How to Choose the Right Microwave
While some of us treat our microwaves like inferior burrito machines, new technology has made it easier to cook a wider variety of foods than you might expect. You can cook an entire meal with your microwave if you want, and many people consider it a kitchen necessity, even if they only use it to reheat leftovers and coffee.
But just because we use our microwaves a lot doesn’t mean we understand them – which becomes apparent when people buy a new one. There is a gigantic A range of features and specs to think about and choosing the right microwave starts with knowing how you will actually be using it. If you’re looking for a new microwave, here’s a guide to everything you need to know to choose the right one.
The different types of microwaves
Your first decision is what type of microwave you need:
- countertop. Usually the cheapest option, designed to be placed on your kitchen counter and plugged into an outlet. It takes up valuable counter space but can be moved if necessary.
- About the range. Microwaves can be attached to a bracket under kitchen cabinets and above the stovetop. That makes sense as it keeps all your heat-based cooking skills in one place. If you’re replacing an existing microwave, make sure you know how the old one was installed – there’s usually a metal bracket that does the heavy lifting to hold it in place, and you want to be sure yours new one fits into the existing bracket or provides a new one. Over-the-range models also typically plug into your kitchen’s extractor fan and ventilate while you cook.
- concealed. These microwaves are designed to be recessed into the wall and are usually finished and fitted to give them a finished look. You may need a contractor to install these if you are not handy. One consideration here is to choose a common size and shape – you can find odd “big” microwaves, but if you choose one, you’ll be locked into that odd profile for a long time.
- Drawer. Usually the most expensive choice, a drawer microwave sits between the lower cabinets of your kitchen where a drawer would normally be, and it also pulls out like a drawer. These keep your counters clean and can be easier to use since you don’t have to reach for sizzling hot bowls and stuff. Plus, drawer microwaves can be designed to match your cabinet and hide the device until you need it.
Your choice of microwave type may of course be limited by your existing setup, but if you’re renovating, this is your chance to make an impact.
How much different types of microwaves cost
There’s a pretty wide range of microwave prices out there, so knowing your budget goes a long way in narrowing down your choices. In general, you can expect the following expenses for different types of microwaves:
- Countertop: $50 to $300, although the lower end includes low-wattage ovens (see the wattage section) that are useful for little more than the occasional snack.
- About the area: $200 to $400.
- Built-in: $400 to $1,000 (excluding installation and trimming work).
- Drawer: $1,000 to $2,000 (excluding installation and finishing).
Consider the size of your microwave
When it comes to the size of your microwave, there are two considerations: inside and outside.
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- Inner: Total microwave capacity is measured in cubic feet and ranges from 0.5 cubic feet to about 2.2 cubic feet at the high end (often referred to as “Big capacity“Microwaves”) The smaller models are big enough to fit a single plate or bag of popcorn, but that’s about it. The largest microwaves can hold larger cookware and more items. Most people need something in between, usually around 1.5 cubic feet. If you find yourself heating a lot of large dishes in the microwave, go big. Throwing in a single bag of popcorn occasionally can make you small.
- Outside. You should also consider your external dimensions. Most over-the-range models are designed to fit over standard oven sizes, but if you’re replacing an existing oven, you should measure first to be sure of the dimensions you need. Choosing a countertop model depends entirely on your space requirements. Tiny Microwaves designed to fit in corners exist, but if you have countertop space, you can go bigger. This is an opportunity to check how well your current microwave is working on your countertops and make adjustments if necessary.
Microwave power is important
Another key aspect of a microwave is its performance. You may find that the microwavable foods have different directions depending on the wattage – the more watts, the more power, the faster things get hot – and accordingly Sturdy kitchen, a 700-watt microwave can pop a bag of popcorn in about two minutes and 15 seconds, while a 1500-watt oven can serve you that in less than half the time. The more watts, the more expensive, of course.
you can get some wild Microwaves with up to 2400 watts – in the commercial sector. You will find around 1,250 watts at most for your home. In general, you should stay above 700 watts, with 900-1000 being the sweet spot for most cooking applications. But by all means – if you have the cash and need to shave 45 seconds off that popping session, go bigger.
The most common and important microwave functions
After all, the modern microwave offers a wealth of options. In fact, even base models come with pre-programmed buttons for popcorn, baked potatoes, or warming up travel mugs of coffee. No matter how expensive your microwave is, it’s time well spent reading the manual at least once to demystify some of the features. Other options to consider:
- multipurpose: You can find microwaves that can be combined with other oven technologies such as convection ovens, toaster ovens, rotisserie ovens or air fryers, giving you a 2 (or more) for 1 advantage. This is especially handy when you’re short on space or preparing lavish meals.
- Parental control: If you have kids who like to open things up and investigate, child safety locks can prevent them from opening the microwave and burning themselves if you’re a little too slow to get something out afterwards thing.
- Optional rotation: Microwaves cook food by punching radio waves through, causing their molecules to vibrate and rotating most foods to offset the effect. But if you have a large plate or pan that fits in the microwave but doesn’t spin easily, you might want the ability to turn off the spin and manually rotate your dish.
- Racks: Do you cook a lot with your microwave? The ability to insert a rack so you can cook two dishes at the same time can be a huge time saver.
Microwave ovens are incredible inventions. Buying an oven that’s too big (or too small) or buying an appliance that doesn’t fit in your cooking space can diminish the benefits of a microwave, so remember to consider every aspect of your needs before making your decision.