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How to Cook Canned Food in Microwave

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Whether you have baked beans or canned cat food, the microwave is well known method to reheat or cook canned food items quickly and easily.

Canned foods are precooked and then canned under intense heat to preserve the food and eliminate deadly bacteria like botulism. So cooking canned food is not required, but you can certainly reheat it.

Can you cook canned food in the microwave? It is not recommended to place the can within a microwave as the can is made of aluminum, tin or possibly steel. The contents of the can should be transferred to a microwave safe container, and then reheated to an internal temperature of 74°C or 165°F.

In this article, learn the best way to microwave canned food. Additionally, the frequently asked questions about microwaving canned foods are answered with information that you need to know about safe food handling procedures.

Does canned food require cooking?

No, canned foods does not need to be cooked as they are pre-cooked and canned under intense heat. The canning process sterilizes the product by heating the content to eliminate bacteria, therefore it is safe to eat without reheating.

However, canned foods may be cooked if you want hot food or to add some flavor to the dish. Tuna, corned beef and chicken noodle soup are all pre-cooked canned foods that you can eat them right from the can without cooking, and it does not make you sick. 

Some canned food contents are cooked to get the advantage of blending in added spices, veggies or flavorings. So, recooking them enhances the added flavors. 

On the other side, for canned soup, you can eat them even if it’s cold. the nutrient content won’t change, but the heated soup will provide enhanced flavor and taste.

Is it safe to cook canned food in the can?

No, it is not safe to cook canned food in the can, particularly in a microwave. The majority of the cans have a plastic lining and are made of aluminum, both present a risk of chemical release within the food.

Although not recommended, in emergency situations it can be heated or cooked with its lid removed and placed in simmering water on the stovetop, but not in the microwave. 

To microwave canned food safely, transfer the contents into a microwave soup bowl and heat it in the microwave until it reaches the proper internal temperature.

Simmer water in a pan on the stovetop, and place the can in it to heat the contents within. The canned lid must be removed to avoid any build-up of steam pressure. 

Aluminum foil can be used to cover the opened can to avoid spilling or splattering the canned food when heated.

So, heating food in the can is not the best choice. 

The plastic lining is considered to be safer than BPA, which is connected to brain growth issues in kids and cancer in grown-ups. Look for canned food that are BPA free to minimize the harmful chemical leaching into the food contents.

However, if you are camping or outdoor with limited kitchen supplies, follow the steps below to cook in a can:

  • Eliminate the outer paper label.
  • In the top, use can opener to remove the lid to release built up steam pressure. Leaving the lid over the top helps to prevent fire ash from entering the food while heating.
  • Place the can in a pot of boiling water to gently warm the contents
  • Slow cook and stir well to distribute the heat. 
  • When its done, the can will be very hot, so handle very carefully to avoid serious injuries.

Can you heat a can in the microwave?

It is not safe to heat a can in the microwave. Instead, pour the canned food contents in a microwave-safe bowl and heat up. 

Microwaving metal cans can shield the electromagnetic radiation which results in sparks. Putting a metal into a microwave is a dangerous as the appliance may catch fire.

As per FDA, canned food is cooked before packaging it in the can. So heating the food in the microwave adds to taste and texture, but is not necessary. 

But, since canned foods are packaged in tin, aluminum, or steel cans, they cannot be placed in the microwave to heat the food content. This can cause sparks and be a dangerous situation, furthermore heating aluminum is potentially toxic. 

Steel can release nickel and chromium in trace amounts. Chemical leaching is possible when heating food in the cans, therefore it is not recommended.

Are canned foods aluminum or tin?

Generally, canned foods come in both aluminum and tin packaging. Even steel with a tin coating is commonly used to stored canned food as they are versatile and light in weight. 

The canned goods have a long shelf life and the packaging is expected to last for about 5 years.

Metal cans help the stored food remain unspoiled and last long. They ensure the nutritional value of the food contents within the can sustain over time. 

Majority of steel cans today are lined with a tin layer on the exterior. The tin amount is about 5lbs. per ton of steel. In the market, they are however referred to as tin cans. 

Steel is eco-friendly and recyclable. Steel cans are used for food items while aluminum cans are used for beverages. 

Aluminum is used as it is corrosion resistant and easy to mold into shape. In addition, it withstands 90 lbs pressure/sq. in, which is crucial for carbonated beverages. 

Tips to microwave canned food

In order to heat up canned food in the microwave, the contents must be transferred to a microwave-safe bowl and covered with a lid. The timing is important to give sufficient heat to the food without overcooking it and turning it to mush.

Here are some essential tips to microwave canned food to help you enjoy the meal: 

  • If you are microwaving canned veggies, drain the liquid and place it in a microwave-safe bowl to heat.
  • Microwave for about 3 to 4 minutes, stirring after every minute.
  • Cover the bowl with microwavable plastic wrap with few pokes, a damp paper towel or use a microwave cover.
  • Ensure you are not using any metal dishes or utensil in a microwave as they spark and cause fire. This is why you should avoid placing the can in a microwave.
  • Do not overload the food content in the dish. Microwave in batches if required for even heating all around.
  • Heat the food content until steam or bubbles and mix in between to evenly distribute the heat.
  • Use a shallow dish in a microwave when handling dense foods.
  • Cover the food contents using a lid that is almost closed with a little opening to avoid food splattering all over and allow venting of the steam.

Without proper instructions and care, the soup can explode in the microwave.

Be aware to leave the container covered for 2 to 3 minutes after nuking to allow the heat to completely settle, especially for any canned soups and thick liquids. Prepare microwave safe container or mugs that is microwave safe for soups to replace the can.

Best way to microwave canned food

The best way to microwave canned food is by transferring it to a microwave-safe bowl and then heating it for about 2-3 minutes while stirring periodically. Do not heat the can in the microwave as it is dangerous and may result in sparks that set fire to the appliance.

Follow the steps below to microwave canned food:

  • Take the can and remove the lid.
  • Transfer the food contents to a microwave-safe bowl or dish.
  • Cover with a microwavable lid.
  • Set the microwave to 2-4 minutes.
  • Mix the food after every interval of 30 seconds.
  • Once you see the bubbles popping up.
  • Food is properly reheated when the internal temperature reaches 74°C or 165°F
How to cook canned food in microwave

Microwaving Canned Food: Conclusion

As per FDA, canned foods is pre-cooked and canned at high temperatures. 

To cook or reheat any canned food in microwave,first transfer the food contents to a microwave-safe bowl and avoid using the original can packaging in the appliance.

Do not place the can into the microwave as it is hazardous and may result in sparks that could potentially cause a fire.

Add in the seasonings as you please, microwave for 2-3 minutes. Stir periodically for even heat distribution. 

Meat, vegetable, beans soup and more canned foods are packaged and ready for easy meal prep, and there are variety of canned food to add to your recipe for everyday meals. Canned foods are pre-cooked and safe to consume after opening. 

However, they are easy to reheat if desired. Transfer the food to a proper microwavable container and follow the recommended instructions to safely reheat canned foods in a microwave.