A Buying Guide for Microwave Ovens

In this age, it’s hard to imagine a kitchen without a microwave oven. But, with so many different models and features available in microwave ovens, choosing the right one to match your kitchen needs is quite a daunting task. Here, you can find all the useful information about the microwave ovens to help you with the big decision to purchase this magical kitchen appliance.

What are microwave ovens?

Microwave ovens take the stress out of kitchen work with its multiple functions such as thawing frozen meat, baking cakes, reheating food, grilling kebabs, and even preparing main course dishes and boiling rice. A microwave is used as a cooking medium for various kinds of recipes that range from as simple as roasting papad or popcorns to grilling kebabs, pizzas and brownies. It is one of the best flameless cooking appliances.

How does a microwave oven work?

Concept - A microwave oven works with ‘micro’ or radio waves to heat food.

Working - Upon being switched on, microwaves are emitted from the in-built microwave emitter. This agitates water and fat molecules of food to absorb heat while the food rotates inside the microwave chamber. The movement of microwave energy into the chamber can be controlled with the help of the outer button panel. This decides the features of the microwave and also its efficiency. Typically, microwave-safe bowls and vessels made of glass, thermostable plastic and ceramic can be used for microwave cooking for them being resistant to the radio-waves.

Types Of Microwave Ovens

1. Solo Microwave Oven

The solo microwave oven is a basic model that comes with only the microwave feature. There are no grill or convection features.It provides uniform heating for defrosting, reheating or cooking food and has multiple power levels along with other features. Its ideal If you are into simple cooking and nothing complicated, for Reheating and basic functions.

2. Grill Microwave Ovens

The microwave comes with heating coils that are integrated inside and can toast and grill foods easily. The microwave comes with modes like Microwave and Grill. So if you want to select the grill feature, you have to turn to that option. It helps the food to turn brown and crispy from outside and juicy from inside and can very well grill tikka, kebabs, and or even parathas. To keep the food closer to the coil, a grilling plate and metal rack is provided. Grilling can be used in combination with microwave or convection to cook different kinds of food.

3. Convection Microwave Ovens

A convection microwave uses a combination of the two technologies - a regular microwave and a convection oven. It can be used to bake anything from cookies and cakes to quiches and pizzas. Unlike a regular or a solo microwave, a convection microwave lets the food cook through more crisper. It does this by using a fan and a heating element to circulate hot air uniformly in the microwave which prevents high-speed cooking and ensures even heating up of the entire oven cavity. As a result, the food takes time to cook and comes out more ‘browner’ than you would get in a solo microwave. Since these ovens come with a combination of grill and convection features, it is easy to grill, bake and also cook. If you are fond of cooking and experimenting in the kitchen, this option is best for you.

4. Built in microwave ovens

The built-in microwave ovens come built in the cabinet. It works just like any other microwave and adds to the aesthetics of the kitchen.

5. OTG - Oven Toaster Griller

An Oven Toaster Griller (OTG) can reheat, keep warm, grill; barbecue and most importantly, bake food items. It has heating coils on the ceiling and the roof of the oven. This heating element converts electric energy into heat to create high temperature at which the food bakes. You have the option to switch on either one or both coils while using an OTG. For grilling, you need to heat the top coil and for baking, you need both coils to be heated. An OTG is a baker's delight- you can bake crisp cookies, spongy brown muffins and homemade birthday cakes to perfection using an OTG.

Important features of microwaves to be considered before buying:

1. Power consumption/Wattage

Choose a microwave oven based on the usage. Generally, microwave ovens have output wattage of 600 to 1500 W. The higher the output wattage is, the faster the food cooks in the microwave oven.

2. Capacity

The capacity of the microwave oven is measured by size and capacity of the food that it can cook at one time. If your usage includes defrosting, heating, baking, and grilling, then you should go for a larger one. You should select a microwave oven with the consideration of the volume of food cooked generally at your place.

3. Size and location of built-in cabinet

Do consider the size of the kitchen and the cabinets you have, as you have to place the microwave at an appropriate place. Microwaves can be placed on cooktops or inside cabinets. There are also built-in cabinets for microwaves or above cooktops. If you are buying microwave ovens to keep in modular kitchen cabinets, please bear in mind the ventilation factor.

Other exclusive features of microwave ovens

Child lock – Microwave ovens today have a special child lock feature so that children cannot open it or operate it even when they press the buttons. An electronic lock is present for safety considerations to prevent accidents. There are electronic codes that can be set if you want to go out and leave the kids at home.

Auto cook – Built-in features like the Auto cook mode simplifies cooking regular items. It helps to set the required time slot with careful monitoring of temperature and power. The auto cook menu gives you the option to choose the dish and the oven automatically follows a programmed set of directions.

Rotisserie – rotisseries are provided with microwave ovens to be used as grilling accessories. One can use it to grill vegetarian and non-vegetarian foods. Some microwave ovens also have plates or steel racks that that can be used for grilling.

Automatic sensors : Most of the microwave ovens have automatic sensors that measure the humidity of the food and determine if the food is cooked. When the food is cooked, the microwave automatically turns off and beeps, doing away with any chances of burning or overcooking.

Auto settings: some come with shortcut keys like the auto settings for various recipes like pizza, idli, chicken tikka, oatmeal, etc.

Panel types

Control panels are of various types, and so you need to consider this feature as well.

Mechanical control

The mechanical control panels are seen on the entry-level models that are used in offices and are durable. They have easy-to-use control panels which can withstand rough use too.

Touch keypad

The touch keypad is flat and looks aesthetic. It can be operated with a touch of the finger, so it is quite comfortable to use.

Dial type

The dial type works electronically and provides easy and smooth control. Looks wise, the dial is similar to a mechanical dial, but it is driven by electronic circuits to function and provides easy, smooth and precise control for temperature and timing. The dial is very easy-to-use and allows you to multi-task while cooking in the kitchen. Even with hands dirtied by dough, the Jog-Wheel controls are accessible without risk of spoiling the unit.

Feather touch

The feather touch panel is the latest feature of microwave ovens. This innovative control can be operated with a light touch and adds style and sophistication to the microwave’s design. Usually present in the high-end models, this requires extra care from the user and is not suitable for rough use.

What is the difference between a microwave and an OTG??

An OTG or an oven-toaster-griller is a small, electric oven that has heating rods. Unlike a microwave, which uses electromagnetic waves, an OTG converts electric energy into heat to create a high temperature at which the food bakes. An OTG is generally considered to bake better than a convection microwave, but it cannot be used to heat/defreeze food. It is also slower than a convection microwave oven. It is not usually preferred because of its high electricity consumption.

Should I buy an OTG or a convection microwave oven?

If you would be baking regularly and you have space in your kitchen to accommodate two ovens, you could consider going for a separate OTG for your baking needs. However, if you would need to heat and cook food in your oven, apart from baking, you should buy a convection microwave oven.

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