Tips for Choosing a Microwave Oven

A microwave is an essential kitchen appliance. If you buy the right one, you can reheat, defrost and cook meals with convenience. If your microwave needs a replacement (or you never had one), it may be hard for you to shop because you may not know what to look for. But choosing the right microwave that can fit your needs is simple if you just take into consideration your purposes for using it and consider the many different options available to you.

1. Choose the type of microwave oven you need

The most important part in deciding what microwave to buy is to assess what type you need. Generally, there are three types of microwave ovens:

  • Countertop

Countertop, or compact or portable, are the most common type of microwave. They are the most accessible and the cheapest of all types. It is typically used for reheating food, thawing frozen food, cooking popcorn and other simple microwave tasks. Some countertop microwaves can be used for grilling meat or vegetables. They are plugged into one of the outlets on a kitchen backsplash and you only need a spot on the counter for it to sit, or allocate space for it in an open kitchen cabinet. Some countertop microwaves come with kits so you can mount it under a wall cabinet.

  • Over-the-range

Over-the-range (or above-range) microwave ovens are designed to be installed above a kitchen range. They have vent systems and lights that take the place of an oven hood. Over-the-range models need space over your stove, and for some kitchens, it needs removal of an existing cabinet. Developments have been made for this type of microwave oven over the years to improve the exhaust fans and filtering smoke. Most models nowadays have multi-speed fans that recirculate air using charcoal filters. Some have exhaust fans that automatically turns on when a stove top becomes too hot. However, most don’t ventilate as well as a true range hood, so if you cook a lot on the stove even at night, this may not be the best option.  

  • Built-in


Built-in microwave ovens are placed among custom cabinets, making them the most expensive option. Some are put on top of a larger, built-in oven. Some built-in microwaves can be found in the form of drawers that has a compartment where you pull out your food. Installing this type of microwave needs the help of a professional.

Besides the type of microwave ovens by installation, microwaves are also classified as conventional or convection. A conventional microwave emits waves that pass through porcelain, glass or plastic containers to cook food. A convection microwave, however, combines basic microwave technology with circulating hot air and radiant heat so you can roast, bake, grill and brown foods. A heating element works with a fan to circulate the heated air, resulting in a more even cooking or heating.

2. Determine the size you want

Microwaves come in different sizes. Its capacity can range from .5 cubic-feet to over 2 cubic fits. This is typically listed on the label on the box as you buy the appliance. Consider what will fit in your available space, as well as whether your favorite dishes can fit inside the microwave. Measure your usual plates before you go shopping to make sure it fits inside your microwave.

3. Decide how fast you want your food to cook or reheat

If you’re looking for a fast-cooking microwave, look at the wattage. Most microwave ovens sit somewhere between 600-1,200 watts. Higher wattage means power, and the more powerful the microwave is, the faster and more evenly your food will cook and heat. Larger microwave ovens typically offer higher wattage than smaller ones. Cheaper versions have 700 or lower watts, so it will take more time to cook and will less likely to heat your food evenly. Of course, high-powered microwave ovens will cost more.

4. Look for essential features

Microwaves share many common functions, so look for one that offers the most important features for you. The essential feature for microwaves are the cook time, power level, timer and defrost. Many microwaves have preset cooking modes so you only need to press a button to automatically cook a certain dish. Common preset modes include beverage, pizza, popcorn, baked potato, frozen dinner, and reheat. Besides these default settings, here are some of the other features a microwave can offer:

  • Auto cook – The auto cook option makes cooking with a microwave surprisingly simpler. This option lets the microwave oven to automatically set the time and power configuration to cook the food according to type and the weight of food. All you need to do is to specify the dish type and that’s it.
  • Child lock – If you have small children in your home, they may accidentally put their hand in the microwave while it is working. Some microwave ovens have the child lock feature in which the lock is facilitated with a password.
  • Rotisserie – Some microwave ovens can accommodate rotisserie grilling accessories, while some offers it with the microwave package. This feature is found in convection microwave ovens.
  • Broil – Some manufacturers include features that mimic what is offered by full-sized ovens, like a broiler. It’s good to choose a microwave with this feature for finishing off a dish, or when cooking food which you’d prefer to use direct heat.
  • Inverter technology – Inverter technology is available in some high-end microwave models. It lets the microwave actually cook at different power levels. When you set it to 50% power, most microwave ovens actually switch between 100% power level to no power to get an average of 50. With an inverter, the microwave can work at the set power level more efficiently, resulting to evenly simmered and defrosted food.