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Microwave Buying Guide

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Buying a microwave oven.

How to choose the best microwave for you.

Inspired by radar technology developed after World War II, the microwave oven has evolved from an electric box used primarily to reheat food to a feature-packed cooking/baking/grilling appliance with extraordinary food preparation capabilities. The microwave adds an extra dimension to family meal prep that otherwise would be performed by a gas or electric range, or the combination of a wall oven and cooktop.

Find the best microwave oven for you by considering capacity, power, finish and available features. A microwave's internal capacity can range from less than one cubic foot to over two cubic feet, which is important if you plan to microwave large dishes or large frozen items, or you want to prepare more than one dinner at a time. The more power your microwave has, the higher the wattage, and the faster and more evenly your food will cook. Most microwaves feature between 500 watts and 1200 watts, and many microwave-specific recipes recommend at least 800 watts for best results. Microwaves are available with many finishes to match your kitchen decor, including stainless steel, white, black, slate and more.

Microwaves: Which features are important?

Think about how you intend to use your microwave. If convenience is paramount, select one with quick keys for soup, oatmeal, popcorn and other foods, plus automatic settings for reheating and defrosting. A convection cooking feature provides the benefits of a second cooking source, operating as an oven that can preheat and bake foods like cookies and cakes, roast vegetables and brown meats. Some models provide racks for cooking multiple dishes at once, child locks, a turntable on/off button, Sabbath mode, delay-clean, easy-clean interior, rapid preheat and time bake, to name a few.

Styles and types of microwave ovens.

Microwaves designed to sit on the counter are typically smaller and less expensive than other models, and don't require installation — you just plug them in and you're ready to go. Microwaves mounted on the wall over your range don't take up any counter space, but do require installation. They typically have an undercarriage that includes both a vent and a light and can be both more powerful and more expensive. A combination microwave/conventional oven offers built-in, two-in-one convenience while a compact microwave is exceptionally convenient for use in dorm rooms, offices, apartments, campers and boats. These microwaves complement other essential small kitchen appliances, like a KitchenAid stand mixer, slow cooker, juicer or pressure cooker.

Making sure your microwave fits.

When selecting a microwave, make sure you match each product specification with the width, depth and height measurements of your available space. You may also need extra space on one side to accommodate the door opening. An over-the-range microwave should be mounted no less than 13"-16" above a cooktop, while countertop microwaves require an additional space of 3" on top and on each side, as well as 1" behind.