Food safety tips for microwaves

Using a microwave to defrost, cook, and reheat food is convenient and makes our day-to-day lives a lot easier. Still, it's important to remember that food poisoning can occur because of unsafe microwave cooking practices or improper food handling techniques.

The following microwave cooking tips will help you prevent food poisoning.

Defrosting food in the microwave

  • Use only containers, lids, and wraps that are microwave-safe. Remove food from any packaging that isn't microwave-safe.
  • Defrost food completely before cooking it in a microwave. Having frozen and thawed portions in the same food can lead to uneven cooking.
  • Cook food immediately after defrosting.

Did you know?

Use only containers, lids, and wraps that are microwave-safe. Remove food from any packaging that isn't microwave-safe--such as styrofoam trays or some plastic containers--before heating. This type of packaging could melt or warp, potentially causing harmful chemicals to leach into food.

Cooking food in the microwave

Thorough cooking is one of the best ways to kill bacteria that may be present in food. Because microwaves can cook food unevenly, always use a digital food thermometer to check the internal temperature.

General instructions

  1. Cover food with a microwave-safe lid or plastic wrap that does not touch the food. Covering food in the microwave will help cook it evenly and thoroughly. Leave a small gap so that steam can escape.
  2. Cut food into small pieces. Smaller pieces cook more evenly.
  3. Arrange food items in a single layer on microwave-safe cookware for uniform cooking.
  4. Follow your recipe or instructions on the food's packaging. Adjust cooking times based on the power of your microwave. Food will take longer to reach a safe internal temperature in a lower-powered microwave.
  5. Rotate and stir food several times during cooking to ensure that the heat is distributed evenly.
  6. Observe standing times for microwaved food after cooking. Standing times complete the cooking and allow for better heat distribution within the food. Always check the internal temperature before eating.

Tips for meat, poultry, and seafood


  • Debone larger pieces of meat and poultry since bones can cause uneven heating.
  • Place thicker portions of meat and poultry around the outside of the dish.
  • Turn the pieces at least once during cooking.
  • Cook larger pieces of meat at 50% power for a longer period of time. This allows more time to heat the meat without overcooking it.
  • Cook all meat, poultry and seafood to a safe internal cooking temperature.

Do not

  • Never cook whole, stuffed poultry in the microwave. The size and density of the bird does not allow for even cooking.
  • Never partially cook meat, poultry, or seafood in the microwave. If you're using the microwave to defrost, immediately cook the food by using another cooking method such as a grill, an oven, or a stovetop.
  • Do not use the microwave to cook frozen raw breaded chicken products. This can result in uneven cooking, and some parts of the product may be undercooked.

Reheating leftovers in the microwave

  • Reheat leftovers to a safe internal temperature of 74ºC (165ºF). Use a digital food thermometer to check the temperature.
  • Rotate and stir food midway through reheating to distribute heat evenly.
  • Reheat only the amount of food required and put the rest of the leftovers back in the refrigerator. Avoid reheating the same leftovers more than once.

Did you know?

Do not reuse trays and containers that come with microwave dinners or take-out. These trays and containers are usually designed for one-time use only and may not be safe for microwave use.

What the Government of Canada does to protect you

The Government of Canada is committed to food safety.

Health Canada establishes regulations and standards relating to the safety and nutritional quality of foods sold in Canada. Through inspection and enforcement activities, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency verifies that food sold in Canada meets Health Canada's requirements.

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