Microwaves are an appliance staple in most Canadian homes. Even though it’s a relatively new invention, the ease and convenience of quickly heating food rocketed this piece of technology into millions of daily lives.
As technology advances, so does the complexity of this time-saving appliance. Today we answer some common questions about microwaves to help you find the right one for your home.
What do I need to know before I start shopping?
Like with most appliances, you should consider your unique needs and wants as well as the appliance retailer from where you intend to purchase.
All microwaves generally fall under three main categories:
Over the Range
This type of microwave is the most common because it does double duty. Sitting above your stovetop, it functions as a quick place to reheat food and as a ventilation fan when you choose to cook on your range.
The original microwave design, a countertop unit literally sits on a counter or in a cabinet nook. Over the range and countertop models don’t vary greatly in terms of features, but you’re likely to find smaller sizes in the countertop model due to counter space limitations.
These microwaves can be as big or small as you choose, and are built into the existing cabinetry of your kitchen. A popular version of this is the microwave/convection wall oven.
Often part of a double wall oven combination, the microwave functionality is included with a small, convection oven that sits above a larger, more traditional wall oven. With many options and features you’d normally only find on a stove, this multi-faceted cooking tool is a time saver for any meal.
What key features should I consider?
While there are several features that come standard on all microwaves, some more recent technologies are being blended into these tiny, powerful ovens.
Inverter technology is recent within the last three to four years, and only available in a handful of microwaves. But what makes this technology so desirable is how it recreates a more traditional oven experience.
For example, in most microwave ovens a 50% heat setting means your oven alternates between heating, and then not heating, your food for the cooking time specified.
With inverter microwaves, the heat is provided at a steady 50% stream for the entire cooking time. This leads to more even heating and more precise cooking capabilities.
Convection technology seeks to heat food more quickly and evenly than traditional cooking methods. In a conventional oven, convection is achieved by a fan that rotates heat throughout the cavity to distribute temperatures more evenly.
In a microwave, convection mode does the same thing. A fan forces air around to heat up the entire microwave interior, allowing you to cook food from the inside out. You can use your convection microwave as a second oven to bake or cook food that would normally take much longer in your traditional oven.
Quick Start Buttons
Preset buttons are one of the most convenient features of a microwave. At the press of a button, you can defrost frozen meats, make popcorn or even cook chicken nuggets. Preset cooking options, sensor heating and quick start options are widely available on most models.
Gone are the days of dials, and here are the days of the slick display panels we’ve come to expect from our appliances and electronics. LED displays add a modern touch to your kitchen decor and style, and make it easier to see the status of the heating function selected.
What does wattage really mean?
In the most straightforward terms, the wattage rating is the power behind your microwave’s basic function. The higher the wattage, the faster your foods will warm or cook. Most microwaves range from 600 to 1,200 watts. Ideally, you should get one with at least 1,000 watts to ensure your foods cook fully and not just heat slowly.
Are there microwaves best suited for a family?
Of course! Microwaves come with several pre-programmed options including those for kids, like chicken nuggets or hot dogs, and make for a very handy kitchen companion. You may also look for microwaves with a larger oven capacity, so you can fit more in it. Some even come with child locks so your youngest kitchen helpers can’t do any damage to themselves or your food.
What else can I use my microwave for?
One of our favourite viral posts is this Microwave Life Hacks guide from The Chive. Beyond just heating or cooking food, microwaves can complete a large number of tasks aimed at helping you in the kitchen and your home.