Welcome to the Better-Reviews Microwave Buyers Guide

With your local shops hosting an array of stylish microwave ovens, which one should you buy? With such an excess of information and jargon it can be difficult to decide which one will server you best in your kitchen.

We hope this Guide will help you towards the right model for you.


The Five Different Types of Microwave Oven Explained

These are often called solo models and are the most basic. They are for defrosting, reheating, and cooking foods that contain moisture, e.g. Baked Beans, Jacket Potatoes, Scrambled Eggs. The main point of note, is that a standard microwave cannot brown food. The technology works by heating the water molecules within the food, where a grill or oven work by applying heat to the outside of the food.

These can microwave or steam food. This allows you to take the healthy option, and steam items such as vegetables or fish with ease. Whirlpool are the main manufacturer behind the idea to include steamer technology.

These can microwave or grill food. This gives you the added ability, where by combining both functions, you can cook food and crisp or brown it at the same time.

These have a microwave, a grill and a convection (Hot-Air) oven too. They give you more flexibility when cooking and they are generally larger allowing you to cook things like a roast chicken. Some combination models also have a steaming function.

These are usually combination ovens, designed to fit into a kitchen unit, so that you can only see the front of the oven. Built-in models aregenerally top of the range, and come with high quality finishes. We will not cover these on this site, and recommend that you take expert advice before buying one online.

Capacities range from about 17 litre to 40 litre. For a family sized microwave, you would need to look at 27 litre or bigger. At these sizes, you have a larger turntable and more interior height so you can fit the Sunday roast in. However, if Sunday roasts are not your thing, there are lots of excellent smaller models.

Microwave power is measured in watts, and can range from 800W to 1500W. The higher the wattage, the faster your food will cook.

Heating Category
This shows you how quickly or slowly your microwave heats things up. A is the slowest rating and E is the fastest. Most microwaves achieve an E rating.

Key Features Explained
Microwaves vary widely in price. Reasons for this can vary, and include power, size, and cooking abilities e.g. grilling or roasting. However, some families will need to be able to cook from frozen, while others are concerned about the kids pressing the buttons, and I think it can be agreed that we all want one that is easy to keep clean. Suffice it to say that there are lots of options, and what follows will go some way to explaining them:

Automatic Cooking and Defrosting
This is where the microwave either considers the actual weight of the food, and works out the time needed to cook the food safely. Or you enter the weight manually, and it works the time out based on what you have told it.

Chaos Defrost
This uses random pulses of microwave energy, and is a setting that reduces the usual time, and subsequently, the amount of energy needed to defrost.

Child lock
This stops curious fingers from accidentally starting a program or interfering with what you are currently cooking.

Drop-down Door
This can make accessing the microwave much easier, as you don’t have to contend with bumping into the door with an oven glove, and having it bounce back on you. It also offers the ideal place to rest your hot dishes on while you inspect them to see if they are cooked to your satisfaction, or while you turn the roast potatoes.

Thankfully, microwave ovens are easier to clean than conventional ovens. This news gets better still, with more expensive models, as they have catalytic or pyrolytic liners, which are self-cleaning, these linings mean that the oven lining never builds up a layer of food or grease.

Multiple-Sequence Cooking
This setting automatically changes the power levels during cooking to give you the most efficient cooking time. One advantage of this would be the ability to defrost, and then cook your food all in one go.

Preset Programs
This allows you to select the food type and weight, and the microwave will work out the best way to cook it. This can be handy if you don’t like having to work it all out for yourself. Bear in mind though that having a great range of preset programs will add to the price of the microwave, so if you don't think you will use them, give them a wide berth.

Sensor cooking
With this useful feature, the microwave automatically senses the moisture in the food and in the air in the oven, then adjusts the power level and cooking time to give you the best result.

Turbo reheat
This boosts the power to give rapid reheating of soups, tinned tomatoes, baked beans and the like.

Consider buying microwave-safe trays, crisper plates - which are good for crisping up things like pizza bases, dishes or steamers egg poachers and the like, to give you more cooking versatility.

Important Things to be Aware Of

  • The power of almost all microwaves tails off during use. This means that for cooking or defrosting an item, you may know how long it will take, and the power setting required, and that setting is great for saving to memory and reusing. However, a problem arises when you use the setting two or more times in a row, i.e. to heat more than one bowl of soup, as the microwave power drops to a less powerful setting after about 15 minutes, so repeated tasks will require more time to achieve the same result.
  • Only use microwave safe containers or tableware. Ceramics, glassware and some plastics are fine but don’t use anything with a metal trim as there are two things that happen when microwaves encounter a metallic object. One is that the metal reflects the microwaves. The other is that the microwaves set up electric currents in the metal.
  • Thin metallic objects allow electric charges to build up in them. When this happens, the insulating properties of air break down, and you will see sparks coming from the metal. This sparking can often happen with dishes that are not microwave safe because they contain small decorative strips of metal. If you see this happening, turn off the microwave, and be very careful about touching these very hot parts of your dish when removing it. Transfer your food into something that is microwave safe before continuing.
  • Leave any covered food vented when cooking it, so the steam can escape. This can be done by making a couple of tiny slits in cling film etc. or by just leaving a lid loosely fitted rather than clipped on.
  • When cooking large amounts, especially of liquids such a soups, stir the food halfway through the cooking time as this will eliminate possible cold spots.
  • For anything that is cooked for more than a couple of minutes, allow it to stand for 2 minutes once cooked, as the heat will continue to spread through the food.
  • Be careful when taking food out of the microwave, because, while the container might not feel that hot, the food inside could severely burn you.
  • Keep your microwave clean. The inside of a microwave is made of metal. This allows the microwaves to reflect off the sides, and bounce back through your food. A dirty microwave will cook slower, and waste electricity. Just use a clean cloth and warm soapy water to clean the inside surfaces, the turntable, the door seals and the outside.
  • Don't press Start on your microwave when it's empty, as the microwaves will bounce off the interior walls with nothing to reduce them, and that can cause damage.
  • Microwaves can give an increased risk of food poisoning if food is not properly cooked through. So it is important to check it before you serve it. Properly cooked food offers no greater risk of food poisoning than with foods cooked by other methods.
  • Bear in mind that larger models tend to cost more to buy and will use more electricity too, so don’t buy larger than you need. That said however, if you use a larger microwave instead of your main oven, you will save energy.
  • Check with your doctor if you have a pacemaker. Modern pacemakers are protected against interference, but some older ones may still be adversely affected by proximity to a microwave oven.