Ultimate Guide To Choosing Microwave Oven
A microwave oven is all about healthy food and convenience. Convenience because be it making a hot beverage or reheating left-over food, an oven makes it so easy. Healthy because you can bake homemade cookies and grill with minimal oil giving Swiggy and Zomato a break.
When it comes to choosing a microwave oven, you are bombarded with plethora of options. That is why, we have brought for you the most important aspects that you need to look into while buying one. Further to this guide, we will soon be publishing our list of best microwave oven too.
How To Choose A Microwave Oven?
Types Of Oven
The first step to buying an oven is deciding what you are going to use it for. For basic requirements like re-heating food, making tea, coffee, rice, noodles, pop corn and for defrosting, you can opt for a Solo Microwave Oven. They are the least expensive among the different types of ovens, costing about Rs. 5-6k for a 20 litre oven.
In addition to the above mentioned functions, if you want to make pizza, grill and toast, you can opt for a Grill.
Now, if you want to bake cakes, brownies, cookies in addition to the above mentioned functions, you can opt for a Convection Microwave oven.
A 20 L Grill Microwave oven will cost you about Rs. 7-8k, while a convection microwave oven of similar capacity will cost you between 8-15K depending on various other in-built functionalities. If you are seriously in to baking, you can also consider buying an OTG ( Oven Toaster Grill)
Once you have decided on the type of oven, next comes capacity. If you are using your oven just for reheating, one in the range of 20 litres or less will be quite sufficient. However, if you use your oven extensively for cooking, here is a general guideline to help.
Up to 20 litres- For less than 3 members.
20-25 litres- For 3-4 members.
25- 30 litres- For 4-6 members.
Those who cook large dishes like large sized pizza or if you are a home baker, you could opt for larger ovens in the size range of 40 plus litres.
Most convection ovens come with plenty of pre-set cooking options. Examples are auto-cook menu, child lock, defrost, pre-heat and timer. A feature found in higher end ovens is Rotisserie- a skewer that rotates allowing you to grill evenly. You would have seen whole chicken being grilled in restaurants in a grill rotating between two heating coil. Essentially, you can re-create this in your home with a Rotisserie.
It is also advisable to check the auto-cook menu to ensure that the oven has the necessary dishes you seek in the menu setting.
Three types of operation panel comes in oven these days. First is the mechanical one where you adjust the timer, temperature and function with a knob. This is seen mostly in OTG, solo and grill microwave oven.
Next is the touch panel where you choose the settings including time, temperature and function using a touch panel. While this might sound sophisticated, the problem comes when you try to adjust the timer. Usually, time can be set in increments of 30 seconds. So when you want to set the timer to say 30 minutes, you will have to keep pressing the button for quite some time. Also, the panel might not be as feather touch as advertised.
Finally, comes the best of all, jog plus touch panel. Here you can choose the settings using touch panel and adjust time, temperature using the jog wheel. We feel this is the best of the three as you can adjust the settings quickly and easily.
You may also like our article on Best Air Fryers In India
Know More About Your Oven
Convection Vs Grill Vs Microwave
While using an oven, it is necessary that you understand the difference between convection, microwave and grill. This will help you decide which option to choose from for best cooking results.
Generally, microwave option is used for re-heating food, making coffee, tea, noodles etc. Let us take a look at how it works.
The microwave oven contains a microwave generator called Magnetron. When electricity passes in it, Magnetron generates high powered radio waves which we call microwave. This wave is passed in to the food compartment where it bounces off the reflective surfaces. But when it touches the food placed at the centre of the turn table that is rotating, the food absorbs the waves. The energy is absorbed by the molecules which starts vibrating vigorously. The vibrating molecules have heat and faster it vibrates, hotter the food becomes.
So, essentially, in a microwave oven, there is no heating coil that generates heat. It is the radiation known as microwave that does the heating.
Microwaves generally do not have much of penetration power.It can go up to an inch deep. That is why when you try heating up a bowl of curry or a chunky piece of meat, the outside might be hot while the inside is still cold.
In grill mode, the heating coil generates heat which passes on to the food item to grill the food. This is similar to how you cook food on barbecue.
In Convection, heating coil located on sides or top and bottom ( depending on the oven) generates heat. The fan inside the oven circulates the air to uniformly circulate the heat. The environment inside the oven is generally dry when on convection setting. That is why it is best for baking cookies, pies and roasting. When roasting in convection settings, the skin remains crisp, while inside remains moist.
Breads and cakes require a humid environment in order to remain moist. So, it is better to either bake them in an OTG ( Oven Toaster Grill) or in convection setting by switching off the fan.
Two other modes you often see are-
Microwave plus Grill
In microwave plus grill, you get the quick cooking of a microwave and the browning effect of grill. When you grill meat or vegetables, the exterior gets seared nicely and the inside gets cooked without losing flavour.
If your oven has this function, then it is best that you opt for it while grilling any type of meat or vegetables as the result will be better in terms of taste and time.
Microwave plus Convection
In Microwave plus Convection mode, the interiors get cooked well and retain moisture while the exterior gets crisp due to the dry environment created by air circulation. This can be used for roasting, baking pies etc.
One thing you have to note while using combinations of microwave is to use compatible cookware. We talk about it in the next section.
Which Utensils Should I Use For My Microwave Oven?
Metals generally are a no-no when you use microwave as the radiation frequency will interfere with the metal frequency and cause sparks. However, if you are using grill or convection, any heat safe dish would work.
For baking cakes in convection, we generally recommend that you use aluminium or steel cookware instead of borosilicate glass as the middle portion tends to be a bit undercooked in glass.