Choosing the Best Microwave Oven for Your Kitchen – A Comprehensive Buying Guide

A microwave oven is an indispensable time-saving appliance in most kitchens today. But with so many models on the market with different features, it can be overwhelming to pick the right microwave that suits your needs. This comprehensive guide will walk you through how to choose the best microwave oven by comparing top products, evaluating key features like capacity and power, understanding different configurations and types, providing tips for optimal use and care, and answering frequently asked buying questions.

Based on in-depth product research and reviews, these top 5 microwaves stand out for their combination of performance, features, reliability, and value:

1. Panasonic Genius Sensor Microwave

  • Dimensions: 15.5 x 20 x 12 inches
  • Capacity: 1.2 cu ft
  • Power: 1200W
  • Technology: Inverter, Genius Sensor
  • Features: Auto cook, turbo defrost, keep warm

This popular Panasonic model reliably cooks and reheats with its patented inverter technology that delivers steady power instead of pulsating blasts. The Genius Sensor adjusts time and power based on food moisture levels for perfect results every time.

2. Toshiba Smart Countertop Microwave

  • Dimensions: 20.5 x 17.1 x 14.1 inches
  • Capacity: 1.6 cu ft
  • Power: 1100W
  • Technology: Inverter
  • Features: Alexa connectivity, smart sensor, mute button

With the ability to connect to Alexa and smartphone apps, this Toshiba microwave offers ultimate convenience and control. The smart sensor simplifies cooking with automatic adjustments, and the large 1.6 cu ft capacity fits bigger dishes.

3. Breville Quick Touch Convection Microwave

  • Dimensions: 20.5 x 17.5 x 12.8 inches
  • Capacity: 1.0 cu ft
  • Power: 1100W
  • Technology: Convection cooking
  • Features: Auto menus, presets, sensor IQ

This Breville model stands out for its brushed stainless steel convection cooking technology that allows you to bake, roast, and broil. The intuitive easy-touch buttons and auto menus make cooking simple.

4. GE Over-the-Range Microwave

  • Dimensions: 16 x 29 7/8 x 15 3/4 inches
  • Capacity: 1.6 cu ft
  • Power: 1000W
  • Technology: Auto and time defrost
  • Features: 300 CFM ventilation system, multiple cooking stages

This GE over-the-range microwave maximizes kitchen space with ventilation and cooking built into one. At 1.6 cu ft it accommodates large dishes, and the multi-stage cooking helps meal programming.

5. Sharp Countertop Microwave Drawer

  • Dimensions: 23 1/2 x 22 7/8 x 15 9/32 inches
  • Capacity: 1.2 cu ft
  • Power: 1000W
  • Technology: Interactive display
  • Features: Drawer design, carousel turntable, touch controls

Sharp’s drawer microwave design slides out of cabinets for a hidden look. The touch panel is easy to use, and the carousel turntable provides even heating throughout the 1.2 cu ft capacity interior.

Key Microwave Oven Features and Considerations

Keep the following features in mind when shopping for a microwave:

  • Size and capacity – Consider countertop dimensions and cooking needs. Over 1.0 cu ft accommodates most uses.
  • Power – 1000W is ideal for rapid reheating and flexibility. 700-900W works for basic needs.
  • Interior – Stainless steel resists staining and cleans easily. Ceramic and plastic are other options.
  • Controls – Models with dials, touch panels, or push buttons should offer quick, intuitive use.
  • Functions – Look for preset cook modes, multi-stage programming, and automatic options like inverter tech.
  • Features – Helpful extras include mute buttons, eco mode, turntable on/off, interior lighting.
  • Design – Stainless steel dominates, but black, white, and unique finishes are available.
  • Noise – Check reviews and specs for quieter models if noise is an issue.
  • Cost – Prices range from $40 for small basic microwaves to $1500 for large convection models.

Types of Microwave Ovens

There are several microwave configuration types:

Countertop Microwaves

The most common type sits on a kitchen counter or mounts to a cabinet. Offers flexibility in placing it where convenient. Usually budget-friendly.

Over-the-Range Microwaves

Installs above the cooktop to conserve counter space. Has built-in ventilation systems and range hoods. Requires professional installation.

Built-In Microwaves

Built-in microwaves embed within cabinetry for a seamless look. Require precise cut-out dimensions and installation.

Drawer Microwaves

Drawer microwaves mount under the counter and pull out for access. Provide a hidden integrated look when not in use.

Convection Microwaves

Use a convection fan to cook and brown foods like a traditional oven. Tend to be more expensive but offer great cooking flexibility.

Helpful Microwave Oven Features and Functions

Modern microwaves offer an array of operation modes:

  • Microwave cooking – Traditional reheating, defrosting, and cooking using microwave technology.
  • Convection cooking – Uses heated air circulation to bake and roast foods.
  • Grill/broil – Employs top heating elements for crisping, browning, and grilling.
  • Inverter technology – Provides continuous delivery of microwave power rather than pulsing. Cooks more evenly.
  • Sensors – Automatically detect moisture and temperature and adjust cook times accordingly.
  • Defrost modes – Loosens frozen items based on programmed defrosting algorithms.
  • Multi-stage cooking – Allows programming sequences of modes, cook times, and power levels.
  • Preset buttons – One-touch settings for foods like pizza, potatoes, beverages, popcorn.
  • Microwave power levels – Allows adjusting microwave intensity for different food types.

Microwave Oven Use and Care Tips

Follow these guidelines to use and maintain your microwave properly:

  • Always read the owner’s manual thoroughly and follow instructions.
  • Do not run the microwave empty or with metal inside, which can damage it.
  • Allow adequate ventilation space both above and around the unit.
  • Use only microwave-safe cookware and accessories. Never put metal in microwave.
  • Keep the interior clean by wiping down walls and turntable after use.
  • Replace turntables, racks, grease filters and charcoal filters as specified.
  • Don’t place microwave near edges of counters for safety.
  • Schedule annual servicing to keep microwave in top working condition.

Following manufacturer care guidelines prolongs the life of your appliance.

Shopping Tips for Buying a Microwave Oven

Use these tips when researching and choosing a new microwave:

  • Carefully measure counters, cabinets, or walls when sizing for built-in models.
  • Read product reviews and compare specs of models in your price range.
  • Consider both current and future cooking needs when choosing capacity and power.
  • For over-the-range ovens, ensure adequate ductwork for ventilation exists.
  • Test the controls and open the door on floor models in stores.
  • Ask about warranty terms, ideally 1+ years of coverage.
  • Look for certified refurbished models to save money.
  • Stick to reputable brands for reliability and customer support.

Taking time to shop smart ensures you select the optimal microwave for your cooking habits.

Frequently Asked Questions About Microwave Ovens

How do microwaves compare to using the oven or stovetop?

Microwaves cook extremely quickly but only heat the outer inch of food, so stirring is needed. Ovens heat food from the outside in. Microwaves won’t brown or crisp. Boiling on the stovetop cooks evenly. The fastest method depends on the food.

What happens if I run my microwave empty?

Without food to absorb the microwaves, an empty microwave can seriously damage the magnetron tube. Never run a microwave empty more than briefly to check functionality before adding food.

Can I repair a microwave myself?

Basic tasks like replacing lights or turntable rollers can be DIYed. But repairs involving cooktops, electrical components, or microwave generators should always be left to qualified professionals given the risk of electrical shock.

How long should a microwave oven last?

With proper maintenance and care, a good quality microwave should last 8-10 years on average. Higher-end models with convection and sensors can even last 15+ years. Signs it may be time to replace include frequent issues, rust, difficulty opening the door, and uneven cooking.

What accessories do I need for my microwave?

Must-have accessories include microwave-safe cookware and covers. Helpful extras are steamers, roasting pans, browning dishes, and microwave popcorn poppers. Specialty racks allow multi-level cooking.

Choosing the Perfect Microwave Oven for You

I hope this comprehensive guide has provided the information you need to find your ideal new microwave oven. Carefully considering the size, power, features, configuration, price, and brands recommended will ensure you select the right match for your cooking habits and kitchen style. Invest in a quality microwave from a top brand, and with the proper care you’ll enjoy many years of convenient, simple cooking. Here’s to fast, delicious meals and easy clean up!
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