You cannot overstate the convenience of having a microwave in a home. Need to boil water quickly? Done. Need to heat up some popcorn in a couple of minutes for a movie? Check. Want to reheat leftovers from last night without waiting for the over to warm up? No problem.
While you can easily spend hundreds or even well over a thousand dollars on a microwave, you can easily find one for considerably less that looks good and cooks food quickly, as evidenced by the Toshiba Microwave Oven with Smart Sensor. Not only does this model have 1,100 watts of power, but it also boasts smart sensors and several quick keys for convenient operation.
Before buying any microwave, it is essential to determine where you will place it as not all models fit anywhere. For example, if buying a microwave to put it over your range, you need to buy an over-the-range microwave. Likewise, if purchasing a model for countertop placement, it needs to be a countertop microwave and the same for built-in microwaves. Each of these has different features that make it suited to one particular placement and unsuitable for another.
Rated in watts, the higher the microwave power wattage, the quicker a microwave can heat foods. The majority of microwaves have between 700 and 1,600 watts.
When determining the capacity of a microwave, note the cubic feet of the interior instead of the overall size. Some models may be bigger due to having thicker walls and a bulkier build but could offer less internal capacity than another microwave with smaller overall dimensions. The cooking capacity of most microwaves is somewhere between 0.9 and 2.2 cubic feet.
Microwaves with variable power allow you to lower the power when cooking or reheating delicate foods that you don’t want to warm up so quickly. The defrost mode on most microwaves is an example of how this can come in handy.
You should note that while many models boast having variable power, this is often an inaccurate way of stating their capabilities. This is because only microwaves with inverter technology allow you to adjust the cooking power. The rest simply cycle between full power and no power during the cooking process to replicate a lower power setting. Depending on what you consider cheap, you may or may not be able to find a microwave within your budget that features inverter technology.
For the most convenient operation, consider buying a microwave with quick keys. These can be preset cooking times that automatically start after touching a single button or preset programs for specific foods like popcorn, pizza, baked potatoes, etc.
Even if you don’t have children in the home, you never know when a friend or family member may bring one over during a visit, so it makes sense to buy a microwave with a child safety lock feature. This ensures that no matter how much curious fingers tamper with the control panel, they can’t accidentally initiate a cooking process.
Some microwaves offer advanced functionality like smart sensors and convection cooking. The former allows the microwave to monitor heat and steam inside the oven so it can determine when food is done, and then adjust its power and cooking time accordingly. Microwaves with the latter functionality feature a radiant heat source and a fan to circulate warm air. This allows them to bake and roast foods just like you would in a regular oven. As with inverter technology, whether or not you can find a cheap microwave with these kinds of advanced functionality depends on what you consider affordable.
A reasonable price range for what can be considered a cheap microwave is between $50-$150. You’ll find countertop models may start towards the lower end of this price spectrum, while built-ins and over-the-range microwaves start towards the upper end of the range.
A. The best way to keep a microwave clean is to cover your food when cooking, especially soups and anything with a sauce that may bubble up and splatter. It is also essential to clean it at least once every week or two to prevent bacteria from growing. You can easily achieve this with a solution of distilled white vinegar and warm water.
A. The cost of a microwave doesn’t affect how long it takes to cook food. This is a direct result of the wattage. You can find high-powered but cheap microwaves that cook food just as quickly as premium models, though they will often have fewer features.
What you need to know: This is one of the best options for those who want a microwave with advanced functionality without spending a lot of money.
What you’ll love: It boasts smart sensor cooking, has plenty of convenient quick keys and offers 1,100 watts of power.
What you should consider: Some users have complained of the interior light failing.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
What you need to know: A high-tech option that comes bundled with the Echo Dot, it’s hard to beat this package when it comes to value for the money.
What you’ll love: It integrates with Alexa for voice control and has a compact size that is easy to fit in small kitchens.
What you should consider: The aesthetics are fundamental and won’t match high-end appliances.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
What you need to know: Those cultivating a retro style in their kitchen can turn to this model from Galanz, which also happens to be extremely cheap.
What you’ll love: It offers adjustable power levels and has a child lock, so you don’t have to worry about kids accidentally activating its cooking functions.
What you should consider: Its functionality is limited, and it lacks preset programs.
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Brett Dvoretz writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.