A quick way of heating up a pre-cooked lunch, thawing frozen food or even preparing whole meals, microwave ovens are practical kitchen helpers and are useful on many occasions. They are particularly efficient when single portions need to be cooked or warmed up. But to ensure a microwave really fulfils every requirement, there are several aspects to consider before purchasing. TÜV SÜD’s product expert, Andrea Biehler, has the details.
The first and most basic question to consider before buying a microwave is what exactly it will be used for. This decides whether specific functions are really necessary, and what capacity and wattage the oven should have. In addition to microwave ovens pure and simple, there are models with integrated steaming function or grill and convection oven features. If the microwave is only intended to heat liquids and pre-cooked food, a model with defrost function is all that is needed; a grill is essential for actual cooking, such as browning a gratin topping or preparing meatloaf. However, bear in mind that the more additional functions the microwave has, the more expensive it will be.
Power between 800 and 1100 watts
Most microwaves have wattage of 800-1100 watts. But this is an area where more is not always better. If the wattage of the defrost function is too high, hot and cold spots may be created in the food, where some parts heat up faster than others. This means that the hot spots may already be overcooked while the cold spots are still cool enough to allow bacteria to thrive, resulting in hygiene problems. It is better to defrost food at a lower wattage for longer, which allows the heat to be distributed more evenly throughout the food.
Prospective purchasers of a microwave oven should already have a rough idea in advance of the quantities of food they aim to prepare. The oven interior itself is not heated, so that the smaller the volume of food is in comparison to the interior volume, the more inefficient the heating process will be; preparation will take longer, and energy consumption will rise. However, if the microwave is intended as a substitute for a conventional oven, it will need to be big enough to prepare larger quantities.
The turntable should have a rim to prevent any spills from spreading. In addition, it must not jerk, stick or wobble while turning; after all, it will also be used to heat liquids. It must be easily removable and replaceable to allow for easy cleaning. Many microwaves are supplied with a special pizza plate to allow crisp-based pizzas to be prepared. Some models do not have a turntable at all; this has the advantage of increasing the available size of the cavity, but the static position of the food means that heat distribution is more uneven. In operation, care should always be taken to use special microwave crockery; metal is an absolute no-no. The glass in the door must not be too dark or mirrored, which would make the cooking process hard to monitor. Handles should be easy to grip, buttons and knobs should work smoothly and operation should be intuitive.
Microwave purchasers seeking extra support in making their decision can look out for the GS (“Tested Safety”) mark and the TÜV SÜD Octagon certification mark, demonstrating the device has been tested and found fit for use. For more information, visit www.tuv-sud.com/ps.
Note for Editors: The high-resolution photo can be downloaded here or from the "Media Photos" category at www.tuv-sud.com/pressphotos.
Picture caption: In TÜV SÜD’s test kitchen, microwave ovens are tested for safety and for compliance with the performance specifications given in the documentation and advertising. For example, the experts verify whether the oven evenly distributes heat through the food inside.
Press-contact: Heidi Atzler