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Buyers' guide: microwave ovens

MicrowaveIf you're looking for the best deals and offers on microwave ovens before you buy one from the huge range of prices available here in the UK, then it can be a rather bewildering task. After all, you can find microwaves everywhere these days, from the cheapest online outlets through to supermarkets.

However, there's no doubt that, by and large, your best bet for securing the cheapest models is to compare the different deals and offers found on the Internet, along with reading up on the many and varied consumer models which are also an excellent way of ensuring that you've pinpointed the right model for the job before you buy. Of course, by going online to compare the cheap microwaves that are available in the marketplace in 2012, then you'll instantly find a much larger range to choose from.

Prices will invariably be much more competitive too, although what might seem like a cheap microwave initially might end up proving more of a burden than a cooking asset if you part with your cash and find out afterwards that it's woefully inadequate for your cooking requirements. While many people tend to think that buying a microwave is simply a case of getting the cheapest model possible, microwave ovens are actually sophisticated cooking devices that can do much more than they used to.

I want a microwave!

It's more than likely that you'll probably already own a microwave oven, mainly because they have been a popular kitchen gadget for years now. Unfortunately, the cheap microwave models that sit at the lowest end of the budget spectrum are often underpowered and struggle to do much with anything more than a simple pizza slice or some beans and a tiny jacket potato.

So, as a result, over the years, microwave ovens have moved on in leaps and bounds and today, you can get a microwave that is a very sophisticated beast and very far removed from the simplistic metal boxes of old. Naturally, if you just want a cheap microwave that only does the basic culinary chores, such as warming up dishes and the like, then a basic model that costs just a few pounds will be fine for the task in hand.

But, if your needs are for something that can do an altogether more beefy task of cooking foodstuffs then you'll certainly want to look at the best microwave you can get from the many deals and offers that are out there right now. There are actually a whole stack of sophisticated microwaves available now and many of them can do things that you never even dreamed off with your old underpowered contraption.

Microwave meal revolution

So what's so special about the microwaves that are on offer nowadays? Compared to those previous earlier editions that were often poor performers and, in many cases, only lasted a handful of years, if that, modern microwaves can do all sorts of cooking chores and thrown in a few high-tech tricks along the way too. Deciding on what you think is going to be the best microwave though can involve quite a lot of comparison of the different features found on-board one these amazing new devices.

After all, while every microwave worth its salt can produce a hearty meal in a few minutes or seconds, depending on what it is you're cooking, the ideal microwave oven for specific needs has to be able to fulfil a variety of different tasks. The chances are you may well want a microwave to heat up basic foodstuffs, but you might also want your new microwave gizmo to use a grill or fan oven feature to give added texture or flavour to otherwise fairly innocuous microwaved meals.

Thanks to modern design and the new technology being used in many microwave models being produced right now, you'll also find that many new devices are much better at fitting into your surroundings. Old style microwave ovens were big, bulky and often looked pretty awful too. Conversely, new microwave models are smaller, more compact, have much better design aesthetics and also won't leave you feeling embarrassed when your friends go to warm up their soup or spaghetti hoops.

Microwaves: how do they work?

The concept of the microwave has been with us for a number of years now and the basic principle remains the same as it was with the earlier lower-powered microwaves. A modern device does just as it suggests, by using micro waves or radio waves at a frequency of 2,500MHz to heat through food and drinks, which all sounds quite scientific, but it's actually a pretty straightforward process.

While microwaves will heat water, fats and sugars, they don't do the same to containers such as plastic, glass or ceramics that you'll put your food or drink in ready for consumption. However, you also need to remember that your humble microwave, no matter if it's the cheapest or a premium model, will not take kindly to metal containers or utensils being put inside it, as metal is reflected by microwaves.

Assuming that you pursue these basic microwave rules then models that you compare will be able to do essentially the same task, no matter if they are cheap basic variants or models that come with very high prices attached to them along with a wealth of extra features. What's more, even if you purchase a very basic cheap microwave or perhaps go to the other end of the scale and buy a premium model here in the UK, then you can be assured that they are all energy efficient, simply because of they technology they employ.

The other great thing about microwaves of all types is that they have the ability to heat your food consistently throughout, although more basic microwave ovens that come with a grill built in are increasingly a popular option as they allow you to get a crispy or crusty texture on the outside rather than the soggy appearance and lacklustre taste of the old-style microwave models or the cheapest ones that are still available on the market.

Microwave ovens: features to look out for

So then, if you're looking to buy a new microwave then there a some key features that you should factor into your comparison when you are searching across the product ranges and also looking at prices. The microwave with a grill is increasingly popular, as we've outlined above, but there is such an array of different options nowadays for microwaves that you can get models that are built-in to your kitchen or workspace and they generally come with all of the necessary fitting kits too.

Then you'll also want to consider the size of the microwaves you are comparing, with anything from around the 17 litres size through to well over 32 litres, there is something to meet any kind of microwave moment, from heating quick snacks through to preparing culinary feasts. Around about the 27 litre mark is seen as a fairly typical size for an average family as it gives enough size without being too spacious and thereby wasting energy.

You may also want to consider a combi microwave, which is essentially a blend of a traditional microwave along with a grill and combi or hot-air oven. Some of these microwaves can even steam food too for added flexibility, while pretty much all microwaves can be used to defrost frozen products and reheat the likes of leftovers very successfully too.

Microwave essentials

Perhaps one of the key aspects of buying a microwave oven is to spend time comparing the different levels of power being offered the products currently on the market. This is where a quick comparison before you buy can make all the difference because you can narrow down your search to match only the sort of power requirements that you need, along with, of course, the prices in your ideal range too.

When buying a microwave you'll find that prices differ wildly, from the cheapest models that have a few basic functions through to top level deals and offers that come with all of the cooking functionality you'll ever need. With that in mind you should ponder over what sort of cooking you expect to be doing with your new microwave purchase, and also if you think you'll need to call on your purchase to defrost foodstuffs from time to time too.

What's more, look out for common microwave features, such as a child lock for added safety, automatic cooking and defrosting options on-board and also the chaos defrost mode that many new microwaves also have that proves to be a more energy efficient way of defrosting food. This is another great reason why getting a newer microwave can not only add greener credentials to your kitchen activities, but will also make getting the cooking done a much quicker task. Catalytic or pyrolytic liners in modern microwaves means that they are also easier to keep clean, so they should not only work better but look more impressive than some of the cheap and nasty ovens of old too.

Microwaves: high-tech cookery

MicrowaveThen there's all the other fangled new technology that many microwaves are increasingly using to get different jobs done in the kitchens or wherever they are being employed. There are now microwaveable features such as a turbo reheat option for putting the life back into the likes of baked beans or soups, while multiple cooking modes can work out how best to produce wonderful food from defrosting right through to cooking.

Many new microwaves also have a wealth of preset programmes too, and these can be used to produce hot food or drinks no matter what type of thing it might be. So, if you regularly want to heat up anything from soup through to a full roast dinner then you may want it investigate the models that are further away from the cheap end of the spectrum. In fact, if you see the microwave as an essential part of your kitchen activity then compare the best deals and offers you can find and you'll be certain to find a model out there to match your needs.