Microwaves are super convenient, energy efficient, and they make meal times faster (and more fun). But it’s not just about the humble countertop models anymore – combi-ovens are hitting the market: giving people the option to opt for a kitchen microwave that offers them much more than just a simple microwave for heating up food.
These appliances can include a convection oven, an electric grill, a steam oven, and a microwave all in one!
Though still convenient and fast, modern microwaves are getting a lot more sophisticated than cheap and ready-made meals. Microwaves have become part of the healthy convenience food revolution; they offer busy people the chance to make excellent home cooked meals from scratch with less hassle and stress.
Microwaves come in gorgeous and stylish designs, including built-in wall options that don’t look out of place in luxury kitchens.
How do microwaves work?
Microwaves heat food through radio waves that are absorbed into food through water and fat molecules and converted into heat. Microwaves only heat up the molecules inside food, not the actual microwaves themselves so they are efficient and deliver a very even cooking result.
Power & size
Microwaves’ power is always measured in watts, with most models ranging from about 700 W to 1100 W. It’s generally better to favour microwaves with a higher wattage as they are going to cook food more efficiently.
Just like ovens, microwaves’ internal capacity is always measured in litres. Microwaves come in all different shapes and sizes, from 17 L up to 32 L. For a family, around 27 L is ideal.
It’s a good idea to take advantage of your microwave’s pre-programmed functions and settings. You will usually find a few basic ones like defrost and reheat on all models – but more sophisticated microwaves have dozens of pre-programmed ones (and you can even programme your own). The functions are there to help you get the most out of cooking with your microwave.
- You must never ever put any metal utensils or items in the microwave – including traces of aluminium foil.
- Most countertop microwaves need space around them in order to be able to regulate their heat and cool down.
- Some plastics, ceramics and glassware are not microwave safe – always check for any markings if you are not sure.
- You can get child lock features – good idea if you have kids running about.
- When heating food – always leave it to stand for a few minutes after you take it out, as the food will be burning hot when it first comes out. Always vent food when you are heating it up so that steam can escape.
- Microwaves aren’t suitable for sterilising baby bottles or utensils.
There any many different styles and types – from a simple countertop one to an integrated combination-oven with loads of complex functions.
This is the classic one –it won’t have any fancy extras like a grill or a convection oven. A simple microwave can still do a lot of things though – it can defrost, reheat, cook, and even steam food. These microwaves tend to come in countertop models.
Microwave + Grill
Adding a grill to your appliance is a great idea because it helps you save kitchen space and is great for when you just want to crisp something up fast. Sometimes you can use the microwave and grill functions simultaneously.
Combination-ovens can be simple countertop affairs, or they can include a plethora of complex oven functions like steam, convection, grill, and microwave all rolled into one. It is a very energy-efficient and cost-effective option, and it’s becoming an increasingly common kitchen solution. Especially in small kitchen spaces, these can be a lifesaver.
Built-in / Integrated microwave
These super stylish microwaves sit in kitchen walls and can be mounted at eye-level – making for a sleek and contemporary kitchen look. They are more pricey than the countertop models though.
Are microwaves bad for you / Dangerous?
Not at all. Modern microwaves are very safe and secure. There have been some historic claims that microwaves are dangerous and that they cause cancer – but these claims are unsubstantiated. If properly stored, installed and used, you should have no issues with your appliance whatsoever.
What’s the difference between a microwave and a combination-oven?
A combination-oven offers many different cooking functions (including a microwave), whereas a microwave only offers one. They vary greatly in price, size and functions, but generally they are cost-effective and cheap to run. If you are used to a more traditional oven, it may take you awhile to get to grips with how to use one – but it’s worth it!
What are the benefits of a built-in combination-oven?
Built-in options are more durable, flexible, and stylish than more traditional countertop microwaves. They allow you to install your microwave within your overall kitchen design, and help keep your kitchen worktops clean from appliances.
How to get a good deal
The first thing to do is to shop around and decide on what type of appliance you need. Go for trusted brands or appliances that have received favourable reviews in user tests. Try to pack as many functionalities and features as you can into one appliance – that’s often the most effective way to save money in the long run. Buy kitchen appliances during sales whenever you can to get a good deal, but beware of sales items that you can’t return, or that have shorter warranty periods.
Cleaning and care
- Be careful with water around your microwave and remove any extra parts like turntables carefully before cleaning.
- It’s a good idea to regularly clean the inside of your appliance as it can get splattered and dirty when you heat food up fast.
- Make sure that your appliance has sufficient breathing room around it so that is stays well-ventilated and NEVER store things on top of it.
Now you’ve got your fast-cooking microwave sorted, shall we check out our slow cooker reviews next?