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Comparing Features in Microwave Ovens

Most features in microwave ovens are now nearly universal. Standard features include kitchen timer, digital clock, interior light, turntable, quick select buttons for specific food items, and just about every microwave has a numeric touch pad to enter cooking time and temperature.

Other features found only on some models include sensors to determine if the food is done, add a minute button to add time to the last program without re-entering all the settings, an extended collection of quick settings, convection cooking (sometimes called a "browning" feature), speedcook feature, specific fahrenheit temperature setting, dual -mode timers that will time the food and operate as a kitchen timer simultaneously, and a keep warm setting that holds food warm until is removed.

One company, Dacor, offers an extended range of colors beyond the standard white, black, bisque and stainless steel.

The most popular type of microwave oven is still the countertop model. Though over-the-range and built-in models are gaining in popularity because of the desire of many people to get the microwave off of the countertop.

When selecting a microwave, the three primary considerations are installation type, capacity and wattage. Wattage and capacity tend to go hand-in-hand, with larger capacity units offering higher power. Higher wattage does mean faster cooking, but the wattage in ovens is usually paired based upon the oven capacity. It isn't necessary to be too concerned with an oven's wattage; the capacity is the more relevant consideration.

While most people still use a microwave oven more for defrosting, quick reheating, and cooking snack foods, recent improvements make them increasingly useful for general cooking tasks. If you don't see yourself cooking with a microwave, but instead using it for defrosting and quick heating, then a smaller model might be your best choice. With kitchen space usually at a premium, an overly large microwave oven may be an unnecessary waste of space. However, for those who will take advantage of cooking features, especially convection cooking, choose an oven capacity that will handle meal sizes you typically prepare.

If you are considering a built in model, most countertop models can be installed into a cubby type space built for them. This allows you to choose from a larger selection of ovens and may save you some money too. If you install a countertop oven as a built-in, be certain to follow the manufacturers recommendations for allowing free air space around the oven. Failure to provide adequate ventilation can lead to overheating, damage to the microwave or even a fire. Also, to create a more finished look, some models offer a trim kit to facilitate built-in installation. If your model doesn't offer one, generic trim kits are also available.

If you will be installing a wall oven, some manufacturers offer matching built-in microwave ovens to keep allow unified look in your kitchen. A few manufacturers offer wall ovens with integrated microwave ovens, similar to a double wall oven. More information on this type of microwave can be found in our wall oven section.

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