The microwave is now far from basic models that simply defrost and heat food – although you can still get these so-called solo microwaves. Today’s models combine microwaves with grill, barbecue and oven. Many have built-in recipes with menus, and some perform steam cooking and two-step functions such as defrosting and cooking in one go.
There are two current trends you should be aware of. First, crispy plates – a relatively new innovation, where the grill cooks from the top, while microwaves heat the metal pan to cook food from below. This means that pizzas, pies and quiches are cooked quickly and efficiently with a nice, crispy underside instead of floppy discs.
The other big trend is towards flatbed constructions instead of floppy disks. This means that you can accommodate clumsy (and larger) dishes and have more space. Turntables also provide uniformity, and the latest technology helps to ensure that even flatbed models cook evenly.
There is no minimum (or maximum) you have to look for, but more watts means faster cooking. So look for 900 watts or more. Anything under 20 liters feels behaviorally tight, but that’s fine if you’re a smaller household or don’t need your microwave for larger meals.
Stick with a solo microwave if you only want it for heating and defrosting. However, if you’re looking for something more advanced, you’re better off with a microwave grill or even a combi that heats, fries, crisps and is brown. Don’t rule out cheaper models if you think they are below average.
The best microwaves
The so-called flatbed design means that there is more space in this microwave than in conventional turntables. You can also insert unusually shaped plates without getting them stuck and you can put more than one in.
With the touch controls it looks good and is comfortable to use. With five power levels and 18 auto-cook functions (and the ability to make your own settings), it’s very extensive, although there’s no combo or grill.
It is fast and quiet without cold spots and is particularly suitable for defrosting and steaming vegetables.
But we would have liked to see a little more – one of the usual advantages of microwaves is that you can see food while cooking – and that’s not cheap.
DeLonghi MW 20G
This is a combi microwave, so you can grill at the same time as you heat your food through. That is why we decided to try it with a chicken. The results were excellent – moist, juicy meat with golden brown skin.
Our guests couldn’t believe that we did it in a microwave oven that cost less than a hundred pounds. If your chicken is still in the freezer when you find that it needs cooking, you can defrost it first with the appliance.
The steaming (especially fish) is also impressive and the cakes were as good as cooked in a traditional oven.
We also like the clear visibility – it is reassuring to see what is going on. However, it’s not the quieter microwave, and in grill mode it’s not the fastest either. But if none of these nagging things bothered you, this would make a great cooking tool in your kitchen.
Panasonic NN-GD38HSGTG Combi microwave with grill
This costs as much as some people’s traditional ovens – if not more – but it steams, grills, bakes and microwaves with excellent results and the built-in sensor technology means you don’t have to worry about performance levels, food, weight or cooking time.
Everything is intuitive and effortless. Because it covers all types of cooking styles, you can experiment with all kinds of dishes without worrying about leaving cold spots or drying out your food.
There is a spacious cooking area so you can cook for the masses and it’s a breeze to stay clean. We especially like the steam cooking, and the LCD screen with swipe and touch is chic and easy to use.
An absolute joy to use an oven when you can afford it.
Sharp R-642INW 2-in-1 Grill Compact Microwave
This affordable 900W microwave with grill-oven combo beats well above its weight. There are many cooking programs – we particularly liked the “grill-bacon” function, and the styling reminds us of more expensive competitors.
A flatbed design instead of a turntable helps maximize the cooking space, so that all 25 liters of capacity can be used.
And with its crispy tray, it was very good for preparing frozen pizzas: quick, delicious and no muddy bottom.
Beko MOF20110X Microwave
Not quite as cheap as chips, but this is much better than the microwaves without brands that you can pick up in the supermarket aisles. It is compact (20 liters) with a 25.5 cm glass turntable, which is not suitable for large plates.
There is no combi grill or oven, but the performance of the 800 W microwave was very impressive and there are built-in programs for popular dishes.
Guide Microwave: How to find the right one?
Choose the right microwave and you can do anything. From preparing ready meals in minutes to reheating and defrosting. Buy the best with our useful guide
Which functions are important in the microwave?
Make a list of what you need for your microwave. Sophisticated combination microwaves have many programs and features, but are not worth your money if you just want the convenience of reheating a cup of soup or a ready meal when you are in a hurry. Top models can be used for grilling and baking and some even have a yoghurt function. If you cook in a stack and store a lot of frozen food, a good defrosting program is important.
Think about where the microwave will be. Keep in mind that a distance of 15 cm above and behind the microwave is necessary for ventilation. This is especially important for a combination oven, as a lot of air is expelled when using the dual function. Microwave ovens can be hung on the wall with special brackets to save space. If a microwave is installed in a kitchen, you will need a ventilation set, which is available from the manufacturer.
When comparing models, size and internal height of the turntable are more important than volume. For family use, the diameter of the turntable should ideally be at least 30 cm and the internal height more than 20 cm to accommodate larger food portions.
- Microwave types
- Solo Microwave
This basic option is often referred to as solo microwaves. It is ideal for simple tasks such as cooking ready meals, reheating and defrosting, but does not provide crispy or brown food. Approximate size for a solo is H27 x W44 x D34cm.
Microwave with Grill
You get all the usual functions of a microwave, but with an internal grill. If you use a heating element together with the normal microwave oven, your food will be browned and cooked, giving it a more attractive appearance and texture. You can even cook a roast chicken. Note, however, that the grill element is probably less powerful than a conventional grill. Toasting may be slower and food may become drier. The models come with a metal rack for grilling. Both the grill and the microwave can be used separately. The sizes are the same as the Solo models at H27 x W45 x D34cm.
Combination microwave ovens offer more flexibility in cooking and allow the use of microwaves, grilling only or convection (hot air only). You can also use the microwave and grill together. The best combination microwaves can achieve excellent baking results. Some models even offer a steaming function. Sizes for these models are H35 x W52 x D50cm larger.
Built-in models are a great way to unlock the workspace. They are available in everything from microwaves to high-end combinations. Built-in models are approximately H46 x W60 x D55cm.
This varies from about 17L to over 32L. For larger families, look for at least 27 liters that have a larger platter and more internal height to cook more than one dish at a time.
The microwave power is measured in watts. The higher the wattage, the faster your food cooks. The power ranges from 650 to 1,950 watts and is classified from A to E. At 850 watts, E is the most commonly used power. Microwavable foods clearly indicate both the category and power level under the cooking instructions.
When cooking with microwaves, the most frequently used power levels are high, medium and low. Regardless of the power of your microwave, the “High / Full” setting will always be 100% of the output power.
Some combination ovens have only preset programs for combination cooking. This means that the microwave power level and convection temperature are fixed – medium microwaves and 180 ° C / 350 ° F. A model that allows you to choose your own settings is most versatile.
Make sure that the oven has a full temperature range available for convection cooking.
Things to consider
Car cooking / Warming up / Defrost
Enter the weight of the food to be cooked and the microwave will automatically calculate the power and duration of the cooking time to cook the food safely.
Preset programs for reheating and defrosting popular foods at the touch of a button.
Maintains the requested oven temperature for a certain time and then switches off automatically.
Auto weight cooker
Calculates the cooking time automatically according to the weight of the food.
Uses random microwave energy pulses to further reduce defrost times.
Program the oven to switch on automatically at a certain time of day.
The grill bulbs are located behind a metal grid, so that the grill can be heated up quickly and cleaned easily. Less powerful than a conventional oven grill, but suitable for browning food.
Automatically changes the power level during the cooking process to ensure the best cooking time – first for defrosting and then for cooking the food
Some models have a 2-stage convection cooking function, so you can prepare two dishes at the same time – handy for Christmas dinner!
However, better for cooking thicker foods, such as pork chops, requires preheating and is not as efficient as a conventional oven grill.
To ensure even cooking, the food must be turned over. Most microwaves have a turntable to do this automatically. Turntables are removable for cleaning. Some models have a turntable function.
Some combi-microwaves are equipped with a flatbed rather than a turntable. The flatbed not only creates a larger cooking surface, but also offers the possibility to put dishes of any shape in the oven.
A defrost rack is useful because it lifts food off the bottom of the oven or the turntable, so that it can be defrosted from below or above.
Detects the moisture content of the food and the humidity of the oven and adjusts power and cooking time accordingly to achieve optimal results.
Serves to increase the output.
This makes it easier to insert and remove dishes and the door is a practical place to rest your hot dishes. This function is especially useful if you have a built-in model at eye level.
Prevents children from accidentally starting a program or disturbing the cooking times.
Can be set to a rest period during multi-stage cooking programs or at the end of the cooking process, while food is being cooked further in residual heat.
Microwave safety and cooking tips
✔ Always use microwave-proof containers and dishes. Ceramics, glassware and some plastics are fine, but do not use metal – not even metal cladding or rotary anchors. For more information, please refer to the user manual.
✔ Wrapped food should be vented during cooking to allow steam to escape.
✔ Stir food or rotate food during cooking to ensure even heating.
✔ The outer edges of food should first be cooked in a microwave oven. Place thicker parts of the food on the outside of the cooking container and thinner parts in the middle.
✔ After heating, always check that the food is hot. If you have a food thermometer, it reaches 70 ° C in the middle. Feel the middle bottom of the container: it should be hot.
✔ When a recipe states the service life, it is important to follow the advice carefully. The heat in the food continues to cook it even after it has been removed from the oven. The service life is calculated accordingly.
✔ Be careful when removing cooked food from the microwave and removing covers. The container may not be hot, but the food inside and the steam released will escape.
✔ Do not operate the microwave oven when it is empty. The microwaves will bounce off the interior and may damage the oven.
✔ Consult your doctor if you have a pacemaker. Modern pacemakers are protected against interference, but some older pacemakers may be affected in the immediate vicinity of a microwave oven.
Microwave ovens generate electromagnetic waves to heat food. In a microwave oven, electricity is converted into microwaves by a device called a magnetron. The microwaves bounce off the metal walls and the door guard. They then pass through the cooking vessels to be absorbed by the water molecules in the food. Unlike conventional ovens where heat is conducted from outside the food to the center, microwaves “excite” the water and fat molecules evenly in the food, but do not heat any containers. This is why they work so quickly – because no energy is wasted.
However, some microwaves consume a lot of energy in standby mode. If you are concerned about energy efficiency, buy a model with an energy-saving mode. This reduces energy consumption, with only the clock being powered.
Wipe out your microwave regularly. Use warm soapy water, squeeze the cloth well and remove grease or food from the interior. Pay particular attention to the areas around the door seal. Keep the oven door and hinges clean and check them regularly for corrosion. The oven should be disconnected from the mains when cleaning.