Which Microwave Should I Buy?

Sep 22, 2001 (Updated Jan 3, 2004)

Popular Products in Microwave Ovens
The Bottom Line Choose a microwave that has what you need and that fits in your budget.

When you buy a microwave, it is important to get a model with the features you need. The list of options may seem daunting at first, but by being able to prioritize what features you would like, you can help yourself make a smarter purchase.


The single most important feature of a microwave oven is its size. The general guideline for choosing a microwave is that you should get the largest microwave that will fit comfortably in your kitchen, so that you can accommodate your larger dishes. There are some options as to which microwaves to use to fit certain places. Many microwaves are built in, which conserves counter space and can help it blend in better. Most models are designed for the countertop. Over-the-Range models are extremely convenient space-savers, and tend to be large, so you can easily fit large dishes. Under-the-Counter models are sometimes invaluable to the kitchen without space counter space. One last option is a cart, many of which not only can accommodate a microwave, but can store cookbooks and other items.


Depending on how much and what you will be cooking in your microwave, you should choose the amount of power you want. Power in microwaves is measured in watts, and the more watts an oven can produce, the faster it can cook food. The average power level on microwaves these days is 800 watts, with the lowest available 600 watts and the highest over 1000 watts.

Power Levels

Different power levels produce different percentages of possible energy. For instance, Medium (50%) power on a 800 watt microwave produces 400 watts of energy. Just as you would use different temperatures in a conventional oven, you can change the level of power produced. Some microwaves, generally the less expensive ones, have a limited range of power levels, usually just High (100%) and Defrost (30%). Some have five power levels, and many have ten, from Warm (10%) to High (100%).

Ease of Use

What good is a microwave if you can't figure out how to turn it on? Conversely, how convenient is it if it requires constant attention? Microwaves these days have many new features, which can either be very convenient or a pain in the neck or even unnecessary, depending on your situation. Some available technologies include:
Multi-lingual scrolling instructions
Weight-based pre-programmed cooking
Probes and sensors for precise cooking
One-touch start
Delayed start


With all the new features available, one of the most cosmetic is sound. Some microwaves now offer a pleasing, fading beep, which replaces the monotonous one we've all grown to love. Some also offer a volume control function, where you can choose high, low, or off.


A microwave is an integral part of any kitchen, and it should blend in, just like a refrigerator or a stove, and not stick out like a sore thumb. Most microwaves are available in two or more colors, such as black, white, almond or stainless steel. Some people think black hides smudges and fingerprints. Others think white does a better job. YOU choose.


Today's microwaves are much more durable than their predecessors; they last for years. Most microwaves come with a warranty good for anywhere between 90 days to 2 years. Dealers also offer extended warranties, if you choose to do that.

Convection Microwaves

The best of both worlds! Get the speed of a microwave with the crisping and browning of a convection oven, all in one unit. Convection microwaves can function as normal microwaves, as a regular convection oven, or even a combination of the two at once. Convection microwaves are extremely convenient for the busy kitchen. I have one and I love it! I use it nearly every day, and it is really handy on holidays, when my gas oven is full with a turkey or a ham.


It is wise to get what you need, but no more. With so many choices from a wide range of manufacturers, it's possible to find the perfect model for your needs. If you only reheat pizza, for example, don't splurge on a fancy gourmet model with sensor cooking and multi-stage programming.
It is possible to stay within a budget by choosing only the features you will use. Less features=less expense.


Almost every kitchen in America has a microwave; it can't be that difficult to choose one. Use your common sense and choose what you need that fits in your budget.

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