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Question 1168

Is there a standard time that one should wait before eating food that has been heated in a microwave oven? - M
Apart from the usual precautions with hot food, there is nothing unsafe about food cooked in a microwave oven. You can eat it the instant the microwave oven turns off. The microwaves in the oven are absorbed so quickly that they vanish almost immediately after the oven stops producing them. By the time you get the oven door open, there is nothing hazardous left inside the cooking chamber or in the food. However, a microwave oven tends to heat foods unevenly, particularly if they were initially frozen. Thus you should be careful to stir the food or test its temperature at various places so that you don't burn yourself. You should be particularly wary of solid foods, such as raisin biscuits, that are generally dry but have moist, microwave-absorbing objects inside them. Those moist objects can become dangerously hot and have been known to cause life-threatening burns in people who tried to swallow them without letting them cool off.

That said, a reader notes that the uneven cooking in a microwave oven can lead to bacterial safety problems—if parts of the food aren't heated sufficiently to kill dangerous bacteria, then you could be exposing yourself to those bacteria. He suggests using the microwave oven for reheating only. He also notes that the lack of surface heating leaves the food relatively tasteless, as compared to more conventional cooking.


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