Most microwave oven reviews neglect to tell you what to look for in microwave ovens. Whether an over the range microwave or a countertop model, the best microwave oven for you is the one that annoys you the least.
I once had a microwave that would not stop beeping until I opened the door. And it was not a soothing sound either. I’d love to get my hands on the guy who decided that an appliance with a sound like a truck backing up was a good idea.
And I’m not alone here. Just look at the number of fans on the Facebook page, “I want to replace the annoying microwave beep with my favorite song.” The first company that comes up with that technology is going to sell a lot of units!
When it comes to buying a microwave oven, reviews agree that the quality of the beep is often the most important feature!
All microwave ovens function in the same way. The appliance’s magnetron sends non-ionizing radio waves through your food, exciting its water molecules and causing it to heat up.
This does not heat the surrounding air, just the food itself, which is why standard microwaves don’t make your food brown and crispy.
If you want to avoid the grey meat effect, you will need an added convection feature that includes a separate element to heat and circulate the air in order to brown your food.
What To Look For In a Microwave
The Basics of Microwave Oven
Almost all microwaves will heat your food adequately. Their price depends on the features you are interested in. For instance:
Power: The amount of maximum power microwaves use varies from 600 watts to over 1600 watts, with compact microwaves averaging about 800 watts and full-size microwaves 1300 watts. The greater the amount of power the faster your food will cook, though more power does not necessarily indicate a better product. A 100-watt difference isn’t very important.
Size: The best microwave oven size for your needs depends on a number of factors. If you will be using it in a dorm room or have very little counter space, you will want a smaller microwave oven. If your family is large or you plan to cook most of your meals in the microwave, including things like roasts, you will obviously need a larger microwave. To be able to fit a large dinner plate, the microwave will need to be at least 2 cubic feet.
Convection: Because microwaves only heat food without browning it, you may want a convection oven that will allow you to roast, toast and bake food as you would in an oven. (It is actually an oven, with the added feature of heating the food by microwaves). Though the results are not quite as good as when using an oven, if you do not cook a lot it may be sufficient for your needs.
Turntable: Though some baseline microwave ovens come without a turntable, it’s advisable to have one, as the turntable helps heat your food evenly. Some “turntables” actually move the tray from side to side.
Different Types of Microwaves
- Microwave only — While best used for reheating or defrosting food, these also have the ability to bake cakes. These are your least expensive options, ranging between $50 and $300.
- Combination microwave oven — Also called convection microwave ovens, these allow you to both heats your food via microwave and brown it at the same time with heat that is circulated throughout the oven by a fan. Ovens with this feature start at about $200, adding about $100 to the cost of a comparably sized microwave-only oven.
- Microwave grill oven — A typical microwave oven with the addition of a heating element to brown food. Starting at around $130, These are more expensive than the microwave-only version, but due to the lack of a fan to circulate the hot air around, do not do as good a job at cooking and browning as the convection microwaves.
- What is a Convection Microwave combo oven?
- Cuisinart CMW-200 Convection Microwave Oven Review
- Cleaning Your Microwave Filter
- Halogen Convection Oven Buyer’s Guide
Microwave Oven Special features
- Shortcut keys to cooking things such as pizza, popcorn, and baked potatoes, or to defrost foods, all with the touch of a button. My favorite is the one that will soften butter or melt chocolate, perfect for making chocolate-covered strawberries!
- Automatic sensors that use humidity levels to determine when the food is cooked and turn the oven off to avoid overcooking. This would have been useful for the woman who tried drying wet socks in the microwave. She let it run too long and when she opened the door her socks burst into flames. If this sounds like something that could happen to you, get a microwave with an automatic sensor or avoid drying flammable objects in it.
- Removable racks for cooking several dishes at the same time. Note that if you use the rack the dishes will have to be relatively flat due to the height limitations (in other words you could not put in a roast at the same time as a cup of coffee).
- Over the range, microwave ovens are equipped with special fans to vent your stove. Unless you are an electrical whiz, they usually require professional installation. Most measure 30-inches wide, the width of a typical range. Some high-end models now come in 36-inch widths as well to accommodate the size of professional stoves.
- Inverter microwaves that can cook your food at 50 percent power (rather than alternating between 100 percent and zero percent, which cooks less evenly) are not as reliable. Users had problems with them after only a year or two of use.
- Child locks: useful for people with small children who may be inclined to put “Fluffy” in the microwave and turn it on to see what happens.
Our microwave buying guide may not be able to keep you from cooking a rubbery hamburger, but they will certainly help you to avoid the ones that sound like a garbage truck backing up in your kitchen.