Microwaves are essential in the kitchen for fast heating leftovers, grilling, or even baking. Whether your microwave is broken or you need an upgrade, you may get confused by the overwhelming options in the market.
The key consideration point in buying a microwave is that your culinary goals should align with the microwave you buy. For example, you can’t grill in a microwave that can only reheat food, nor can you bake delicious cakes in an oven that can only offer grilling options.
- How to Choose the Best Microwave Oven [Right Size & Watts]
- Types of Microwave
- Countertop or Built-in Microwave
- Watts Range Available in Microwave Oven
- Heating Levels
- Features to Look For In a Microwave
- Which is Good: Turntable vs. Flatbed Microwave?
- Wrapping Up!
How to Choose the Best Microwave Oven [Right Size & Watts]
In addition to that, budget and counter space should also be considered, not to mention the wattage and functionality.
Which Kind of Microwave You Need?
Among many things to consider before buying a microwave, the first step is to decide which kind of microwave would suit your needs.
Types of Microwave
Three types of microwaves are available in the market.
- Solo Microwave
- Grill Microwave
- Combination Microwave
|It's a basic entry level microwave for reheating, defrosting and microwaving purposes.||It is used for reheating, defrosting, grilling, and cooking basic foods such as rice and pasta.||They provide both solo + convection grill functions. A combination oven can reheat, defrost, bake and cook faster.|
|Less-pricey option||The price range falls in the middle. Expensive than solo but cheaper than a combination microwave.||They are the most expensive among all of the microwave range.|
|It has a small footprint with space saving design.||They also have almost a similar footprint or slightly larger than a solo oven.||They have a bigger footprint.|
|Less functions and less capacity.||They have additional wired mesh or grill plates that can give the barbeque effect and give the food a crispy and brown top.||They have an in-built fan that rotates air to balance the heat inside and maintains the temperature.
Adjust temperature after the optimal temperature is acquired.
|Works best for 2-4 family members.||18-20 liters grill microwave works for 4 family members.||Depending on the capacity, a 32 liters microwave can be used for up to 6 family members.|
|If the capacity is good, it can be used for large families too.||If you have more than 4 family members, you can add 2 liters per member.||You can find large-capacity microwaves for big families but they will be bulky and take a lot of space.|
|It can't make the food crispy.||They use the metal rack that elevates the food near the grill part.||These microwaves can crisp and brown food, so you won't have to transfer your food to the main oven.|
|Power - 500- 800 watts||Power - 900- 1700 watts||Power: 1200 - 2200 watts|
Countertop or Built-in Microwave
Countertop microwaves are freestanding and can be kept anywhere on the counter. Their small size and less price make them a preferred choice.
Built-in microwaves can be put seamlessly in a drawer surrounded by cabinets. You can glide them out whenever you need them. They are space-savers.
Some freestanding microwaves also have the option to be used as a built-in microwave. These types of microwaves have a ventilation system to fan out the hot air.
Watts Range Available in Microwave Oven
Microwave power is measured in Watts. The watt range available for microwave ovens is from 500- 1950 watts. The key to remember is the higher the wattage, the more quickly and evenly the food will cook.
Wattage Range for Small, Mid-sized and Large Microwaves
- Small: 500 to 950 watts
- Mid-sized: 1000 to 1,200 watts
- Large: 1200 to 1,950 watts for large
Usually, 1000 watts of power is sufficient for microwaving and cooking at home. For dorm room we suggest you to go for 700 watts microwave oven because it occupies less space and is highly budget friendly.
Low-wattage microwaves are less pricey and unreliable. Choose a microwave with adjustable power settings as defrosting and jobs which we do on low flame on a stovetop requires low wattage.
If you think 700 wattages microwave doesn't fit in your requirements, check out these best microwaves under $100. It include ovens ranging between 800 to 1000 watts.
After you have determined the type of microwave you need, you should decide on the internal capacity for your microwave. You can find microwaves in following sizes: ranging from less than 1 to 2.2 cubic feet.
- Compact: 0.5 to 0.8 cubic feet.
- Mid-size: 0.9 to 1.3 cubic feet.
- Family: 1.4 to 1.6 cubic feet.
- Full-size: 1.8 to 2.0 cubic feet.
Small size microwave can accommodate a plate of 10-inch diameter. We recommend you to buy a large sized microwave oven if you have spacious counter space.
Microwaves are now being labeled by their heating categories. Level A is the weakest level, and E is the most powerful heating category. The labels are given to simplify the types and give you an idea of the time taken up by the food to heat.
Features to Look For In a Microwave
One of the biggest hurdles in microwave cooking is estimating the time for any particular food. Auto cook feature eliminates the guesswork, and you can start cooking by selecting any dish type and weight. Such microwaves have options for defrosting, pizza, potato, popcorn, etc.
A must have safety feature if you have kids in your home who can open the microwave while the food is in it. This feature lets you set the password so the kids can't open it.
The function of preset convection mode is to distribute the heat evenly for cooking and baking. This feature allows you to cook faster, roast and bake food with a crust. You can also use this function for cooking items that require a longer time.
Select a microwave with a digital display that can be operated with touch instead of buttons or knobs as they are easier to read and add looks to the microwave. Knobs and buttons are less accurate and come in lower-end models.
Just like a refrigerator, microwaves also require clearance space for rotating and ventilating hot air to keep your appliance cool. Check the clearance space required beforehand, the clearance space varies with models and may range from 10 cm to 30 cm. Also, check venting options, fan speed, and type of filter.
Some microwaves offer an energy-saving mode that reduces power consumption when the microwave is in standby mode. If you are concerned about utility bills, consider buying the microwave with this option.
The higher-end models are now coming with automatic sensors where you don't have to set the timer. Such microwaves sense the steam and humid level of food and adjust the temperature and power automatically. It is combined with an automatic shutoff feature, ensuring that your food doesn't get burnt.[quote style="default"]Microwave Vs. Toaster Oven Which is Better[/quote]
Buy a microwave with a metal rack as it increases the space, and you can cook two dishes simultaneously.
Keep Warm Option
Some models have a keep warm feature which can keep your food warm and maintain it at a certain temperature until you are ready to serve and enjoy.
The higher-end models of microwaves are now introducing inverter technology for precision cooking. The regular models are based on On/Off power switching. For example, food will heat up or cook at a higher temperature, and then the power will switch off to reach the required temperature for cooking. It results in uneven cooking or overcooked edges.
Inverter technology steadily maintains the heat at all times. In this system, controlled power prevents overheating. It also uses less energy, cooks fast, and preserves nutrients. You can easily braise, poach eggs, make omelets, etc.
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Which is Good: Turntable vs. Flatbed Microwave?
The turntable microwave has the mechanism to rotate the plate inside the microwave, so the food gets cooked evenly. It's beneficial in a way that you won't need to open the door to rotate the food.
Flatbed microwaves have a higher capacity to cook food, and they are easier to clean. But you might get hot and cold spots if you don't rotate the food, and the food may not cook evenly.
So, choosing a turntable is the wiser option for evenly heated food.
Carefully measure the size of your drawer for the built-in microwave and the space you can dedicate to your microwave on the countertop. Microwave ovens for home use may not require high-wattage or large capacity like a commercial microwave oven. But you should be acquainted with all the features that different models offer. Usually, a microwave lasts 5-years, but a thoughtful buying decision will go a long way and save you from a lot of hassle.