How to Choose the Right Microwave Oven

I can’t imagine not having a microwave oven in my kitchen. You can cook most any food in a microwave. You can boil water, scramble eggs, cook pasta until it’s “al dente”, and even roast a chicken or a turkey if your oven is large enough. If this sounds like an appliance you need in your kitchen, or, if you need to replace your existing microwave oven, then you’ll need to know how to choose the right microwave oven

The most important thing to consider, is how large of an oven you need. I’m not talking about wattage here. I’m referring to the amount of space you have to place a microwave oven in. No matter whether your appliance will be set on a counter top or built into your kitchen, you have to have some measurements to go by. You’ll need to know the height, width, and the depth of the opening. Be sure that the microwave you choose will not only fit into the space, but that you’ll be able to open the door as well. (All units have doors that open to the left.) You’ll need to allow an inch or two on each side of the oven too. This will allow air to circulate through the air vents on the unit.

Once you hit the stores, you’ll see a lot of brands of microwave ovens. GE sells the most countertop and above-the-range units, followed by (in no particular order) Panasonic, Whirlpool, Kenmore, Sharp, Goldstar, Emerson, and Magic Chef. The brand you select will depend on your personal preference.

In order to choose the right microwave oven for your needs, you’ll have to decide how you’re going to use the unit. That is, do you use your oven mainly to defrost foods? Or, do you use it to defrost, cook, boil, and bake like I do? A small, or compact, microwave oven, which will need a space that’s approximately a foot tall, 20 inches wide, and 15 inches deep, can put out around 600 to 700 watts of power. Most of the recipes I’ve seen for microwaves are designed for this low wattage.

A small oven can defrost most any type of food, as long as the food fits inside. It just takes longer to cook it than a larger-watt unit.

A medium-size microwave oven will deliver about 900 to 1,100 watts of cooking power. These units typically measure about 12 inches in height, 20 inches in width, and 16 inches in depth. Most medium-sized bowls and plates will fit into this size of an appliance. Small, whole chickens can be cooked, but don’t plan on cooking the Thanksgiving bird in this microwave.

A large-size microwave oven will give you 1,000 to 1,650 watts of cooking power. It will measure about 15 inches high, be 24 inches wide, and 18 inches deep.

The right microwave oven for you will also have certain features. Example, you’ll have to decide if you want a convection oven that browns foods while they cook, a popcorn button, sensors, probes, automatic defrosting settings, carousel turntables, et cetera. The “popcorn button” allows you to place a three and a half ounce bag of microwave popcorn into the oven and simply push the button to cook it. It’s a handy feature if your family eats a lot of microwave popcorn like mine does.

Sensors inside this type of appliance detects when the food being cooked is done. It’s a nice feature that will help prevent food coming out of the microwave being either raw or overcooked.

And, a carousel turntable allows the food to turn constantly while it’s cooking. This feature helps the food to cook evenly. It’s also handy because you don’t have to constantly stop the oven and turn the bowl or dish as many recipes instruct you to do.

Some turntables in microwave ovens allow you to shut the turning motion off. This is handy for when you use a bowl or dish that’s too large to be turned inside the oven.

And finally, some microwave ovens have locks that prevent young children from tampering with them.

Besides choosing the right size and type of microwave to fit the available space, and deciding what features are important to you, you’ll also want to choose the style and color that appeals to you and will complement with your kitchen.

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