Information Update - Microwave Food Safety



Health Canada is reminding Canadians of the importance of food safety when using microwave ovens.

Microwaves are often used as a quick way to cook, reheat or defrost foods. However, as with all other ways of heating food, it is 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 illness in Canada every year. Many of these cases could be prevented by following proper food handling and preparation techniques.

To minimize the risks of foodborne illness, here are some steps to follow when cooking food in microwaves.


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 using a microwave to defrost or cook.Only use containers or plastic wraps that are labelled as microwave safe.

Do not leave food out in the "danger zone" (between 4ºC to 60ºC or 40ºF to 140ºF) for longer than two hours. Bacteria can grow rapidly at these temperatures.


Defrost foods completely before cooking. Frozen and thawed portions cooked together can lead to uneven cooking.

Cut food into small portions and evenly arrange it to minimize overlapping.

Use a microwave-safe cover or microwave-safe plastic wrap to cover the food.

Follow all cooking instructions in a recipe or instructions on food packages; observe the standing times.

When cooking meat in the microwave, use a digital food thermometer to check the thickest part of each piece of meat. Wash your digital food thermometer with warm, soapy water after each temperature reading to avoid cross-contamination.

Cooked foods are safe to eat when the following internal temperatures are respected:

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.

Reheating Leftovers:

Reheat any leftovers until steaming hot. Use a digital food thermometer to ensure the centre of the food reaches 74EC (165EF).

Only reheat portion sizes that you will eat immediately. Avoid placing reheated leftovers back in the refrigerator.


For more information on food safety tips for microwaves, please visit:

Government of Canada's Food Safety Tips for Microwaves

It's Your Health on Microwave Ovens and Food Safety

Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education's Be Food Safe Canada Campaign