Microwaves are the easy way to heat meals and defrost meat. Some models can also grill or bake.
Types of microwaves
There are three types: standard, microwaves with a grill, and convection (also called combination microwaves) that can microwave, bake and grill.
A convection microwave may suit you if you have limited space for a microwave and an oven such as a studio apartment or a caravan. It can also be useful in a full kitchen if you often use more than one oven at a time. A convection microwave is more versatile than a benchtop oven because a benchtop oven can’t microwave.
Convection models can be benchtop or built-in. Some can be installed either way.
Built-in models save on bench space and can be integrated to fit in with other appliances and usually sit flush with cupboards. These models need a “trim kit”, which often needs to be bought separately and should be installed by an electrician.
Benchtop models must be freestanding – they can’t be placed in a cabinet. They also shouldn’t be placed where heat and steam are produced (for example, next to a conventional oven).
What to consider
Features and functions
Generally, the more features and functions, the higher the price. So, think about what you’ll 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.
Size and usable volume
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).
In convection or combination modes, convection models get hotter than standard microwaves, so make sure all minimum recommended clearances are followed. You’ll find these in the installation instructions.
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.
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.
It should be easy to open and stay open in position without swinging open or slamming shut.
Flatbed microwaves don’t have a turntable. This means they have extra cooking space, you can use any shaped dish, and they’re easier to clean.
- Check inside for vents and cracks where grease and grime can accumulate.
- Easily removable racks and turntables make cleaning less hassle.
- Sealed controls are easier to wipe clean
- A stainless-steel exterior looks stylish, but needs more elbow grease to keep clean compared with a plastic exterior.
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, then 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.
Adjust time during cooking
Lets you increase or decrease cooking time without stopping the microwave.
How to get the most out of your microwave
Follow our advice to get the most out of it.
The People's Choice endorsement for microwaves is given to Panasonic and Russell Hobbs as they rate above average for customer satisfaction in our latest annual survey and meet our other performance criteria.
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