Features to Consider When Buying a Microwave Oven

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A microwave oven has become an essential kitchen appliance in most homes today. It offers the convenience of quick heating and cooking food items. With a multitude of options available, choosing the right microwave oven can be an overwhelming task. You need to consider various features and factors to find the best microwave oven that meets your requirements.

This guide will walk you through the key features to look for when buying a new microwave oven.

Key Takeaways

  • For most families, look for 1.1 to 1.6 cubic feet capacity. Get 0.5 cubic feet for singles and 2.0 for large families.**
  • Choose minimum 800 watts microwave power for regular cooking. More watts means faster cooking.
  • Pick convenient features like sensor cooking, presets, child lock etc. as per your needs.
  • Consider the type – solo, grill or convection based on your cooking requirements.
  • Look for user-friendly controls and clear digital display.
  • Check dimensions to ensure a good countertop fit and interior capacity.
  • Opt for reputed brands offering good warranties and service.
  • Set a budget and compare models that offer maximum features within it.

Microwave Oven Capacity

The capacity or interior cubic footage is the first thing to consider when purchasing a microwave oven. The capacity is measured in liters and determines how much food you can cook at one time. Here is an overview of different capacities suitable for different requirements:

  • Small 0.5 to 1.0 cubic feet (10 to 20 liters) – Ideal for singles, dorm rooms or office kitchens. It can accommodate a dinner plate or a bowl.
  • Medium 1.1 to 1.5 cubic feet (22 to 30 liters) – Suitable for small families with 2-3 members. It can cook meals for a small gathering.
  • Large 1.6 to 2.0 cubic feet (30 to 40 liters) – Best for large families with 4+ members. It can handle family-sized meals easily.

Consider your family size, cooking needs and kitchen space to choose the right capacity. If you regularly cook in bulk or reheat large plates, opt for a higher capacity.

Microwave Power Levels

The power output of the microwave oven determines how fast and evenly your food gets cooked. It is measured in watts, typically ranging from 600 to 1200 watts. Here is what the power levels denote:

  • 600 to 700 Watts – Good for reheating and defrosting small items. Not suitable for cooking.
  • 800 to 900 Watts – Ideal for regular cooking and reheating larger quantities.
  • 1000 to 1200 Watts – Best for fast and even cooking and reheating. Recommended for large families.

Higher the wattage, quicker will be the cooking process. Look for a minimum of 800 watts if you regularly cook full meals in the microwave.

Power Efficient Models

Many new microwave ovens come with eco modes that consume less energy and save electricity costs. Convection microwaves with inverter technology are more power efficient as they deliver a continuous regulated stream of power.

Check the energy rating before deciding. Choosing an Energy Star certified or high-efficiency model can make a significant impact on your electricity bill over time.

Microwave Types

There are three main types of microwave ovens based on their heating technologies:

Solo Microwave

This is the most basic and affordable type. A solo microwave uses microwave energy to heat and cook food. It is ideal for reheating and defrosting and doing basic cooking. Solo models are lightweight and compact.

Grill Microwave

In addition to a microwave cooking feature, grill microwaves have a heating element that can brown and crisp food. The grilling function gives you the flexibility to make a wider variety of foods like pizza, grilled sandwiches, and au gratins.

Convection Microwave

A convection microwave oven combines a convection heating element with microwave technology. The convection function circulates hot air like a traditional oven, allowing you to roast, bake and broil food to perfection. Convection microwaves are suitable for more advanced cooking.

Think about your cooking needs and choose the type accordingly. If you want to do more than just reheating and defrosting, go for a grill or convection model.

Microwave Features and Settings

Look for microwaves with features and pre-programmed settings that add convenience and versatility. Here are some useful features to look for:

  • Sensor cooking – Automatically adjusts time and power level by detecting moisture released by the food.
  • Pre-set menus – Comes with pre-programmed settings for one-touch cooking of common foods like popcorn, pizza, potato, beverages etc.
  • Multi-stage cooking – Allows you to program different cooking modes/power levels in succession for complex recipes.
  • Keep warm setting – Maintains cooked food at an ideal serving temperature.
  • Defrost settings – Defrost food items quickly by entering weight.
  • Child safety lock – Prevents accidental use by children.
  • Mute option – Silences beeping alerts.
  • Timer functions – Help time and track the cooking process.
  • Turntable on/off – Allows cooking without turntable rotation.

Advanced models also include features like smart diagnosis, remote monitoring apps and voice control. Consider which features will be most useful for your cooking needs.

Easy Controls and Displays

Look for an intuitive and easy-to-use control panel and display. Models with touch panels, dials, and flat membrane panels are easier to clean than those with buttons. Digital displays allow accurate tracking of settings. Some high-end models also have backlit LED displays for visibility.

For safety, the control panel should be on the outside rather than inside. Choosing a model with simple and straightforward controls will make using the appliance convenient.

Size and Design

Consider the dimensions of the microwave to ensure a good fit for your kitchen countertop and interior capacity. Measure the height to ensure young children can access it safely.

Also look at design aspects like door opening style – side-opening doors provide better visibility and access than bottom-opening ones. Curved interiors are easier to clean. Choose finishes like stainless steel that are fingerprint-proof and easy to maintain. Ventilation holes at the top or side help prevent condensation build-up inside.

Noise Levels

Check how noisy the appliance is while operating. Microwaves with higher wattage tend to be louder. Newer inverter microwaves are quieter due to continuous low humming instead of loud on-off cycles. Look for decibel ratings and try testing before you buy.

Warranty and Brand

Reputable brands generally offer longer warranties of around 1 to 2 years. Extended warranties can also be purchased for parts and labor coverage. Choose brands known for quality, durability and good after-sales service.


Microwave ovens range widely in price from $50 to $500 based on the above features. Determine how much you are willing to spend and look for models that offer the best value for money according to your needs. Setting a budget will narrow down your options.

With the right considerations, you can find a microwave oven that suits your cooking requirements within your budget. Weigh these factors carefully before deciding.

FAQs on Buying a Microwave Oven

What size microwave do I need?

Choose a microwave capacity of 0.5 cu. ft. for singles, 1.1-1.5 cu. ft. for families of 2-3, and 1.6 cu. ft. and above for families of 4 or more. Consider your cooking needs and space availability.

Does wattage matter in a microwave?

Yes, higher wattage between 800-1200W means faster and more even cooking. Go for minimum 800W for regular cooking.

What are the best microwave oven brands?

Some top microwave brands are Panasonic, LG, Samsung, GE, Whirlpool, Sharp, and Bosch. Choose a reputable brand for durability.

Is a convection microwave better than regular?

Yes, convection microwaves offer greater functionality as they can bake and brown food like a traditional oven. Good for advanced cooking.

How do I choose the right size microwave?

Measure your countertop space. Opt for 0.5 cu.ft. for dorms/offices, 1.1-1.5 cu.ft for small families, 1.6+ cu.ft. for large families. Check interior capacity as per cooking needs.

What features should I look for in a microwave?

Look for sensor cooking, presets, multistage cooking, child lock, timer, defrosting modes, touch panels, interior light and clear display.

Does microwave wattage increase electricity bill?

Microwaves use less energy than conventional ovens. Higher wattage microwaves consume slightly more electricity but also cook faster. New inverter models are more energy-efficient.

How to choose between grill, solo and convection microwaves?

Solo is basic, grill adds browning/crisping, convection offers baking/roasting functions. Choose as per your cooking needs – reheating, defrosting, grilling or baking.

What should I check when buying a used microwave?

Test all functions, inspect for interior damage, check control panel/door, ensure turntable rotates smoothly and magnetron fan works properly. See if warranty is transferable.

Does microwave capacity include turntable space?

No, stated capacity refers to total interior cubic feet/litres. Turntable takes up some space. Always opt for a higher capacity than your cooking portions.


Purchasing a microwave oven requires carefully evaluating your needs and priorities. With a wide range of options, it can be challenging to determine the right capacity, power, features and price point. Keep your cooking requirements, family size, budget and kitchen space in mind. Measure your countertop area beforehand. Optimal wattage enables faster cooking so look for 800W+ models.

Convenient auto-cook functions add value. Weigh size, usability and brand reputation as well. Setting a budget helps narrow down choices. Take time to compare different models to find the best microwave delivering the functionality and performance your home needs. An informed buying decision will ensure long-term satisfaction.

By Rosie Elliott

I’m Rosie. I’m a professional chef with experience in Western, Mediterranean, and Italian cuisine. I’ve been cooking for over 15 years, and I have two daughters that keep me busy!

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