We’ve tested standard microwaves, as well as models that grill.
Microwaves are the easy way to heat meals and defrost meat.
If you have a spot in mind for your microwave, then you need to make sure it’ll fit. Check the external dimensions, including the power cord at the back. You’ll need to allow at least 10mm (preferably 50mm) at the sides and back where the heat vents are usually located for ventilation.
Microwaves vary in size from about 18 to 35L. For a family, look for at least 30L, which will have a larger turntable and more interior height.
Check the usable space – actual capacity can be less than what manufacturers claim. Also make sure your microwave cookware will fit.
Generally, the more features and functions, the higher the price. So think about what you’ll actually use your microwave for. If you’re only going to reheat cups of forgotten coffee or last night’s leftovers, you won’t need a model with a grill and lots of automatic programmes.
Should be easy to use and read.
If you like to see what’s cooking, or to catch unintended spills, make sure the window is large and gives a clear view.
Check it gives good illumination of the turntable.
Lets you deactivate the microwave so children can’t use it.
Lets you time other tasks – such as boiling an egg – without operating the microwave.
Some models have a grill, which makes them more versatile. You can whip up meals such as mac ‘n’ cheese and potato bake.
Inverter models deliver continuous heating at reduced power. For example, if you select 50% power the microwave delivers a true 50% power, not a “pulsed” delivery of full power half the time (like most microwaves do). Manufacturers claim inverter models cook more evenly, but we found this claim doesn’t stack up in our testing. If you have a Bluetooth connection, there’s also a risk your inverter microwave will interfere with it.
Most people don’t get the most out of their microwave and only use a few functions. Reading your manual, and some trial and error, will give you a new perspective on what they can do.
These make defrosting, cooking and heating more convenient. Automatic defrost usually prompts you to enter the weight and type of food, and calculates the defrosting time. Common automatic programmes are for potatoes, fresh vegetables, rice, drinks, meat, soups and frozen dinners.
These measure vapours emitted during cooking to control cooking time. You don’t have to estimate cooking times and food quantities.
This starts the microwave, usually by pressing one button. With most models, the cooking times increases in 30-second or one-minute increments. It’s handy for reheating.
The microwave performs a sequence of functions, such as defrost then cook.
Lets you increase or decrease cooking time without stopping the microwave.
For microwave cooking use glassware, such as Pyrex, and heat-resistant plastic containers that are microwave-safe. China, pottery, earthenware and ceramic containers are also suitable if they are non-porous and don’t have a metal trim.
Most people don’t get the most out of their microwave and only use a few functions. Reading your microwave’s manual, and a bit of trial and error, will give you a new perspective on what it can do. Here’s how to get the most out of your microwave.