The microwave oven is a modern technological wonder. We all take it for granted, but since microwaves became affordable for the average household in the 1960s and 1970s, their popularity has increased enormously and they have forever changed the way we cook and heat up. As large as they are to make buttery popcorn late in the evening or quickly prepare a frozen meal, the microwave is not ideal for everything – even if all you do is heat up. A good example of this is chicken.
Let’s get rid of something in front of the door: sometimes you just don’t have time to heat the oven to reheat your food. And in the summer it is sometimes just too hot to warm up the entire house for leftovers. That said, when it comes to chicken, it is worth taking the time and dealing with the heat, not only for the taste and texture of your food, but also for food safety.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that there are approximately 48 million cases of food poisoning in the United States each year, resulting in approximately 128,000 hospital admissions and more than 3,000 deaths. One of the main causes of these cases of food poisoning is salmonella, which alone causes 1.2 million cases of food poisoning. What does this have to do with your chicken? You guessed it: salmonella can be found in raw chicken, along with campylobacter and clostridium perfringens bacteria.
But that’s raw chicken. You may wonder how the use of a microwave oven to re-heat cooked chicken is different from the use of the oven or hob. This comes down to two things: was the chicken properly stored for reheating and are you following the recommended microwave warming guidelines?
If the chicken was cooked to the recommended internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, the bacteria that we mentioned should have been eliminated, but that does not mean that they have disappeared forever. After cooking, the chicken must be cooled or frozen within two hours and, if it is hot (higher than 90 degrees), must be cooled or frozen within an hour. Longer than that and bacteria begin to regrow and multiply. Gross.
Typically, when chicken is heated to that internal temperature of 165, bacteria are eliminated again, but it appears that microwaves do not do a particularly good job of it when compared to ovens and stoves.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), microwaves do not infiltrate food, which can lead to uneven heating. This means that even if part of your remaining chicken is now piping hot, there may be parts that have never reached the internal temperature of 165 – and bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses can still linger. The WHO recommends allowing food to rest after heating in a microwave to ensure that the heat is distributed evenly, but unless you use a food thermometer, are you really sure? When was the last time you followed your microwave manufacturer’s instructions on power levels for different foods, or the US Department of Agriculture’s recommendations to stir the food (yes, even in turntables with microwaves) to ensure even cooking? Be honest – you just hit a random number, click on start and hope for the best. This is just not enough for chicken, especially when you consider that the heat from a microwave can only penetrate 1 to 1-1 / 2 inches in food, so the larger the piece of chicken, the more you depend on conduction heating. from the outer surface.
But let’s say you’re not worried about that, or you’re a microwave enthusiast who always rotates food, cooks meat at a lower power and longer, and uses a thermometer to ensure a safe temperature. You still don’t have to heat your chicken in the microwave because of its taste and texture.
Postdoctoral research scientist Dr. Kyle Frischkorn explains that warming up residues often results in what he calls “Warmed-Over Flavor” or WOF, but he worked with the team at Serious Eats to see if they could minimize WOF in chicken. Although they found that WOF is usually unavoidable, regardless of the warming-up technique, he did not speak out when sharing his feelings about chicken in the microwave. “From the reheating methods part of the testing, the clearest result was that microwaving does great things with chicken and should be avoided at all costs,” he wrote, noting an “unattractive spongy texture” in combination with the warmed taste.
Let’s go out and say that spongy, funky chicken is not what you are looking for when you heat up your leftovers. What other options do you have?
Conventional cooking wisdom says that you should heat chicken (and most foods, really) in the same way that they were originally cooked. This means that your baked chicken dish must be reheated in the oven, your fried chicken must be heated in a pan, and so on. Science says it will not only taste better, it will also be safer.