- Microwave Buyers Guide
Microwave Buyers Guide
Microwave Buyers Guide
As well as defrosting and reheating ready meals, you can also grill bacon, roast a chicken and steam your vegetables in a microwave.
What type of microwave oven should I choose?
There are four main types:
Standard microwave ovens: These are often called solo models and are the most basic. They are for defrosting, reheating, and cooking foods like jacket potatoes.
Standard models with grills: You can microwave or grill food with these ovens. You can also use both functions together so that you can cook your food and crisp or brown it at the same time.
Combination ovens: These have a microwave, a grill and a convection (fan) oven too. They give you more flexibility when cooking and they are generally larger allowing you to cook things like a roast chicken. Some combination models also have a steaming function.
Built-in ovens: Designed to fit in to a kitchen unit, built-in models are generally top-of-the-range and come with smart metallic finishes and digital displays.
Is it best to use automatic pre-set controls or should you use the manual settings?
This generally depends on your personal preference. Operating a microwave manually gives you more control over the temperature and cooking time. Automatic buttons for specific foods, such as pizza, calculate cooking temperatures and times for you. With some foods you have to enter the weight of the food and then it calculates the time needed to cook or defrost. However, you may find that it is just as easy setting the temperature and time yourself as trying to fathom all the different automatic programs. If so, just opt for a model with manual settings as automatic controls push up the price of the microwave.
What sort of wattage should I get?
The higher the wattage, the faster your microwave will cook. Maximum wattage can range from 700kw to around 1,500kw. Models with higher wattages can shave minutes off cooking times over models with lower wattages.
What size microwave do I need?
Capacities of microwaves vary from around 17 litres to over 30 litres. Larger models are taller and have larger turntables allowing you to put more inside. Some have shelves so that you can cook foods on different levels. Although you have to extend the cooking time to do this it can be useful being able to cook two meals at the same time, for example. Larger models tend to cost more to buy and they use more electricity too, so don’t buy a larger model unless you think you will use it to cook more food. If you use a larger microwave instead of your main oven, you will save energy.
Is it worth buying a pricier microwave or are budget models just as good?
It depends what you want to do with your microwave. If you want the option of automatic pre-set buttons and possibly a grill or convection oven as well as a sleek look with metallic finishes and digital displays, then yes, you’ll need to pay more. But on the other hand, if you don’t mind having a solo microwave that looks like a white box, and if all you want to do is defrost and heat things up then a budget model is fine.
What type of containers should be used when microwaving and what shouldn’t be used?
Heatproof glass, pyrex or microwave-safe plastic is best. You can also use china or ceramic plates if they are not porous. Avoid plastic that isn’t microwave safe, metal pots or foil containers. Also avoid china with metallic rims or inlay. Metal can cause sparks which could trigger a fire.
Are there any other safety issues with microwaves?
The main issue is to make sure that food is defrosted and cooked right through. Sometimes heat is not distributed evenly in microwaves which can cause cold spots in food. There is a risk of food poisoning if food is not defrosted and cooked through thoroughly until it is piping hot. So it’s best to stir food and check it is before you serve it.
If you or anyone in your home has a pacemaker fitted, check with your doctor whether it is safe to use a microwave. Most modern pacemakers are fine but some older models are adversely affected when they come close to a microwave oven.
Why do instructions on food packaging tell you to let microwaved food stand before serving?
This is because the heat continues to spread once food comes out of the microwave and it takes around two minutes for this process to finish.
How should I clean my microwave?
Check your manufacturers instructions but generally you should use a non-abrasive cleaner (without bleach) to remove dirt and grease from the cooking chamber. Make sure the door seal, control panel and the exterior panels are clean too.
Chaos defrost: This is a setting that reduces the usual time needed to defrost.
Child lock: This can prevent children from interfering with the cooking program or turning the microwave on.
Convection cooking: This is how you cook in a conventional fan oven. Combination ovens allow you to both microwave and cook conventionally. Some also have grills.
Crisper plates: These are designed to crisp foods, like pizzas and quiches, when heating them up.
Heating category: This shows you how quickly or slowly your microwave heats things up. A is the slowest rating and E is the fastest. Most microwaves achieve an E rating.
Multiple sequence cooking: this feature automatically changes the power levels during cooking so that you can defrost and then cook without having to stop the microwave and reset it.
Sensor cooking: This automatically detects food moisture and automatically adjusts the power levels and cooking time.