On Behalf of the Cook It Safe Taskforce Date: 9/19/11
Every day millions of Americans rely on a variety of pre-prepared convenience foods to satisfy their desire for a quick, affordable and healthy meal. Popping a frozen or refrigerated entrée into the microwave has become a familiar part of the American dining ritual.
It couldn’t be easier: out of the fridge or freezer, into the microwave, and enjoy, right? Almost. To that all-too-familiar habit, it’s vitally important that consumers add one more step to ensure their food is fully cooked and safe to enjoy: know the wattage of your microwave.
Not all microwaves have the same wattage, meaning some microwaves will take a little longer to cook foods than others. For example, a 700-Watt microwave oven will take more time to cook your pot pie than an 1100-Watt model.
It’s important to know that many pre-prepared foods contain raw ingredients that must be thoroughly cooked. If you don’t know your microwave’s wattage and you cook an item for less time than is required according to the package instructions, you risk consuming undercooked food.
So what can you do? First, the cooking instructions for microwaveable products will provide clear directions on the time and steps needed to ensure your food is safely cooked. Be sure to read the directions and follow each step—they’re all important, even the “stir” step.
In order to accurately follow these steps you must know your microwave’s wattage. Making an “educated guess” or “splitting the difference” between different cook times for different wattages might not fully cook your food and could leave you vulnerable to foodborne illness.
So you don’t know your microwave’s wattage? No problem. There are several ways you can find it.
1. Check your owner’s manual.
2. Check the appliance. The wattage may be listed on the back panel. Alternatively, open the microwave door and check along the bottom and inside of the cooking cavity.
3. Contact the retailer from whom you purchased the microwave.
4. Contact the manufacturer of your microwave.
5. Do a “Time-to-Boil” test to estimate the wattage.
Even after finding your wattage and carefully following all cooking instructions, it’s always a good idea to use a food thermometer to check that your food has reached a safe temperature. Safe cooking temperatures are typically included in package cooking information, but can also be located for a variety of foods at the safe minimum cooking temperatures chart. Be sure to check the temperature in several places to make sure you don’t miss any cold spots. If you find a cold spot, additional cooking time is needed.
Microwaving convenience foods is a fast and easy way to fill a hungry stomach. Likewise, taking a brief moment to find your microwave’s wattage is a fast and easy way to help you fully cook your food to ensure safety.
More food safety information can be found at:
· Cook it Safe Campaign Public Service Announcements
· www.frozenfoodfacts.org “Helpful Hints”
· Cook it Safe: Read and Follow Cooking Directions Every Time!
· Cook it Safe: Know when to use a Microwave or Conventional Oven