How Long To Microwave Food – Ultimate Guide With Examples

Woman using the microwave

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Microwaves are usually used to cook simple meals, reheat or defrost frozen meals. However, when it comes to using a microwave, the question that bothers most people is how long to microwave food of different types. How much time, then, do you need to microwave food?

Whether it’s rice, pasta, or meat, the amount of time it takes to microwave each food is different from each other. How long it might take to microwave your leftover food depends on the type of food you’re reheating.

Before reheating, however, you need to take out the food from the refrigerator and cool it off quickly. Depending on the food item you’re microwaving, preheat your microwave and then reheat your food. If you follow the correct food heating precautions, you can enjoy leftovers without having food poisoning.

How Long Does It Take To Microwave food?

Different types of food take a different amount of time to be reheated in the microwave. Yet, many people assume that it is okay to just carelessly take out food from the refrigerator and reheat it.

However, health guidelines should strictly be followed when it comes to the allotted time to reheat food of each category in the microwave. Otherwise, it is too easy to fall sick with food poisoning. Therefore, below are a few common foods and their optimum heating time is mentioned.

Food TypeOptimum Microwave Time (min.) (With standard 800W microwave)
Fish½ – 2 
Cooked Vegetables1-3


If you’ve stored meat in the freezer, it is better to thaw the frozen meat before you microwave it. For chicken, you can take out the foil of your frozen meat and place it in the microwave. 

For beef, you can thaw the frozen meat before microwaving it. Place the meat in a microwave-safe container. It is always safer to sprinkle some water and brush some oil so that the meat can be cooked well, and afterward use a microwave-safe lid. 

The microwave should initially be preheated at around 260F and the meat can then be placed to cook on medium to low heat for 6-8 minutes. After that, it can be cooked on high heat for as long as it takes for the meat to be evenly cooked.

Microwave-safe containers from Amazon


Rice is one Asian food that is loved by most people in the western world too. Can you microwave rice, and if so, how long does that take?

Well, I myself microwave rice from time to time when there are any leftovers. You can therefore certainly microwave rice. However, make sure you do not reheat the same rice twice or more, which can then turn poisonous because of the bacteria present in the rice. 

To microwave rice, you need to first lay it out in a microwavable bowl. If sticky, unmix it with a spoon and add some water so that the rice does not dry out while it is in the microwave. Then, place it inside the microwave, covering it with a microwave-compatible lid.


A lot of people wonder if fish can be cooked inside a microwave, and how long it might take to be cooked evenly.

If the fish is not frozen, it can be cooked in the microwave. The fish should be thawed and then filleted with olive oil or any other type of oil and it shouldn’t take long to be cooked. In a preheated microwave, fish can be cooked for as little as 10-15 minutes with intervals in between.

Vegetables Roasted

Vegetables can be roasted inside a microwave just like fish or meat. Vegetables can be cooked at minimal heat for 1-3 minutes.

With garlic and oil brushed on top, you can then serve your roasted veggies with the Thanksgiving Turkey. It takes as little as a couple of minutes to cook vegetables in the microwave.

Reheating Leftover Foods 

Leftovers aren’t just for people who do not like to waste food. I sometimes store away some of my most favorite dishes in the refrigerator so that I can enjoy them later. 

Before reheating foods in the microwave, you should make sure to store them properly. For instance, most food items can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container before microwaving them. Before learning how to reheat food properly, it’s important to be careful of a few issues. 

This video will help understand how you can reheat food safely in a microwave:

Step 1: Take out your dishes in a microwave-safe container.

Step 2:  Sprinkle some water, salt, and oil on top of the food.

Step 3: Now cover the dish with a microwave-safe lid.

Step 4: Take out the food midway and make sure you stir it well so that the heat gets evenly distributed.

Step 5: Keep it inside the refrigerator again to cook again.

Step 6: Once the food is cooked, the microwave will switch off.

Step 7: Don’t take out the food yet, let it cook for a minimum of a couple of more minutes after the microwave turns off.

How Long Does It Take To Reheat Leftover Foods? 

Just like cooking foods, reheating them can also vary depending on the type of leftover food you are reheating. 

Here’s how long it takes to reheat some popular leftover foods:  

Pizza: Pizza can be reheated in the microwave if it is not more than a couple of days old. It does not take long to reheat pizza. Usually, if you have a leftover pizza, microwaving it can be a little difficult. However, you could reheat it for not more than 3 to 4 minutes to make sure it does not get soggy

Pasta: Pasta is yet another food that you can reheat in the microwave. Much like pizza, you can reheat pasta in the microwave. Take out the pasta from the refrigerator and remove the foil. Then transfer the pasta to a microwavable dish and place it in the microwave. Warm it over low to medium heat for a couple of minutes.

Tamales: Tamales should take no more than two minutes to reheat thoroughly. Make sure to wrap them in a damp paper towel beforehand to ensure they retain their moisture. 

Fried Chicken: When you order a large bucket of chicken fries, some are bound to be left out. Just pop them into the microwave and heat for two minutes. If you plan to reheat three or four pieces at once then reheat them for a minute more. Bring them out and let them cool for one minute before eating. 

Steak: Sometimes a full-sized steak can be too much for one person. If you have some leftover then you can reheat it in 2 to 3 minutes. But here’s the catch: you shouldn’t do it at one go. Put the steak into the microwave, reheat for 30 seconds, and then flip it. Reheat again for 30 seconds. Do this a few times until the internal temperature reaches 160°F. 

As you can see, most foods should not take more than 2 or 3 minutes to reheat in the microwave. But how you reheat them and how many times you do it can differ between various types of foods.

How Long Does It Take To Defrost Frozen Food Using A Microwave?

You can defrost food using a microwave. Microwaves are one of the safest ways to defrost frozen meat or red meat.

To defrost, you need to take out the food from the plastic wraps. Separate the meat or fish pieces. Then take it out in a large microwave-friendly container. It should typically thaw in 2-3 minutes. 

How Long Can Foods Be Stored Before You Microwave Them?

As long as the food items are stored properly, they can be safely reheated in the microwave at a later time. During Thanksgiving or Christmas, for example, there is especially a surplus of food items in my house. But I don’t throw them away, instead, I store them in an airtight container, sliding them into the refrigerator. 

However, each food has a safe storage period, after which it starts to lose its nutritional value and spoil. This time frame varies according to each food, whether it is protein, fish, cholesterol-heavy, or fast food. The table below shows the optimum food storing timeframe for a variety of common food items in our household. 

The United States Food Safety Authority suggests storing food for the following period to avoid food poisoning.

                                                               Cooked Food and Vegetables 

Food ItemsOptimum Storage Period
Rice1-2 days
Salad3-4 days
Cooked Meat3-5 days
Pizza3-4 days
Shrimp3-5 days
Chicken or Turkey1-2 days
Cooked Vegetables2-3 days
Soups and Sweets3-4 days

This is, therefore, how long you can safely store your cooked food and vegetables. If your food expires this time, you should certainly check carefully before eating it. Otherwise, you might get food poisoning from spoiled or rotten food.

Is Reheating Time Different For Different Microwave Watts?

Microwave efficiency and how long it takes to reheat or cook food depend on the microwave wattage. Usually, the more wattage a microwave has, the quicker its performance will be. 

Usually, the most common microwave is 800 watts. However, according to model and capacity, microwave watts can vary from 700-1000 watts. Therefore, cooking and reheating times in the microwave differ according to the configuration and capacity of the microwave. So, the higher the microwave wattage is, the more efficiently it should perform. 

For instance, if a 700-watt microwave takes 3 minutes to reheat pasta, an 800-watt microwave would take 30 seconds to a minute less than that of the 700-watt microwave. Likewise, the 100-watt microwave would be even faster. Therefore, microwave efficiency depends largely on the microwave configuration and wattage.

Another idea is that because microwave energy cannot enter thicker pieces of food well, it is ideal to rest the food a few minutes after it’s cooked to let the heat distribute evenly throughout the food. 

Preheat the microwave to a median temperature. Most frozen foods defrost as well as heat up at 165°F. Therefore, this would be an optimum temperature for most foods.  

After that, take out the foil off of the frozen food, take it out in a microwave-safe container, and off they both go into the microwave.  The food should then be checked every couple of minutes. If one is done, it should be taken out as the other is still being cooked. 

Is It Safe to Microwave Food Twice?

Yes, in most cases, it is alright to microwave the same food twice. However, between the two reheats, you should be careful that the food does not smell rotten or spoiled. The minimum heat should be 160F for as many times as you reheat your food in the microwave.

One thing to note here is that each time food is reheated, it loses some of its nutritional value. Therefore, although microwaving the same food twice should not harm you physically, it might not be beneficial for your health.

How Long Is it Safe To Microwave Food?

You should reheat foods until they reach an internal temperature of 160°F. To do that heating time can be different for various foods. 

A little about microwave science: it is part of the electromagnetic spectrum, which includes high-frequency radio waves. However, to bust the myths, microwaves do not actually contain any radioactive energy in the food after it is switched off. So, don’t worry about any radiotoxicity when microwaving your food no matter how many times or how long you do it. 

But after each reheat, the nutritional value of your food decreases. Therefore, it is preferable to only reheat the amount you eat at one serving instead of reheating the whole dish to 160°F over and over. 

Therefore, it is safer to reheat food as little as possible to retain the nutritional value as much as possible.

What Foods Should You Avoid Microwaving?

When talking about what foods to microwave and how long that might take, it is important to be careful of the foods you should avoid microwaving. There are a few very common foods that you should avoid heating in the microwave.

But food should always be in a microwave-safe container. Microwave grills are so food should not be touched with bare hands to avoid burn injuries.

Whole Eggs, Meat And Potatoes

For example, whole eggs and processed or frozen meats should never be microwaved. Potatoes should not be kept in the microwave unless you poke some holes inside them. 

It is not a good idea to thaw foods that are just out of the freezer. If you’re planning to cook meat, let it defrost first until it reaches room temperature, then you can cook it inside the microwave.

Citrus Fruits

Citrus fruits
Avoid microwaving citrus fruits

I once kept a few slices of lemon in the microwave and a few seconds later, there were sparks inside the microwave, so I rushed to unplug it immediately. So, any sort of citric acid foods like oranges or lemons should not be heated in the microwave. 

Metal Food Container

Food should not be heated in a metal food container to avoid spark ignition and explosion of the microwave itself. 

If there is a metal lid on top of the food, take the lid off before placing the food inside the microwave. Here’s what happens if you heat your food with a metal lid on.

It is always preferable to take out any metal before keeping the food inside the microwave so that you do not damage yourself or the electronic appliance.

How Do You Cook Frozen Food In The Microwave?

Who doesn’t love frozen food? They are convenient, hassle-free, and serve as many people as you need them to, as long as you don’t run out of stock. Generally, there are all sorts of frozen foods available in the supermarkets which can be bought and stored for a long time.

After taking out the frozen food from the refrigerator, it should be given some time to warm up a little. Once the food has reached a temperature close to the room’s temperature, you can now slide it into your microwave for reheating. 

Frozen food should not be directly entered into the microwave to thaw. It might damage the microwave’s performance and the food might not be heated properly.

Below is a table that shows how long it takes to microwave common frozen foods of different types.

Frozen Food ItemsPreheat Temperature (°F)Microwave Time
Frozen Chicken Nuggets25010-15 mins
Hot Dogs240-603-4 mins
Frozen Yogurt13030-60 sec
Frozen Vegetable1604-5 mins
Pizza240-503-4 mins
Pasta1655-6 minutes
Frozen Ham27510-12 minutes per pound
Frozen Corn1653-4 mins

Chef Rooney

I like to cook. It makes me happy, and I know it does the same for others. If you ever want to learn how to make a great dish, just ask!

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