Get to know the next generation of powerful microwaves
Since their invention in the 1940s, microwave ovens have evolved from a luxury appliance into the primary means of cooking in many homes. They've also picked up a lot of new features along the way — from baking and broiling capabilities to cooking sensors. If you're looking for a new microwave, you might be surprised at just how far this technology has come.
Plan Before You Purchase
Nowadays, there are several options for setting up microwaves based on the layout of your kitchen. In addition to countertop models, microwave ovens can be mounted under a cabinet or over a cooking range (in this case, with the added benefit of replacing a range hood). They can also be installed in a pull-out drawer beneath the counter or cooktop. Wherever you decide to put it, make sure the designated area can accommodate the microwave. The standard width of a microwave oven is 30 inches, though a few specialized over-the-range models are 36 inches wide.
Before you go shopping for a microwave, you should have an idea of how you intend to use it. If you want a simple unit primarily for defrosting, reheating or occasional light cooking, stick with a basic model. You'll save big by not paying for features you probably won't use.
For frequent use or heavy-duty cooking, purchase a model with advanced capabilities like broiling and baking. For a family, focus on microwaves with a volume between 1.4 and 2.0 cubic feet, and for better cooking results, don't settle for less than 800 watts.
Traditional Microwaves vs. Combination Microwave Ovens
Traditional microwave ovens use microwave radiation to cook quickly, but without the use of a heating element they are unable to brown, crisp or bake foods. Some of the latest models offer grilling and broiling features, but the additional cost is sizeable and many owners find the cooking results to be unsatisfactory.
To achieve precision cooking in a microwave, make the upgrade to a microwave oven with convection cooking capabilities. High-quality microwave convection ovens start around $400 and maximize output by combining the speed of microwaving with the thorough, even heating of convection cooking. Convection technology helps retain moisture in meats and other foods and can be used for roasting in addition to broiling, crisping, grilling and baking.
Combination microwave ovens usually have more interior space to accommodate large cuts of meat, but they may also require special racks and cookware for a comfortable fit. Unlike a standard oven, they aren't self-cleaning, so you'll have to wipe up the mess after roasting, but it'll be worth it with all the extra time you'll save by microwaving.
Whether you opt for a traditional microwave or a microwave convection oven, it will likely include such convenient features as preset times for heating popular foods, turntables for even cooking, automatic defrost times based on food type and weight, sensors that stop the time when the food is done cooking and even child safety locks.
When considering units that are expensive or incorporate recent technology, you should always search for microwave oven reviews to get a better sense of how they perform over time. Even a high-functioning product may not be right for you in the long run, so don't make a purchase before you've done all the research.