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Guide to Buying a Microwave Oven

Consider the size, power and special features when shopping for a microwave oven.

Microwave ovens come in all shapes and sizes and include a variety of features. Before buying a new microwave, consider the following:

Types of microwave ovens
Where will you keep your microwave? Microwave ovens can be installed over the cooktop, built into a cabinet or simply placed on the counter. When you buy a microwave, choose the type that will suit your space.

Options include:

  • Countertop models: Countertop microwave ovens sit directly on the counter.
  • Built-in models: Built-in microwave ovens are directly built into the cabinetry or kitchen island to save space on the countertop.
  • Over-the-range models: These space savers are installed above the cooktop and include built-in ventilation fans to remove fumes from foods cooking on the stove. Fans vary in strength from about 220 CFM to 400 CFM. (CFM stands for cubic feet per minute. A higher number indicates a more powerful fan.)

Sizes of microwave ovens
How much room do you have to accommodate the microwave? What will you be cooking inside of it? Choose a model that’s the right size, both inside and out.

Size considerations:

  • Capacity: The interior cavity is measured in cubic feet. The smallest microwave ovens have cooking cavities that measure around 0.7 cubic feet in size; larger models can have cavities as large as 2.2 cubic feet.
  • What you’re cooking: If you would like to defrost a whole chicken, for instance, look for a larger model. If you use the microwave only for making popcorn and reheating coffee or leftovers, a smaller one will be better.
  • Space requirements: Of course, the models with larger cooking cavities typically have larger outer dimensions as well. Make sure to measure the space where you will store the microwave and choose a new model that will fit.

Power of microwave ovens
When shopping for a microwave oven, you’ll come across the term “watts.” Watts measure the power of the microwave; the higher the wattage, the more powerful the model.

Wattage considerations:

  • Cooking time: A more powerful microwave (with higher wattage) cooks more quickly.
  • Number of watts: You’ll find models ranging from about 800 watts up to 1200 watts.

  • Cost: Units with higher wattage typically cost more than those with lower wattage.

Features of microwave ovens
Now for the fun part. Today’s microwave ovens come with a host of features. Some offer added convenience, and others improve safety and/or promise better cooking results.

Look for the following options:

  • Convection and/or grilling capabilities combine traditional radiant heat with microwaves to quickly bake or roast foods.
  • Auto defrost determines how long a frozen item, such as hamburger patties, will need to defrost based on its weight.
  • Sensor cook automatically adjusts cooking time and power for the particular dish being cooked.
  • Preprogrammed keys for the most popular dishes let you pop popcorn, bake a potato or defrost meat at the push of a button.
  • Keep warm function keeps foods warm for up to 30 minutes.
  • Stainless-steel interiors are easy to clean and won’t absorb odors and spills.
  • Rack inserts allow for cooking on two levels.
  • Child lockout
  • Kitchen timers
  • One-year warranties

When shopping for a microwave, consider both your needs and your wishes, and then take a look at the variety of options available. You’re sure to find one that will suit you.