Currently there are a few types of microwaves currently available. Those are Over-The-Counter Microwaves, Over-The-Range Microwaves, Countertop Microwaves, Built-In Microwaves, and Microwave Drawers.
The over-the-counter microwave provides a wide range of options for placement, which helps free up space in your kitchen. They are best used underneath a shallow cabinet, and require the included 4 screws which go through the bottom of the cabinet above, in order to hang. Many over-the-counter models may include a hanging rack underneath, to hang certain kitchen accessories such as small pots and accessories.
Over-the-range microwaves are probably the most commonly purchased models. They offer the ability to either vent air outside or recirculate it back into the kitchen. Over-the-range microwaves are ideal for use over a traditional 30inch range or cooktop. Many users of over-the-range microwaves enjoy that they help free up valuable counter top space.
Countertop Microwaves come in a wide variety of sizes, which are often sorted by compact, mid-size, and full. This usually correlates to the microwave's interior cubic feet measurement. Countertop microwave models can offer the same cooking power as installed units. However, the downside to countertop models is that they take up valuable kitchen counter space and do not have an outdoor ventilation system. Today many countertop microwaves come with trim kits that make it possible to build them into surrounding cabinetry or attach them to a nearby wall, for utmost convenience.
A built-in microwave becomes part of the cabinetry. Typically built-in models will not have finished sides, nor do they have vents. Built-in microwaves keep the counter clear, and still allow you to have a range hood, which often is more powerful than over-the-range microwaves.
The microwave drawer style slides out and is installed below a countertop or wall oven. It's another microwave option that frees up much needed counter space. Drawer microwaves are at an easily accessible height, which allows you to stir items mid-cooking without removing anything from the microwave itself, providing one with utmost convenience.
Auto Cook Menu
Choose the type of dish and the serving size, and cook many of your favorite foods without adjusting cooking times and power levels. This button will either be used to view the available menu options, or may be divided into specific buttons that will be labeled with a specific food type, such a "potato" button.
A feature on some microwaves that allows you to lock the control pad so that children won't be able to activate the microwave without supervision. Most child-locks require a pass code or touch command.
Convection Oven Microwaves
Are microwaves that have a built in heating element and a fan which shortens traditional cooking time. By utilizing "Combo" cook, food can be done in half the time.
Conventional Microwave Ovens
Cooks with microwave energy only.
Control Display (Electronic Control vs. Manual)
Each make and model varies when it comes to control display. Most are electronic keypads that operate at a touch of a button; others include manual controls which have to be turned like a rotary dial to operate.
Cooking Power or Power Rating (Watts)
Cooking power is noted as wattage. Wattage often ranges from 600 to 1300 watts depending on the brand and model. The more wattage a microwave has the faster it cooks and heats.
Defrost or Auto Defrost
This preprogrammed feature lets you defrost meat, poultry, and seafood, by entering the weight.
Allows you to start cooking food at a later time.
This feature preselects time-cook food at a touch of a button, usually on maximum (high or 100%). Typically express cook functions are within the number keypad (1-5). To operate this function, press a number and then press start for the corresponding time. This means if you press 1 then start, or just 1 depending on the microwave, you will have a 1 minute cooking duration.
Multi-Lingual Menu Action Screen/Function Key
Whether you speak English, Spanish, or French, the menu action screen scrolls step-by-step cooking instructions in all three languages.
Some microwaves include a cooking rack that is placed inside the microwave to elevate food; this allows you to cook more than one thing at the same time.
Inverter Microwave Technology
Conventional microwave ovens operate on only one power level. When you program them to cook at lower levels, they "pulse" delivery of 100% power and remain idle the rest of the time. Panasonic Inverter Technology allows for true multi-level power settings, similar to a "Dimmer" switch on a light. The consistent delivery of microwave energy also helps delicate foods to simmer without overcooking the edges and surface.
The popcorn key lets you pop a single bag, usually 3.5 oz., of prepackaged microwave popcorn automatically.
Reheat or Auto Reheat
This feature allows you to reheat foods by simply pressing the Reheat or Auto Reheat key and entering the number of servings.
Turntable microwaves have an actual turntable in the microwave that rotates food while it cooks, this allows food to cook evenly and more efficient. The turntable is usually made of glass. When there is a turntable button, you will be able to choose whether or not to use the turntable. If you choose to turn the turntable off, keep in mind that it will only be off during the duration of time specified; once the duration has been completed the turntable will automatically turn back on.
Sensor cooking customizes the power level and time for each food. This customizes your reheating and cooking functions for various foods.
Use the quick minute feature to set cooking times in multiples of one minute or to add minutes to a current cooking session.