The prevalence of microwave ovens in North American homes has increased dramatically within the last decade. Although microwave ovens are primarily used for reheating of foods, they are now more commonly being applied to the cooking of raw foods. Although cooking of raw foods, according to manufacturers' instructions targets an organoleptically acceptable end product, the process does not address the microbiological safety of the cooked food. Seventeen microwave ovens from various commercial suppliers were used to cook naturally contaminated whole raw broilers (≤1.8 kg) and roasters (>1.8 kg) according to manufacturers' instructions. Temperature probes (six per chicken) were used to measure the temperature of chickens immediately after cooking and during the holding period. Of 81 Listeria-positive raw broilers and 93 raw roasters, 1 (1.2%) and 9 (9.7%), respectively, yielded viable Listeria spp. after microwave cooking. Of these, two were undercooked (visual inspection), one was over the maximum weight stipulated by the oven manufacturer and another one was over the maximum weight and undercooked. A significantly greater proportion of contaminated cooked birds was observed with roasters than with broilers, where for one of these contaminated roasters, the temperature at all six measured sites was ≥87°C. Most of the postcook Listeria-positive birds were associated with 2 of the 17 microwave ovens. Factors such as wattage, cavity size, and the presence or absence of a turntable seemingly did not play a significant role in the survival of Listeria spp. in microwave-cooked chicken. However, the general inability of microwave ovens to uniformly heat chicken carcasses was noted. In order to promote greater safety of microwave-cooked foods, general recommendations for consumers are provided.

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