One of the most amazing kitchen inventions ever made was the microwave. It is a perfect godsend for various uses, whether you want to reheat frozen pizza, coffee, prepare popcorn, and bake cookies. Most people only use it to reheat and bake food, yet this appliance has hundreds of uses. Did you know that you can poach eggs, toast nuts, make kebabs and even rehydrate stale bread?
When it was newly invented, most people assumed that it was a luxury appliance. However, times have changed, and almost every person in the United States has a microwave. There are different types and models of microwaves, and if you’re looking for a new one, you may end up getting confused. The good news is that we are here to help you. Below is a comprehensive guide on how to choose the best microwave for you and your family. Read on.
Types Of Microwave Ovens
Below are the various types of microwaves based on their functionality. They are:
Solo Microwave Oven
Also known as the standard microwave, it is the most basic type of microwave. It is mainly used for simple cooking and reheating, but it cannot bake roast or grill food. If you need a microwave that handles basic functionalities, then this is the type for you.
Solo ovens are also cheap, less bulky, and very easy to use than the combination models. They are also placed over countertops. They have one magnetron that produces microwaves in high frequency to excite the food, raising the temperature. For safety purposes, you are only allowed to use plastic or microwave-safe glass in a solo microwave.
Advantages Of Solo Microwave Ovens
- Easy to use
- They are not bulky; hence they will not take up a lot of space
Disadvantages Of Solo Microwave Ovens
- They have limited functions
Grill Microwave Oven
Grill microwaves are the middle ground between the solo and convection microwaves. They can perform the tasks of a simple microwave and grill. If you want an oven that does more than reheating but does not bake, roast or crisp your food, then this is the perfect appliance for you. They have a heating element at the top or bottom that acts as a radiant heat source and a magnetron that produces microwaves. They come with additional grilling accessories and are great for grilling meat and soft vegetables like Paneer.
Advantages Of Grill Microwave Ovens
- You can brown and crisp foods that you would otherwise have been unable to do with a regular microwave. With a grill microwave oven, you will say goodbye to soggy pizza for good!
- They have faster cooking times.
Disadvantages Of Grill Microwave Ovens
- They are more expensive than solo microwave ovens.
- The addition of a grill into the microwave will add some weight to the appliance.
- You cannot bake or roast food with a grill microwave.
Convection Microwave Oven
Also known as combination ovens, these microwave ovens can perform solo oven and grill oven functions but have additional features. They are a better option than buying a solo microwave, grill microwave, and convection oven separately.
They can grill, bake, roast, crisp, and brown foods efficiently. If you want more functionalities than the usual simple reheating and grilling, this type is for you. You can also use metallic items on all the other settings apart from the microwave one. Microwaves react poorly to metal and can lead to sparks.
This microwave oven also has an integrated fan or blower that lets hot air circulate the food evenly and eliminate temperature differences. This allows you to bake, heat, grill, and brown food effectively, with no problems. To bake cookies and muffins, you can place them on a standard cooking sheet, and they will be good to devour in a matter of minutes.
Convection ovens cook food faster because they blow hot air around the food. They also have a vent to vent air in and out. The hot air moving around the food, as opposed to merely surrounding it, speeds up the cooking time. According to Fine cooking, these convection ovens decrease cooking time by up to 25% due to their acceleration effect.
Advantages Of Convection Microwave Ovens
- They combine two appliances; they can be used as a microwave, an oven, and combination mode by combining the grill, baking, and microwave functions
- They are cheaper to run than an oven; hence you can save on energy costs
- They are smaller than conventional ovens, hence perfect for holiday homes, small homes, and caravans
- They are perfect for speedy reheating, browning, and melting cheese
- They are convenient, especially for high-temperature cooking such as pizza and pastries
- They preheat quickly, with oven temperatures up to 240 degrees Celsius
- Most convection ovens have special programming to help balance the microwave and convection functions
Disadvantages Of Convection Microwave Ovens
- They are compact, just like traditional microwaves; hence you can only cook one dish at a time
- It may take you some time to know how to operate it, especially if you are not familiar with convection microwaves
- Most of them have stainless steel interiors; thus, it may be hard to clean them
- Cooking fatty foods can be an issue as they splash onto the walls leaving grease marks difficult to remove
When buying this option, we would advise you to get one with a heating element at the top and a convection fan in the cavity’s rear for best results.
Countertop Microwave Oven
If you do not want to redesign your kitchen to integrate your microwave oven or live in a rented house, this is the perfect option. The countertop microwave oven stands on its own on the kitchen counter. It is one of the most common and most affordable microwave ovens in the market, and the best thing about it is that you can move with it when you move out with no hassles. All you need is to plug in the appliance, and you are good to go.
Advantages Of Countertop Microwave Ovens
- They are affordable
- They are easy to access as they are always within reach
- They are easy to clean
- They are portable and easy to move around
- They have no installation requirements needs, just plug and play
Disadvantages Of Microwave Ovens
- They take up counter space
- They are usually small and lack several features
Over-the-Range Microwave Oven
This type of microwave is usually installed over a gas or induction range. They are designed to be installed over the stovetop, thus combining the microwave and ventilation unit to save on space. Over-the-Range microwaves function like countertop microwaves, with the difference being that they eliminate smoke, steam, and odors through their built-in ventilation system.
Advantages Of Over-the-Range Microwaves
- They will help you save space; thus, they are ideal for small kitchens. They will help free up the counter space, which you can use for other appliances such as a toaster, blender, and coffee machine.
- They have exhaust venting and charcoal filtering that helps remove odor, moisture, and smoke from the air.
- They are easy to clean as they have a fingerprint-resistant finish, like countertop microwaves. They also have a non-stick interior which makes cleaning of spills and splatters quite easy.
Disadvantages Of Over-the-Range Microwaves
- Most of the fans used in over-the-range microwaves have a 300 cfm capacity, which is lower than that of other range hoods that reach up to 1000cfm. This means that you will not be completely satisfied with the ventilation provided by this type of microwave.
- The cabinet can be harder to reach for short people and kids if not installed at a comfortable height.
- They are more expensive than countertop ovens.
Built-In Microwave Oven
This type of oven is installed within the cabinet to give your kitchen a sophisticated look. Built-in microwaves can only be achieved when renovating or designing a new kitchen as they are built into the cabinets. The amazing thing about them is that you can put them at any height you want and save on counter space.
Advantages Of Built-in Microwave Ovens
- It does not need counter space.
- It has an elegant built-in look that matches other household appliances.
Disadvantages Of Built-in Microwave Ovens
- They are more expensive than the countertop and over-the-range models due to their installation requirements. You will also need a professional to install it, which will add to the initial costs.
Factors To Consider When Buying A Microwave
There are several factors that you should consider when buying your new microwave. They include:
When it comes to microwaves, not one size fits all. They come in various sizes, and the amount of space you have will dictate the size you go for. They come in several sizes, from 0.5 cubic feet up to 1.5 cubic feet models. Consider the space available in the kitchen, as nothing is as frustrating as coming home with an oven, only to realize that it does not fit in the space allocated. The size of the doors should also be considered. For example, big doors which open wide make removing bigger plates much easier.
Another thing to consider is your dinner plates. You can measure one of them or carry it while shopping to ensure it fits into the microwave. This is because you will find that some microwaves will struggle to squeeze in a 28cm-wide plate while others can do so comfortably.
No matter how large or small the microwave is, price is a crucial factor. It is vital to ask yourself how much money you are ready to part with before going shopping. This is because the price ranges of microwaves vary based on the type of appliance you choose.
Countertop models are the most affordable of the other types. However, you might prefer a built-in or over-the-range microwave, which will be more costly. You can get a good microwave that has basic needs for less than $100. However, if you want more advanced features, you might have to pay more. Over-the-Range microwaves range from $200-$400 and up. Built-in models, on the other hand, can begin from $400 to more than $1000.
Microwave capacity will range from 17L to around 32L. If you have a large family, then a 27L or more microwave will be appropriate. However, the turntable size and interior height are more important than the capacity.
There are different microwave types, as seen above, and your choice depends on your needs. Countertop models are the most widely sold in the market as they are affordable and easy to operate. If you rarely use the microwave for anything other than reheating, a standard or solo microwave is the best option. However, if you want to do more than reheat food, a combination microwave oven will come in handy.
The higher the wattage, the better the microwave will perform. Therefore, get a microwave in the 900-1000 watt range to ensure that it has enough power to heat and defrost food efficiently. Models with 700 or fewer watts are cheaper but will take more time to reheat and defrost items. They will also have a hard time heating food evenly.
Do you want a microwave that will last you for years? If this is so, you need to ensure that you buy a reliable one from brands you trust. The average lifespan is nine years, with the most durable ones lasting 10-12 years.
Turntable or Flatbed
Most combination microwaves and solo microwaves have a turntable inside them that rotates food to ensure even cooking. They can also be removed for easy cleaning, which is a plus. Also, some microwave models have a setting to keep the turntable stationary, based on your preference.
Flatbed microwaves heat food without the need for a turntable, hence giving you more cooking space. They are also easy to clean, but you will have to pay more for this advanced feature.
Key Specs To Look For
While the above factors should be considered when buying a microwave, there are some additional features that you may want to look for. These features are specific and do not apply to all buyers. Therefore, it depends on your preference and needs. They include:
Child Lock Mode
If you have kids and do not want them to mess around with your microwave or get hurt in the process, then a child lock mode will be efficient. This feature will enable you to set up a code that must be entered before the device is used; hence only people who know it can use it. It will help ensure their safety by avoiding fires and ensuring no one gets hurt.
This technology improves the cooking quality by ensuring that the food cooks evenly and at a lower temperature.
This allows you to program different cooking modes in a sequence. For example, you may want to defrost the food and then cook it. All you need to do is to program it to do so.
Microwave sensors adjust time and temperature as needed. They come in handy as they will automatically shut off power once the food is ready to avoid overcooking.
Door Opening Mechanism
You can either buy a microwave that has a button-operated door or one that you can physically pull. This depends on your preference and taste.
This feature prompts you to enter the weight and type of food, and then it calculates the defrosting time needed.
Some models have digital touch panels that are easier to read and clean than knobs and buttons.
This digital timer will help you time kitchen tasks and cooking times, which will come in handy.
You will find most microwaves having around six cooking presets. However, some have more, which means more options for you. These presets are for cooking pizza, popcorns, frozen dishes, rice, and reheating food. They vary from model to model; hence it is up to you to choose what works for you.
Energy safe mode
If you want an energy-efficient model, then buying one with an energy-safe mode will be a plus. This mode will reduce the amount of power that the microwave consumes.
Safety Cooking Tips For Microwaves
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates microwave ovens, ensuring that only certified ones are in the market to protect public health. Therefore, there is some truth in saying that microwaves are safe, but only when used correctly. If not, you may end up getting injuries and burns due to improper use and maintenance. Below are some of the safety cooking tips for microwave use.
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions
One of the first things you should do once you acquire a microwave is to read the manufacturer’s instructions and safety precautions. This will help keep you safe and avoid getting injuries.
Do not use metal bowls or utensils
When using microwaves, it is advised never to put metallic utensils since they will shield and spark. Also, remove the aluminum foil before putting the food in the microwave. Glass and ceramic are recommended.
If you wonder whether a dish or glass is microwave safe, you can do a test to prove it. Place a cup of water inside it and turn the microwave at 100% power for a minute. If the water gets hot and the dish remains cool, then it is safe to use. However, if it gets hot, it contains lead or metals that should not be used in the microwave.
Do not cover the vent of the microwave when using it
When cooking, please do not cover the vents at the top as it may lead to overheating and even risk a fire.
Do not heat water and other liquids for more than 2 minutes
Avoid heating water and other liquids for more than two minutes or the time specified by the manufacturer. This is because it could superheat and even explode out of the container when taken out of the microwave.
Avoid heating sealed food and beverages
Do not heat packed and sealed foods and beverages in the microwave; it could lead to an explosion. Therefore, it is recommended to take out the food from the sealed packet and heat it in a microwave dish or utensil.
Place the microwave away from heating sources
When choosing where to place the microwave, avoid putting it near cooking and heating appliances. This could lead to overheating.
Never use the microwave with the door open
Doing this will expose you to microwave energy, which could expose you to radiation.
Do not cook all foods for the same duration
Different foods cook at different rates. For example, the more dense the food is, such as steak or potatoes, the more different it will heat compared to that with more liquid in it, such as stews. Dense foods will heat up slower but will also hold their heat longer.
After cooking, allow the food to stay in the microwave for a few minutes
Do not take out the food as soon as it is ready, but wait for a few minutes before doing so. It will ensure that the temperature of the hot container cools down, hence protecting you from injuries or burns.
Avoid using oversized food containers
Do not put oversized containers in the microwave as it may cause fires and even electric shock.
Avoid flammable foods or beverages
Do not heat or cook any food or beverage that is flammable in the microwave. It could lead to an explosion.
Keep microwaves out of reach of children
Do not allow young children to operate the microwave, and ensure that you have a child lock mode to keep them safe.
Never operate the oven when it is empty
Do not turn on the microwave when empty because it could cause arcing and start a fire.
The 4 Best Microwave Ovens To Buy
Let us now look at the best microwave ovens in the market right now. This compilation was done by considering size, features, wattage, design, and price.
Retailing at $94 from Amazon, this countertop microwave oven is a great purchase and a Bestseller. It has a 0.9 cubic feet footprint, meaning that it can fit in almost all countertops. It can therefore be used in small spaces such as offices, studio apartments, and vacation rentals. It is great for small families and comes with 900W cooking power. It also has six preset cooking buttons, which will make life easier for you.
One of the reasons we love it is that you can turn the indicator sounds off. This may come in handy if you have kids sleeping in the afternoon or a midnight eater and do not want to wake them up while using the microwave. It also has an energy-saving Eco-mode, which saves power consumption up to 50%. Isn’t that incredible?
This is Panasonic’s most popular model, and it is not without reason. It is the best technology-based oven in the market, without a doubt! It has 2.2 cubic feet of interior space and has 1250W to heat food faster than its competitors. It has ten power levels, and according to research, even when you use level 5, your food will heat up very fast and evenly, with no hassle.
It also has 14 auto-cook options, which give you endless options to try out. The built-in Panasonic’s patented inverter technology delivers consistent heating power; hence your food will always be evenly heated, and the cooking time will be shorter. It is the perfect microwave for large families due to its sizeable footprint. This model retails at around $240.
This one wins our hearts as the best voice control microwave. If you have smart devices in your home and are looking for a compatible microwave, then this is the appliance for you. It is Alexa compatible; hence you can control it with voice commands. Yes, you read that right! You can ask Alexa to heat your morning tea, and it will choose the suitable time and power settings. It also has an “Ask Alexa” button that will initiate commands without mentioning the word Alexa when pressed.
Another feature that we love is its Automatic Popcorn Replenishment feature that keeps track of how often you make popcorn when activated. Once it notices that you are running low, it reorders the same popcorn brand for you. Isn’t that amazing? Moreover, you will even get a 10% discount on the order.
It also has ten power levels, a timer, and a child lock to keep the kids out of trouble. It retails at $74, which is a good buy for all the advanced features.
If you are looking to buy an over-the-range microwave oven, then this is a perfect option. It has a 1.6 cubic feet capacity and 1000W cooking power, making it ideal for large families. It also has the normal grease filter and an additional charcoal filter that helps eliminate odor, which comes in handy, especially in fish dishes.
It also has an incredible two-speed 300 cfm venting system to remove smoke, steam, and odor and a turntable on and off control. It is also very quiet, which will be a plus. When buying it, check the fuse box to ensure that your kitchen circuit is well equipped for a 15A appliance to avoid tripping the breaker.
Question: What is the difference between conventional microwave and convection microwave?
Answer: The conventional microwave is also known as the solo or standard microwave and is used to heat and defrost food. Conventional microwave ovens, also known as combo microwave, combine the conventional oven and conventional microwave.
The convection microwave oven cooks food by heating the grill and spreading it by a conventional fan, while a conventional microwave only cooks food with the help of microwaves. The former can reheat, defrost and also cook food using other methods such as hot air and reduce cooking times up to 50%.
Question: Is it dangerous to stand in front of a microwave while it is on?
Answer: No, it is not. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it is very rare to get injuries resulting from standing in front of a microwave. You will be safe as long as the door is latched, as they are designed to keep the radiation inside the microwave. FDA requires that microwave manufacturers ensure that the ovens have two interlock systems that stop the production of microwaves once the door is opened.
They also have a monitoring system that stops the appliance from operating if the interlock systems fail. Therefore, as long as the door is closed and is not damaged, you will be safe.
As seen above, there are numerous types of microwave ovens in the market. These vary according to your preference, size, power, and price, among other factors. With all these factors considered, you can choose the best microwave for you that suits your needs. We hope this article will help you make a perfect choice. Let us know in the comments!