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Microwave Oven Buying Guide

Microwave Oven Image

Convenience features on traditional and convection microwaves open your kitchen to an array of mealtime possibilities.  Some even offer enough flexibility to prepare an entire meal as effortlessly as a bag of popcorn.

Know Before You Go

Before you buy, consider:

    1. The size of your cookware. Whether you’re preparing soups or rewarming a casserole, make sure your new microwave will accommodate your warming dishes for stress-free mealtimes.
    2. Available kitchen space. Whether you’re buying an over-the-range microwave or electing a countertop unit remain aware of the footprint for easier installation and happier use.


      Microwave Options and Styles

      Traditional: The most common style. This microwave opens with an east-west swinging door and builds in to cabinetry or walls with an additional trim kit.

      Built-in: A true built-in microwave becomes part of the cabinetry and features a drop-down door, similar to a conventional oven. It is usually installed over a range or oven.

      Drawer style: Exactly as the name suggests, this microwave slides out and installs below a countertop or wall oven. The height of this microwave may be a safer, more convenient option for all members of the family.

      Over-the-Range: Combining a microwave and range hood, this do-it-all appliance is an excellent choice for saving space and maximizing function.

      Countertop: Countertop microwaves are available in a variety of sizes and offer the same cooking power as installed units. The downside is that they do take up valuable counter space and have no ventilation system. Some countertop microwaves come with trim kits that make it possible to build them into surrounding cabinetry or attach them to a nearby wall.

      Microwave Features

      Wattage: Watts represent the power and cooking speed of your new microwave. This also impacts how quickly and evenly food cooks - the higher the wattage, the faster the cooking.

      Convection: Convection cooking uses a rear fan to circulate hot air on all sides of the dish, creating crusty baked goods and juicy meats. It even offers a browning option to simulate the same cooking as a broiler.

      Sensors: Sensors adjust time and temperature as needed and automatically shut off power to prevent overcooking. Sensors measure emitted steam to determine when food is at an optimum temperature.

      Common Task Buttons: Shortcut keys help you choose the right time and temperature via preset cycles for popular foods and drinks, like popcorn, pizza and hot beverages. Some shortcuts allow you to add time to the cycle without stopping the oven, while other shortcuts include defrost and reheat options. Perhaps the most intriguing shortcut softens and melts, making it perfect for ice cream and chocolate.

      Non-Stick Interior: Interior coatings make cleanup easy. Simply wipe plastic interiors with a damp cloth. Stainless steel interiors also wipe clean and won’t absorb odors.

      Enhanced Ventilation: Installed microwaves offer the option of venting or non-venting, depending on personal preference and placement. A vented hood sends exhaust outdoors, while non-vented circulates the air indoors through a carbon filter. Venting power is indicated as CFM or cubic feet per minute. When buying, remember that the higher the number, the greater the airflow.

      True Power Reduction: some microwaves allow for actual power reduction rather than cycling between full power and no power during a cook session. The result is even cooking and true defrosting without cooked or burnt edges.

      Many convenience meals offer cooking instructions based on wattage. Remember to make a mental note of your microwave’s wattage for accurate food preparation.


      There are currently no ENERGY STAR® microwaves on the market, but you can still find ways to save. Look for a microwave with variable power settings and on/off controls.  You can improve cooking performance and time all while using less energy.