Microwaves today do so much more than just heat the occasional bowl of soup. They are fast, economical and perfect for cooking everything from jacket potatoes to a joint of meat. Some models will even allow you to bake, roast or grill. All this makes a microwave the ideal way of cooking if you are busy or short on space. This guide explains what microwaves can do and suggests some features to look out for. To look at the wide range of microwaves we stock visit our microwaves page.
Types of microwave
A number of different types of microwave exist, to meet different needs:
Standard microwave: most standard models will allow you to cook food at low, medium or high power for a specific period of time, and may also have specific programmes to make cooking easier. Settings are normally entered using a simple touch pad. These microwaves are ideal for cooking vegetables or fish, defrosting meats and bread or simply reheating food.
Microwave and grill: this is the best option if you want to brown or crisp food, something standard microwaves are unable to do. The grill can be used independently or to crisp or brown food that has been microwaved. Ideal for pizzas, lasagne, jacket potatoes, waffles, crumpets, toast or spring rolls. These microwaves will also carry out the task of a standard microwave.
Microwave combination oven: the ideal solution if you are short on space, this combines the features of a microwave, grill and convection hot air oven. Functions can be used separately or in combination, making it ideal for baking, browning and crisping (cakes, roast meats, pies, pastry dishes and Yorkshire puddings).
The capacity of a microwave can vary from 17 to 32 L. Larger capacities of 27 L or above are ideal for larger families.
The power of a microwave is measured in watts, the higher the power, the less cooking time is needed. Microwaves have a number of different settings for cooking, including low, high or defrost, suitable for all your food heating needs. High power is used for most regular cooking.
Features to look out for
This will very much depend how frequently you intend to use the microwave and how you prefer to cook. Microwaves now come with many special features. Some of the most useful are listed below:
Drop-down door: makes it much easier to put food in or take it out, also handy for resting hot plates.
Extra fast de-frost and re-heat: great if you are in a hurry and want to save time.
Multiple sequence cooking: Automatically varies the cooking temperature meaning, for instance, that you can de-frost and then cook using the same program.
Sensor cooking: detection of moisture in food, so that the microwave adjusts the time accordingly.
Do not use pans, metal containers or anything with a metal trim in a microwave, stick to plastic, glass or ceramics.
Be careful when taking food out of a microwave, as it may be very hot.
If you have small children, it is advisable to buy a model with a child lock. Check specifications for details.
Don't start an empty microwave, as this might damage the oven.
Do not use a microwave to sterilise food utensils.
One advantage of microwaves is that they are much easier to clean than an ordinary oven. However, unless your microwave is fitted with catalytic or pyrolitic liners, meaning it is self-cleaning, it is important not to let the oven get dirty, otherwise food will take longer to cook. When cleaning, avoid using abrasives such as scouring pads or steel wool.