What is a microwave and how do they work?
Microwaves work by generating "micro waves", which are essentially high-frequency radio waves. These are absorbed by water, sugars and fats, where they are transformed into heat. They're not absorbed by plastic, which is why it's okay to use Tupperware pots to heat food, but never put metal in a microwave, as this reflects the waves.
Because of the way they work, the microwave only heats the food and not the air around it. This makes them more efficient, but if you want a crispy topping you'll need to grill it afterwards too. Alternatively, you can purchase a microwave with a grill attached.
Types of microwave
We at Wren offer stand-alone microwaves and built-in options for a stylish addition to your kitchen. There are three main types that you can find, so choose whichever you think is best for you and your style of kitchen.
A basic microwave carries out the function described above, and is perfect for reheating and defrosting food. This is great if you do most of your cooking in the oven, and you're only using it for heating ready meals, hot drinks or frozen foods.
Microwave and grill
These microwaves have an additional function, a grill that can be used on its own or in conjunction with the microwave. They're usually faster than oven grills, making them ideal for making toast or browning off a pasta bake, and when you reheat crunchy food you can make sure it stays that way after reheating!
Combined microwaves have a fan-assisted oven, which makes them slightly larger but perfect for cooking everything from casseroles to Sunday roasts. You can use these functions in combination to really speed up your cooking time, and some even have a steamer feature for vegetables and breads.
Power & Size
Microwaves are available in different power ranges, usually from 600 watts to 1100 watts. Additionally, they have heat category ratings from A to E, which indicates how quickly it can re-heat food. Generally speaking, larger microwaves will have a higher wattage, but this doesn't necessarily mean they heat food up faster, so you should always check the heat category rating too.
The size of microwaves varies from 17L to over 32L, and the size you need will depend on how you'll be using it, but generally you want to make sure that a normal-sized dinner plate will sit comfortably inside, for everyday use. If you're using it for family cooking, go for around 27L, which will allows you to cook more than one dish at a time.
What to look out for
All microwaves have a range of features and programmes that will help you prepare food quickly. These are some of the most common features to look out for if you have something specific in mind:
Variable power: Most models will carry five to ten different power settings, so you can adjust for meals of different sizes.
Sensor cooking: More advanced models will be able to detect moisture levels and adjust its power levels accordingly.
Auto-cook: Some microwaves will have a number of pre-sets for common things such as warming milk or cooking a baked potato.
Quick-cook and quick defrost: Many microwaves have an "express" setting for a quick blast on the highest power. You can also find "quick defrost" programmes that defrost a certain weight of frozen food.
Child-lock: If you have children in the house a button-locking mechanism is ideal to prevent mishaps.
There are plenty of accessories out there to help you get the most out of even a small microwave, such as steamers, trays and dish covers. As with any purchase, think carefully about what you'll be using your microwave for before you buy it to ensure you get the one that's just right for you!