The microwave oven, or you may call it the be-all end-all appliance for modern kitchens, was introduced to us in the 20th century, with the objective of making our lives simpler. And since then, microwave ovens have been gradually converted into a staple kitchen appliance for their irresistible features, making all of us more or less bound to it.
The emergence of this kitchen appliance has made cooking easier as it helps to rapidly heat a cooked meal, and also cook varieties of dishes at a comparatively lesser time.
Just like most other technologies and appliances with different models and versions out there, Microwaves can be found in a lot of types and configurations to suit personal requirements of chefs and home cooks. I have included the most prominent ones in my list below.
Different types of Microwave Oven
1. Standard/Solo Microwave
A standard microwave or a solo microwave is the most basic and elementary kind of microwave. These are usually manufactured to be placed over countertops. With the help of its radio waves, it rapidly and consistently heats meals within a short period of time. It comes with a single magnetron. Most solo microwaves have defrost option too.
Solo microwave ovens are basically optimal for cooking simple meals or just reheating cooked food. You can also make many kinds of dishes with this appliance. Compared to other microwave ovens like grill or convection microwaves, solo microwaves are usually budget friendly and so can be seen in many households.
However, you cannot grill, bake, roast, steam or toast meals in a solo microwave.
2. Convection Microwave
A Convection microwave comes with the combined features of a standard/solo microwave and a convection oven. Users prefer to buy a convection model to avoid the expenses and hassle of owing these two separately.
It has an integrated fan/ blower to let the hot air effectively and evenly circulate around the food and therefore eliminate temperature differences within the cavity. This even heat distribution lets you bake cake, bread, pizza and so many delicious dishes in it. You can heat, grill, brown and bake with a convection microwave. It has defrost option too. Its features allow food to be cooked quickly and thoroughly.
To summarize, you can use a convection microwave to cook all that you’d use a standard microwave and a convection oven to cook otherwise. I’d advise viewers to opt for a model that has a heating element at the top and the convection fan in the rear of the cavity for optimal results.
3. Over-the-Range Microwaves
An over-the-range, over-range or otr microwave is essentially meant to be installed over a gas or induction range. These may be standard microwaves or convection microwaves like the countertop configuration.
Another set of features that set them apart is the vent fans and worktop lights. The vent fans in most models can be adjusted to vent smoke/odor outside the kitchen or to recirculate it within. Whereas the cooktop lights installed in the undersurface of the microwave account for adequate work surface illumination.
Most over range microwaves come in standard 27″ or 30″ widths. Some people prefer to opt for an over the range microwave to clear some counter space while others to avoid installing a dedicated range hood. Also, users acclaim the functionality that an over-range configuration offers to their kitchens being installed at eye-level.
4. Microwave with Steam
As the competition in the appliance industry gets tougher, brands are compelled to introduce new and advanced features to stay the top. One such very recent addition is the steam feature that you can find in some advanced models from GE and Panasonic.
The steam feature essentially lets you to enjoy healthier and lighter steamed meals. The steam feature gives a really convenient way to steam your rice and vegetables including carrots, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and more. Now, there are also pretty good steam ovens that you can get if you particularly would like to use this feature.
There are differences between a steam microwave and a steam oven making one more efficient over the other. The most prominent one being the source of steam. You’ll find most ovens with a dedicated reservoir while you’ve to keep a bowl filled with water in steam microwave alongside your dishes. Usually, steam microwaves are available in countertop configurations only.
5. Built-in Microwave
A built-in microwave is typically designed to be installed within the cabinetry giving a sophisticated and seamless look to the appliance wall of your kitchen. Being installed off the counter, these do clear a lot of counter space and add enhanced functionality to your kitchen. Built-in microwaves are often seen coupled with a traditional oven; better known as a wall oven microwave combo.
Built-in microwaves or Wall Oven, owing to the added convenience, are sold at higher prices than regular countertop models. Furthermore, installing a built-in microwave needs professional assistance adding to the initial investment. These also, may be found with standard microwave settings or convection settings like other configurations.
6. Countertop Convection Ovens
Convection ovens do not essentially work on the principle of microwaves or any other EM wave for that matter. I’ve only included these in my list to differentiate them from the grill microwaves which these are often confused with.
Inspired by the countertop configuration of microwaves, countertop convection ovens came into being for improved baking, grilling and roasting functions. As mentioned, these do not have a microwave source (magnetron) in their body; rather there’s a heating element at the top or bottom of the oven cavity. This heating element with the help of convection fans produces and distributes heat all around the cavity. These can be efficiently used to bake, crisp, brown, grill, roast and toast edibles unlike the solo microwaves.
Countertop convection ovens are ideal for kitchens that have a constricted layout and hence cannot fit in a regular built-in oven. Although countertop convection ovens cannot match the higher cooking capacities of wall ovens, these sure can be held accountable to roast an entire chicken or to bake 12-inch pizzas. If you’re looking or one, Breville BOV800XL is our favourite.
To summarise, I’d say there’s no ideal pick for everyone. There’s so much that affects the suitability of a microwave or any other appliance for that matter to a kitchen. The most influential factors being your cooking requirements, space restrictions and of course, your budget.
Yes, you can. But we don’t recommend. A regular/standard microwave is often used to reheat previously cooked food or to cook simple recipes and not for baking. What prevents a standard microwave from being a good baking appliance is the presence of hot spots in the cooking cavity. On the hand, a convection microwave or a convection oven forces hot air in the cavity eliminating temperature differences. This provision leads to even an faster cooking hence better baking and roasting results.
A convection microwave and a convection oven are closely similar to each other except for one fact. Consider this as rule of thumb; every convection microwave is a convection oven but not every convection oven is a convection microwave. Alright, let’s break that down. A convection microwave is a regular microwave with a heating coil and a convection fan. Meaning, it includes a magnetron for microwaves, a heating element as a heat source and convection fans to facilitate effective distribution of heat in the cavity. Unlike this assembly, a convection oven does not have a magnetron and hence cannot produce microwaves. So, the only source of heat in a convection oven is the heating element at the top or bottom.
When a convection microwave is used on the microwave setting, it is highly recommended to NOT use a metal container to cook food items. The reason being, the metallic base will not allow the microwaves to penetrate through it and hence, the part in immediate contact with the metal plate will not be cooked properly. So, in basic terms, you’ll have an unevenly cooked meal if you use a metallic utensil to cook something in your convection microwave on the microwave setting. Whereas, on the convection setting, the source of heat is a radiant heating element which is amplified using the fans. Cooking on such a setting may not affect the evenness regardless of what the material of the utensil is.
Recent high-rated microwave models average at around 1200 watt of power output which is clearly enough to cook you meals on the go. However, outdated models with a power rating of 700 watts or less may not be just as efficient. Not only will such microwaves take more time but also contribute in uneven cooking. I’d recommend my readers to stick to threshold power rating value of 1000-watts to avoid any potential remorse when buying a new microwave.
I’d recommend a standard microwave to families that have simpler cooking needs or have a limited budget. You can find a standard microwave in as less as $100.
A convection microwave, on the other hand, is perfect for people that often bake, roast, grill or brown their meals besides the regular microwave functions. Although a bit pricey than standard microwaves, convection microwaves bring a whole lot of additional cooking options to your disposal.
If your kitchen layout is a bit constricted and you won’t appreciate another appliance eating any more of your counter space, you may opt for a built-in microwave.
Go for convection oven microwave combo for multi-purpose requirements.