Even though humanity made many technological breakthroughs that defined the age more than the microwave, this nuclear age invention remains relevant even in the digital and information age of the 21st Century.
Having a microwave in your kitchen saves you time and effort. It allows you to enjoy various foods and drinks immediately and instantly. It truly serves as a modern marvel that saved you more minutes to hours than you can count on one hand.
With that in mind, what should be the Factors to Consider When Choosing Your New Microwave? What factors dictate that you’re getting an excellent microwave when push comes to shove?
Major Factors to Consider When Choosing Your New Microwave
You need to consider many factors when buying a new microwave, chief among them your kitchen size, the size of the microwave, and its specs. Also take note of price, wattage, reliability, and settings.
Regardless, when buying a microwave, make sure it fits the kitchen it’ll be placed on. A smaller kitchen means a lower budget anyway, so a smaller microwave with lower wattage or power level makes perfect sense in light of your income and what you can afford.
Kitchen Interior Aesthetics
If you value aesthetics, you also need to take into consideration how the whole kitchen interior will look along with your microwave and/or gas stove centerpiece.
You can either have the microwave hidden from view via cabinet or out in the open at the counter near the sink or dishwasher.
Make sure the color of your microwave matches the rest of the room, the extra gadgetry you have, and even the stainless steel utensils on your racks and shelves.
Read more: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Microwave Oven that Best Fits Your Needs
Placement and Functionality
Aside from starting with the same brand and finding a microwave of the same size as the one being replaced, you can also consider how the kitchen is used.
Which of the areas would microwave placement be most beneficial or not? The countertop real estate should be taken care of, so are you willing to spare it a microwave or not? From there, decide which wattage, presets, and capabilities on a microwave you can afford.
When looking for space-saving solutions with your microwave, you should make sure to get an over-the-range microwave with decent ventilation solutions.
The reason? It’s because microwaves replace the range hood that provides ventilation for your stove. The microwave should be designed to allow ventilation for itself and for the stove below it. You should also leave space for venting and power cords for hidden cabinet microwaves.
Further reading: Where to Put a Microwave in a Tiny Kitchen?
When It Comes to Making a Microwave Purchase
The price can only narrow the field so much. Obviously, if money is no object, you should then get the chance to pick a unit based more on an expanded array of specs and personal preferences.
You naturally should refuse to get a lemon of a cheap unit even if you can only afford a certain size and caliber of the microwave. The more you know the more ready you’ll be in buying the right unit.
A Brief Look at the History of Microwaves
Humanity invented microwaves relatively recently. Percy Spencer and Robert N. Hall invented the microwave using radar technology developed during World War II. It was then first sold in 1946 or a little after the war ended. They initially served as more of a luxury device to supplement standard ovens and gas ranges. However, as the populace demanded a lifestyle of instant gratification, the appliance soon became a necessity for most people.
97 percent of U.S. households possess at least one microwave. The average microwave offers 7 to 12 years of service.
There should be a point where every homeowner has to buy a new unit. Whether or not you need a microwave is a separate issue or debate altogether. Most Americans agree that it’s an indispensable item anyway.
Picking the Right Microwave
When perusing your available microwave options, you tend to limit your lens or focus on certain specs and the amount of money you have lying around to buy such an item.
You should also figure out the type of lifestyle you lead. Do you regularly microwave things like pizza rolls and TV dinners instead of cooking food on your own? Or do you cook food on the stove? Do you cook food with your microwave as well?
Replacing a Built-In Microwave
When replacing a built-in microwave, you at least have something to base your decision off, like the original microwave you intend to replace. You either pick to get the same model or an upgrade of the model.
You can also change it up altogether, but with the aesthetics and size of your kitchen in mind. Unless of course you already redesigned or remodeled the place, thus necessitating getting a microwave update.
Should You Go Big or Go Small with Your Microwave Purchase?
Hands down, consider the size of your microwave due to its importance as a factor. Before browsing a collection of microwave ovens, you should be aware of how much space you have in your kitchen then base your purchase on that reserved space. This way, you can pick a microwave size that best works for you and your specific kitchen type.
No matter which unit you decide to get, size matters. The amount of space available in your kitchen tends to dictate what size of microwave you get.
Just be aware that the smaller the microwave the less power it produces, which also translates to longer cooking, heating, reheating, and defrosting times.
In places like motor homes and trailer parks, the sacrifice in power proves necessary.
The allotted space dictates microwave size and, in turn, microwave power since that is directly proportional to size.
If you want a certain power level or wattage of microwave capable of quick heating and defrosting, you should find a place for that large unit like cabinet space or shelf. Why? It might hog all the space of your countertop the way Google Chrome hogs all the RAM of your computer when it’s open.
Over-the-Range vs. Countertop Microwaves
If you have an over-the-range or built-in microwave unit, then it saves you effort in that you have to take measurements to fit it exactly to the specs available.
From there, you got a shortlist of specific microwave sizes you can buy. You have more flexibility with a countertop model though. Just take into consideration the size of your countertop so that it doesn’t hog all the space.
Size Considerations for Motor Homes and Tiny Kitchens
Just because you live in a motor home doesn’t mean it couldn’t be a smart home. You can pair your camper or RV with an Echo device and a microwave like AmazonBasics, for example. With that in mind, what size of microwave should you get for smaller homes and, thusly, smaller kitchens? A 600 to 700-watt microwave, usually.
You may also like: The Best Small Microwaves (600 or 700-watt)
If you have a small microwave, make sure to at least have 0.6 to 0.7 cubic feet so that it can fit a normal-sized plate. Take into consideration the items you usually cook inside your appliance.
The size ranges for microwaves include:
- Compact: 0.5 to 0.8 cubic feet
- Mid-size: 0.9 to 1.3 cubic feet
- Family: 1.4 to 1.6 cubic feet
- Full-size: 1.8 to 2.2 cubic feet
Make sure the containers fit the microwave, although the portions of a typical TV dinner usually fit most microwaves, even the smallest ones.
If you wish to make pizza or casseroles with your unit, take note of capacity and pan size to ensure that they call fit enough to turn on the turntable of the device.
600 to 700 Watt Mini Microwaves
You can go for the smallest microwaves for camping like a 0.5 cubic feet countertop microwave while being mindful of the thing you can put inside it, but only for the context of camping.
For everyday life, like life at the trailer park or something, you need at least 0.6 to 0.7 cubic feet of space. With that in mind, even the smallest of microwaves should at least produce 600-700 watts of power to be usable in that context.
Smaller, “Smarter” Microwaves
Spending extra on a smart microwave allows you to get extra functionalities that sort of makeup for having an underpowered microwave usable mostly on smaller kitchens. For example, you can use the AmazonBasics Microwave with an Amazon Echo and just say “Alexa, cook 7 ounces of potato” so that Alexa can figure out the right setting for you instead of you having to figure things out. Besides this, AmazonBasics has 10 power levels to boot.
More About Wattage Relative to Kitchen Size
The rule of thumb is this: The higher the wattage the faster the cooking time. If you live in a smaller camper or apartment, you have to sacrifice size and power for space and convenience. Smaller microwaves offer smaller wattage while standard-sized, big-box microwaves (the size of small CRT TVs) offer the most wattage possible.
1,000 Watts or So for Standard-Sized Microwaves
While a “mini” microwave works fine at 600-700 watts, a standard-sized microwave can go from 1,000 watts beyond for faster cooking and higher power levels when push comes to shove.
They heat up cups of water in a minute, quicken your defrosting time, and cook your food with more power and precision when push comes to shove.
Standard-Sized Microwaves and Pricing
Lower wattage microwaves should only be bought if you have no choice and you lack space for bigger, more powerful microwaves by our estimation. However, they beat out their bigger counterparts with their pricing. Lower-wattage microwaves aren’t only smaller but also cheaper. They tend to be less reliable and slower at cooking or heating anything due to their lack of wattage though.
A Tug of War Between Power and Size
As mentioned above, the size of the microwave dictates power. If you can only afford a smaller microwave due to budget and kitchen real estate, then read reviews regarding the most powerful or settings-filled microwaves of its class.
Otherwise, if kitchen size and money prove to not be of any real concern, buy a reputable brand of the microwave with as powerful and as big an interior capacity as possible for your personal convenience.
Here are some frequently asked questions in regards to getting a new microwave now that we’ve covered the major considerations of such a minor kitchen investment.
What Price Should You Get Your Microwave For?
When buying any appliance or item, no matter how big or small they are, the price remains a priority. Cheaper microwaves come at $100 or lower. High-end ones can cost upwards of hundreds or thousands of dollars.
The price ranges of microwaves vary not only in terms of their size and wattage but also their brands and ultimate dependability. The more reputable the brand the higher the price would be, although you can also hunt for some hidden gems from lesser-known brands that equal huge savings when all is said and done.
Where Can You Find the Most Affordable Microwave Options?
The countertop category offers the most affordable options since it also serves as the most flexible and popular category to boot. However, if your kitchen design demands you use an over-the-range or built-in microwave instead, you have to bite the bullet and pay extra for that extra convenience.
Don’t worry, it’s worth it. The unit saves countertop space and makes your microwave look like it belongs in your kitchen aesthetically.
What Risks Can You Expect from Buying a Microwave for Less Than $100?
You can purchase a microwave that costs less than $100. The risk comes from getting an “underpowered” one, which means you should make it a point to at least get a 600-700-watt unit so you don’t end up with an overpriced Easy-Bake Oven.
If you have basic needs, a hundred bucks are enough to get a decent microwave. If you want an over-the-range model, you need to pay extra, up to thousands of dollars.
What Should You Look for When It Comes to Preprogrammed Settings?
Even though you think you’ll never use preprogrammed settings, the best microwaves have settings for everything, from soup to specialized meat dishes. A basic microwave at the very least offers a pizza/popcorn setting and a defrost setting.
For the rest, you’ll have to depend on the recipe book for microwaveable dishes (aside from TV or microwave dinners). The more advanced microwaves require you to use the user manual to know how to activate the digital display.
Which Is Better? Manual Programming or Preprogrammed Settings?
Most microwaves at least feature a popcorn setting to allow you to cook popcorn at the push of the button. The more advanced units tell you to choose settings based on the size of the popcorn bag, even. Defrost features in most microwave models, even smaller ones.
Manual programming exists to allow you to cook anything, but high-end microwaves offer preprogrammed settings for your convenience so that you’re not merely using your device for heating cups of water in a minute.
Why Is Inverter Technology Important for Certain Microwaves?
Although a rarity in most microwaves, inverter tech allows you to cook your food in an even manner at consistently low temperatures, like a slow cooker.
Where would this be useful? In mobile homes, RVs, and smaller kitchens using low-wattage mini microwaves, of course! Most microwaves focus on high wattage and high power levels for high-temperature cooking. Only convection microwaves offer as many cooking options and food types to cook.
Do You Need Child Lockout Features or Not?
The most likely scenario where you’d need child lockout features for your microwave involves microwaves placed at lower shelves accessible to your child.
You should keep the microwave from being used as an Easy Bake Oven by a bored kid using a childproof lockout feature. This involves requiring a passcode or password to be entered before activating the microwave like you would with your laptop.
This minimizes the risk of kids being hurt or microwaves being damaged by childish experiments.
When Should You Avail of Combo Appliances with the Microwave?
You can avail of multi-combo appliances like a 3-in-1 device from Nostalgia Electronics that combines the microwave with an oven toaster and coffeemaker. These serve as the best option for maximizing your countertop space.
You can also avail of them when remodeling your kitchen and you wish to get an over-the-range microwave for installation. You can even avail of a fridge that has a microwave on it to save you time and money when it comes to installation.
Final Things to Consider
Take time when shopping for a microwave. Don’t buy the first unit that catches your eye. Instead, make a shortlist and get the absolute perfect fit for your needs and budget relative to your kitchen size.
Microwaves, in the grand scheme of things, offer only a slight snag on your budget. In other words, as a financial investment, microwaves prove to be relatively minor.
As a homeowner lacking such equipment, you should be picky and go with short-listed microwaves you can afford, has all the right specs, fits right in your kitchen, and offers the best aesthetics relative to your home.
Take time and browse a given shop, whether the online or brick-and-mortar type, before going for a given brand or type of microwave.
- Brittany Burke, “7 Things to Know About Buying a New Microwave“, TheKitchn.com, March 31, 2017
- Kristen Hicks, “How to Buy the Best Microwave“, CompactAppliance.com, July 14, 2016
- “Microwave oven“, Wikipedia, Retrieved January 28, 2021