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Microwave Ovens


Sizing the Oven

Microwaves come in 3 main size ranges (under .8 cubic feet, .8 to 1.1 cubic feet, and 1.2 cubic feet or larger). When picking the size, keep in mind the size of the food and the size of the cooking utensials you'll want to put in your microwave. Also keep in mind how many people you will cook for and the size of meals you want to prepare in the microwave.

Wattage

The wattage of the oven affects the cooking time. The higher the wattage then the faster the microwave will cook. In general, most microwave cookbooks are for ovens that are around 600 to 700 watts. If you oven has more or less wattage then you will need to adjust the cooking times for your oven.

Fans and Turntables

A microwave puts out cooking rays in a set pattern. Because of this the food or air inside the unit needs to be moved to avoid hot and cold spots. Most microwaves have either a fan or a turntable to help cook the food more evenly. Some microwaves have both a fan and turntable (this is the best style to have). Turntables can take up room in a microwave. Some microwaves used a recessed turntable that is flush with the floor of the microwave. Some microwaves have removable turntables.

Controls

Timing is very important with microwave cooking. Some units use dials to set a time but dials are less accurate than push-button controls. The power levels let you use a percentage of the microwave's energy level. For example 50% power would use have the total wattage of the microwave. You need at least 5 power levels to handle most types of cooking. It's also helpful to have a unit that you can program at least 2 power levels for preparing a food (for example defrost for 3 minutes and then cook for 1 minute). Also a timer and clock can be convenient on a microwave.

Other Options

Some microwaves include browning units. These type of units are sometimes called Micro-Thermal ovens. When browning is used the microwave uses convection heat (similar to broilers on ovens). When using browning you cannot use plastic dishes in the microwave because they would melt. Some microwaves offer moisture sensors that can help prevent over cooking food. A delayed starter lets you put food in the microwave and program a time you want the microwave to turn on (however this feature is not of much use because to avoid food poisoning most food cannot sit out for a long period of time before cooking it). Child safety locks let you disable the microwave so that a child cannot use it (for example after it is disabled a code needs to be entered to enable the oven again).

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