How to Make Sure That Foods Cook Evenly in the Microwave

Jupiterimages/ Images

A microwave oven can be a busy mom's lifesaver, helping you cook and serve healthy meals to hungry kids. Cooking food in a microwave oven can also keep your kitchen cooler in the summer. The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service website warns that because microwaves cook food only about 1 1/2 inches in from the outer edges, you need to make sure that foods cook evenly in the microwave.

Food Arrangement

Because the outer edges of the food will cook through first, arranging and rearranging are keys to even microwave cooking. Remove bones, if possible, because bones may prevent meat from cooking effectively. Add a little water to the bottom of the cooking dish -- the moisture will help foods cook more evenly. Don't forget to rotate the dish, stir or rearrange once or twice through the cooking time so the areas in the center cook thoroughly.

Covered Cooking Dish

Place the lid on the cooking dish or cover the top of the dish with plastic wrap -- don't let the plastic wrap actually touch the food, though, for best results. Skew the lid slightly to let steam escape or tent the plastic wrap just a smidge. You might also try microwave-cooking bags for easy cooking and simple clean up.

Food Thermometer

When you think the food is done cooking, pull it out and test the temperature with a food thermometer. Insert the thermometer into the center of the food and check the temperature. When the temperature reaches the minimum recommended temperature for the food, you know you have evenly cooked the food in the microwave. The USDA Food Safety Inspection Service recommends that you cook poultry to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit, ground meat to 160 F and meat roasts, steaks and chops to at least 145 F.

Standing Time

Don't forget standing time after microwaving. Foods will continue to cook even after the microwave stops because the molecules in the foods that were moving during the microwaving keep giving off heat for a few minutes. Often food temperature rises a few more degrees, bringing any undercooked areas of food up to a safe temperature. Check the food temperature again after about five minutes of standing time and you may find the dish ready to serve to your hungry crew.