Top 10 Microwaves
Panasonic 1200W 1.2 Cu. Ft
Nostalgia Electrics RMO400RED
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Microwave Buying Guide
What is a Microwave?
Countertop microwaves were introduced in 1967 as a way to reheat food quickly and provide cooks with an efficient means of speeding up kitchen time. There are several factors to consider when it comes to choosing the right microwave but most often the three main factors are type, features and size. As a general rule, the higher the wattage is of your microwave the higher the heat is and the faster your food is cooked.
Advantages of Using a Microwave
There are many advantages to getting a microwave. They are definitely a handy appliance to have around and they are very common in most homes, rentals, apartments and even offices. They are typically very easy to install, even if you choose to get an over the range model as opposed to a countertop model.
Unless you need a large one, they are usually very compact in size and don’t take up much room at all. The over the range styles take up no counter space at all. They use less energy than an oven or stove does especially for reheating.
Before You Start Shopping
There are a lot of different types of microwaves on the market today, so there is bound to be any number of choices that fit your needs. You need to know ahead of time what features you’d want to have and which ones you’d actually use. Take a few minutes before you start comparing different microwaves, about a few different things that you need to ask yourself.
How will the Microwave be Used? – Are you looking for something that can be used just to reheat foods or cook popcorn? Or do you want something that can cook full meals?
How Big a Microwave do you Need? – If it’s just you, or you and another person, your microwave needs will be very different than if you have a larger family. Even a family of 5 will need a larger microwave than a single or couple would. Microwaves come in all sizes and wattages, so knowing what you need beforehand will ensure you don’t buy one that is undersized.
How often will the Microwave be used? – A large family will put more strain on a microwave than a single or couple will. Kid will heat up snacks, cook breakfasts; parents will cook meals, reheat things and fix foods for the family. If your microwave is going to be getting a lot of use, you will want to opt for a more powerful one. The more watts a microwave has the more heating power it has so if you have a large family, look for a higher wattage microwave. You may pay a bit more, but you won’t burn it out in a few weeks or months either.
Where will you put the Microwave? – Knowing where you want to put your microwave determines the kind you decide to get. Most people opt for a traditional countertop version, but if you own your own home, you may want to consider an over the range style. If you are remodeling your kitchen, there is also a built in that you can purchase but keep in mind that over the range and countertop versions are much easier to service or replace should it wear out.
Types of Microwaves
There are three types of microwaves that most people end up buying: countertop, over the range style, and built-ins. There are benefits and drawbacks to each type so choosing one will depend on what your personal needs are. Are you renting your home? Landlords may not want you installing a microwave over the range. Is your kitchen lacking in space? A countertop unit may not be an easy thing to accommodate if counter space is limited. If you DO have limited counter space, buying a microwave cart is always an option as well.
Countertop Microwaves – This was the original design for microwaves back when they first came out on the market and they are still very prevalent in consumers’ homes. A countertop unit is great for kitchens with plenty of counter space or that have room for a microwave cart. It’s also great for easy access if you will be using it a lot. Another reason to get a countertop model is if you move a lot. It’s much easier to pack up a countertop model than to try and remove it from above the range or take out a built in which is a huge undertaking that involves the replacement of cabinets once it is removed.
Countertop models cost less than over the range or built in styles. They can use a regular outlet and can operate as soon as they are unpacked. If the unit is medium to large you should allow for about 3 square feet of counter space which can be a problem if counter space is limited.
Over the Range Microwaves – These microwaves get installed above the stove. They are usually added during a remodeling job or even during an initial build. No counter space is used which is why they are so popular, especially in the newer built homes. Over the range style microwaves are more expensive, even before they are installed, than countertop versions are.
It might be a good idea to enlist the help of an electrician who can install the proper outlet above the range that your microwave will need. Over the range microwaves don’t always have good ventilation. You can vent the microwave to the outside just like you do with your range, but indoor ventilation may want to be avoided since it’s not very good.
Built In Microwaves – There is some planning involved in incorporating a built in microwave into a kitchen design. They are similar to over the range styles but the indoor venting system that is used for built ins is better than over the range units are. A built in microwave doesn’t really look like the countertop microwaves at all, as they have no sides or vents. They are installed into the cabinetry and are not meant to be taken out, even if you move.
A plus of built in units is that they save on counter space just like the over the range styles do. They are also more expensive than countertop versions and will more than likely require an electrician for installation.
Common Microwave Features
There are many features that can be a part of the microwave you decide to purchase. Some of these features you may find yourself using all the time and others you won’t touch. Below is a detailed listing of common microwave features. Decide which ones are must haves for you and which can be left out of not bothered with.
Power – Microwaves have different watts depending on the size of the unit. Watts usually range from 850-1650. The more compact models can range in the 600-800 range. The more watts your microwave has the more heat it generates which means faster cook times. If you have a larger family that will be using it a lot, opt for a unit with as high wattage as you can afford.
Sensor – The function of the sensor is to measure steam which determines when your food is done. This feature helps to prevent overcooking or undercooking the food.
Shortcut Cooking Keys – Many microwaves have preset keys that are set for specific functions. Examples of shortcut keys are: popcorn, reheat, pizza and other common microwave tasks. An abundance of short cut keys are not necessary and may raise the price unnecessarily. Decide if you will really use these keys before you decide to buy a model that has an abundance of them.
Dial or Keypad – Microwaves either have dials or numeric keypads to work them. Both work just as well, but users find numeric keypads much more detailed and can produce better results since you can get the time down to the second rather than a range like you can with dials.
The One Minute Button – This feature allows users to extend cooking time by 30 second or 1 minute increments. This is most often used for reheating purposes or can be used in conjunction with the preset keys.
Turntables – This is the round glass plate that turns as the microwave heats or cooks the food. Most of the newer models have them and some people like them and others don’t. If you don’t like the turntable, you could look for a model that has a removable one rather than one that is built into the bottom and has to be used.
Trays – Microwaves with trays are not as common but the trays work in the same manner that the turntable does and that is to produce better heating. Large plates or square dishes may heat better on a tray than a turntable, especially if the food being heated is too big to actually turn all the way around.
Removable Racks – With racks that insert into the microwave, you can cook several dishes at one time which are terrific for saving time. Most microwaves don’t come with these racks but you can look for a model that offers them as an additional option to be purchased.
Slow Cooking – You will find the slow cooking option most often in microwaves that are also convection ovens. These are great for getting more of an oven style consistency or browning that microwaves don’t usually provide.
Child Lock or Lock Out Feature – Anyone that has children who love to push buttons will love the lock out feature on a microwave which can be engaged to prevent the child from accidentally microwaving their box of crayons or another toy. Children don’t realize the danger microwaves can be so having this lock out feature protects both the child and the microwave.
Keep Warm – This is a handy feature that allows the microwave to keep the food that has been cooked warm until it is time to serve it.
Delay Cooking Option – If you want to preset the microwave to start cooking an item at a certain time, the delay cooking button is just what you need. This allows for programming your microwave to start at a predetermined time.
Automatic Defrost – Microwaves are used for defrosting as well as cooking and heating food. The auto defrost is a convenient way to defrost your food that doesn’t involve putting the frozen food in water in your sink. Some models additionally have “quick defrost” which is even faster defrosting when you’re crunched for time or if you forgot to take the food out of the freezer in time. Both are usually set up to work based on weight of the item being defrosted.
Non Stick Interior – This is most often seen in the convection styles, but a non stick interior means easier clean up when cooking foods that splatter like so many do. Cleaning the microwave can be a real chore, so having this non stick interior is a real plus.
Clock – All microwaves have a clock feature that enables the time to be set on it. It’s a convenient feature that everyone seems to use especially since not all kitchens have clocks in them. Microwave clocks are easy to set and reset when the power goes out.
Timers- Timers are always beneficial even if you’re not using the microwave to cook. When the timers can be set for specific times, you can use it to cook something in the oven and have the time set on the microwave to go off when the oven is done.
Microwave sizes range from super small to very large. The super small styles are called compact microwaves and the large ones are considered full size. If you do a lot of casserole cooking or cooking for several people, you will want to get a medium to full sized microwave or you will become frustrated with the fact that very few casserole dishes fit into it.
Compact – Compact models will usually be .5 to .8 cubic feet. This compact size isn’t designed to cook large meals and is perfect for dorm rooms, studio apartments, RVs, Boats and even offices.
Mid Size – Mid size microwaves are good for cooking a few dishes but are still not going to be what you need if you’re looking to cook larger bowls and platters of things. It is a pretty common size in homes as most don’t have a need for a large microwave. Mid size microwaves are 1.4 to 1.6 cubic feet.
Full Sized – If you do a lot of larger dish cooking and have a large family, the full sized microwave is what you’re looking for. These range in size from 1.8 to 2.0 cubic feet and fit most larger casserole dishes and even some platters. They can take up a lot of counter space so if you want a full sized microwave you may want to consider a microwave cart for it to avoid taking all of your counter space.
Keeping Your Microwave Clean and Working Well
There are several things you can do to extend the life of your microwave and make sure it continues to run well for a long time to come. Keeping it clean every day and well maintained will prevent bacteria from growing, and also prevent excessive wear and tear on it that can cause it to stop working.
Cleaning – cleaning a microwave can be one of the most disliked jobs around but it doesn’t have to be a horrible chore. When you want to clean your microwave all you need to do is follow these easy steps:
- Pour one cup of vinegar and one cup hot water in a bowl
- Take the bowl and put it in your microwave, set the timer for 10 minutes cook time and press start
- After the timer goes off, carefully, with oven mitts, remove the bowl of hot water and vinegar.
- Wipe out the inside of the microwave on all sides, top and bottom with a wet rag. Everything will come off easily! Don’t forget to wipe the inside of the door as well. Leave the door open for a few minutes to allow it to air dry and then close it.
There are several things you need to watch out for when it comes to operating a microwave properly. Below are some basic safety tips that everyone should remember when using a microwave.
- Never use any kind of foil or metal of any kind in the microwave. This includes the metal inner liners that can be on top of certain microwave meals.
- Whenever you take anything out of the microwave after heating or cooking, always use oven mitts to avoid burning your hands.
- Liquids and foods can have mini explosions from bubbles that get built up during the heating process. These bubbles can burst after you take the food or drink out of the microwave and splatter hot food or drink on whoever is taking the item out.
- Children should never use the microwave unattended. An adult should be in the room with them and preferably the adult should remove the food from the microwave after it’s done to avoid the child spilling hot food on themselves.
- If the microwave ever makes unusual noises or sparks, immediately stop it and unplug it and do some troubleshooting if there is anything in the instruction manual. If not, then seek a professional especially if you have a warranty on your microwave.
Microwaves can be really beneficial when it comes to saving time for working parents, college students and busy families. Knowing what to look for and how to separate the different types of microwaves can make it much easier to choose the right one for your needs and preferences. All the information in this buyer’s guide is designed to help you understand what makes one microwave different than another. Use this information to make a choice that you will love and that will help you save time and energy in the kitchen.
- Panasonic – http://shop.panasonic.com/
- Westinghouse – http://westinghouse.com/
- Oster – http://www.sears.com/