The microwave has become a household staple — it’s rare that you’ll find a kitchen without one. Serious cooks and gourmet chefs rarely use microwave ovens–at least, not for serious cooking. Instead, microwave ovens are used primarily to boil water, heat food and pop popcorn, which is what most people need them for.
If you’re in the market for a new microwave, expect to spend between $80 and $300.
A low-end microwave typically costs about $80 and has approximately 1/2 cubic foot of space. Cheaper microwave ovens use about 500 watts of power, so they don’t cook food as quickly as more expensive models. But if you don’t have high expectations of a microwave, you may be satisfied with a cheaper one.
The amount of usable cooking space in a microwave oven is about 40 percent less than the total cubic footage.
Midlevel microwave ovens usually cost about $120 and have about 1 cubic foot of space. These ovens use about 1,000 watts and cook food fairly quickly. They have advanced features and more options.
Mid- and upper-level microwaves often come with a carousel. Microwaves move at random within the oven, however, which means that a carousel doesn’t necessarily help cook food more evenly. If you buy a microwave oven without this feature, you’ll probably get more for your money.
Try to find a model with a pushbutton door handle rather than a pull handle. Pull handles can erode the seals in a microwave oven and cause minor radiation leakage.)
High-end microwaves cost more than $150 and have more than 1.5 cubic feet of space. They come with automatic settings for defrosting foods and popping popcorn, and many newer models use sensors to detect when food has finished cooking or defrosting. Check your owner’s manual before using automatic features.