Microwaves come in various power levels. A lower range can start at 700 watts, which is considered much less than is “light” for a commercial business. For home house, even 700 watts is on the low side. When you get higher to 1000 watts, you’re getting a microwave intended for use less than 50 times a day, and you could bake a potato in about 4 minutes. A microwave with 1250 watts could bake a potato in 3 minutes. For use at home, the main advantage of a high-watt microwave is speed. You wouldn’t be using a microwave dozens of time a day (most likely), but it would be able to handle that kind of output. Low-watt microwaves sometimes burn out when you use them for long periods of time (5+ minutes) within a short time period, and you have to wait for them to “wake up.” Sometimes, they’re ruined, and you have to buy a completely new one.
Cubic feet capacity
Microwave size is measured in cubic feet and gives you a good idea about what size dishes and bowls will fit. Cubic feet is the length of the microwave, multiplied by the height and width. Smaller microwaves can be .8 or .9 cubic feet, while the larger ones start a 1-1 ½ cubic feet. The turntable within the microwave also determines what style of container you can use in the unit. If you are heating up larger dishes (like those for lasagna and casseroles), you need an oven over 1-cubic foot. If you just use your microwave for smaller containers like mugs and Tupperwares, you could get one as small as .5 cubic feet.
The turntable is the glass “plate” that the container you want to heat up sits on. It rotates, ensuring that the food is evenly heated. Bigger microwaves have bigger turntables, so you can fit larger containers inside it without the edges of the container blocking the turntable from rotation. A large turntable can be 15-16 inches, while smaller ones can be 10 ½ inches or less. Turntables (when made of glass) can be washed in the dishwasher, so cleaning is easy.
The digital display on your microwave should be clearly-labeled. Newer technology like blue LED lights make it easy to see what you’re selecting, especially when it is darker in the room. Typical display features include a clock, timer, and additional time elements like “quick cook” or “add time.” Some microwaves have a lot of features on the display, which might be confusing. Think about what you really need in a microwave and if all the fancy settings and features are unnecessary for you. However, if you want to do a lot of cooking with your microwave, all those options will make it a lot easier.
One of the options on the digital display will be power levels. Traditionally, microwaves just had “high” and “low” power levels, and some of the most basic microwaves are still limited to just these two. It is becoming more common to include more options. Some have as many as 10 power levels, so you can be extremely precise about the level of power you are using on your reheats. You don’t have to deal with dried-out food or low wait times. In addition to more power levels, you can expect to see settings like “keep warm” and “auto cook” on more microwaves. The “keep warm” function offers very low microwave power so you can keep dishes like soup, stew, and desserts in the microwave a half hour after cooking, and they’ll stay at a consistent, warm temperature. Auto-cook settings give the microwave the power to decide how to cook a dish, and with technological advances like sensor cooking which literally “senses” humidity levels and adjusts accordingly, microwaves are getting very good at cooking/reheating correctly.
With a variety of cooking modes, you can quickly select options like “frozen dinner,” “beverage,” “popcorn,” “pizza,” and more for hands-off convenience. You don’t have to know how long to reheat a dish, or at which power level – the microwave does the thinking for you. More specialized cooking modes can include “cook by weight,” “defrost by weight,” and even a melt-soften button (common with inverter microwaves). This delicate cooking mode lets you melt or soften foods like ice cream, butter, and other similar foods without burning them.
Microwaves have stainless steel faces and are built to be durable as well as stylish. Additional construction can include a silver wrap finish or brushed stainless steel. Some microwaves have begun using ceramic enamel for the interior of the microwave. It is easy to clean and more resistant to scratches than stainless steel.
A lightweight microwave is about 25 pounds. The lighter microwaves are also usually smaller and more compact, so they take up less space on the counter and you don’t have as large of an interior for big dishes. however. Heavier-duty microwaves can weigh between 30-40 pounds, so choose a spot on the counter for the unit and stick with it. You don’t want to have to be moving a 40-pound microwave around a lot.