Today’s microwave ovens are getting fancier and more versatile, offering various special features that promise quick, satisfactory cooking results for nearly any type of food. It can be overwhelming for a shopper who’s trying to pick out a new microwave to decide which features are necessary and which are cool or spiffy but not really necessary. What follows is a brief run-down of some of the most essential microwave functions you should look for and why they’re important.
The turntable, or carousel, of a microwave is a plate, usually glass or ceramic, that rotates so the food placed on it heats evenly. Some people appreciate an on/off switch for the turntable when they want to heat up a large pan and don’t want it hitting the sides of the wall as it rotates.
Racks give you even more space for microwaving dishes. For the most versatility and to make the most of your microwave space, adjustable or removable racks are really helpful.
Ask yourself what you primarily use the microwave for. Do you commonly use it for popcorn, baked potatoes, soup, pizza, and similar food items? If so, you may want a microwave that offers one-touch sensor buttons that automatically detect how much time and power these foods need to cook properly.
A microwave’s wattage determines how quickly the food heats. Some have a wattage as low as 300, but these are not very powerful. To get the most efficient cooking power, look for models with at least 1,000 watts. Even some moderately priced microwaves have high wattage levels, so you don’t have to compromise performance for cost.
If your microwave isn’t vented to the outside, then it needs a filter to recirculate air and remove steam and odor. Charcoal filters are a common accessory.
Different power levels
Most microwaves offer up to 10 power levels, but what does that mean exactly? Changing the power level does not actually alter the intensity of the radiation, but determines how often the magnetron is turned on (i.e., 10 percent of the time for every power level). Following the power level table found in the owner’s manual will help you optimize your cooking experience.
Defrosting frozen meats and vegetables usually takes time and can often be unpredictable. No one likes it when the food comes out mushy in some parts and still frozen in others. A good microwave should include a quick defrost setting that thaws food evenly. Even better are models that determine the best defrost time and power level based on the weight of the food you enter in.
Whether you want a convection oven that bakes dishes and pizzas or a basic model that you use for popcorn and quick reheats, there’s a microwave out there with just the right features for you.
|Brittany Rowland researches new developments in Appliances, Kitchen and CE products features with a vigor to which few would aspire… but someone has to do it. See more about Brittany
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