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Buying a microwave

Get all the information you need to find the best microwave for your daily needs.

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A Cookworks standard microwave on a kitchen counter.

Before you start: If you have a pacemaker, check with your doctor if it's safe to use a microwave. Modern pacemakers are protected against any interference, but older ones could be affected by proximity to a microwave.

What's the best microwave for you?

A microwave oven is one of the most convenient appliances to have in your kitchen. Not only do they cook food faster, they are also more energy-efficient than a full-size conventional oven. There are many types and brands of microwaves available, each with different features and settings. What type you choose depends on your needs.

Solo microwave

Solo microwaves are ideal for basic tasks such as reheating and defrosting food. They are not as big as combi or convection models, so can sit on a countertop quite easily. Most solo models come with a selection of auto-cook programmes as well as settings for defrosting food.

Combination microwave

A standard microwave which can also work like a convection oven but with quicker cooking times. It can heat, roast, brown and crisp food, allowing you to use it the same way you would your standard oven. Combi microwaves also offer a range of multi cook options, allowing you to defrost, microwave and then grill.

Microwave with grill

All the features of a standard microwave oven but with the added benefit of a grill element. This enables you to crisp and brown your food for flavoursome, oven-like results. The grill can be used on its own or in conjunction with the microwave to give you more control of the cooking process.

Flatbed microwaves.

Flatbed microwave

Flatbed microwaves don’t have a turntable mechanism, but instead have a flatbed base. This increases the cooking area of the microwave considerably. The additional space also means you can fit rectangular and awkward shaped dishes inside the oven cavity.

What size microwave do you need?

Microwaves are available in a wide range of sizes, from small, compact models through to larger, bulkier combi and flatbed designs. The most common microwaves have capacities between 15 and 32 litres, with a typical family sized model ranging somewhere between 20 and 25 litres.

Compact microwave

Size: Under 1 cubic feet.
Best for: students and smaller kitchens.

Mid-size microwave

Size: 1 to 1.5 cubic feet.
Best for: families of 2-4 people.

Full size microwave

Size: 1.6 to 2 cubic feet.
Best for: families of 4-6 people.

Nine things to consider before buying a microwave

Here's a list of features to look for to help you decide which microwave option is best for you.

1. Wattage

The power of a microwave is measured in watts. A typical domestic microwave has a wattage somewhere between 700 and 1,200 watts. In general, the more watts a microwave has, the faster and more evenly it will cook food.

2. Child lock

The child lock function on microwaves prevents children from using the oven unsupervised. When this feature is activated, they will not be able to start a programme, play with the buttons or interfere with the cooking process.

Integrated vs countertop.

3. Integrated vs countertop

Most microwaves are designed to be placed on a kitchen counter or shelf. Built-in models have no side panels, allowing them to fit inside cupboards or cabinets. This frees up worktop space and gives a kitchen a more unified look.

A Russell Hobbs Buckingham standard microwave on a kitchen counter.

4. Colour options

Love the classic stainless steel model? Or do you want to opt for a microwave in whiteblack or grey? Whichever you choose, you could even coordinate it with other appliances in your kitchen to create a cohesive look.

5. Lining

The majority of microwaves are lined with metal which is easy to wipe clean after use. Some models also have an antibacterial coating, which prevents the build up of bacteria, keeping it a hygienic environment for cooking.

A close up image of a woman's hand using a metallic combination microwave by Russell Hobbs.

6. Digital or manual?

Microwaves are available with either digital or manual controls. Digital microwaves tend to have more advanced settings, whereas manual models are less fancy, with simple rotary dial controls for ease of use.

7. Heating category

On the front of most modern microwaves is a symbol that indicates the heating category of the oven when cooking or reheating ready meals. These heating categories are rated from A to E, with E being the most powerful and A the least. 

8. Auto cooking programmes

Some microwaves offer auto cook functions that help you prepare different kinds of food. Simply select from the menu the type of food you want to cook, then let the microwave set the optimal cooking time and heat.

9. Microwave cookware

You should only use microwave-safe cookware. Ceramic, glassware and some plastics will be okay, but do not use anything with a metal rim or leave any twist ties on packaging as these also contain metal.

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Caring for your microwave

Make sure you place your microwave in a well-ventilated area, leaving at least 10cm space around the sides and back, with at least 20cm space above. Avoid turning on the microwave when it's empty as the microwaves can bounce off the interior, which could cause damage. You will need to clean your microwave regularly to keep it functioning correctly and maintain its condition.

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