Microwave Buying Guide & Signs Your Microwave Needs To Be Replaced
Microwaves have transformed the way we eat food at home. They allow us to easily reheat leftovers, quickly thaw food we’ve frozen ready for cooking, and prepare ready-made meals in a remarkably short space of time without having to wash up a single pan.
Microwaves first achieved widespread popularity in the 1980s. Since then, it has steadily become an essential appliance in almost every household.
If you’re thinking about getting a new microwave or replacing a broken one, we’ve put together this handy buyers guide that tells you everything you need to know about what to look out for in a microwave and more.
Types of microwaves you can buy online
In today’s market, consumers are spoiled for choice for microwaves with some models incorporating features that set them apart from the crowd. For example, some microwaves today come with built-in grills and sensors that ensure your food comes out perfect every time.
Not only are they packed with great features, some microwaves can be integrated directly into your kitchen cabinets, allowing for a seamless look while freeing up space on your countertop.
A standard microwave is your standard run-of-the-mill microwave - it will heat food, defrost and steam. Of course, for most people, a microwave would just be used for those purposes.
If you’ve got appliances that can take care of things like roasting or grilling, then you probably won’t need all the features offered by a combination microwave.
Microwave with Grills
Microwaves with built-in grills heat food like a conventional microwave while featuring an additional heating element. This will ensure that your food comes out browned, giving it a much more attractive, ‘homemade’ look and crispy taste.
This type of microwave comes in handy when you’re looking to quickly do things like melt cheese on your toast, crisp up the skin on a piece of fish or achieve a seared finish on your vegetables. A microwave with a grill is a great two-in-one option that will be attractive to those looking to save space elsewhere in the kitchen.
A combination microwave adds even more features, incorporating both a grill and a traditional convection oven – theoretically allowing you to dispense with your traditional oven entirely. This option may prove attractive to owners of very cosy kitchens and those in search of the ultimate in convenience. Even the biggest combination microwaves will still pale in comparison to the size of a standard oven so big families will struggle if a combination microwave is their only means of cooking.
These models offer up a wide range of cooking options, including baking, roasting and grilling. They help you to cook the same types of meals that you would prepare in an oven – only a little bit faster. If you have a busy lifestyle and tend not to have time to spend cooking with your oven, a combination microwave is the way to go.
Microwave Features Explained
As well as considering fundamental things like the power and size of a microwave and the cooking functions it provides, we should also consider some of the extra features that can make your life in the kitchen much, much easier.
Microwave power levels
Microwave ovens also vary in terms of their power which is measured in watts. The most powerful domestic microwaves come in at a thousand watts or more, while the weakest are around six hundred. A more powerful microwave will heat food quicker. If you’re shelling out a few hundred pounds on a microwave, you should expect it to be accordingly powerful – but if you’re willing to put up with longer cooking times, you’ll be able to save money by opting for a cheaper model.
An automatic reheating function will make life that little bit easier when you’re trying to bring food back up to temperature – simply enter the weight of the food, whether you’d like it defrosted or reheated, and the microwave will calculate the appropriate cooking time. More advanced models will allow you to stipulate the sort of food you’re reheating, which means even greater precision.
This feature uses random pulses of microwave energy to speed up defrost time. Defrosting usually takes a lot longer than reheating, so if you don’t want to wait around any longer than you have to, a microwave with ‘chaos defrost’ power should be considered.
Have you ever noticed that the food you reheat in the microwave is that little bit drier or soggier than it’s supposed to be? In order to combat this, consider a microwave with a sensor – it’ll detect airborne moisture and adjust the power and cooking time accordingly for the best possible results.
One of the key advantages of a microwave oven is that it’s far easier to clean than a conventional oven. This is made all the more true with self-cleaning linings that use special chemicals to repel the build-up of grease (without impacting the flavour of the food being reheated).
Signs that your microwave needs replacing
Microwaves have revolutionised the way that we prepare food at home. They allow us to reheat leftovers, thaw frozen food before cooking, and prepare ready-made meals. In many cases, they eliminate the need for traditional cooking entirely.
Like most kitchen appliances, a microwave begins to lose its efficacy once it reaches a certain age, as the wear-and-tear of daily cooking begins to take its toll. And like most kitchen appliances, a microwave will gradually be superseded by newer and better versions of the technology.
More important than either of these two considerations, however, is safety.
Are old microwaves dangerous? Should you be worried once your microwave reaches a certain age?
A microwave oven works by bombarding food with radiation – that might sound scary but it doesn’t cause us any harm, unless that radiation is leaking – but that’s not the only problem you might run into as your microwave ages. Let’s examine some of the symptoms an aging microwave might display, and consider whether each of them warrants a replacement.
Burning Plastic Smells coming from your microwave
A burning smell emanating from your microwave could indicate any number of things. If you’ve reheated food for too long it might burn and the smell may linger, but it won’t be an unpleasant smell. If your microwave smells like burned food, be sure to thoroughly clean the interior before examining other causes.
If you’re reading this article, then it’s likely that you’ll have encountered a more alarming odour: the smell of burning plastic is distinctive, and usually caused by a wire on the inside of the microwave channelling more current than it can handle, melting the insulating plastic.
This could cause radiation to leak, and that’s not good. If it’s happened to your microwave, it’s time to replace it.
Sparks coming out of your microwave
It’s easy to become alarmed when a microwave produces sparks, but this phenomenon can actually be caused by a number of different things – and not all of them disastrous. The presence of metal inside the microwave might cause potential electric energy to build up, eventually arcing across the interior of the compartment in a brilliant flash. Check the interior of your microwave doesn’t contain any scraps of metal – however small – and that any dishes you’re using are microwave-proof.
Some older microwaves actually contain metal in the supporting rack, covered by a layer of insulating paint. If this paint wears out, the metal becomes exposed – causing the same problem.
Finally, the wave-guide cover on the side of the microwave might have been damaged, as the heat from the magnetron (the device which generates the actual microwaves) impacts tiny particles of food that might have caught on the surface. When the wave-guide cover becomes damaged, the result is almost always sparks. In this case, it’s possible to replace it inexpensively without throwing out the entire microwave. On the other hand, if a microwave has reached an age where it’s exhibiting these types of faults, then that’s usually evidence that a replacement is due.
Smoke coming from your microwave
Smoke can be caused by a number of different factors, including burning food stuck on to the interior of the microwave. Even if you clean your microwave and the problem stops, you’ll have no way of knowing for sure whether the solution is a permanent one.
Electrical failures can cause symptoms like this, as high-voltage components in the interior of the microwave fail. An electrician might be able to fix the microwave, but a more cost-effective solution is almost always to replace it.
The microwave door doesn’t shut properly
A microwave door that won’t shut properly can cause one of two problems:
The microwave will sense that the door isn’t properly shut and fail to work at all. That’s the best case scenario.
The microwave will work as normal, except it will leak radiation into the surrounding area. Microwave burns will damage tissue from the inside, before you feel the heat of the burn, as microwave radiation will penetrate the skin instantly. You really don’t want this to happen.
Microwave doors often come equipped with not one, but several micro switches. These ensure that the door has been closed properly. If any of these fail, the microwave will stop working.
Microwaves that suffer with this fault can be unsafe if you attempt to fix it, so the best option is to look for a replacement microwave.
Food Doesn’t Cook Properly
Food that isn’t cooking properly is evidence that an internal component of the microwave – usually the magnetron – has failed. Replacing a device like this is quite straightforward for a qualified electrician but if the microwave is sufficiently old, then tracking down the appropriate component might prove tricky.
If you don’t know what you’re doing, opening up a microwave and poking around inside is a highly dangerous and possibly lethal thing to do. Microwaves contain gigantic capacitors that can shock even after the microwave has been unplugged from the wall, so don’t attempt it – no matter how many YouTube demonstration videos you’ve watched.
Eating out of a rusty tin can lead to severe health problems, as tiny particles of metal will break off and enter into the food you’re enjoying. The same applies when you food using a rusted microwave. If the rust is on the outside of the microwave, it probably won’t be a problem until it eats its way through the inner chamber. However, on the inside it can present a severe risk. If you notice it early you can intervene: clean the microwave and repaint the affected area with microwave paint. When rust inside your microwave progresses beyond a certain point, however, you’ll need to secure a replacement.
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