As you head to the break room after a long morning of caring for patients and talking to clients, you may want to think twice before digging into that Salisbury steak. According to the government, improperly microwaving a meal can make you sick.
The government issued the warning last month after a smattering of sicknesses last year—32 people in 12 states were sickened with Salmonella poisoning after failing to thoroughly cook frozen chicken dinners. Microwaves heat food unevenly, which can leave cold spots in food that carry dangerous bacteria like E. coli, Salmonella, or Listeria.
Many people wrongly assume that frozen meals only need to be warmed, not fully cooked. This misconception is fostered partly by frozen foods that appear to be pre-cooked, like breaded or pre-browned chicken. And food packaging doesn’t generally help you spot raw ingredients; it often lists only the instruction to “cook thoroughly” as a clue.
So the next time you have an urge for lunch-in-a-tray—especially if your meal contains raw food—pay attention to your microwave’s technical specifications. The unit’s wattage, or power capability, influences how well it heats food, and most frozen meals list cooking instructions for specific wattages. Also, check the temperature of food with a food thermometer to ensure it’s fully cooked. And keep in mind that experts say cooking raw food is a job best left to stovetops, grills, and ovens.