  • Keep food in the refrigerator before and after defrosting it. Do not leave food at room temperature for more than two hours because bacteria can grow quickly at these temperatures.
  • Never re-freeze food that is defrosted in the microwave.


  • Read the cooking information on food labels and follow instructions carefully, including how long to microwave a food and how long to let it stand (and cook further) after heating it. Never cook whole poultry, including turkey, in the microwave.
  • Never cook frozen raw breaded poultry products, including chicken nuggets, strips or burgers, in the microwave because uneven cooking may not kill all harmful bacteria.
  • Cook food right after defrosting. Do not cook frozen and thawed food together. Stir food occasionally to avoid cold spots.
  • Cut food into small pieces and arrange it to minimize overlapping. Remove meat from bones.
  • Use microwave safe containers and wrappings.
  • When cooking meat, use a digital food thermometer to check the temperature in several of the thickest pieces. Wash your thermometer with warm, soapy water between temperature readings to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Foods are safe to eat when cooked to the following internal temperatures:
    • Cook all ground beef products to 71°C (160°F).
    • Cook all food mixtures containing poultry, eggs, meat and fish to 74°C (165°F).

Reheating Leftovers:

  • Reheat leftovers until they are steaming hot. Use a digital food thermometer to ensure the centre of the food reaches 74°C (165°F).
  • Only reheat food that you will eat immediately. Avoid putting reheated leftovers back in the refrigerator.

Internal cooking temperatures

You can’t tell by looking

Help protect you and your family from foodborne illness. Use a digital food thermometer to ensure that raw meat, fish and poultry are cooked to a safe internal temperature!

Click here to print this handy Safe Internal Cooking Temperatures chart and post it on your fridge for quick reference!

Source: Health Canada