The Ultimate Guide to Choosing A Microwave

Microwaves are a staple of most modern kitchens, and they are compact, efficient, and versatile appliances that can be found in nearly every home across America. But how much do you know about the technology behind microwave ovens? Here is some new information on microwaves that may surprise you!

1. What is a microwave oven?

A microwave is an appliance that cooks food using microwave radiation to agitate water and fat molecules in food — causing them to vibrate and release energy in the form of heat. Food is essentially steeped in this microwaved energy, which causes the internal temperature of the food to rise quickly. This effect is called dielectric heating.

It's also important to understand that microwaves cook food by heating the outer layer of food, not within. That is why microwaving meat can sometimes result in still-raw sections next to overcooked areas (similar to how an oven cooks meat).

2. Types of Microwaves Ovens

a, Microwaves can be classified into two main categories:

  • Conventional microwaves are the most common, least expensive, and most basic type of microwave oven. A magnetron inside the unit sends out waves of electromagnetic radiation, which causes molecules in the food to rotate back and forth at insanely high speeds — this rapid rotation generates heat. Magnetrons do not have specific power settings but rather a continuous range of power output. The trade-off of having such complete control over cooking times makes for more efficient energy usage regardless. Whereas conventional units simply cook by agitating molecules from start to end irrespective of how much time has passed.

b, Microwave ovens with inverter technology:

  • An inverter microwave oven allows the cook to control cooking time by varying microwave power throughout the cooking process. An inverter cycles power on and off to achieve this effect, which means that an inverter unit uses less energy than a conventional unit while achieving optimal cooking results.

The third type of microwave is being developed, called radiofrequency (RF) microwaves, but they are still in the experimental stage. These units use frequencies much higher than what our current technology can produce, so their long-range heating effect is currently not within safe radiation limits. However, scientists hope that this technology will eventually be used for non-radiation applications one day soon.

3. Safety Precautions for Cooking with a Microwave

Cooking your food in a microwave oven is a quick and convenient way to get a meal on the table, but some essential safety precautions should be followed when using this appliance. Most of these guidelines have been established by the FDA or USDA.

  • Read all manufacturer's instructions before cooking with any appliance.
  • Make sure you know how to properly use your microwave, especially if it has inverter technology. These more advanced microwaves require particular characteristics from food being cooked so they can achieve optimal results. Understanding how inverter microwaves work will help you understand what proper cook times may entail for certain foods (like frozen dinners).
  • Always make sure to use a microwave-safe dish when cooking.
  • Consider the shape of the item you are microwaving if safety is a concern (some spoons can cause sparks).
  • Never cook any food with aluminium foil, which can release dangerous chemicals into your food. Instead, use an oven-safe glass or plastic container to seal your meal's moisture and flavour.

If you need to warm up a glass of milk, keep in mind that microwaves work by agitating molecules. For the best results, make sure your milk is cold and that no ice crystals remain on the container or inside it. This is because ice can heat unevenly and create hot spots within the liquid.

Obvious but often-forgotten safety precautions: 

  • Do not use a microwave oven as a substitute for a toaster or stovetop burner. They were designed mainly for heating food, so using them for any other purpose could be dangerous.
  • Never use an appliance without being entirely certain of what it's being used for — especially if there are kids!
  • You should never use a microwave oven for anything but cooking food. It's not meant to be used as an alternative!
  • Don't forget to scan your items before defrosting. Place them on a dish and cover with plastic wrap. If using an inverter, use only the Express Defrost setting or adjust cook times accordingly.
  • Do not put plastic or paper in a microwave oven unless specifically indicated on the container's packaging.

4. Cheap vs Expensive Microwaves

The expense of a microwave oven has more to do with its features than what type of technology it uses. For instance, the cheapest available units still use magnetrons, but they lack power and features such as inverter technology (which can take up to 30 seconds off cooking times).

Conversely, an expensive inverter microwave will provide you with more safety features, but it may also take longer to cook your meal. Many people prefer the latter option since inverter microwaves are well-known for their superior cooking capabilities. They also offer both sensor and manual cooking capabilities to be more versatile than standard microwave ovens.

Of course, you'll also have to factor in the cost of installation. Since inverter microwaves often require a more extensive ventilation system, they are frequently installed by an electrician.

However, if you spend more on a microwave with inverter technology, keep in mind that it will automatically raise the price of your appliance. You may want to consider spending less on an oven without inverter technology and using the savings elsewhere.