Sue Snider: I am Sue Snider, University of Delaware, department of Animal and Food Sciences. We are talking about cooking foods in the microwave, specifically, cooking foods to make sure that they are safe. Heating is a very, very effective way of destroying harmful microorganisms and microwaves heat no differently than our conventional heating. However, there are some concerns with microwave heating and that's because of the unevenness that can occur in the heating in a microwave oven.
There are some techniques that can be used to minimize this uneven heating. The first of these is if your microwave has a turntable such as what is seen here, as the microwave operates, the table turns and so there is no uneven heating in the microwave. You can also purchase turntables that you can put in your regular microwave that will do the same thing.
An another technique to minimize uneven heating is to rotate the food. For example, this lasagna calls for putting it in the microwave, cooking it at full power for a certain amount of time, stopping the microwave and then rotating the product a quarter of a turn.
Another way that you can equalize the temperature is to use standing time and again, each package, each recipe will talk about what is the appropriate standing time. In this case, after the product is done, the directions say to let it stand for two minutes before serving. This equalizes the temperature in the product making sure that it is safe.
Another way is to stir the product. This is a macaroni cheese and again, the directions for this particular product tells you to in this case, remove the film, put it in, microwave it and after a specified amount of time, to stir the product and that again equalizes the temperature throughout the product.
Another way to promote even temperature is to always cover your product. Here we have a vegetable dish and we are just using a microwavable plastic wrap that we are putting over the product. We are using a little bit of a vent so that we don't get an explosion in the microwave oven as we cook it and this covering basically does two things. It promotes evenness of heating and it also produces a moist atmosphere which enhances the destruction of microorganisms and then the last thing we can do is to always, always take the temperature of the food product and we need to take the temperature in a number of different locations.
In conventional heating, we always take this temperature in the center of the product because this is where it is going to be cooked the least. With microwaves because they are uneven, we need to take the temperature in a variety of locations throughout the product.
So today we have talked about how to make sure to cook your food to promote even heating so that it will be safe to consume. Next, we are going to talk about what can be cooked in the microwave oven.