The Top 10 Best Countertop Microwaves of 2016

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Countertop Microwaves: Questions & Answers

What are the best uses of a countertop microwave?

You may believe that a microwave is limited to just reheating leftovers, but the reality is you can do a lot with the kinds of countertop microwaves out there. Lower-wattage microwaves do best when they are reserved for reheating, while more powerful ones can cook desserts, potatoes, bacon, fish, and more. Some countertop microwaves are even including extras like grill racks so you can get crispier foods with grill marks.

How much power should a microwave have?

When looking for a freestanding microwave, consider your needs. If you intend to use the microwave for basic reheating jobs like beverages, you would be fine with a lower-wattage microwave around 700 watts. You will need more power if you plan on cooking anything and/or using the microwave frequently during the day. A 1000-watt microwave can bake a potato in 4 minutes, while one with 1250 shaves off a full minute. There are microwaves with even higher wattages, but they are intended for commercial spaces like coffee shops and restaurants.

How much interior space do they provide?

Microwaves are measured in cubic feet, and represent the microwave’s size on the counter. A smaller microwave will be .8-.9 cubic feet, while a family-sized microwave can be 1.2-cubic feet or larger. To get a clearer idea of what size dishes will fit in the microwave, look at the turntable. This is the glass “plate” inside the microwave that rotates, so any container of food placed on it gets heated evenly. A smaller turntable is about 10-inches, while larger ones are about 15 inches or more.

What cooking modes and functions do microwaves have?

Cooking modes allow you to forgo experimenting with cycle time and temperature. You just push the button that matches your food item or heating need, and the microwave does the rest. Cooking modes can include “beverage”, “popcorn”, “pizza”, and other common dishes that you reheat or cook easily. Other common and useful functions include “add time”, which allows you to quickly add on time to a heating cycle, “cook by weight”, and “soften.” More cooking modes means more versatility, this is important if you use your microwave a lot.

Do power levels matter?

If you want to have more control over your microwave, and heat or cook foods more precisely, power levels are very important. Without a good selection of power levels, you’ll probably be limited to just “low” or “high”, which are very vague descriptors and don’t usually result in well-cooked food. Many microwaves have 6-10 power levels that come in percentages, so you get better results when cooking foods that require more middle-range power.

How heavy are freestanding microwaves?

Countertop microwaves are one of the heavier kitchen appliances you can get. A lightweight microwave will weigh 25 pounds or so, while larger ones weigh 35 or even 40 pounds. If you move frequently or are planning a move in the near future, you will want to factor in the weight along with its interior size, since lightweight microwaves tend to be smaller, though not always.

What are good construction material for these appliances?

Most quality microwaves have stainless steel faces, because it is a durable material and easy to wipe clean. The interior is also important, because cheap ones might use plastic that can wrap or peel over time. Ceramic, stainless steel, or chrome are excellent metals for the inside of a microwave due to the fact they do not warp and they help distribute heat evenly.

What is the differences between an inverter microwave and a regular one?

Microwave technology has greatly improved over the years. One of those advances includes inverter technology, this is when the power comes from inverters instead of coils. This is especially useful when you select different power levels, because while traditional versions average out to a percentage (i.e. 50% on a traditional microwave means the microwave works at 100% and turns off and on), inverter microwaves actually only use the power level percentage you selected all the way through the cycle. Cyclonic inverter tech takes the technology a step further and replaces the traditional linear heating with circular heating, so the energy is evenly-distributed.

Can a microwave “sense” how long to heat something?

Many machines are now equipped with smart features that allow them to sense things like humidity and steam levels, and adjust the cooking time accordingly. For example, if a food item starts steaming, the microwave knows to reduce the cooking time you originally selected. This helps prevent food burning or overheating.

Do microwaves defrost frozen foods?

Defrosting is notoriously tricky, but the technology has gotten much better. Instead of dealing with a cooked outside and frozen inside, the defrost setting on most microwaves is able to use more consistent and low-power energy to thaw foods. Instead of zapping a frozen item with too much heat, the microwave is able to more gradually prepare food. Features like “Defrost by Weight” and “Time Defrost” help with better defrosting. When you select how long you want to defrost something, or the weight of the food, the microwave adjusts to the proper power level. If something is really frozen, be careful about entering a time that’s too short, because then you will run into the problem of too much power.

Can I program a freestanding microwave?

If you have a favorite setting for a specific food, many machines will let you save it under “My Favorites” or another similar name. This way, you don’t have to remember the time cycle and/or power level you choose, because the microwave remembers for you. This makes cooking and reheating very convenient and fast for when you’re in a hurry.

What’s the price range on countertop microwaves?

Pricing is largely dictated by size and technology. Microwaves under 1-cubic feet can be fairly affordable and cost under or around $100, but as soon as you start adding cubic feet and technology like inverter heating, the price rises quickly. Certain brands are also automatically more expensive, like Samsung, Cuisinart, and Panasonic. You could expect a large, technologically-advanced countertop microwave to cost you $200-$400. Wattage doesn’t seem to play a big part in the pricing as you might think, because even small appliances (under 1-cubic foot) can have 1000 watts.

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