Microwave Buying Guide

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Written By Emma Roberts
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Microwave Buying Guide

Welcome to our comprehensive Microwave Buying Guide, designed to illuminate the essential aspects of one of the most convenient and indispensable appliances in the modern kitchen. A microwave oven is a marvel of culinary efficiency, using electromagnetic waves to rapidly heat and cook food. This innovative cooking method excites water molecules within the food, causing them to vibrate and produce heat, leading to quick and even cooking. The advantages of using a microwave are manifold: it’s a time-saver, allowing for rapid cooking and reheating, and it’s energy-efficient, heating food directly without warming the entire oven space. Additionally, its compact nature makes it a perfect fit for kitchens of all sizes, while its ability to preserve the nutrients and flavors of food adds to its appeal.

In today’s market, microwaves come in various types, including versatile countertop models, space-saving over-the-range units, and seamlessly integrated built-in designs. They range in size from small, convenient units suitable for tight spaces to larger models capable of catering to the cooking needs of families. The power of a microwave, indicated in watts, is a key determinant of its cooking speed and efficiency, with higher wattage translating to faster cooking. Modern microwaves also boast an array of features, from basic models with fundamental heating functions to advanced versions equipped with smart sensors, pre-programmed settings, and even convection capabilities for more versatile cooking options. The pricing spectrum of microwaves varies widely, influenced by their size, power, brand, and the array of features they offer, ensuring options for every budget.

Countertop Microwave

The aim of this guide is to assist you in navigating the diverse range of microwaves, helping you select the ideal appliance that aligns with your culinary needs, kitchen space, and budgetary considerations. Whether you’re in the market for a straightforward microwave for everyday reheating or a sophisticated model to augment your culinary endeavors, this guide is designed to empower you with the knowledge and confidence to make a well-informed choice. By the end of this guide, you’ll be equipped to select a microwave that not only meets your cooking requirements but also enhances the efficiency and enjoyment of your kitchen experience.

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Microwave Specifications

Microwaves come with a variety of specifications that determine their performance, efficiency, and safety. Understanding these specifications, including wattage, voltage, frequency, and the magnetron, is crucial when selecting the right microwave for your needs.

Key Specifications of Microwaves

  1. Wattage: This indicates the power output of the microwave. Higher wattage means faster and more even cooking. Microwaves typically range from 600 to 1,200 watts. Higher wattage microwaves can cook food more quickly and efficiently, but they may also consume more energy. Higher wattage is crucial for those who use their microwave for cooking and heavy-duty tasks. However, for simple reheating or defrosting, a lower wattage might suffice.
  2. Voltage: The voltage requirement of a microwave is usually in line with standard household electrical circuits. Most microwaves operate on a standard 120V electrical outlet in the United States. It’s essential to ensure that your kitchen’s electrical setup can support the microwave’s voltage requirement. Proper voltage ensures that the microwave operates safely and efficiently. Incorrect voltage can lead to safety hazards or reduced performance.
  3. Frequency: Microwaves operate at a specific frequency, typically 2,450 MHz, which is ideal for heating food. This frequency is chosen because it effectively excites water molecules, which helps in heating and cooking food evenly. The standard frequency ensures that the microwave heats food effectively. This specification is typically uniform across most microwave models.
  4. Magnetron: This is the component that generates the microwave radiation used to cook food. The efficiency and longevity of the microwave often depend on the quality of the magnetron. A good magnetron can ensure consistent performance and durability. A high-quality magnetron means more efficient and reliable microwave performance. It’s particularly important for users who rely heavily on their microwave for daily cooking.

Examples of Microwaves with Different Specifications

  1. Toshiba EM131A5C-BS: Known for its efficient power usage and features like sensor cooking and a user-friendly interface.
  2. GE JES2051SNSS: Offers high wattage for faster cooking and a spacious interior, suitable for larger households or extensive cooking needs.
  3. Panasonic NN-SN966S: Features inverter technology for even cooking and energy efficiency, making it a top choice for those looking for advanced microwave technology.
Toshiba EM131A5C-BS Microwave

Choosing the Best Specifications

  • Assess Cooking Needs: Consider what you primarily use the microwave for. If you frequently cook or prepare large meals, opt for a higher wattage. For basic reheating or small portions, a lower wattage microwave may be adequate.
  • Kitchen Compatibility: Ensure the microwave’s voltage and size are compatible with your kitchen’s electrical setup and space.
  • Performance Expectations: If you expect high performance and longevity, look for microwaves with a quality magnetron and advanced features like inverter technology.
  • Budget Considerations: Higher specification microwaves often come at a higher price. Balance your performance needs with your budget.

Types of Microwaves

Microwaves come in various types, each with its unique features, benefits, and drawbacks. Understanding these differences is crucial in selecting a microwave that fits your kitchen’s space, layout, and style. Let’s compare the four common types of microwaves: countertop, over-the-range, drawer, and built-in.

1. Countertop Microwaves

Countertop Microwave

Countertop microwaves are versatile, freestanding units that can be placed on any counter space. They are designed to be plug-and-play, making them highly convenient. The primary benefits of countertop microwaves are their affordability and ease of installation. They require no special setup, making them ideal for immediate use. Their portability is a significant advantage for those who move frequently. Additionally, they come in a broad range of sizes, from compact models perfect for small apartments to larger ones suitable for family use, and offer various power options to suit different cooking needs. The main drawback is their footprint on counter space. In smaller kitchens where counter space is at a premium, these microwaves can be cumbersome. The Panasonic NN-SN686S is a popular choice in this category, known for its efficient inverter technology, which allows for even cooking and energy-saving, and its compact design that fits well in various kitchen sizes. Ideal for those with ample counter space or individuals living in rental properties who need a portable and hassle-free microwave option.

2. Over-the-Range Microwaves

Over-the-Range Microwave

These microwaves are installed above the cooking range and usually include a built-in ventilation system to double as a range hood. They are excellent space savers, freeing up valuable counter space. The integrated ventilation system helps remove cooking odors and smoke, contributing to a cleaner kitchen environment. These models often blend well with kitchen cabinetry, offering a seamless and cohesive look. Installation is more complex, often requiring professional help, which adds to the cost. The height at which they are installed can be a challenge for some users, especially in kitchens with high cabinets or for shorter individuals. The GE JVM3160RFSS is well-regarded for its dependable performance, featuring a spacious interior and effective ventilation system. Kitchens with limited counter space and where the microwave can be comfortably accessed above the stove.

3. Drawer Microwaves

Drawer Microwave

Drawer microwaves are sleek, space-saving appliances installed under the counter or within a kitchen island, sliding out like a drawer. These microwaves are highly accessible, making them easy to reach and operate. They save significant counter space and blend seamlessly with modern kitchen designs, maintaining the aesthetic flow of the kitchen layout. Drawer microwaves are on the higher end of the price spectrum and often require custom cabinetry work for installation, adding to the overall cost. The Sharp SMD2470AS is noted for its stylish design and convenient accessibility, fitting seamlessly into contemporary kitchen designs. Modern kitchens where space optimization, design, and accessibility are key considerations.

Microwaves have evolved significantly, offering various types to cater to different needs and kitchen setups. Among these, built-in microwaves, under-the-cabinet microwaves, convection microwaves, and smart microwaves stand out for their unique features and functionalities.

4. Built-In Microwaves

Built-In Microwave

Built-in microwaves offer a sleek, integrated look, as they are designed to be installed within cabinetry or wall units. They save counter space and can be installed at various heights, ensuring ergonomic access. Built-in models often complement other built-in appliances, offering a high-end, uniform appearance. These microwaves typically come with a higher price tag and may require custom cabinetry or specific installation, adding to the cost and complexity. The Bosch HMB50152UC stands out for its efficient performance and elegant design, which integrates smoothly into a range of kitchen styles. Homeowners looking for a sophisticated, custom kitchen design and willing to invest in high-quality appliances.

5. Under-the-Cabinet Microwaves

Built-In Microwave

Under-the-cabinet microwaves, also known as under-counter or built-in microwaves, are designed to be installed under a kitchen cabinet or counter. They help save counter space and give a streamlined look to the kitchen. Ideal for small kitchens or where counter space is limited. They contribute to a clutter-free kitchen design and can be installed at a height that suits the user’s ergonomic needs. Installation can be more complex compared to countertop models. They may require custom cabinetry work and professional installation, which can add to the overall cost. Models like the Sharp SMD2470AS offer sleek designs suitable for modern kitchens.

6. Convection Microwaves

Convection Microwave

Convection microwaves combine traditional microwave technology with a convection oven. They use a fan to circulate hot air around the food, allowing for baking, roasting, and crisping in addition to standard microwave functions. Versatile cooking options; can often replace the need for a separate oven. They are ideal for baking, roasting, and crisping foods while still offering the quick heating of a standard microwave. Typically more expensive than standard microwaves. The convection feature may have a learning curve for users accustomed to traditional microwaves or ovens. The Toshiba EC042A5C-SS and Cuisinart CMW-200 are well-regarded for their convection capabilities.

7. Smart Microwaves

Smart Microwave

Smart microwaves are equipped with Wi-Fi connectivity and can be controlled through smartphone apps or voice commands using smart home assistants like Alexa or Google Assistant. Offer enhanced convenience with features like remote operation, voice control, and sometimes integration with other smart kitchen appliances. Ideal for tech-savvy users or those integrating their home into a smart ecosystem. They require a compatible smart home setup and are generally more expensive. The technology might not appeal to users who prefer traditional, manual controls. The AmazonBasics Microwave works with Alexa for voice-controlled cooking and simple automation.

Choosing the Best Microwave Type

When deciding which type of microwave is best for you, consider your kitchen’s layout and available space. Countertop models are great for easy installation and portability, while over-the-range and built-in types are ideal for saving counter space and achieving a streamlined kitchen design. Drawer microwaves offer a blend of modern style and convenience but at a higher cost. Evaluate your kitchen size, style preferences, and cooking habits to choose the microwave that best fits your lifestyle and culinary needs.

Sizes of Microwaves

Microwaves are not one-size-fits-all appliances; they come in a range of sizes to suit different needs and kitchen spaces. From compact models ideal for small spaces to larger units designed for family use, the size of a microwave can greatly impact its utility and fit in your kitchen.

Different Sizes of Microwaves

  1. Compact (0.5 to 0.9 Cubic Feet): These small microwaves are perfect for limited spaces like dorm rooms, small apartments, or office kitchens. They’re generally suitable for heating small meals and beverages.
  2. Mid-Size (1.0 to 1.4 Cubic Feet): A middle ground in terms of size, these microwaves offer a balance between capacity and space consumption, suitable for average-sized families.
  3. Full-Size (1.5 to 2.2 Cubic Feet or More): These larger microwaves are ideal for families or individuals who use the microwave for cooking larger dishes. They can accommodate larger plates and bowls.
Full-Size Microwave Dimensions

Factors Affecting Microwave Size

  • Turntable Diameter: The size of the turntable affects how large a plate or container you can place inside the microwave. Larger turntables allow for bigger dishes.
  • Interior Height: This determines the size of the container that can be placed inside. Taller interiors are better for larger food items or containers.
  • Exterior Dimensions: The overall size of the microwave should fit the designated space in your kitchen. It’s essential to measure the available space before purchasing.

Examples of Microwaves for Different Size Categories

  1. Compact: The Toshiba EM925A5A-BS is a compact model known for its efficient performance in small spaces. It’s a good fit for individuals living alone or with limited kitchen space.
  2. Mid-Size: The Samsung MS14K6000AS falls into the mid-size category, offering a balance of capacity and footprint, making it suitable for average-sized households.
  3. Full-Size: The LG LMV2031ST is an example of a full-size microwave, ideal for larger families or those who frequently use the microwave for cooking and reheating larger meals.

Choosing the Right Size Microwave

  • Assess Cooking Needs: Consider what you primarily use the microwave for. If it’s mostly for reheating small meals or snacks, a compact model might suffice. For cooking or reheating larger dishes, opt for a mid-size or full-size microwave.
  • Consider Family Size: The number of people in your household can guide the size of the microwave. Larger families or shared living situations often benefit from a larger microwave.
  • Available Kitchen Space: Measure the space where you plan to place the microwave, ensuring that the model you choose fits comfortably. Remember to consider the door opening and clearance for ventilation.
  • Convenience and Accessibility: Ensure that the microwave’s size doesn’t hinder its accessibility and ease of use. A microwave that’s too large or too small can be inconvenient in everyday use.

Power of Microwaves

The power level of a microwave, denoted in watts, significantly influences its functionality, impacting how quickly and evenly it heats and cooks food. This aspect is especially important to consider based on your cooking habits and kitchen needs. Microwaves typically range in power from 500 watts to 1,200 watts or higher, with each range catering to different culinary requirements.

Low Power Microwave

1. Lower Power (500 to 700 Watts):

These microwaves have lower wattage and, consequently, a gentler heating capability. They are more energy-efficient but take longer to heat and cook food. Ideal for tasks that don’t require intense heat, such as gently reheating leftovers, defrosting frozen foods, or warming beverages. They are a good fit for users who don’t rely heavily on a microwave for daily cooking. Best suited for small apartments, dorm rooms, or office settings where cooking demands are minimal and space might be limited. The Black+Decker EM720CB7 is a good example of a lower-powered microwave, suitable for small kitchens or basic heating needs.

2. Medium Power (700 to 900 Watts):

These models strike a balance between power and energy usage. They heat food more quickly than lower wattage microwaves but are not as rapid as the high-power counterparts. Suitable for a variety of cooking tasks, including heating up ready meals, cooking vegetables, or making popcorn. They meet the needs of most average-sized households. These microwaves are versatile enough for families or individuals who use their microwave with moderate frequency for a range of cooking and reheating tasks. The Whirlpool WMC50522HZ fits into the medium power category, offering efficient performance for everyday cooking and reheating.

3. High Power (1,000 to 1,200 Watts or More):

High-wattage microwaves provide fast and efficient cooking. They are capable of heating food quickly and more uniformly, reducing the incidence of cold spots. It is perfect for users who frequently use their microwave for cooking complex dishes, heating large quantities of food, or for those who desire quick meal preparations. It is ideal for busy households, large families, or culinary enthusiasts who want to leverage the microwave for a broader range of cooking activities. Higher wattage microwaves cook food faster. This is particularly beneficial for busy individuals or large families. High-power microwaves tend to cook food more evenly, reducing the occurrence of cold spots and ensuring food is thoroughly heated. With more power, these microwaves offer better consistency in cooking, which is important for recipes that require precision. The Panasonic NN-SD975S is a high-powered microwave, known for its fast cooking times and advanced features like inverter technology.

Choosing the Best Power Level

  • Consider Your Cooking Habits: If you frequently use your microwave for cooking or heating large quantities of food, a higher wattage model will be more efficient. For occasional use or simple tasks like reheating a cup of coffee, a lower wattage may suffice.
  • Evaluate Your Time Constraints: If you need to prepare meals quickly, a high-power microwave will save you significant time in the kitchen.
  • Balance Power with Energy Consumption: While higher power means faster cooking, it also translates to higher energy consumption. Consider your energy usage preferences and whether efficiency or energy conservation is your priority.
  • Match Power with Kitchen Size: In smaller kitchens or compact spaces, a lower-powered, compact microwave might be more suitable, while larger kitchens can accommodate high-powered models.

Features of Microwaves

Microwaves today come loaded with a range of features and functions, each designed to enhance cooking efficiency, convenience, and versatility. Understanding these can help you choose a microwave that aligns perfectly with your culinary needs and lifestyle.

1. Preset Programs

Preset programs in microwaves are pre-configured settings tailored for specific food items such as popcorn, pizza, or beverages. These settings automatically adjust cooking times and power levels to suit the particular food, making the cooking process almost foolproof. They significantly simplify the cooking process, reducing guesswork, and are ideal for those who want quick, hassle-free cooking. Preset programs may not always align with personal preferences or the specific requirements of different food types, potentially leading to less than optimal cooking results. The Farberware FMO11AHTBKB is noted for its user-friendly preset options, making it a great choice for those seeking convenience.

2. Sensor Cooking

Sensor cooking technology detects the steam emitted during the cooking process and automatically adjusts the cooking time and power. This smart feature ensures that food is cooked precisely to the right level. It helps prevent overcooking and uneven heating, thereby maintaining food quality and consistency. At times, these sensors might not accurately gauge the doneness of different foods, which can lead to under or overcooking. The GE JES1072SHSS microwave is equipped with reliable sensor cooking, offering a hassle-free way to prepare a variety of dishes.

3. Inverter Technology

Inverter Technology Microwave

Inverter technology in microwaves allows for more precise control of power levels, leading to more even cooking and efficient defrosting. This technology ensures that food is cooked more uniformly, preserving its texture and flavor, which is particularly beneficial for delicate foods. Inverter technology is typically found in higher-end, more expensive microwave models, which might not be within everyone’s budget. The Toshiba EC042A5C-SS stands out for its advanced inverter technology, offering superior cooking performance.

4. Convection Cooking

Convection microwaves combine standard microwave energy with a convection fan to circulate hot air around the food. This feature enables baking and roasting capabilities alongside regular microwave functions. The addition of convection cooking offers versatility, allowing these microwaves to replace or supplement traditional ovens. It’s ideal for those who enjoy baking or need an all-in-one cooking appliance. Convection microwaves tend to be more expensive and might require a learning curve for those accustomed to traditional microwaves. The Cuisinart CMW-200 is popular for its effective convection cooking feature, making it a versatile addition to any kitchen.

5. Grilling and Steaming

Some microwaves offer additional grilling and steaming features, expanding their cooking capabilities beyond just reheating and defrosting. These features allow for a broader range of cooking methods, adding grilling and steaming to the microwave’s repertoire. Such models may require additional accessories, like grill racks or steam containers, and can be more expensive. The Samsung MG14H3020CM includes a grilling element, providing added cooking versatility.

6. Smart Connectivity

Advanced microwaves now come with smart connectivity features, including Wi-Fi and voice control through smart home assistants. This allows for remote operation and integration with your smart home ecosystem. Offers enhanced convenience with features like remote control, voice commands, and integration with other smart home devices. These features require a compatible smart home setup and are generally found in pricier models. The AmazonBasics Microwave works with Alexa for voice-controlled cooking, appealing to tech-savvy users.

Smart Connectivity Microwave

Choosing the Right Features

When selecting a microwave, consider your specific cooking habits, interests, and the level of convenience you seek. If you frequently cook a variety of dishes and enjoy experimenting with new cooking methods, look for a microwave with advanced features like sensor cooking, inverter technology, or convection capabilities. For basic reheating and defrosting, a model with standard preset programs might suffice. Additionally, factor in your kitchen space and budget constraints to find a microwave that not only meets your cooking needs but also fits seamlessly into your home and lifestyle.

Space and Location Considerations for Microwaves

When integrating a microwave into your kitchen, understanding the spatial and locational requirements is essential. The placement of a microwave not only affects its functionality and accessibility but also impacts the overall flow and aesthetic of your kitchen. Proper installation is crucial for the microwave’s functionality. For instance, over-the-range models require more complex installation and should be placed where they can also serve as a range hood. Adequate ventilation is essential for the microwave’s longevity and safe operation. This is particularly important for built-in or over-the-range models. The microwave should be easily accessible. Height and location should be considered to ensure that all users can comfortably use the appliance. Let’s delve into the factors influencing where you can and should place a microwave, along with some recommendations for different scenarios.

Factors Affecting Space and Location of Microwaves

  1. Countertop Area: The amount of available counter space significantly influences the size and type of microwave you can accommodate. Larger countertops offer more flexibility, while limited space might require a compact or over-the-range model.
  2. Cabinet Depth: If you’re considering a built-in microwave, the depth of your cabinets is a critical factor. The microwave needs to align with the cabinets for a seamless look.
  3. Wall Clearance: Adequate wall clearance is vital, especially for countertop microwaves, to ensure proper ventilation and to prevent overheating.
  4. Outlet Placement: The location of electrical outlets will also dictate where you can place the microwave. It’s important for safety and convenience that the microwave is near an outlet to avoid the use of extension cords.
Installation of Microwave

Microwave Recommendations for Different Scenarios

  1. For Tight Spaces: The Frigidaire FFMV1645TS is an over-the-range microwave that is perfect for kitchens with limited counter space. It doubles as a ventilation hood, saving valuable space.
  2. For Larger Kitchens: The LG LMHM2237ST is ideal for larger kitchens, offering robust functionality and fitting seamlessly into spacious layouts.
  3. For Built-in Settings: The GE PEB7227DLBB is designed for built-in installation, aligning well with kitchen cabinetry for a sleek, integrated look.

Tips for Choosing the Best Space and Location

  • Assess Your Kitchen Size and Layout: Consider the layout of your kitchen, including counter space, cabinet arrangement, and where your stove is located, especially if considering an over-the-range microwave.
  • Consider Your Lifestyle and Kitchen Style: Your cooking habits and kitchen style should guide your choice. If you cook frequently, prioritize convenience and accessibility. For minimalist kitchens, built-in models offer a sleek look.
  • Plan for Installation and Ventilation: Ensure the chosen location allows for proper installation and ventilation. For built-in models, professional installation might be necessary.
  • Measure Before Purchasing: Always measure the available space and compare it with the microwave’s dimensions to ensure a proper fit.

Average Cost of a Microwave

When considering the purchase of a microwave, it’s important to factor in not only the initial purchase price but also other associated costs like installation, maintenance, and energy consumption. These costs collectively impact the microwave’s overall affordability, durability, and efficiency. The initial purchase price is often a primary concern. While budget models are affordable, they may lack advanced features or have lower durability. Higher-priced microwaves often offer better build quality and efficiency. Investing more upfront can sometimes lead to lower long-term costs due to longer lifespan and better energy efficiency. Understanding these cost elements can help you make an informed decision that aligns with your budget and needs.

Smart Microwave

Factors Contributing to the Cost of a Microwave

  1. Purchase Price: This is the upfront cost of the microwave and varies widely based on the type, brand, features, and size. Prices can range from under $100 for basic models to over $1,000 for high-end versions with advanced features.
  2. Installation Fee: If you opt for an over-the-range or built-in microwave, there may be additional costs for professional installation. This cost varies depending on the complexity of the installation and local labor rates.
  3. Maintenance Cost: Consider the potential costs of cleaning products or replacement parts like turntable plates or light bulbs. While generally low, these expenses can add up over time.
  4. Energy Consumption: The microwave’s wattage and usage frequency influence your electricity bill. Higher wattage models and frequent use can lead to higher energy costs, but this is often offset by the time saved compared to other cooking methods.

Examples of Microwaves Across Different Cost Ranges

  1. Budget-Friendly Option: The AmazonBasics Microwave is an example of an affordable model, suitable for basic reheating and defrosting needs, and it even offers voice control capabilities with Alexa.
  2. Mid-Range Option: The Samsung MS14K6000AS falls into a moderate price category, offering a balance of features, size, and power for typical household use.
  3. High-End Option: The GE Profile PEB9159SJSS is a premium microwave with advanced features like convection cooking, making it ideal for those who use their microwave for a variety of cooking tasks.
Brand and ModelTypeCapacity (cu. ft.)Power (watts)PriceFeatures
Panasonic NN-SN686SCountertop1.21200162.54$Inverter technology, sensor cooking, 14 preset menu items
GE JVM3160RFSSOver-the-range1.61000279.00$Venting system, turntable on/off, 10 power levels
Sharp SMD2470ASDrawer1.210001,199.00$Easy touch automatic drawer, sensor cook, hidden control panel
Bosch HMB50152UCBuilt-in1.69501,529.00$SpeedChef cooking cycles, convection cooking, LCD display
Toshiba EM925A5A-BSCountertop0.990089.99$LED lighting, 10 power settings, digital control panel
Samsung MS14K6000ASCountertop1.41000149.00$Sensor cook, ceramic enamel interior, triple distribution system
LG LMV2031STOver-the-range2.01000329.00$Sensor cooking, QuietPower ventilation, EasyClean interior
Whirlpool WMC50522HZCountertop2.21200319.00$Sensor cooking, steam cooking, add 30 seconds option
Black+Decker EM720CB7Countertop0.770074.99$LED display, 10 power levels, 30 second express cooking
GE JES2051SNSSCountertop2.01200199.00$Sensor cooking, turntable on/off, 16″ glass turntable

Tips for Choosing the Right Cost

  • Evaluate Your Needs and Usage: Assess how frequently you use a microwave and for what purposes. If you rely heavily on a microwave for daily cooking, investing in a higher-end model might be more cost-effective in the long run.
  • Consider Long-Term Costs: Factor in energy efficiency and potential maintenance costs. A more expensive model that is energy-efficient can save money over time.
  • Balancing Budget and Features: Determine which features are essential for your cooking needs and find a microwave that offers those within your budget.
  • Read Reviews and Compare Prices: Look at reviews to gauge the value for money and compare prices across different retailers to find the best deal.

Applications of Microwave

Microwaves have evolved from simple reheating gadgets to versatile kitchen appliances capable of handling a variety of cooking tasks. Understanding the different applications and their impact on a microwave’s performance can help you select the best microwave for your needs. Microwaves have transcended their original purpose of merely reheating leftovers and have become versatile tools in modern kitchens. Let’s explore the various applications of microwaves in greater depth, discussing their benefits, potential drawbacks, and suitable examples for each application.

1. Reheating Food:

Reheating is the most fundamental function of a microwave. It’s designed to quickly warm up food, making it ideal for busy lifestyles or when you need a quick meal. Exceptionally time-efficient and tends to be more energy-efficient than reheating on a stove or in an oven. May result in uneven heating, with some parts of the food being hotter than others. The Farberware FMO11AHTBKB stands out for its effectiveness in reheating, offering various power settings for different food types.

2. Defrosting:

Defrosting in a microwave is a game-changer for many, allowing frozen food to be thawed quickly and safely. Significantly faster than natural thawing methods, making it perfect for thawing meat or vegetables in a pinch. Risk of partially cooking the food if not monitored closely. Toshiba EC042A5C-SS excels in defrosting, providing even and controlled thawing.

3. Cooking and Baking:

Advanced microwaves can cook a variety of dishes and even bake, offering functionality that rivals traditional ovens. Quick cooking times, ideal for small-batch baking or when an oven isn’t available. Limited in size and may not achieve the same texture as conventional ovens, especially for baked goods. The Cuisinart CMW-200 is versatile, capable of baking and cooking various dishes efficiently.

4. Grilling:

Grilling Microwave

Microwaves with a grilling function can simulate a grilling experience, perfect for grilling small portions of meat or vegetables. Offers a grilling option without the need for an outdoor grill. May not replicate the exact taste or char of traditionally grilled foods. Toshiba EC042A5C-SS, with its integrated grilling function, provides a convenient indoor grilling experience.

5. Steaming:

Steaming in a microwave is a quick and healthy way to cook, especially vegetables, preserving nutrients and texture. Faster than steaming on a stovetop, it’s a healthy cooking method as it doesn’t require added fats. Requires microwave-safe steaming containers. Panasonic NN-SD975S, with its steam sensor, optimizes the steaming process.

6. Sterilizing:

Microwaves can sterilize kitchen items like sponges or baby bottles quickly and effectively. A quick and energy-efficient method to kill bacteria. Not all materials are microwave-safe for sterilizing. Basic models like the AmazonBasics Microwave can be used, but it’s crucial to follow safety guidelines for sterilization.

Choosing the Right Microwave for Your Needs

  • Evaluate Your Primary Uses: Determine whether your microwave usage leans more towards basic tasks like reheating and defrosting, or if you’ll use it for more complex cooking tasks.
  • Consider Your Culinary Interests: For those who enjoy cooking or experimenting with new recipes, a microwave with additional functions like grilling, baking, or steaming would be ideal.
  • Kitchen Space Constraints: If space is limited, opt for a multifunctional microwave to maximize kitchen efficiency.
  • Budget and Cost-effectiveness: Advanced features typically come at a higher price. Weigh the potential benefits of these features against their cost to find a microwave that offers the best value for your investment.

Cooking Different Foods in a Microwave

Microwaves are versatile appliances that can cook a wide range of foods efficiently. However, knowing how to cook different types of foods properly in a microwave is key to achieving the best results while ensuring safety. Let’s explore the diverse array of foods you can cook in a microwave, the best practices for cooking them, and suitable microwave models for various culinary tasks.

Types of Foods and Cooking Practices in a Microwave

1. Frozen Meals

Microwaves are ideal for heating frozen pre-packaged meals. Follow the package instructions, usually involving puncturing the film cover to allow steam to escape. Panasonic NN-SN686S, with its inverter technology, ensures even heating of frozen meals.

2. Popcorn

A classic microwaveable snack. Use microwave-specific popcorn bags and avoid leaving the microwave unattended, as overcooking can lead to burnt kernels. GE JES2051SNSS, with its preset popcorn setting, provides optimal popping results.

3. Pizza

Reheating pizza in a microwave can retain its flavor. Place a glass of water alongside the pizza to prevent the crust from getting chewy. Samsung MG14H3020CM, with its grilling element, can help maintain the crust’s crispiness.

4. Eggs

Cooking eggs in a microwave is quick and easy. Pierce yolks and whites to prevent explosions, and cover the container to avoid splatters. The compact Panasonic NN-SN686S is great for quick egg dishes.

5. Bacon

heating bacon in a microwave

Microwaves can cook bacon effectively. Use microwave-safe bacon trays or layer paper towels to absorb excess grease. Samsung MG14H3020CM’s grilling feature is excellent for achieving crispy bacon.

6. Potatoes

Ideal for “baking” potatoes quickly. Pierce potato skins to let steam escape and turn halfway through cooking. GE JES2051SNSS, with its high wattage, cooks potatoes quickly and evenly.

7. Rice and Pasta

Microwaves can cook rice and pasta conveniently. Use a microwave-safe container with enough water, and cover to prevent splattering. Panasonic NN-SN686S’s consistent heating is great for rice and pasta.

8. Vegetables

Steaming vegetables in a microwave retains nutrients and flavor. Add a bit of water to the bowl of vegetables and cover it. Stir occasionally for even cooking. GE JES2051SNSS, with its sensor cooking, steams vegetables perfectly.

9. Fruits

Some fruits can be cooked in a microwave, like apples for a quick dessert. Cut fruits into small pieces and add a little water or sugar if desired. Panasonic NN-SN686S, with its precise controls, is suitable for cooking fruits without overcooking.

10. Desserts

Make quick desserts like mug cakes. Use microwave-safe mugs and monitor the cooking to avoid overflowing. Samsung MG14H3020CM offers the versatility needed for a variety of desserts.

Care and Maintenance of Microwaves

Proper care and maintenance of your microwave are crucial for extending its lifespan, maintaining its efficiency, and ensuring safe operation. Regular cleaning, correct usage, and periodic checks can keep your microwave in optimal condition. Here are some essential tips and guidelines for caring for and maintaining your microwave.

Regular Cleaning

Regular Cleaning of a Microwave

Wipe the interior with a damp cloth. For stubborn stains, use a mild detergent or a mixture of water and vinegar. Avoid harsh chemicals. Clean after any spill or splatter, or at least once a week to prevent odor build-up and bacterial growth. Use a soft, damp cloth to clean the exterior. For stainless steel microwaves, use appropriate cleaners to avoid streaks. Regularly, depending on usage and kitchen environment. Remove the turntable and roller ring. Wash them in soapy water, rinse, and dry before placing them back. Clean periodically, especially after spills, to ensure smooth rotation.

Proper Usage

Always use containers labeled as microwave-safe. Avoid metals and certain plastics that can melt or cause sparks. Use microwave-safe covers or a paper towel to prevent splatters. Avoid placing heavy items or overfilling the microwave, as it can strain the motor.

Periodic Checks and Maintenance

Regularly inspect the door seal for any damage. A faulty seal can lead to inefficient cooking and potential safety hazards. Ensure that the microwave heats correctly and the turntable rotates smoothly. Irregular heating or noise can indicate a problem. If your microwave has vents, ensure they are not blocked. Good ventilation is crucial for efficient operation and to prevent overheating.

Professional Servicing

If you notice significant performance issues, unusual sounds, or electrical problems, it’s time to consult a professional. Do not attempt to repair electrical components yourself, as microwaves can retain electric charge even when unplugged.

Tips for Microwave Care and Maintenance

  • Avoid Slamming the Door: Treat the microwave door gently to prevent damage to the latch or seal.
  • Keep It Dry: Avoid letting moisture accumulate in the microwave. Leave the door open briefly after use to air it out.
  • Be Mindful of Odors: To remove persistent odors, heat a bowl of water with lemon slices or baking soda.
  • Regular Inspections: Periodically inspect your microwave for any signs of wear, damage, or functionality issues.

FAQs About Microwaves

Can I put metal in the microwave?

Generally, you should not put metal in the microwave, as it can cause sparks and potentially damage the appliance. However, some modern microwaves are designed to work with certain metal containers. Always refer to your microwave’s manual for specific guidelines.

How do I know if a container is microwave-safe?

Look for a label or symbol on the container indicating that it is microwave-safe. When in doubt, use a glass or ceramic container known to be microwave-friendly.

Why does my microwave get steamy or have condensation inside?

Steam or condensation occurs when cooking or heating food with high moisture content. It’s generally normal, but ensure that the vents are not blocked to allow moisture to escape.

Is it safe to run a microwave when it’s empty?

Running a microwave empty can damage the appliance. Without food or liquid to absorb the microwaves, they can bounce back to the magnetron and cause overheating or failure.

How can I get rid of burnt smells in my microwave?

Heat a bowl of water mixed with lemon juice or vinegar for several minutes. The steam will help loosen residue and eliminate odors. Wipe the interior afterward.

What’s the best way to clean the inside of a microwave?

Use a mixture of water and vinegar, heat it in the microwave until it’s steamy, then wipe the interior with a cloth. For tougher stains, use a mild detergent.

Can I cook raw meat in a microwave?

Yes, you can cook raw meat in a microwave, but ensure it’s cooked evenly and reaches the appropriate internal temperature. It’s best to use a microwave-safe meat thermometer to check.

Why doesn’t my microwave heat food evenly?

Uneven heating can be due to several factors, including the microwave’s wattage, uneven distribution of food, or a malfunctioning turntable. Try stirring the food halfway through cooking.

Can I use aluminum foil in the microwave?

As a general rule, avoid using aluminum foil in the microwave. However, small amounts of foil can be used safely if kept away from the walls and used according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

How long does a microwave typically last?

The lifespan of a microwave can vary, but on average, they last about 6 to 10 years. Proper maintenance and usage can extend a microwave’s life.

heating food in a microwave

Conclusion

We’ve explored the diverse array of microwave types, from countertop to built-in models, each catering to different kitchen layouts and user preferences. The importance of understanding microwave sizes and power levels was emphasized, highlighting how these factors influence cooking efficiency and kitchen space utilization. We delved into the multifaceted applications and features of microwaves, demonstrating their versatility in tasks ranging from simple reheating to complex cooking methods like grilling and baking. Additionally, the significance of proper care, maintenance, and usage of microwaves was discussed, ensuring their longevity and optimal performance.

Remember, the journey to finding the perfect microwave involves more than just understanding its features and functionalities. It’s about aligning these aspects with your personal cooking habits, kitchen space, and budget. Therefore, we encourage you to conduct thorough research, compare different models and brands, and consult user reviews and ratings. These steps will provide a broader perspective and help you make an informed decision that best suits your specific needs.

We thank you for taking the time to read this guide and hope it has provided valuable insights in your quest for the right microwave. Your feedback, questions, or suggestions are always welcome, as they help us improve and provide more useful information to readers like you. May your choice of microwave bring convenience, efficiency, and culinary delight to your daily life!