Microwave Oven Buying Guide

microwave buying guide

Microwave ovens have really progressed over the years, which means it’s not as easy as running into Walmart and buying one anymore. You need to know the types and features to buy the right one for you.

How did we ever get along without the microwave oven? From reheating leftovers to cooking frozen dinners, one only has to be without a microwave for a short while to realize how much you need it. When shopping for a new microwave, there’s definitely more than meets the eye. Read this microwave oven buying guide to find out what you need to know before you buy.

Microwave brands and types

Some of the top microwave brands include Kenmore, Sharp, Panasonic, GE and KitchenAid. Each of those brands has a wide variety of models under their brand umbrella. But there are some universal things to consider when choosing a microwave.

Countertop or over-the-range

In other words, where are you going to put your microwave? Countertop models are most popular, especially for rentals or temporary spaces, as they simply require plugging in. On the other end of the spectrum, over-the-range microwaves save valuable counter space and can moonlight as range fans, but also require professional installation (and hold more permanent real estate in one’s kitchen).


Consider the size of your kitchen, as well as the size/amount of the food you’ll be cooking. Size ranges for microwaves include compact (0.5-0.8 cubic feet), mid size (0.9-1.3 cubic feet), family (1.4-1.6 cubic feet) and full size (1.8-2.0 cubic feet).


The higher the wattage, the faster food will cook. Most recipes written for the microwave require at least 800 watts so foods cook evenly. As for wattage by size (see above), large microwaves usually have cooking power of around 1,300 watts, while compact microwaves typically measure around 800 watts. (Note: most experts will tell you there’s not much difference between 100 to 200 watts more or less, so if the price tag is higher due to a small wattage increase, don’t be fooled.)


How often and for what purposes will you primarily be using your microwave? If your answer includes reheating leftovers and making a bag of popcorn every once in a while, you probably don’t need a model with tons of fancy features. However, if you’re preparing entire meals in the microwave, you might want to opt for the latest innovations (and be prepared for a higher price tag).

Microwave Features

Cooking sensors

This feature cooks your food based on humidity in the microwave oven from moisture in food. The appliance will automatically adjust cooking times, which can help prevent overcooking. While most microwaves possess cooking sensors, some of the more compact models do not.

Preprogrammed cooking

Take the guesswork out of cooking, simply add the food, tell the appliance what you’re cooking (i.e., melting butter, reheating pizza, cooking popcorn etc.) and the appliance will do the rest. Anyone who has burnt popcorn in the microwave trying to guess when it’s done can attest to the value of this feature.

Rotating turntable

By placing food on a tray that constantly rotates while heating, you’re allowing more even heat exposure and, hence, more even cooking (say goodbye to cold middles). Without a rotating turntable, you may find yourself needing to stop the cooking process, stir your food (when possible) and restart.

Inverter technology

Inverter microwaves claim to cook food more evenly, and, for the most part, they do. Standard microwaves, when cooking at half power, cycle between periods of 100 percent and no heat. On the other hand, inverter microwaves can cook at 50 percent for the entire period. That being said, both types of microwaves work just fine.

Julie Bensman (5 Posts)

Julie is a former writer for Viewpoints.com.