Buyer's Guide \ Microwaves \ How to Choose a Microwave

How to Choose a Microwave

Are you thinking of buying a new microwave for the growing needs of your family? Whether you’re remodelling the kitchen, moving to a new place, replacing an older, worn-out model, or buying a microwave for the first time, you need the best appliance that will fit the designated space.
Your new microwave has to meet your needs and requirements, but if you have doubts, don’t worry, as we’ve compiled a microwave buying guide for your convenience.


The microwave oven is one of the essential kitchen appliances. It reheats food quicker than stovetops and is perfect when you need a hot meal in a pinch. Newer models can be similar to convection ovens in features and capabilities and can become centrepieces of a modern kitchen. For people that have strict schedules, a good microwave is a real timesaver.
A microwave radiates energy waves to make water molecules vibrate, which in turn heats the food. If you want to learn more about how a microwave works, check out our How a Microwave Works article.

Step 1: Find the Right Microwave Size

Before you go and grab the first microwave from your local appliance store, you need to find out what size will be right for you. Microwaves come in various sizes, and the perfect fit for you will be determined by your kitchen’s available space and your family’s size.
Microwave sizes are specified in litres (or cubic feet). A model will usually have a number displayed somewhere on its specification. An abbreviation that says “35L” means the internal size of the microwave is 35 litres. The common sizes available are 20 to 62L (0.7 to 2.2 cu ft). Smaller ones can usually handle dinner plates, while bulkier microwaves can fit larger dishes that better suit your cooking needs.
Another factor when it comes to microwave size is counter space. A small microwave oven would typically measure approximately 44 x 25 x 35cm (17.3 x 10 x 14 inches) in width, height, and depth, respectively, so make sure you’ve set aside adequate space for the microwave in the kitchen. If the microwave is built-in, you’ll need to provide accurate specifications to the contractor building the counters and installing appliances.
The size of the microwave will also be dependant on the frequency and ways you’re using it. If you have a sizeable family or lots of people over, a larger microwave will be able to heat up, cook, or defrost larger dishes and items.

Step 2: Select the Best Microwave Type for Your Kitchen

There are three main microwave types: countertop, over-the-range, and built-in microwaves.
Countertop microwaves are the easiest to install. Simply plop them on a flat surface, leave a little room for ventilation, and plug them into an outlet. Some countertop models can be converted into built-in microwaves using special trim kits. They are often smaller since they have to compete with other countertop appliances for space.
Built-in microwaves are installed in a wall or between cabinets, much like regular wall ovens. They are an excellent way to save some kitchen space and come in a variety of sizes and power levels, but they tend to be more powerful, expensive, and bigger than countertop models. Moreover, they often require professional installation, which can further increase the cost. You can learn more about the differences between the various types in our comparison of Built-In Vs. Countertop Microwaves.

Over-the-range microwaves are technically a type of built-in model if you think about it. However, these models are installed above the oven range, replacing the hood. They often have a dual function since they provide ventilation for the range. They are usually low-profile, to further save space above the cooktop, but have a roomy interior for wide dishes.

Apart from installation types, microwaves come in two distinct operational types: regular microwaves and convection microwave ovens.

Step 3: Choose the Microwave Features You Need

Once you’ve decided on your microwave style and size, you need to think about the additional features. A more basic model will be better on the budget, but a lack of options might mean you won’t be able to do everything you want in the kitchen.
Additions such as defrosting, broiling, and pre-programmed settings can make a huge difference in cooking times and food preparation.
Some novelty systems also use smart home technology to connect the microwave to the local network and operate it remotely. A smart microwave is a perfect fit for the tech-savvy, modern family that wants to have control of every appliance in one place.
Once you’ve settled on features, it’s important to take a look at the appearance of the microwave. A model with large buttons will help you find the features needed, whereas a microwave with flush control panels is easier to clean, as there is less space for dirt to get lodged.

Step 4: What Microwave Wattage Do I Need?

Microwave wattage refers to power output. Models with higher wattage will heat the food faster. Most models range between 600 and 1200W, but the convection models are also equipped with heating elements for additional functions like baking and broiling.
For most purposes, a 900 to 1000W microwave will be able to heat up your food relatively quickly and can defrost and cook as well. Less powerful models might struggle with larger items or heating evenly.
While higher wattage will mean faster cooking, more power, and larger size, it often comes at an increased cost. However, if you have a larger family, the investment is often worth it.

The Best Microwave for You

Whatever your budget and needs, there is a perfect appliance out there that will suit your kitchen and your family. This quick microwave buying guide will help you choose the ideal product. Consider the installation costs of various microwave types and what purpose the microwave serves in the kitchen. No matter what you decide, the Whirlpool family of brands has a vast selection of models to choose from that will serve you well.
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