Microwaves have transformed the way we consume food at home. They allow us to easily reheat leftovers, quickly thaw food we’ve frozen ready for cooking, and prepare ‘ready meals’ without having to wash up a single pan.
The technology first achieved widespread popularity in the 1980s. It has steadily improved since, with some models incorporating features that set them apart from the crowd. For example, some microwaves can be integrated directly into your kitchen cabinets, allowing for a seamless look while freeing up space on your countertop.
Thinking about getting a new microwave? Let’s talk you through your options.
A standard microwave is just that – it’ll heat food, defrost and steam – but it won’t do anything else. Of course, for most people, a microwave should be just that – a microwave. 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 combi microwave. One key advantage to a no-frills model is that there are many more of them to choose from – placing you in the best position to make a choice that’s exactly right for you and your kitchen!
Microwave with Grill
Some microwaves also incorporate a grill. This can help you melt the 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 combi-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 combi microwave will still pale in comparison to the size of a standard oven so big families will struggle if the combi is their only means of cooking a meal.
What Size Microwave?
As with most appliances in the kitchen, the microwave comes in many different sizes. A larger microwave will offer greater capacity, allowing you to reheat more food at once. The capacities tend to range from seventeen litres to just over thirty, with larger microwaves offering room for a larger turntable and a higher ceiling. If you’d like to reheat an entire Sunday roast at once, you would need a big microwave; if you’re only looking to warm up ready-meals and leftovers for one, then a smaller one will do the job just as well.
How Powerful Should Your Microwave Be?
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.
Features to Consider
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 make the device that little bit more convenient to use.
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.
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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).
Many modern microwaves come with touch sensitive displays and chunky knobs which can be used to intuitively dial in the required setting. The best interfaces will offer child-proof controls, in order to prevent little fingers from interfering with cooking.
As we’ve seen, the market for microwaves has come a long way over the past few decades, and the best models on the market today offer functionality that will transform the way you prepare food. When making your decision, it’s best to first compile a list of things that you’d like your microwave to do, and select a model that matches your needs – that way you’ll be able to stay within budget without sacrificing the features you really want.