Microwave Buying Guide
Our microwave buying guide is the easiest way to learn exactly what you need to look for when buying your appliance, from the size to the range of features you can opt for. With so many types to choose from – each with a range of convenient functions – take some time to do your research before making your decision.
In this guide, we’ll take you through:
- What is a microwave?
- Freestanding vs integrated microwaves
- Types of microwave
- Choosing the right level of power
- Key features to consider
- Choosing your colour
- How to measure for a new microwave
- Microwave brands
- Microwave FAQs
What is a microwave?
A microwave oven brings convenience to your everyday cooking, heating your food at a fraction of the time taken by a conventional oven. It does that by exposing food to microwaves, heating the food evenly throughout. These appliances are much more energy-efficient and compact than ovens, making them perfect for quick and easy meals that require little effort.
You’ll find a whole range of models with different capabilities, some of which include a grill or a fan oven (more on these below). Features like these give you the ability to cook flavoursome, complex meals which aren’t always possible with a standard microwave.
Type, capacity, power, settings and features should all be considered before making your purchase.
Freestanding vs built-in microwaves
Just like larger appliances, a microwave oven can be bought as a freestanding or built-in model, depending on how you’d like it to sit in your kitchen.
Freestanding microwaves sit on the countertop and can be easily moved around if you fancy a change in layout or you’re moving house. These are ideal if you’re looking for flexibility and ease within an open-style kitchen.
Built-in microwaves are integrated into your kitchen unit, giving a seamless and sleek finish. All types of microwaves can be built-in, from standard to combination, meaning you enjoy both style and function. Integrated models are perfect for those with a contemporary, fitted kitchen.
Types of microwave
The type of microwave you go for is the next important consideration you need to make after choosing between freestanding or built-in. Whether you just want to heat up leftovers every now and then or you’re looking for an appliance that can cook, grill and even bake, there’s a microwave for you.
If you’re just looking to defrost and reheat food, opt for a standard microwave (also known as a ‘solo microwave’). These convenient microwaves are perfect for everyday use when you don’t have the time to cook or you just need to give something a quick zap.
Perfect for: reheating leftovers, heating up snacks, defrosting food, making small and quick meals.
Microwave ovens with a grill
After a little more functionality than a standard microwave? Then choose a microwave oven with a grill. This’ll enable you to cook a wider range of foods including meat and fish – you’ll also be able to crisp and brown the outside of your food to get an added boost of flavour from your meals.
Perfect for: pizzas, grilling meat and fish, crisping or browning the outside of food.
Combination microwaves have multiple functions which allow you to prepare a variety of meals in a much quicker time than conventional ovens. Ideal for large families and those who enjoy cooking, these appliances offer you much more flexibility than a traditional microwave.
Perfect for: heating, roasting, grilling and crisping food - the full package!
Choosing the right level of power
Measured in watts, the typical domestic microwave usually falls between 700W to 1,200W. The higher the wattage, the faster and more evenly your food will cook.
If you’re looking for a standard microwave to reheat food, you’ll probably only need from 800W to 900W. For combination microwaves, or ones with the added benefit of a grill, you should be looking for 900W+. If you’re looking for the top speeds and most even cooking, no matter your type of microwave, opt for 1000W+.
Key features to consider
Known for their convenience, microwaves are designed to make cooking quick, simple and accessible for everyone. With that in mind, there are still a number of additional features that some models include to make your life that little bit easier. Below, we’ve covered the main points to look out for when browsing for your new appliance:
Capacity will vary between 17 to 44 litres, however a microwave suited for the average family will sit between 20 to 27 litres. The bigger the capacity, the more space and height you have, meaning you can heat more than one dish at a time.
If you don’t have time to wait for your food to thaw out, you can use the defrost setting on your microwave to speed up the process. Some models will use automatic defrost, similar to automatic cooking, to alter the settings according to the type of food.
Perfect for those who usually guess the required cooking time, pre-set programmes make life much easier. Models with this feature have pre-arranged time and power settings for heating, reheating or defrosting popular food types at the touch of a button.
Taking the idea of pre-set programmes to the next level, some modern microwaves include sensor cooking. This technology detects the humidity in the microwave and the moisture levels in your food. By automatically adjusting the cooking time and power, sensor cooking ensures that you never overcook your food.
In general, all microwaves are easy to wipe clean due to their metal lining. However, some premium models are lined with self-cleaning catalytic or pyrolytic liners which absorb dirt and grease. Look out for these antibacterial liners to keep your food fresh and hygienic.
Turntable or flatbed
A microwave with a turntable rotates your food to ensure it’s cooked evenly throughout. Some microwaves instead use a flatbed, offering greater capacity to heat larger dishes, while still achieving even cooking without the need for rotation. Microwaves with larger capacities usually use a flatbed instead of a turntable for this very reason.
Choosing your colour
Whether it’s built-in to your kitchen units or taking centre stage on top of your counter, you’ll want to choose a microwave in a colour that compliments your decor. Consider the colour of your existing appliances as well as the general aesthetic of your kitchen – is it contemporary and sleek or rustic and cosy?
Black microwaves are sleek, stylish and easily paired with other colours and patterns. Black is particularly effective when used in darker toned kitchens, creating a cosy ambience.
If you’re looking for a bright and calming kitchen, opt for a white microwave. This classic colour compliments any colour scheme, meaning you won’t have to worry if you move house or decide to redecorate.
One of the most popular colour choices, stainless steel microwaves are perfect for contemporary style kitchens. Just as stylish as black, stainless steel will blend effortlessly into your kitchen while providing a touch of professionalism.
How to measure for a new microwave
When browsing for your new microwave, take note of the dimensions (height x width x depth) – these can be found on our product pages under the ‘specification’ tab. You’ll need to use these to work out whether the appliance will fit in your kitchen, whether that’s built-in or freestanding,
To find out what dimensions you need, follow these simple steps:
- Decide where you’d like your microwave to live – will it be freestanding or built into the kitchen unit?
- Use a tape measure to work out the height, width and depth of the space available to you.
- Standard built-in microwaves: these models are usually around 60cm wide with a depth between 45cm to 60cm. Make sure the dimensions are correct, as the microwave will need to slot perfectly into the kitchen unit to achieve a seamless finish. You’ll also need to ensure there’s enough depth to plug your microwave in at the back.
- Compact built-in microwaves: compact models are usually around 50cm wide with a depth between 29cm to 39cm. As well as checking the height and width of your space carefully, make sure there’s enough depth to plug your microwave in at the back.
- Freestanding microwaves: these models come in a variety of dimensions as they do not need to fit within a kitchen unit. Just make sure the countertop has enough space available to comfortably hold the microwave without obstruction.
- Compare your available dimensions to those of the microwave by checking the specifications tab on our product pages.
Now you’ve decided on the style, type, power and features, it’s time to start considering the brand. We only stock trusted, reliable brands at Marks Electrical, so you can choose your favourite or pick the make that ticks all the right boxes when it comes to your new microwave. Start browsing from a large selection of brands, including:
If you still have questions about choosing a microwave, we’ve listed our most frequently asked questions below. If you can’t find the answer you’re looking for, get in touch with our friendly team and we’ll make sure to get you an answer.
How do microwaves cook food?
Microwaves channel heat energy straight into food using microwave radiation, which in turn causes the water molecules in the food to vibrate and generate heat. By using this process, certain foods can be cooked and reheated without burning or becoming lumpy, which can often happen in conventional pans (think of foods like chocolate and porridge).
What should I look for when buying a microwave?
You should consider the capacity of the microwave, whether you need a freestanding or integrated model, whether you’d like a standard, grill or combination microwave oven and any additional features such as sensor cooking technology. You’ll also want to make sure the model has enough power for the type of cooking you’ll be using it for.
What is a good size microwave for a family?
For an average sized family, choose a microwave around 27 litres with power between 800W - 1000W+. If you’re a busy family, remember, the higher the wattage, the quicker the cooking speed!
What is a flatbed microwave?
A flatbed microwave is an appliance which does not use a turntable to rotate the food while it’s cooking. The microwave will be specially designed to evenly and quickly cook the food, while having a larger capacity for dishes.
What is an inverter microwave?
While other microwaves will instead turn the power on and off to achieve lower heat settings during cooking, inverter microwaves deliver a constant stream of power. This enables precision cooking, ensuring no flavour is lost.
What is a solo microwave?
A solo microwave is another name for a freestanding standard microwave. These models don’t include any additional benefits, such as a grill or fan oven.