Don’t you just love microwave ovens?
They are versatile, time-saving, often energy-efficient, and can make your life that much easier. They can fit into the smallest of spaces, they can defrost, reheat, cook: in short, they can cut the time you spend in the kitchen at least in half, if you use them smartly.
I am simply in love with our Russell Hobbs microwave – I can even brew a mug of black coffee in it, that’s how useful I think it is.
I also use it to make mug cakes (Tom’s favourite is this brownie-like concoction), to finish off any seafood pies I’m baking (I rarely make these anymore, if I’m perfectly honest), and of course, I can also whip up a mac and cheese in it.
Then there’s all the reheating and defrosting, especially useful when I forget to take the blueberries out of the freezer in time.
If I have by now convinced you that a microwave oven is a necessity – but chances are you already knew that – let’s see what you need to think about before making a purchase.
What to look for in a microwave oven
Of course, this list is not conclusive, but I hope it gives you a general idea of the information you need to check before making a purchase:
Power: microwave oven power is measured in watts, and the more power they have, the quicker they will be. Of course, that also means they will spend more electricity – so finding a nice middle ground between the two is usually your safest bet. 800 watts is what most microwaves will have.
Control panel: depending on what you need in terms of cooking time, you might want to go either for something digital (where you can type in the required amount of time), or for something with a dial, that will however most likely be less precise.
Preset programs: like defrost, reheat, and so on, that can help you eliminate unnecessary thought processes from the equation, and just choose the setting you need.
Size: probably the most important feature of all, and one that should be carefully considered. Take into account where you want to place your microwave oven, and what you want to fit into it as well.
Turntable: if you usually heat things up on trays anyway, you may not need a turntable in your microwave. On the other hand, turntables are great for plates and mugs. All of the models I list below have turntables.
Door: depending on where you want to put the microwave oven, you should check how you will be loading it, i.e. which way does the door open, and how far it can go. You don’t want to end up with a microwave you can’t fit anything into because the door won’t open fully as your cabinets won’t let it.
Are microwaves safe?
In a word, yes.
In more than one word: a properly functioning microwave oven won’t leak any of said microwaves out. It has all kinds of systems in place (including that metal thingy with the holes at the back, and the door itself, with its locking mechanism) to prevent that.
But even if your microwave is faulty and leaking, its waves won’t do you any harm.
According to the FDA, at a 5-centimetre distance from the microwave, you will only be hit by 5 milliwatts per square centimetre, which is well below the amount that can harm humans.
In fact, the electromagnetic radiation (scary word, I know) from a microwave oven is lower than that from a cell phone.
So, to sum it up: using a microwave is perfectly safe, and you shouldn’t be worried about it at all.
And now, for the actual microwave ovens I find would be a nice addition to your kitchen:
If you are looking for a small microwave oven that is powerful enough to get the job done – this is a perfect choice. It has a mirror door that is rather stylish, and a child safety lock that will prevent the little ones from getting up to no good.
Even though I’m saying small, this one actually has a 20-litre capacity, so you can fit a standard-size dinner plate in there. It has a turntable, so you will need to bear that in mind, as in order to get the best results, you need to allow your items to revolve: you can’t just remove the turntable, chuck a large dish in there, and expect a meal to be heated up properly.
The turntable it comes with can be removed and washed in a dishwasher, so it also makes cleaning it easier. Don’t forget to wipe the inside every so often, even if there is only very occasional splatter.
This microwave also comes with some pre-programmed settings, so you can access menus like popcorn or pizza with the touch of a button. Additionally, there are five power levels you can choose from (including defrost and reheat), so you’ll be able to find the best possible temperature and setting for each dish.
If you are looking for a more affordable option – particularly something under £100 – this other Russell Hobbs number can also be an excellent choice.
This one is made of stainless steel (again, something that may or may not fit into your kitchen’s design), and it looks like something made for a professional kitchen.
It has a 20-litre capacity as well, so should also fit most of your standard dishes and plates. It packs enough power too, with 800 watts of microwave power and 1000 watts of grill power. It has all the usual settings for reheating meals, and a very nifty auto-defrost option, where you just tell it the weight of your food and it will calculate the time and power needed on its own, to get the best results. The grill is also great for achieving that roasted effect with your dishes.
It comes with a digital clock and a countdown timer, as well as a child safety lock as well, so you can be sure it’s safe and practical to use.
If you are looking for something extra in your microwave oven, you might want to go for a combination microwave. It allows you to cook dishes that are crispy on the outside and remain tender on the inside (I’m instantly thinking chicken).
The trick is in the grill + microwave combination, where the microwave will cook your food like it normally would, while the grill will make it brown and crispy on top. I think it could also work well for potatoes and maybe even pies.
This model also boasts an eco mode which reduces standby power by turning the LED display off to save energy, so it’s a perfect choice if you are looking to do good by our planet.
There are 8 auto menus as well (pizza, veg, meat, pasta, fish, potato, beverage and popcorn), which makes it a lot easier to use: just pop your plate or bowl in and press a button.
Of course, you can also choose one of the five power levels it comes with if you would rather choose the setting yourself.
Finally, what I particularly love about this model is the position memory feature – what this means is that once it’s done, the microwave will reset the turntable to the starting position. In other words, you can just grab your mug by its handle, instead of trying to jiggle it out when the handle is furthest away from your heat-sensitive palms.
Honestly, if we were in the market for a microwave oven today, this combination microwave would be my choice – I especially love that it’s black!
I know, I know – this is also a combination microwave, but it’s also one of the largest ones I’ve managed to find, which is why it’s made it onto this list. And the grill function just makes it that much better, no?
This is truly a family-sized microwave, with its 30-litre capacity. You can even fit larger plates inside, and probably some larger bowls and even microwave-safe pots. The turntable can also be removed easily, so cleaning should be no issue.
The multi-functioning beauty of this microwave oven is its 900 watt microwave power, 1100 watt grill power, and 2500 watt fan-assisted convection oven power. In other words, you can just about cook and reheat and grill anything in here.
There are also 10 power levels to choose from as opposed to the usual 5, as well as 10 auto-cook menus. The defrost option again factors in weight as opposed to time, making defrosting meals and meats that much easier.
While it may be a bit larger (which is what you were looking for, am I right?), this microwave is more multipractic than a simple household appliance, and it will make your kitchen life much more streamlined and enjoyable.
On the other hand, if you have a small home and very limited kitchen space, you may not have enough room for a full-fledged microwave.
However, when there is limited counter space, there is a solution – a corner microwave.
This neat little Hotpoint number I find delightful – it can fit into a corner with its round back, yet it is still large enough for most plates and bowls. The turntable is 28 centimetres, so measure some of your plates before you commit to a purchase.
Note that it really isn’t very high either, so you might not be able to use it as you would a regular microwave, but in a tiny home where all you are looking to do is reheat and defrost, this can be a lifesaver.
It has touch control and 5 power levels, so it should still be able to do almost everything you expect it to – but at a smaller scale.
I believe this one could work well even in a mobile home or a dorm – where the space is limited, but a microwave oven can be very helpful.
Finally, I have four more microwaves here that have been chosen for their design.
Don’t get me wrong, all of them are still very good microwave ovens, but it is the way they look that has added them to this list.
Which is not saying the previous ones were ugly – these just might fit into your kitchen better.
Here’s what I mean:
If you have all-white appliances (or even an all-white kitchen), this white microwave oven might be the one you want to add to it. I know how tedious it can be to find something that has all the power you need, and in the colour you want.
This Russell Hobbs packs the standard 800 watts that will help you cook, reheat and defrost practically anything, and it also has that customary 20-litre capacity.
It features a simple-to-use system with buttons and dials, meaning you will easily set it to the right temperature and program.
There are also the standard 5 power levels and some auto cook menus to choose from, as well as an auto-defrost option.
On the other hand, if white is too bland and if black is just not your thing, maybe you would like to add some pastels to your kitchen?
This blue microwave is simply gorgeous – I can see it sitting on top of a wooden countertop, slightly reminiscent of an old-school radio, ready to heat up your dinner at the end of a long day at the office.
Swan also do microwaves in other fabulous colours, so you can check them out as well.
When it comes to power, this little darling boasts the usual 800 watts and comes with 6 different power levels, as well as a defrost setting. Its capacity is 20 litres, so you are not losing anything by choosing to be more stylish than most shoppers.
If you, again, find white boring and black just a little bit too much, and you are really not a pastel kind of person, how about a hot red microwave?
Moving back to Russell Hobbs and their ingenious models, here is something stylish, sleek, very modern and very snazzy. Truly a feature and a proper talking point in any kitchen.
We again have the usual 800 watts in terms of power and the usual 20 litres of space, which means you can do anything you would with a standard microwave oven, but also enjoy the look of it while you potter around the kitchen.
The pre-programmed menus are similar to what the brand usually offers (pizza, popcorn, fish), and the auto-defrost option is also their standard, tried and tested setting.
And finally, if you are looking for something completely different and completely retro, there is this Daewoo model – which is about as retro as you can get with a microwave oven.
I especially love the oatmeal colour – and the handle and buttons speak much more radio than microwave, which is what makes it so incredibly perfectly stylish.
While it packs the standard 800 watts of power and has 5 power levels to choose from, it is actually a bit larger than the models we have been looking at so far, and comes in at 23 litres. Who knows, that little bit extra might make all the difference?
There are 4 programs to choose from (dinner plate, soup, beverage and fresh vegetables), but you can of course adjust the setting yourself.
Which one do I buy?
Honestly – any of these.
What I have come to realise while looking for the best microwave out there is that they are all incredibly similar. Most of them work at 800 watts and are 20 litres in size. Most of them are white, black or stainless steel.
Not all of them of course, as you could see from what I have just assembled above.
Just make sure you take all of the features I’ve discussed at the very beginning of this piece into consideration, and any of the models I’ve featured should work like a charm.
Let me know if you buy one of the colourful ones, I’d love to see a picture!