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Sharp R402JWT Countertop Microwave
Sharp R402JWT Countertop Microwave

How to Buy a Microwave Oven

Microwaves have evolved in such a way that they can be used for more than just reheating last night's dinner and cooking frozen foods. The humble microwave is now an appliance loaded with features that even gourmet chefs can appreciate. If you're in the market for a new microwave, the following guidelines can help you choose a model that best meets your needs.

The Basics

Step 1Wattage: A microwave with at least 1,000 watts is ideal for the home cook. Models can be purchased that have less wattage, but they are only useful for reheating.
Step 2Style: Just like larger appliances, microwaves can be purchased to match the style of your kitchen. Black, white and stainless steel microwaves are very common, but some manufacturers even offer bolder colors, such as blue and red.
Step 3Size: Microwaves range in size from less than a cubic foot to more than 2 cubic feet. Many of the larger capacity models are designed to be used over a range and double as a stove vent.
Step 4Standard Features: Many models include a defrost setting and a popcorn button. Other features may include reheat and soften buttons.
Step 5Luxury Features: The reason microwaves are making a big splash in the kitchen again is the use of specialty features. Now microwaves can be used to grill and even bake. This is due to the introduction of convection technology in microwave ovens.

The Lingo

Wattage: Wattage is important when buying a microwave because it determines how fast food cooks. The higher the wattage, the faster the cooking.
Defrost: This feature allows meat to be defrosted at a moment's notice.
Soften: The soften button allows butter, cream cheese and even ice cream to be quickly softened.
Reheat: Microwaves allow you to quickly reheat a food based on the type or weight.

The Experts

Better Homes and Gardens states that an over-the-stove model is a popular option because it offers eye level views and can be purchased with a built-in stove vent.
ConsumerSearch.com points out that microwave ovens only open from the right, even though some kitchen situations would be better suited for a left-sided option. Keep this in mind when deciding where to put your new microwave.

The Brands

Emerson are perfect for those on a budget. Costing as little as $50, Emerson models are best designed for those who need a microwave for reheating and other simple tasks.
Sharp provides a wide variety of models for both the countertop and over the range. It also offers a variety of prices to fit almost any budget, with some models costing less than $100.
Amana offers microwaves in various sizes and styles costing $100 and up.
Cuisinart microwaves include luxury features, but they can still be purchased for as little as $100.
Panasonic makes high-quality microwaves that are large, powerful and loaded with great features. They can be on the pricey side, though, costing around $150 and up.

The Price

$: Low-cost microwaves are best suited for reheating and other simple tasks, but can be purchased for around $50. Try the Emerson Microwave Oven Touch Control.
$$: These can be had for around $100 and have all the features a basic home cook will need. Try the Sharp R308NW Microwave Oven.
$$$: Luxury microwaves feature convection cooking and are a wonderful option for the gourmet kitchen. Prices start at $150. Try the Bosch HMT8050 Microwave Ovenhttp.