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Tips for buying a new microwave

Lynn Wright / 01 October 2015

When shopping for a new microwave, the sheer number of models and options available can be overwhelming. Our guide will help you choose the perfect microwave for you.

A microwave is an asset for busy people
A microwave is an asset for busy people

Microwaves are a boon for busy people. Easy and convenient, they’re great for defrosting frozen foods, reheating leftovers, warming  milk, cooking jacket potatoes, popping popcorn and more. Using radio waves to activate molecules, a microwave heats and cooks food  much faster than conventional gas or electric ovens. And as they heat only the food itself and not the oven space, they use less  energy and are cheaper to run than standard ovens.

Which microwave is best for you?

Microwave-only models are the perfect choice for simple defrosting, heating and reheating tasks. There’s plenty of basic microwaves to choose from, with prices starting at around £40 for a supermarket own-brand model.

Grill microwaves offer all the convenience of microwave cooking with the addition of a grill element, so they can brown and crisp your food. Grill microwaves are more expensive than basic models, however.

Combination microwaves combine microwave cooking, convection heating, a grill and, in some models, a steam function. As with a conventional oven, they can heat, roast, crisp and brown food, with the additional benefit of defrosting and heating using microwave energy. Perfect for small kitchens, combi microwaves have lots of features and pre-programmed settings that makes preparing meals easy. But expect to pay a price premium for this functionality.

Built-in microwaves help give your kitchen a sleek, streamlined look and free up worktop space. They come in a range of sizes and models types, and often have a pull-down handle for easy access. They’re more expensive than free-standing models, and require installation.

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Size and power

If you need a family model, opt for a microwave of at least 30L, which can handle large dishes or a Sunday roast. If worktop space is limited, a small 20L model will be perfect for heating up soup, milk or drinks. Microwave power is measured in watts, and most microwaves range from 600W to 1200W. The higher the wattage, the faster the cooking time. 

Using your microwave

• Use only microwave-safe containers. Heatproof glass, non-porous ceramics and some plastics are suitable but avoid using metal containers or tableware. 

• To ensure even cooking and avoid cold spots, stir food halfway through the cooking time.

• Cover food to prevent splatters and speed cooking, but don’t seal the dish as steam needs to be able to escape. 

• Look for a microwave with a child lock if there are young family members around, as this will stop them opening or starting the microwave.

• Modern pacemakers are better shielded from radio wave interference, so there’s no risk when using a microwave. If in doubt though, check with your doctor before using a microwave.

• Basic microwaves are easy to keep clean. Fill a bowl half-full with water and add a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice. Place inside the microwave and heat for 5 minutes to help steam off stubborn marks, then wipe the inside with a damp cloth. Combination microwaves can get as dirty as conventional ovens, so look for one that has self-cleaning catalytic linings that burn off food splashes during cooking.

Read our tips for cleaning a microwave

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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.

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