Microwave oven fits into upper cabinets above the range. Photo: Whirlpool
They are great for reheating pizza, thawing frozen foods, popping popcorn, and much more. In addition to saving time, a microwave oven also saves energy. It can eliminate a tremendous amount of wasted energy in the kitchen, from the energy needed to preheat a conventional oven to the waste involved in heating a kettle of water when all you need is a cup.
If you are in the market for a new microwave oven, you’ve probably discovered that the range of models and options can be confusing. Should you buy a countertop or over-the range model? What is the best size and power capacity for your needs? How does a microwave convection oven differ from a conventional microwave?
It used to be that microwave ovens were nearly all the same—simple appliances that could thaw frozen hamburger, reheat leftovers, and pop popcorn in only a few minutes. They had a reputation for quick convenience but little else; today, it’s estimated that 90% of American homes have a microwave oven in the kitchen, and there are many varieties of these appliances.
Microwaves combine speed with versatility and technology to create a smart kitchen appliance, in an array of styles and colors.
Depending on the model you buy, a microwave oven can: Brown, roast, and grill foods like a conventional oven; prepare specific recipes using a pre-programmed touch keypad; cook entire meals without overheating your kitchen; automatically shut off when a sensor determines the food is done.
What features should your new microwave oven offer? In this article, we’ll help you determine the unit that best fits your needs and lifestyle. We’ll also discuss pricing and important questions to ask before making your purchase.
Conventional or Convection Microwave?
A conventional microwave oven emits microwaves that pass through glass and plastic containers to cook food. A convection microwave oven combines basic microwave technology with radiant heat and circulating hot air to let you roast, brown, and grill foods.
Convection microwaves have a heating element as well as a fan to circulate the heated air. This results in a more thorough, even job of cooking. Also known as speed-cook models, these units promise juicier pot roasts and crustier pizzas. Some units come with a pan for cooking bacon and crisping bread.
Another alternative heating method combines microwaves with intense light from a quartz halogen bulb to grill and roast food. This technology adds color and taste to meats while speeding cooking times.
Since convection microwave ovens allow multiple cooking modes in a single oven, expect to pay a little more.