Let’s face it, we all lead busy lives. Between work, errands, and taking the kids to soccer practice, there’s hardly any time left for cooking a healthy meal. That’s where fast food comes in handy. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s usually pretty cheap.
But the convenience of fast food doesn’t just stop at the drive-thru window. There are also several ways to heat up frozen food in a hurry, making it a great alternative to fast food.
One of the most popular methods is to use your microwave. After all, microwaves are fast, and efficient and can cook a variety of different frozen meals in minutes.
That’s right, no need to even thaw your frozen dinner before popping it in the microwave. Just set the timer and let the magic happen. In just a few minutes, you’ll have a hot meal without any of the hassles.
However, be sure to read the package instructions before microwaving your frozen food. Some foods simply cannot be cooked in a microwave and must be prepared in other ways (like the oven).
So, can you microwave frozen food? The answer is yes and no. It really depends on the type of food and how it’s packaged. Let’s take a closer look at why some foods cannot be microwaved and how to prepare them safely.
Why Some Frozen Foods Can’t Be Microwaved?
While some frozen foods can be microwaved without any problem, others should never be microwaved under any circumstances. So, what’s the difference? It all has to do with the result that microwaving has on the food’s texture and taste.
Microwaving also doesn’t always produce the best results when it comes to taste and texture. Foods that are meant to be crispy or browned – like pizza or chicken nuggets – often end up soggy when microwaved.
And while microwaving is technically faster than some other cooking methods. In some cases, it doesn’t offer any time advantage over other methods (like stovetop cooking) when it comes to pasta or rice.
How to Microwave Frozen Foods: Step-by-Step Guide
Here are the basic steps for microwaving frozen food:
- Place the frozen food in a microwave-safe dish or plate.
- Arrange the food so that it is spread out evenly. This will help ensure even thawing and cooking.
- Cover the dish or plate with a microwave-safe lid or plastic wrap, but be sure to leave a small opening for the steam to escape.
- Set the microwave on high and cook the food according to the instructions on its package.
- Flip or stir the food at least once during cooking to ensure even heating.
- Once the food is cooked, use an oven mitt to remove it from the microwave and let it sit for a few minutes before serving.
Safety Tips for Microwaving Frozen Foods
When microwaving frozen food, it’s important to follow these safety tips to ensure that your meal is cooked thoroughly and safely:
There are some general rules you should follow when microwaving frozen foods:
Read and follow the instructions on the package
Each frozen food product is different, so it’s important to read the cooking instructions on the package before you begin. Make sure you understand how long the food needs to be cooked for, as well as any other special instructions.
Make sure your food reaches a safe temperature
It’s important to make sure the food you’re microwaving is cooked thoroughly. Use a food thermometer to check that the internal temperature of the food is at the minimum internal temperature listed on the package.
Avoid microwaving food in its original packaging
Some frozen foods are packaged in plastic or foil, which can be dangerous when microwaved. So, always remove the food from its original packaging before microwaving it and transfer it to a microwave-safe dish or plate.
Determine if the product is fully-cooked, raw or partially cooked
Some frozen foods, like pizza or chicken nuggets, are fully-cooked and only need to be reheated. Raw meat or poultry must be cooked in an oven; microwaving will not kill bacteria. Partially-cooked foods, like pasta dishes or rice bowls, can be microwaved according to package directions.
Leave about 2 or 3 inches between the food and the walls of the microwave
It’s important to leave enough room in the microwave for air to circulate around the food. This will help ensure even cooking.
Cover the dish with a microwave-safe lid or plastic wrap
This will help to keep the steam in, which will help destroy bacteria, as well as help ensure even heating. Just be sure to leave a small opening for the steam to escape.
Turn or stir the food halfway through cooking
This is another important step to ensure even cooking. Some foods, like casseroles or pasta dishes, may need to be stirred every few minutes while other foods, like pizza or chicken nuggets, may need to be flipped once.
Alternative Ways to Heat Frozen Foods without a Microwave
If you don’t have a microwave or prefer not to use one for heating frozen foods, there are other options. Here are some alternative ways to heat frozen foods without a microwave:
Cooking frozen food on the stovetop is a great alternative to microwaving. Place the food in a skillet or saucepan with some oil and cook it over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
Many frozen foods can be cooked in the oven. Preheat the oven to the temperature indicated on the package, then place the food in a baking dish and cover it with foil. Bake for the recommended time, stirring or flipping halfway through cooking.
Air fryers are a great way to quickly and easily heat up frozen foods. Preheat the air fryer to the indicated temperature, then place the food in the basket and cook for the recommended time.
How to Store and Reheat Cooked Frozen Foods
There are many important steps you can take to ensure that your leftover cooked frozen foods are stored safely and properly. This begins with the proper storage of your leftovers after they have been cooked.
It’s important to cool down cooked food before refrigerating or freezing it, as this will prevent bacteria growth during storage. Once cooled, leftovers should be transferred into an airtight container and stored in the refrigerator within two hours of cooking.
You can also freeze-cooked frozen foods to enjoy later. To do so, cool cooked food completely before freezing it in an airtight, freezer-safe container. Label each item with its contents and expiration date (or freeze-by date).
Freezer burn can be avoided by vacuuming out as much air as possible from the container and wrapping the food with plastic wrap, aluminum foil or freezer paper.
To reheat your leftovers, you need to defrost them first. To do so, place the frozen food in the refrigerator overnight to thaw before reheating it. Once thawed, you can microwave the food according to the instructions above, or reheat it in a skillet on the stove or in the oven.
Overall, yes, you can microwave most frozen foods, but not all. Some foods such as pizza and chicken nuggets may suffer in texture and taste when microwaved. Therefore, it is important to read the instructions on the packaging and do your research before microwaving any frozen food.