- Most ovens have around 1000 watts of cooking power. That’s plenty. Smaller ovens work fine on 600 to 800 watts, and larger ones are often up to 1200W.
- Generally speaking, the greater the wattage, the faster the food cooks. However, we’ve usually found the claimed wattage is quite different from the actual power output, so don’t put too much faith in the numbers. Most of the models we’ve tested had a lower output wattage than claimed. So, use cooking times in recipes as a guide only.
- Standard microwaves vary in size from around 18 to 35 litres based on their claimed internal capacity. For larger families, look for at least 27L, which will have a larger turntable and more interior height.
- Check the external dimensions, including the power cord at the back, will let it fit in the desired spot in your kitchen. You’ll need to allow at least 10mm (preferably 50mm) at the sides and back where the heat vents are usually located for ventilation.
- Check how much usable space it has – actual capacity can be less than what manufacturers say. Make sure it will fit your microwave cookware and baking dishes.
Ease of use
- Easy-to-use controls and instructions are a must.
- If you like to see what’s cooking, make sure the window is large and gives a clear view.
- Check that the oven light gives good illumination of the turntable.
- Cheaper ovens may still have rotary controls, which some users find easier to use. Digital touchpad controls and displays suit others. Make sure the display letters and control labels are large enough to be easily read.
- Check inside for vents and cracks where grease and grime can hide.
- Racks and turntables that are easy to remove make cleaning easier.
- A stainless steel exterior looks more stylish, although it’s harder to keep clean than plastic.
Some models in our test use inverter technology, which claims to cook more evenly. Inverter microwaves deliver continuous heating at reduced power. So, for example, if you select 50 percent power the microwave delivers a true 50 percent power, not a “pulsed” delivery of full power half the time (like most microwaves do). If you have a Bluetooth connection there’s also a risk your inverter microwave will interfere with it.