How to Buy A Microwave Oven
Knowing what to look for when purchasing a microwave oven can save you money and get you the kind of oven that you may eventually use for all your cooking. The three most important features to know about on a microwave oven are the cooking wattage, the control panel, and power levels.
Ovens are made with cooking wattages from 350 and up. The microwave industry has chosen as its standard the 700-watt oven. Therefore, all the recipes that are published in cookbooks, newspapers, magazines, and demonstrated in classes are developed and tested in the 700-watt oven. That means that when a person buys a 500-watt oven, s/he receives a cookbook with the oven that has recipes developed in the 700-watt oven which cooks the recipes faster and better. Have you every tried frying a steak on low heat? It eventually cooks, but it will be a sickly gray and lack the taste of one cooked on high heat. So buying an oven with less than 700-watts is like trying to cook on low heat all the time. Does the 700-watt oven cost more? No. Oven prices vary considerably and one can pay more for a 500-watt oven than a 700-watt because salesmen do not discuss wattage when selling ovens. Are 700-watt ovens always larger than lower wattage ovens? No. Size is not a factor. Why do manufacturers make so many different ovens? Because people buy them.
The second most important feature on a microwave oven is the control panel. Many people buy an oven with dials because they are used to them and uncomfortable with a touchpanel control. But the touchpanel is easier to use because most importantly, it is easier to read. It is also more exact. In the microwave oven a few seconds can mean a rock-hard roll instead of a hot tasty, fresh one. So it is very important to get a touchpanel with all ten numbers on it. If a recipe reads "Microcook 9 minutes 36 seconds" you just touch the numbers "936." On a panel without ten numbers, you have to touch the minute square nine times, the ten-second square three times and the one-second square six times. And of course, the dial system does not have the calibration of the touchpanel, and you may only be able to cook 2 minutes at a time. The easier the oven is to use, the more you will use it.
The third feature to insist on is at least 3 power levels. All ovens cook at 100% power, but to defrost certain foods before cooking, you need a 30% power level and to simmer foods, you need a 50% power level. If the oven comes with more, fine, but you really will need at least three.
How about all the other features the salesmen show you? Few oven owners find them really useful. The Probe is fine if you know exactly what you are doing, but if you put the probe near a fat pocket or a bone, it will give a misreading. The Turntable is fine, but it limits the size of dishes you can use and is really not necessary if you purchase a reputable brand of oven that rotates the microwaves instead of the food. Under the cabinet models seem so convenient, but the most convenient to use are the counter top models where you can safely leave the dish in the oven, add ingredients to it and stir and rearrange the food. Why not an oven with a rack? The microwaves cook some types of foods faster than others depending on their moisture content so trying to mix them actually makes it more difficult for you. Cooking one food at a time takes the same amount of time and is really easier and better once you learn how.
All the fancy extras that the high-priced models offer will not eliminate one fact: when learning to cook in the microwave, you must learn to cook by time and not sight. It will take a little effort, but with the three essential features listed, you will have greater success in learning how.