Buying Guide: Microwave Ovens

Many people use microwave ovens only for preheating or thawing, but you can use today’s multi-featured units to cook entire meals. And these units do it quickly and efficiently. Since microwave ovens cook food from the inside to the outside, your food almost always comes out fast, hot, and, perhaps most important, not burned!

Another benefit: vegetables cooked by microwave oven retain vitamins and minerals as well as vegetables cooked by steaming. Also, microwave ovens are very efficient in their use of electricity – because they heat only the food and nothing else.

Here’s how it works:

Inside the oven, a magnetron tube produces microwaves, which are radio waves. The waves enter the oven through an opening in the oven cavity. Since microwaves move in a straight line, many ovens employ turntables to rotate food so that it cooks evenly.

When buying a microwave, consider: * The number of people for whom you normally cook and whether the microwave oven will be your primary cooking source. You will need a larger and more powerful unit for a family than you will for just one person. * The size of your cookware. Will it fit in the oven? And if you are planning more advanced cooking, do you need defrost, cook, and keep-warm options? * The room you have for a microwave. In addition to countertop models, you may buy ovens that can be fitted under or built into a cabinet.

Capacity and Power Capacity | Power Compact (less than 0.8 cubic feet)| 500 - 800 watts Midsize (0.8 to 1.2 cubic feet) | 800 - 1000 watts Full-size (1.2 cubic feet and larger) | More than 1000 watts

Remember that cook times offered in recipes will vary based on the wattage of the microwave.

Additional Features

  • Turntables. As stated above, turntables rotate food for even cooking. And you even have the option of models with removable turntables for easy cleaning.
  • Convection. Combined with microwaves' speedy cooking properties, convection efficiently helps turn out delicious, crusty baked goods and juicy roasted meat.
  • Browning. Acts like the broiler in a conventional oven.
  • Probes/Sensors. Enable the oven to determine whether the dish is thoroughly cooked. Also help prevent overcooking.
  • Timers. Most models have timers that are used just like those on a conventional oven. They also take the form of buttons that are really preset timers for certain foods, like popcorn.

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