Microwaves buying guide
When you're pushed for time, a microwave can be a very handy kitchen appliance. And microwaves definitely aren't just for heating up ready meals. Depending on the model you buy they can be used for all sorts of kitchen jobs, from defrosting to steaming vegetables, so it's the kind of appliance you could use every day. That's why it's important to do your research and understand the many features available. Here are a few things to consider when you're shopping for a microwave.
Types of microwave
When shopping for microwaves, you'll come across four basic kinds:
- Microwave only: These simple countertop units are available in all sorts of sizes and to suit different budgets. You simply plug them in and start cooking. You may choose a very basic model, or go for a high-end appliance with extra features suitable for cooking or defrosting various foods.
- Microwaves with grill: these units offer all the features of a normal microwave, but with the added bonus of a grill feature. This means you can get a nice crisp, browned texture on the outside of your food, and can grill foods such as fish or chicken with ease
- Integrated: As with many appliances, there are integrated microwaves available, and these can be fitted as part of your kitchen. These models are sometimes available with pull down doors for extra convenience.
- Combi: Those with very little kitchen space will find combi microwaves useful. They usually have features such as steam or convection cooking and grilling, in addition to the features of a standard microwave
Another appliance you might see when shopping for microwaves is the microwaves drawer. They're sometimes known as warming ovens, and these built in drawers use microwave technology to keep food warm before serving. They're great for those who love to entertain, have a big capacity and can also be used as standard microwaves.
Microwave power is measured in Watts, with most standard microwaves offering from 700 to 1200 Watts of power. The higher the wattage, the quicker your food will cook. In general, budget microwaves will provide a low wattage, while higher end brands such as Panasonic, Neff, or Smeg will offer more expensive microwaves with high wattage.
There are many different sizes of microwave on the market, and you should work out what kind of capacity will suit your needs. As a general rule, sizes are as follows:
- 17 – 20 litres: Small, ideal for single people or couples.
- 20 – 32 litres: Medium, usually used by families or larger households.
- 32 litres and over: Large, microwaves of this size are usually integrated, although there are some countertop options that are great for shared houses or work kitchens.
In the past, most microwaves were pretty boxy and usually they'd all look alike. However, you'll now find many different style options on the market, from sleek stainless steel, to bright, retro designs, so there's no need for your microwave to become an eyesore.
When cooking in a microwave, it's important to follow the timings correctly so that food doesn't end up undercooked, or overcooked and dry. All microwaves have timers, and usually the cheapest, budget models will just have a simple dial control. Spend a little more and you'll find microwaves with thorough digital displays, with some models offering preset timers for cooking specific foods such as jacket potatoes.
To really take the guesswork out of cooking, pick a microwave with auto-cook function. Your microwave will work out the time needed to cook based on the weight and type of the food, cooking it to perfection.
If you're often in a hurry, then look for microwaves that offer a speedcook option. These can be nearly four to eight times faster than the average microwave, so there's less waiting around.
Cleaning a microwave is usually pretty easy, but if you've got lots of people using the appliance then you might want to consider a self-cleaning model. These microwaves have a catalytic lining which helps repel dirt, so you don't get grease build-ups.
Some microwaves will have added extras that you can buy specifically for that model. Buying them at the same time as the microwave means you can be sure they're compatible and that they'll fit. Extras you might want to use include steamers, egg poachers, and dishes, all of which are very handy.
A good microwave can take on lots of different functions, without taking up much space in your kitchen. They're a great way to cut down on cooking time, and heat your dishes evenly, making them an easy and convenient appliance to have on hand.