Three Things to Consider Before Buying a Microwave Oven

New microwave feature options make cooking easier than ever.

Microwave oven in kitchen.
Some modern microwave settings can help you never burn another bag of movie popcorn again.Sidekix Media

Microwave ovens were revolutionary when they first hit the consumer market, and now there’s a second revolution in microwaves. New microwave models offer various features designed to greatly reduce the risk of overcooking or undercooking a meal—two of the most chronic issues with microwaves. Here are the three most important improvements in microwave oven design, and how the latest models make food preparation practically foolproof.

Toshiba EM131A5C-BS Microwave Oven with Smart Sensor, Easy Clean Interior, ECO Mode and Sound On/Off, 1.2 Cu.ft, Black Stainless Steel
Features on this model will prevent you from under- or overcooking food.Toshiba

Cooking a meal in a microwave requires you to program the cooking power level as well as the cooking time, and the time you input depends on the microwave wattage. That means you have to check the food with your finger to see if it’s done, which is a very primitive way to cook with such a modern appliance. Some new microwave ovens have sensors that detect humidity levels inside the oven and then adjust both cooking temperatures and times to turn out perfectly done meals—no finger-checking required.

Panasonic Countertop with Inverter Technology and Genius Sensor Microwave Oven, 1.2 cft, Black
This model has 1,200 watts of power just over a square foot of cooking space.Panasonic

If you’ve ever pulled a frozen meal out of a microwave and found a portion of still-frozen food floating like a weird iceberg amid warmed food, you know how unappetizing that can be. It also often means that some portion of that food may end up overcooked. Some new microwaves feature technology that not only cooks food faster than ever, but also cook food so it’s a consistent temperature throughout.

Panasonic Compact Microwave Oven with 1200 Watts of Cooking Power, Sensor Cooking, Popcorn Button, Quick 30sec and Turbo Defrost - NN-SN65KB - 1.2 cu. ft (Black)
This product has ten cooking sensor settings.Panasonic

One of the best-loved features of a microwave oven is its ability to make popcorn fast and easy. But there are several caveats to that benefit. One is that you often have to monitor the popcorn to make sure you don’t under- or overcook it. You can press the “popcorn” button, but if the amount of popcorn in the bag doesn’t match the amount of time that the popcorn button is preset for, you’ll wind up with one of two things. One is a batch of underdone popcorn, with hard, tooth-crunching corn kernels scattered throughout the bag. The other is the acrid smell of burnt popcorn wafting through the house for the next few hours. New microwaves with multiple popcorn settings allow you to exactly match the cooking time to the bag size. You won’t have to interrupt your movie to make popcorn, and you won’t have to open windows to get rid of that terrible burnt popcorn smell.

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