This is a very common question often asked by people who may have heard that microwaved chicken is unsafe.
Well, is it safe to cook chicken in the microwave? Can you really use a microwave to cook your chicken?
The simple answer is yes. You can cook chicken in the microwave just as safely as any other method.
Some people are often skeptical about microwaving raw chicken as they fear it won’t cook evenly. Well, there is some truth in these claims. For example, if you’re trying to cook frozen chicken, it may get cooked in some spots while in other spots, it may remain undercooked. The uncooked spots are sometimes referred to as “cold spots” which can harbor dangerous bacteria.
Likewise, if your chicken does not thaw properly, you risk serving your family an uncooked dish.
To prevent food borne illnesses when using a microwave, I recommend following these microwaving safety tips when cooking chicken:
Tips for Safely Cooking Chicken in the Microwave
Avoid Cooking Chicken that Has Not Thawed Completely
This is a mistake that most people often make. If the chicken does not defrost completely, chances are that you’ll have uncooked or cold spots. The first step is making sure that the chicken is completely defrosted. You can let it thaw naturally in the refrigerator or use the microwave to defrost it, which is much faster.
Avoid thawing the chicken on your kitchen counter as it can cause the bacteria to multiply very quickly. Instead, let it thaw naturally in the refrigerator.
After handling the raw chicken, avoid cross-contamination by washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Also, wipe any surfaces you may have touched with a powerful cleaning solution to kill any lurking bacteria.
Avoid Cooking Whole or Large pieces of Chicken on High Heat
Another mistake that people often make is setting the microwave on high heat when cooking whole or large pieces of raw chicken or chicken breasts. The chicken usually ends up badly cooked.
Instead, cook the chicken on medium heat for a longer time. This will ensure that heat penetrates the center without overcooking the outer areas.
If Possible, Use Boneless Skinless Chicken
There is nothing wrong with cooking chicken with bones. As long as you follow the given safety instructions, the process should be easy. However, cooking chicken with bones in the microwave may lengthen the cooking time compared to boneless chicken.
Again, this is completely optional. Most microwave chicken recipes use chicken with bones and without. Chicken breasts are especially great for roasting or grilling in the microwave oven.
Rotate or Stir the Chicken Once or Twice During Cooking
Midway during cooking, you must rotate or stir your chicken at least once or twice. This will ensure that it cooks evenly while ensuring bacteria does not thrive in these uncooked areas.
Check the Internal Temperature with a Food Thermometer
Even after following all the safety measures provided above, you still need to ensure that the meat reaches a safe minimum internal temperature throughout. The safest way to check if chicken is cooked is by using a food thermometer.
All poultry should be cooked to the EPA recommended internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Step by Step Guide: How to Cook Chicken in the Microwave
This guide uses chicken breasts.
1. Prepare the Chicken
Assuming that the chicken breasts are already thawed or defrosted, marinate it with your preferred ingredients.
2. Place the Chicken Breasts in the Microwave
Next, place the chicken breast pieces and place them in a microwaveable dish. Place the largest pieces on the outer edge of the dish to ensure it is fully cooked.
Add half a cup of broth or water and set it inside the microwave.
Next, cover the dish loosely with a lid to allow for ventilation and also prevent a possible blow up if excessive pressure builds up during cooking.
Next, set the microwave to medium heat and microwave each side for 5 minutes-8 minutes per pound. Different microwaves cook at different temperatures so you’ll need to monitor the chicken to ensure it cooks evenly and doesn’t overcook or undercook.
3. Turn the Other Side of the Chicken Breasts in the Dish
To turn the chicken breast pieces, you’ll need to remove the dish from the microwave and use a spoon or a pair of tongs to turn the uncooked side to the bottom of the dish.
Avoid touching the hot dish with bare hands to avoid burning your fingers. Instead, use a kitchen towel to remove the dish and place it on the kitchen counter.
Place the chicken breasts back into the microwave and cook for another 6-8 minutes.
4. Check the Internal Temperature with a Food Thermometer
As stated earlier, it’s important to ensure that the meat has reached a safe minimum internal temperature by using a food thermometer. The internal temperature of your microwave chicken breasts should be at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure you stick the thermometer into center of the thickest pieces to measure accurately.
If the chicken is not done yet, you can continue cooking at 1-minute intervals until it’s ready.
How to Microwave a Whole Chicken
Just because it’s not ideal to microwave a whole chicken doesn’t mean it’s not possible. You can still cook a whole chicken safely in your microwave.
Here are the steps to follow:
- Remove the skin from the chicken.
- If you prefer stuffing in your chicken, you can stuff it with your favorite ingredients. If you don’t want the stuffing, you can simply rub the chicken with a mixture of herbs, salt, and spices
- Place the whole chicken with the breast side up in a microwavable pan
- Set the microwave on medium heat
- Microwave the chicken for about 10 minutes per pound and turn as needed
If you’re microwaving a whole, stuffed chicken, the stuffing may not reach the safe internal temperature. In this case, you should consider cooking the stuffing separately until it reaches the safe 165 degrees Fahrenheit temperature.
5. Leftovers Should be Refrigerated
Any leftover chicken should be refrigerated immediately and consumed within a few days.
Microwave Safety Tips When Cooking Chicken
Before you start cooking your chicken in the microwave, make sure you’re only using cookware that is specifically made for use in the microwave oven. Only use dishes, containers, including ceramics, glass, and plastic dishes that are labeled “microwave safe.”
Plastic containers can melt or warp when exposed to the high temperatures in the microwave. Worse, the harmful chemicals from plastic may contaminate your meat, making it unsafe to eat.
Again, you should avoid using plastic grocery bags, thin plastic wrap bags, brown paper, and newspapers in the microwave. Aluminum foil and metal containers should also be avoided as they are not microwave safe. They can create sparks.
Another important microwave cooking tip is learning your microwave’s wattage. If your device has a high wattage, expect lesser cook times. If the microwave has a lower wattage, expect to cook your chicken for a longer time.
Actually, the wattage should determine how long you should cook the chicken.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can You Cook Raw Chicken in the Microwave?
Yes, you can cook raw chicken in the microwave. It’s completely safe as long as you follow the above-mentioned microwave cooking tips.
How Long Should I Microwave Chicken?
If cooking chicken breasts, allow each side to cook for around 5-6 minutes. If cooking a whole chicken, allow 10 minutes per pound. This means if you’re microwaving a 3 lbs chicken, it should take around 30 minutes to get done. Be sure to check the internal temperature with a thermometer before eating.
Is Microwaving Chicken Bad for You?
Cooking chicken in the microwave is not bad for you. You just need to make sure it’s fully cooked as there could still be some bacteria remaining in the inner parts if not thoroughly cooked.
How Do You Microwave Chicken without Drying It Out?
When cooking or reheating chicken, it may end up becoming excessively dry. So how can you avoid this? Well, the best way to microwave chicken without drying it out is by adding a little bit of chicken broth or water. Half a cup will do. You just want enough liquid to cover a shallow pan. The steam created by the stock or water will ensure the meat is well moist.
Is it Safe to Microwave Frozen Chicken?
Microwaving frozen chicken is the fastest way to defrost it using the “defrost function.” It’s completely safe and there is nothing to worry about. However, because the chicken can become partially cooked during this process, it’s important that you cook it right away.
If cooking a frozen chicken in the microwave, make sure you leave enough time for cooking as it’s going to take a much longer time to cook than when it’s completely thawed. Roasting or baking a frozen chicken are usually the most preferred methods for cooking frozen chicken as enough heat is produced to kill the bacteria (microwaving a frozen chicken is not recommended though).
How Can You Tell if the Chicken is Undercooked?
Undercooked chicken has a slightly rubbery and shiny appearance. But before you cut it to check if it’s properly cooked, stick a food thermometer into the meat as it’s the only sure way to know.
Also, you can avoid having an undercooked chicken by following a good recipe as the required cooking period is included.
How Do You Know if Chicken is Done Cooking?
As stated earlier, the best way to know if your chicken is cooked is by sticking a food thermometer. Thoroughly cooked chicken should reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Another way to check if the chicken is done cooking is by poking the meat to see if the juices are red or clear. The juices of thoroughly cooked chicken are usually clear and red for undercooked chicken.
You’ll also know whether the chicken is fully cooked or not by its size. If it has shrunk or greatly reduced in size and looks cooked on the outside, chances are that it’s ready to eat. But again, confirm with a thermometer as the center may still be uncooked.
Does Microwaving Chicken Kill Salmonella?
Salmonella is a dangerous bacteria that is commonly found in raw meat, including poultry. It can lead to serious food poisoning.
A lot of people often ask whether microwaving chicken can kill bacteria. If the chicken is thoroughly cooked or reheated, then there should be no threat. The only way to ensure that chicken is thoroughly cooked is by checking its safe minimum internal temperature, which should be at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. This applies to both cooked and reheated chicken.
Can I Microwave Breaded Chicken?
If you have a few fried chicken leftovers, you might be wondering whether it’s safe to reheat them in the microwave. Well, as long as the pieces are thoroughly reheated to the recommended temperature, the chicken should be safe to eat.
However, the chicken may lose its texture from a crisp texture to a soft, soggy texture. You can place a paper towel on the microwavable dish or pan to prevent it from becoming too soggy. Microwave the chicken in 30 seconds intervals until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cooking chicken in the microwave is completely safe and compared to other cooking methods, microwaving chicken is much faster. You can have your family’s dinner ready in no time.
However, as I explained earlier, microwaving chicken needs skill to avoid serving your family an undercooked meal. Make sure you follow the right recipe especially when cooking a whole chicken in the microwave. The recipe must provide the right cooking period to avoid undercooking or overcooking the meat.
And of course, make sure you use a food thermometer to check whether the meat is fully done.
Otherwise, you don’t need to be skeptical about cooking chicken in the microwave because it’s completely safe and easy too!
Agnes is a kitchen and cooking enthusiast as well as a fitness fanatic. She loves to help readers upgrade and furnish their kitchen with the best available products! She is the primary writer behind SmartKitchenImprovement.com and hopes to share little tidbits of knowledge she’s picked up over her years as a mom and wife.