Microwave technology allows you to heat food more rapidly than cooking them on the stove or baking them in the oven by short-frequency radiowaves reacting to water and particles within the dish. It’s even capable of turning frozen or cold food into thawed food care of the defrost function.
The more watts the microwave has the more evenly and the faster it cooks your food compared to convection or conventional ovens.
How to Find the Microwave Wattage?
Check the manufacturer’s website, the owner’s manual, the serial number plate on the back of the oven, or the inside of the oven’s door in order to find out the wattage of the microwave in question. To estimate the wattage, do a “Time to Boil” test.
The quickness of the microwave when it comes to boiling water helps determine its wattage. In order to do the test, you need to do the following:
- Add 8 fluid ounces or 1 cup of water in a 2-cup glass measure.
- Put in ice cubs and stir until the tepid water becomes ice cold.
- Remove the ice cube and pour any water that’s in excess of 8 fluid ounces.
- Set the microwave to the highest power level and at 4 minutes.
- Look at the water through the window and see how long it takes to boil.
“Time to Boil” Wattage Chart
Here’s a chart outlining how long it takes water to boil and its estimated wattage.
|Time to Boil||Estimated Wattage|
|Less than 2 minutes||1 kilowatt or more|
|In 2½ minutes||800 watts to 900 watts|
|In 3 minutes||650 watts to 700 watts|
|In 3-4 minutes||300 to 500 watts|
If the wattage of your microwave is lower than the ideal wattage mentioned on the recipe or food package, you’ll need to add a few minutes to properly cook the food and get a safe internal temperature that’s even all throughout.
Cold spots are dangerous on food because that’s where bacteria can form and contaminate your food that requires proper cooking every time. A food thermometer should be handy in ensuring the internal temperature of food.
What’s the Best Wattage for a Microwave?
More often than not, the cubic feet capacity of your microwave tends to somewhat match its wattage or power. For example, 1-kilowatt microwaves tend to have 1 cubic foot of capacity, or at least it’s within that range. A 700-watt microwave usually has 0.7 cubic feet of capacity and so forth.
The National Kitchen and Bath Association recommends microwaves operate from 750 watts to 1.2 kilowatts in order to effectively cook. Anything below that, like 600 watts or so, is more for leftover reheating than cooking.
The Capacity and Wattage Connection
It makes sense that the power level matches the capacity of the microwave. Larger microwave interiors require more power or wattage in order to effectively cook your food. It’s also a waste of power for a microwave to have smaller capacities if it has a kilowatt of power.
You should purchase a microwave with as high wattage as possible in order to cook your food quicker and more evenly when push comes to shove. Most microwave recipes since the 1980s require 700 to 800 watts of power since it was the former consumer standard.
What Sort of Microwave Should You Buy?
When looking for a microwave, you need one that either has a rotating turntable or rotating antennas if it’s a flatbed microwave. A combo microwave oven comes with removable cooking racks for its convection mode. It should have reheat mode and auto defrost mode as well.
A countertop freestanding microwave can be placed anywhere, from the table to the countertop (hence the term). They’re ideal for kitchens with loads of countertop space, they’re relatively affordable, and they’re quite portable.
It can also double as an over-the-counter microwave. However, it lacks a vent compared to non-countertop microwaves like actual built-in microwaves and over-the-range (OTR) microwaves.
Over-the-Counter Microwave without Vent
An over-the-counter microwave (without vent) can be mounted under a wall cabinet but lacks ventilation abilities. They can even be installed within cabinet space in order to free up your counter space. The trim or hanging kit for this is typically sold separately.
You can turn them into built-in or cabinet microwaves as long as they’re about the size of the cabinet they’re occupying and there’s 2-inch of free space around the microwave save its bottom.
A built-in microwave can either be a converted countertop microwave or a bodiless microwave you can install inside your deep cabinets using the built-in trim kit that’s sold separately or as a package with your built-in.
To ensure proper ventilation, your cabinet should have space around the edges of about 2 inches or so. Otherwise, your microwave will end up overheating.
Microwave Oven Drawers
The newest type of microwave is the microwave oven drawer. You can install this microwave type below your counter. They can be opened like a standard drawer automatically or manually. This stores your microwave away easily when not in use.
You might need a professional in order to properly install this microwave type unless you have high credentials when it comes to DIY home renovation, building, and repair projects.
Last but not least is the over-the-range (OTR microwave). It’s a unique type of microwave because it’s mounted over your oven or stove range, replacing the hood vent and doubling as one as well as offering standard microwave functions.
Also known as microhood, it’s placed above a cooktop range. It’s not as effective at kitchen ventilation as a genuine vent hood. However, it makes up for it by also being a microwave. It provides enough venting for a standard 30-inch range.
It’s capable of exhausting the air to the outside of the home or recirculating the air.
The Final Judgment
Before choosing a microwave oven, make sure it’s the right wattage for your needs. If you simply need to pop in ready-to-heat microwaveable food from the convenience store or grocery, you don’t need lots of wattage or space. A mini microwave with 700 watts of power will suffice.
However, if you wish to make entire meals through microwave power, you’ll need programmable options, extra cubic feet of capacity, and a medium-duty to heavy-duty microwave with more than 1 kilowatt of power. Preferably, get a convection combo microwave.
- Microwave Buying Guide“, AJ Madison (AJMadison.com), Retrieved July 29, 2021
- “How do you determine the wattage of your microwave oven?“, AskUSDA.gov, July 17, 2019