How to choose the best microwave features

Lynn Wright / 26 May 2016

Deciding which microwave features are worth paying extra for can be tricky. We guide you through the essential microwave features and those you can live without.



Microwaves are great for busy people. From defrosting and reheating, to cooking and even grilling and baking, many microwaves are true multitasking kitchen essentials. But with so many different models on offer with a wide range features, it can be a struggle deciding which one is right for you. This guide explains the key features you should consider when choosing the perfect microwave.

For more on choosing the perfect model, see Tips for buying a new microwave.

Best microwave features to look for

Power Microwave power is measured in watts, and most microwaves range from 700W to 1200W. The higher the wattage, the faster and more evenly your food will cook. Typical power is around 900W, so look for a model with at least that as a maximum.

Size As a microwave will sit on the kitchen counter, make sure you measure before you buy a microwave to ensure it doesn’t use up valuable counter space that you need for food prep.

Capacity A microwave’s internal capacity is measured in litres, with models offering anything from a compact 17L to a whopping 32L. For a family microwave, look for a model offering at least a 27L size as this will have a larger turntable and enough interior height to cook a Sunday roast or two dishes at once.

Convection cooking and grilling Some microwaves combine a fan oven and grill with microwave power. Perfect for those short of kitchen space, a combination microwave helps speed up cooking times with the addition of circulating hot air and lets you brown and crisp food under the grill.

Microwave only These basic microwaves are ideal for simple tasks such as cooking porridge, jacket potatoes and ready meals, heating soup and defrosting frozen items.

Pre-set programmes Look for a microwave that has a number of pre-set programmes that take the guesswork out of cooking, reheating and defrosting popular foods.

Automatic cooking and defrosting Automatic modes let you enter the weight of the food and then leave the microwave to work how long is needed to cook or defrost the food safely.

Sensor cooking Some microwaves have sensors that measure the oven’s humidity and the moisture in your food, then automatically adjust the power level and time to ensure food is cooked perfectly.

Inverter technology An option on some expensive, high-end microwaves, this technology uses a consistent microwave power level to ensure food is cooked evenly, helping to improve texture and flavour.

Chaos defrost Random pulses of microwave energy are used to speed up defrosting.

Removable racks Some large microwaves come with these so you can cook several items at once.

Oven lining Most microwaves have smooth interiors that can be simply wiped clean. With combination microwaves, look for one with catalytic or pyrolytic liners that are self-cleaning.

Child lock This safety features stops young children from accidentally starting or interfering with the microwave. 

Ready to buy the perfect microwave for you, see our guide to the Five best microwaves.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.