Why do you need a buying guide for buying something as simple as a microwave oven?
You can just go into the shop and order the first microwave oven you see on the shelf. No, it is not as simple as you think.
One should know the concept of microwave cooking, the different types of microwave ovens available in the market, the utility, the benefits, blah, blah, blah.
Microwave cooking – The Concept
It goes without saying that you need heat for cooking food. Microwave ovens work on the concept of using microwaves or generating heat.
These microwaves are types of waves located between radio waves and infrared radiation on the electromagnetic spectrum.
These waves are absorbed by water, sugar, and fats. Automatically, they generate heat. Secondly, materials like plastic, glass, or ceramics do not absorb microwaves.
Metals have the unique property of reflecting microwaves. Hence, you do not use metal utensils in a microwave oven.
Difference between a traditional oven and a microwave oven
Traditional ovens work on the principle of conduction of heat. Heat passes from the outside of the food to the middle. In a microwave oven, the radio waves penetrate the food and excite the water and fat molecules evenly throughout the food.
There is no migration of heat from anywhere. The process of heating is uniform. Since the process of heating is uniform, you save a lot of time when you cook food in a microwave oven.
Different types of Microwave ovens
Broadly speaking, you have two types of microwave ovens in the market, the conventional mode and the convection mode. The conventional oven is further divided into solo and grille ovens. We shall delve into each aspect as we go deep into the guide.
Conventional Microwave oven
The conventional microwave oven works on the principle of microwaves penetrating through plastic or glass containers to cook food. There are two types of conventional microwave ovens, the solo type and the grill type.
There is not much difference in these two types of ovens except for the fact that you can cook, grill, and have presets while cooking.
The solo microwave oven is useful for reheating food and cooking specific simple recipes. The grille microwave oven is an improvement on the solo oven by having a couple of additional features.
Convectional Microwave oven
The convectional microwave oven works on two technologies simultaneously. You have an additional heating technology in these convection microwave ovens. This technology is a combination of microwaves and radiation from intense light from a quartz halogen bulb. This enables faster cooking and adds taste to your food as well.
The convection microwave ovens have a fan at the backside of the oven that helps in circulating the hot air. This speeds up the cooking and can help in making the food crustier.
These types of ovens use multiple technologies to heat food. Naturally, they are more expensive than the conventional microwave ovens.
Different Styles of Microwave ovens
We restrict ourselves to the home microwave ovens alone. You have four major styles of microwave ovens available in the market. They are as follows.
Countertop microwave ovens
As the name suggests, these countertop microwave ovens are portable ones. You can place them anywhere and start cooking.
These ovens perform many functions such as thawing of frozen food, reheating food, make popcorns, and similar cooking tasks. Normally, you find these counter ovens in sizes of 18inches(width) X 14 inches(depth) X 12 inches(height).
Having a capacity of around 1 cubic foot, these ovens work on a power range of 500 to 1000 watts. It is better to have a separate electricity outlet, preferably with a circuit breaker. There is a demerit in the fact that these ovens take up a lot of space in the kitchen.
Above-Range Microwave ovens
Considering the demerits of the countertop microwave oven, there was a need for manufacturing a convection oven that could save space. The above-range microwave ovens are the perfect options.
This is a comparatively new type of oven in India, but they have made their presence felt elsewhere in the world.
Situated above the cooking range, these units have multispeed fans that recirculate air using charcoal filters. There is no need for providing external ventilation. Some of the latest models have automatic exhaust fans that switch on when the microwave oven becomes hot.
They form an integral part of many a modular kitchen today in India as well.
Microwave Oven – Size and power
The microwave ovens in India come in five sizes depending on the type of food you wish to cook. The normal India household uses the smallest range of ovens having a capacity of up to 19 litres.
However, larger families need bigger ovens in the range of over 20 litres to 22 litres. There are larger ovens available in the size ranges, 23 to 25 litres, 26 to 29 litres, and 29 litres and above.
Depending on the size of the oven, you have the power consumption range. Naturally, the larger ovens consume higher power.
Important features of microwave ovens in India
Some of top convection microwave oven manufacturers in India are IFB, Samsung, LG, Bajaj, and Morphy Richards. They come in a range of capacities and sizes. Each of these microwave ovens has some unique features.
Auto Cook Menu
This feature has preset programs that help in simplifying the preparation of different recipes. All you have to do is to select the type of dish and the weight.
The oven will automatically calculate the time required and set the power accordingly.
Child Lock facility
One has to be very careful with microwave ovens. One should not open the oven midway through the cooking frequently. There can be tremendous heat inside the appliance.
Children by nature are inquisitive. They may just do what you prohibit them to do. Hence, these microwave ovens come with a child lock facility to protect your children from unnecessary accidents.
People habituated to non-vegetarian food would love this feature in their microwave ovens. The Rotisserie is a grill you use for barbecuing meat, poultry, paneer, and vegetables.
Non-vegetarians will love this feature as well. The defrosting feature allows you to unfreeze food without waiting for the frozen food to thaw.
Using this facility is easy because you have to input the food’s weight and let the oven do the rest. You can also set up the defrosting option manually depending on the weight of the food.
The advantage of this facility is that you can have the food straight out of the oven. The taste and flavor does not undergo any change.
Certain foods like cake and pastries take a lot of time to cook. This can make the oven consume a lot of time and power. These foods require you to pre-heat the oven to a fixed temperature before you start baking them.
Usually, the recipe might say, ‘Pre-heat the oven up to 200 degrees C. The Pre-heat feature in these ovens is a notable one.
You have automatic timers in microwave ovens now that work depending on the nature of food and the weight. You have the option to set the timer manually as well.
Setting the timer allows you to look after other chores in the kitchen without worrying about the food. The system will automatically shut off after the expiry of time set at the beginning of the procedure.
Microwave oven – Types of panels:
You find three types of control panels in microwave ovens in India. They are as follows.
The solo microwave ovens usually come with mechanical controls to set the timers and temperature. They are durable and do not require frequent replacement.
This is an innovative system that works almost in the same manner as a touch screen phone. The system can sense your fingers. You can set up accurate timing and temperature using feather touch panels.
These are special features that allow you to set timers and other controls using soiled fingers as well. The best part is that you do not damage the unit while doing so.
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Geetha Srinivasan is a homemaker by profession and choice. Her passion and skill in understanding the nuances of electric appliances prove handy in providing information about Home & kitchen appliances in the most straightforward manner possible.