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How Do I Choose the Best Countertop Microwave?

Microwaves come in different sizes and powers to fit space and cooking needs.
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  • Written By: Lori Kilchermann
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 18 August 2014
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Choosing the best countertop microwave oven can be accomplished by first examining how and where you plan to use the oven. The size of the oven, as well as its power level, are other options to consider. A turntable, short-cut keys and color are other countertop microwave oven options that can sway your decision.

When selecting a countertop microwave, size is one of the first criterion that needs to be considered. If you have limited space, you may prefer a smaller microwave so you will have more counter space open for other uses than simply storing your microwave. On the other hand, you will also need to consider the types of foods you will cook on your microwave. To be able to make large, family-sized frozen dinners, you may need to select a larger version of a countertop microwave. Full-sized versions are typically 1.5 cubic feet (46cm) while the compact models can be 1/2 cubic feet (15cm) or smaller.

Choosing the appropriate cooking power is also crucial when selecting the best countertop microwave oven. Microwave oven wattage typically ranges from a low of 600 watts to a high of 1,200 watts, with 1,000 watts being average. A higher cooking power equates to faster reheating, thawing and cooking times. It is also important that the oven's power cord be long enough to reach an outlet from its desired location. It is typically not recommended to use extension cords on appliances that draw as much electrical power as microwaves typically do.

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A turntable is an added feature on many types of countertop microwave ovens. The turntable is typically a round, glass tray located in the bottom of the oven that slowly rotates as the food is cooked. This rotation enables microwaved foods to cook more evenly than if they were left in one place throughout the cooking process. You will also need to choose the color and finish of your microwave, and choices often include stainless steel, white and black.

The control panel on many countertop microwave ovens often sets the tone for how easy or how complicated the appliance will be to operate. Quick-cook or short-cut keys are often available for common cooking tasks, such as heating a cup of coffee or popping a bag of popcorn. Another common option is a one-minute button that allows you to quickly start the oven for a quick warm-up. Some oven also have sensors that will automatically shut the oven off when it senses the food has either finished cooking or reaches a desired temperature.

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literally45
Post 3

I'm definitely not the best consumer out there. When I was shopping for one, I just picked the largest I could find with a turntable. If I were to buy another one now though, I would do more research.

ddljohn
Post 2

@fBoyle-- Smart microwaves with sensors will cost more than simple ones, but I think it's totally worth it. You should aim for a middle range in terms of price because those are usually the best quality. The very cheap ones are weak in terms of power, cook food unevenly and cause issues like overcooking,as you described. The very expensive ones, on the other hand, are basically the same as middle-range microwaves but cost more because of the brand name.

As long as you don't get caught up on brand names, you will be fine. It's always a good idea to read online reviews of a microwave you're interested in before making the investment.

fBoyle
Post 1

I need a new countertop microwave. I'm not looking for anything fancy, but it shouldn't be very cheap either.

My main issue with microwaves is that my food usually splatters out and liquids boil over. I have to keep an eye on my food all the time and I'm tired of this. I suppose the best solution is getting a countertop microwave with a sensor. But do those cost a lot?

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