A Guide To Buying The Right Microwave
As our lives get busier and busier, microwaves are becoming more and more essential on a day-to-day basis than ever. Whether it’s quickly defrosting meat, steaming some vegetables or re-heating last night’s pasta dish, microwaves save time and energy over using ovens. Not only that, but they can function as mini-grills and mini-ovens. However, it’s easy to be fooled into thinking that the pricier and most powerful microwaves are the best models on the market. Not so. With that said, let’s walk through the different types of options on the market.
The Three Types of Microwaves
As it stands, there are three types of microwaves available today:
- Standard Microwaves
- Combination Microwaves
- Grill Microwaves
There are variations within these different types. For example, you can get any of the above in either standalone or built-in to your kitchen worktop (which is more expensive). Additionally, flatbed microwaves have started to become more popular. These microwaves use newer technology to more evenly distribute heat within units and do away with the traditional turntable method. However, despite their advantages, these microwaves are more expensive than traditional models.
This is the type of microwave that most people are likely to be familiar with. It’s made for simple cooking tasks such as heating up food, defrosting frozen items, reheating dishes and warming up soup that has been sitting for a few minutes. It’s perfect for simple cooking tasks that saves you waiting on a conventional oven to heat up.
They benefit from being cheap, popular (so lots of models to pick from), and good for simple heating tasks.
However, they are limited compared to the more fully-functioned combination microwaves, and aren’t able to brown, roast or grill food.
Doing everything that a standard microwave can do, grill microwaves come with a heating element. This means that it can brown food and this allows it to combine microwave energy with grill heat to properly cook more advanced dishes.
They benefit from being able to crisp and brown food, making it ideal for the likes of pizza, they tend to come with metal racks to allow food to be closer to the grill, and they are just generally good at doing standard microwave tasks.
However, they are pricier than standard microwaves, and also come with the disadvantage of not being as fully-functional as combination microwaves.
At the pinnacle of microwave technology, combination microwaves combine the best of both worlds – and more. They use microwave energy, they come with a grill, but they also utilise convection heating (like a fan oven) – allowing them to go beyond just grilling and heating food, but properly cooking it too. Perhaps surprisingly, some quality combination microwaves can cook just as well as conventional ovens – but with the advantage of speed.
It benefits from being the best and most versatile type of microwave, from being able to cook food as well as an oven but faster, and tends to come with a shed-load of features.
The main drawback of owning a combination microwave is that it is far more expensive than any other type of microwave. If you’re not looking for something that acts as an oven substitute, then consider looking at lower-spec models.
The Cost of Microwaves
The cheapest type of budget microwaves, which are obviously standard microwaves, can be bought from supermarkets for under £50. These models are incredibly basic and will only feature a heat setting, as well as a timer. The pricepoint also means that these options are almost always the smallest type of microwaves on the market. However, for those who are scared by various dials and button, they are incredibly minimalist and easy-to-use.
It’s also worth noting that some £50 microwaves can do the basics just as well as even expensive microwaves do the basics. So if you’re using a microwave as an extra to your oven, there’s not much wrong with going cheap.
However, at the £100 pricepoint you’ll start to see microwaves featuring programs to suit particular groups of food, digital display and even touch-panel controls. At around the £150 mark, you’ll begin see the cheapest range of combination microwaves. For £200 and above, you’re starting to look at the higher end of combination microwaves.
If you’re looking at paying beyond £300, then it should either be a built-in unit, or be a very impressive microwave. This should include features such as a streamer or sensor cooking technology. The latter allows you to just pop the dish in, press the start button and let the microwave sense how long the food should be cooked for (based on steam emission).
It’s possible to see some of the largest combination microwaves (that are high capacity to cook larger dishes) punch in at over £500.
But if you want a good quality combination microwave that is full of features, then you should be able to buy one for under £200.
Budget vs Premium
So, to conclude, let’s pose the question of whether or not you want to go budget or go premium.
While we could offer a lot of possible answers to this question, the reality is that you know your budget, you know your lifestyle and you know what your kitchen needs.
If things are financially tight, don’t feel you need to spend hundreds of pounds on a microwave when basic models can do a great job for under £100.
If you have a bit more money to spare, it may be worth investing in a higher quality model.
Irrespective of which direction you go in, it can be a good idea to invest in a known brand name such as Beko and Hotpoint. These brands, and others, offer microwaves at either end of the budgetary scale.
These brand names are associated with quality and are less likely to breakdown and require repair from the likes of Repair Aid.
Irrespective of this, there is a microwave for every budget.