Helpful, Intelligent Cook

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Choose the ideal microwave oven for your cooking needs.

Whether or not you’re a regular cook, you’d probably have one in your kitchen. Microwave ovens today do not just preheat cooked food or defrost frozen pizzas, but they also pack a punch of cooking features that greatly enhance your cooking, and that might even impress your mother-in-law.

From heavyweights to models with mere basic features, microwaves are a common household item that can be found in almost every departmental store. With such a galore of choices and varying price range to match, which should you get for your home? The good news is that microwave ovens have become so multi-functional today that you won’t go too wrong with your purchase. Let’s narrow down to some common points for consideration:

Usage and requirement
The first thing that usually comes to mind is the function and use. What do you need it for? To do most of your cooking or merely a back-up for your main cooking? Should you be a frequent patron of take-outs or a cooking klutz, the oven would probably be a device for warming frozen dinners or preparing simple meals. Decide on the usage before browsing the wide selection out there.

Size and power
Depending on the usage, you would then consider the size and power of the microwave oven you’re interested in getting. Cooking elaborate dinners would require a more feature-packed oven of relatively bigger size and power. Bigger machines operate at bigger watts and consume more electricity but they also cook faster, making it ideal for bigger families and for more elaborate cooking. If however you’re only using the oven primarily to warm dinners or brown certain foods, then a smaller machine would do the job.

Features
After thinking about the general usage of your oven, we need to take a look at the features. Should you get an oven with multi-cooking features that can steam, grill, and microwave? Some microwaves come with built-in steaming bowls to steam a variety of foods like brown rice and vegetables, easing your cooking to a breeze. Or perhaps you’d just require a basic oven with simple one-touch heating features? Some common features in the market include:

Auto defrost – Defrost meat, poultry, and fish with a button’s touch; some microwave ovens allow you to type in the food type and estimate the food weight while others come with a built-in scale to measure the weight, ensuring that you cook it right.
Auto settings –
Pre-programmed settings that enable you to cook various food items at the ease of a button.
Child safety lock –
A feature that prevents little ones from opening the doors and burning their fingers.
Turntable –
A rotating turntable or glass tray to ensure food gets cooked or heated more evenly.
Auto roast –
A feature that enables you to roast meat and vegetables at the touch of a button.
Self-cleaning –
Some microwave ovens are equipped with easy cleaning feature that utilises steam to clean grease and grime. What you need to do afterwards is just to wipe the interior with a clean cloth, an effort that helps to reduce your post-cooking cleaning to a maximum.
Sensor settings –
With sensors, cooking becomes so much easier. Microwave sensors detect when food is cooked and turn the machine off. With this, over or undercooking would not be a problem. Some advanced microwave ovens also calculate cooking time and do the job of selecting the pre-programmed auto-cook settings for optimum cooking.
Digital displays –
A must-have feature now, digital displays now have scrolling buttons to check out the microwave user guide and instruction manual. Some also enable you to programme your personal recipe settings.

The number and type of features would of course depend on the kind of microwave you buy. The different types of microwave ovens include:

Countertop/ solo
Countertop microwave ovens are the most common and basic. They vary in sizes from compact, medium sized to larger ones but they’re generally less expensive. Their attribute is of course their portability. Ideal for households with basic cooking needs, countertop microwaves take up however the most space. Their usual features would include auto defrost, turntable, child safety lock, and auto cooking settings to cook and warm various foods like pasta and bread for example.

Convection
Comprising features that can roast, bake, and brown foods like poultry, convection ovens are more advanced machines than the basic and standard microwave. Their ability to cook and heat food faster – because of a high velocity fan to circulate hot air uniformly – also result in the food being cooked to have a browned and crisped outside. Because of their advanced features, convection ovens are generally considered a more high-end kitchen appliance. Some of their advanced features might include grill temperature settings from low, medium, and high grill temperature to choose from. Others include one-touch sensor defrost setting that automatically weighs the food and then sets the defrost time for accurate defrosting.

After deciding on the type of oven, how should you install it? If space is an issue, then a countertop oven would not be as ideal as one that is built-in. Microwave ovens can be mounted on the wall between storage cabinets as part of the overall kitchen cabinet design. Other options like the over-the-range type involve mounting it above stovetop as part of the stove range design and features. Mounting the microwave oven at the top part of the cabinet or eye level also helps to ensure your children are safe from touching the hot surface when in the kitchen.

Having a built-in microwave oven as compared to a countertop one would enable your kitchen to look seamless and aesthetic because of the flushed design. In addition, wall mounting the oven would leave more space on the countertop for your kitchen tasks, saving much space especially in the space-starved apartments we have these days. But because you’ve to get a contractor to customise the cabinet design, the cost would be much heftier. Still, some households may prefer to have this streamlined design, preferring to opt for looks at the expense of cost.