Microwave Buying Guide

Find the Best New Microwave

This buying guide will help you find the right microwave that fits your personal needs the best. Let’s start with a few questions you should ask yourself to narrow down on your search for the perfect microwave.

When should you buy a new microwave?

According to the National Association of Homebuilders, microwave ovens will generally last between 8 to 10 years. However, in busier places like restaurants or other such establishments, you might need to replace them as often as once a year.

Signs That It's Time to Replace Your Microwave

Smoke, sparks, or a burning smell emanating from your microwave are all signs that you might need a replacement. Also, if you find your food is not cooking properly (or not at all), there’s definitely something wrong. A microwave is designed for fast cooking and if that’s not happening, you need to take a closer look and figure out if you need a new one.

A microwave should make nothing more than a gentle hum while it’s cooking/heating. If your microwave is making strange sounds like a buzzing or rattling noise, most likely something’s off. Check your turntable to make sure it is fit properly. If it still makes sounds, you should consider getting it replaced.

Do you want your microwave to just help you cook or do you fancy doing a bit of baking as well?

Conventional Microwave

If you just want to reheat food, cook ready meals, soups or vegetables, then buy a simple countertop microwave oven.

Cooks By: Emitting waves that pass through glass and plastic containers to the food

Used To: Heat, defrost, cook, and grill

Best For: Basic cooking, popcorn, defrosting meat, reheating pizzas, and grilling meat and vegetables

Convection Microwave

If you need to cook and bake for more than four people, then you definitely need a convection oven as it can evenly cook bigger quantities of food in little time.

Cooks By: Evenly distributing heat from a heating element, and a fan to circulate heated air

Used To: Heat, defrost, cook, grill, and bake

Best For: Baking cakes, cookies quiches, pies and roasting meat and vegetables

Do you want to place the microwave overhead, on the counter, or built into cabinets?

Countertop Microwaves

These are quite popular among buyers. Let's see why.

Installation: No installation required. Buy, Unpack, Plug In, Use! It's that simple.

Size: Compact, and easily sit on your countertop.

Capacity: The oven capacity is generally 1 cubic foot.

Power intake: Power intake is between 500 and 1000 watts.

Uses:Reheat food, thaw frozen food, popcorn, and other basic cooking tasks.

Countertop microwaves are portable. So, if you are required to move often, this is the best bet.

Over-the Range Microwaves (OTR Microwaves)

These microwaves are typically larger than countertop microwave ovens and are installed above a cooking range.

Installation: Unlike countertop microwaves that can just be placed and used, these microwaves require professional installation. These oven types require space over your stove before installation.

Advantage: These microwaves are also great for venting as they draw smoke and odors from the cooktop and vent it out into the outdoor or in the case of ductless vents, filter it before exhausting it back into the room.

Many of them have multispeed fans to recirculate air using replaceable charcoal filters. Some of the OTR microwaves have exhaust fans which switch on automatically if a stove top becomes too hot, thereby protecting the microwave oven.

Since they install over the range or cooktop, these microwaves do a great job of maximizing counter space. They also come with all the necessary installation hardware.

Built-in Microwaves

These microwaves are relatively new in the market and have a large capacity. As they fit into any cabinet space, they are ideal for small kitchens with limited counter space. Their installation is more difficult than stand-alone models.

What size and power capacity microwave should you buy?

Typical Microwave Size Options

Choose an oven with higher wattage to cook entire meals and heat food faster. Note that lower power leads to more cooking time.

Go for a larger model if you need to feed a larger number of people. Over the Range or Built-in microwave ovens work best!

Common Microwave Wattage Ranges

Choose an oven with higher wattage to cook entire meals and heat food faster. Note that lower power leads to more cooking time.

  • Compact microwaves are the smallest ovens, best for just about one dinner plate, and they deliver 600-800 watts. They have a capacity of 2 to 4 cubic feet. They are quite suited for dorm rooms, offices, and small apartments. You can even use them in boats and campers.

  • Mid-size ovens yield between 800-1200 watts of power.

  • Full-size ovens deliver 1,000 to 1,600 watts of power.

Special Features to Consider When Buying a Microwave

Features such as non-stick interiors, removable racks and pre-set buttons for cooking specific foods, can make microwaves even easier and more convenient. Here are a few features you may want to add to your list of requirements for your new microwave.

  • Turntable

    A microwave turntable is a circular glass tray that rotates while cooking, ensuring an even temperature distribution. Without a turntable, you would have to keep pausing your microwave to move the vessel inside several times.

  • Removable Racks

    This is a convenient feature to have, especially when you are cooking meat, and want all sides of the meat to brown evenly.

  • Interlocks

    This is a safety feature that ensures that the microwave oven does not run if the door is open or ajar. Most ovens have two interlocks; some even have three. This is to ensure that even if one lock fails, the backup lock will work.

  • Child Locks

    These are an especially useful safety feature when you have toddlers and kids around the house. You can use a keypad to lock and release child-proof doors.

  • Alarms

    Models with interlocks and child locks can also have alarms to sound when the oven door is left open.

  • Automatic Sensors

    Some modern ovens have this feature that can tell when the food is completely cooked by measuring steam in the oven. When food is cooked, the sensor measures steam and turn the microwave off.

  • Variable Power or Inverter Technology

    All foods don’t need full power. Having an oven with variable power levels ensures that you set the power to the task required. For example, you can simmer food at 50% power or defrost at 30% of power.

  • Non-stick Interiors

    Many models come with a non-stick interior coating that makes cleaning easier. So, if your pasta sauce splatters when cooking, you can easily wipe it off with a washcloth.

  • Task Buttons

    Many modern ovens come with different task buttons that have preset power and heat settings for a specific task. Standard task buttons are Dinner Plate, Reheat Pizza, Popcorn, Frozen Vegetable, Fresh Vegetable, Potato, Defrost, etc.

  • Sones Ratings

    This is the amount of noise produced by a microwave's cooking cycle. Newer microwave models are available with near-silent operation.

We hope this guide has helped make your decision as easy and convenient as your new microwave will make your cooking!