Microwave Buying Guide

Microwaves are one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century. It's hard to imagine a modern day kitchen without a microwave located somewhere within it. They are the ultimate tool in convenience cooking and allow us to create meals in minutes. With busier lifestyles and tighter budgets, microwaves have gained even more importance and the need for them is greater than ever. It's not just the home where you'll find microwaves, most modern offices and schools also have them, which is another indicator of just how popular and convenient they are.

Solo/Standard Microwaves

Solo models are ideal for carrying out simple tasks such as heating milk, defrosting, reheating and cooking basic food such as baked beans, jacket potatoes and instant noodles. Generally, they have basic controls and do not come equipped with any preset programmes. They're great for people on a budget or people that very rarely use a microwave.

Microwaves with Grills

Microwaves with grills offer the same functionality as standard microwaves with the added benefit of being able to crisp and brown food via an integral grill. They are usually more efficient than standard models and cook food slightly quicker. Metal racks are generally included, allowing you to position food closer to the grill and achieve a crisper result. Microwaves with grills are great for toasted sandwiches and browning jacket potatoes.

Combination Microwaves

Combines all the benefits of a microwave, grill and traditional oven in one machine. Combination microwaves are usually bigger than other models and provide extra functionality such as being able to steam and oven cook food. This makes them ideal for cooking casseroles and roasting chickens. Larger families should consider combination ovens as they provide ample room for cooking bigger quantities of food. Some combination microwaves even include a steaming function, which is great for cooking vegetables.

Built-in Microwaves

Built-in microwaves have a sleek, designer look and are usuall y found in fitted kitchens. Unlike other microwaves, they are built-in to the wall meaning they free up extra space in the kitchen. Generally, built-in microwaves have top-of-the-range features and digital displays, making them ideal for modernistic kitchens. Their design and wealth of features means built-in microwaves are the most expensive form of microwave by some distance and you should expect to pay between £250 and £600 for one.

Features to Consider Before Buying

  • Wattage - Wattage is the amount of electrical power provided by the microwave. The higher the wattage, the more powerful the microwave and the faster your food will cook. Many recipes require you to have a microwave with at least 800 watts of power so food can cook evenly. You should always aim for the highest wattage you can afford to ensure faster cooking times and a better quality of cooked food.
  • Chaos Defrost - Reduces usual defrosting times by sending out random pulses of microwave energy.
  • Child Lock - A must-have feature if you have small children in your home. It locks the system and prevents children from pressing buttons and interfering with cooking times.
  • Multiple-Sequence Cooking - Allows you to adjust power levels during cooking, ensuring you get the best possible cooking time. For example, you could set something to defrost for 10 minutes and then cook for a further 30 minutes.
  • Preset Programmes - Preset programmes provide you with set cooking, reheating and defrosting times, which takes all the guess work out microwave cooking and makes your life that little bit easier.
  • Turbo Reheat - Provides an added boost of power which is ideal for cooking soup, baked beans and microwave meals.
  • Sensor Cooking - A handy feature that automatically detects moisture levels in food and adjusts power levels accordingly. This can reduce your overall cooking time.
  • Size - Microwave capacity is measured in litres and can vary between 16 litres up to 35 litres. Combination and built-in microwaves are generally bigger than standard microwaves.

Accessories

  • Microwaveable Saucepan - Great for cooking beans and soup in the microwave. Microwaveable saucepans are plastic and come equipped with a handy lid, which you can remove for cooking and then replace when storing leftovers in the fridge. Spouts are located on the sides of the pan to aid easy pouring.
  • Bacon Rack - The healthier way to cook bacon. The fat from the bacon drains away and collects underneath the rack as it cooks. Bacon racks work best with microwaves with integrated grills as you achieve a crisper finish.
  • Pressure Cooker Ideal for cooking stews, rice and soup as the pressure cooker's airtight design ensures as much flavour as possible is retained.
  • Microwaveable Pans - Many microwaveable pans have specially designed lids which allow you to steam food in the microwave. This makes them the ideal accessory for steaming vegetables. You can close the lid completely if you wish to store any leftover food in the fridge.
  • Casserole Dishes - Most casserole dishes are made from ceramic material, which is perfectly safe to use in the microwave. It's advisable to use casserole dishes in combination microwaves as they offer the same cooking power as traditional ovens.

Safety Tips

  • Never put pans or metal containers in the microwave. Doing so could not only damage your microwave, but also create a potential fire hazard.
  • Do not put anything with a metal trim in the microwave.
  • Be careful when removing hot food from the microwave as you could burn your hands.
  • Do not start an empty microwave as you run the risk of damaging the system.
  • Do not attempt to sterilise baby bottles or utensils in the microwave.
  • Keep your microwave clean as dirty microwaves will cook food slower and more unevenly.