8 Essential Things to Know Before Buying a Microwave Oven

Microwave Oven. Credit: Evening Standard, UK

While there are many microwave ovens listed on Jumia, Konga and various malls and appliances shops all over Nigeria, it’s always great to know the one that is best for you before buying.

If you’re interested in buying a microwave, there are some important factors to consider first, so you get what you need and want.

You’ll want to buy the best appliance you can afford while staying within your budget. You can check model comparisons on our website or on other services like Cnet to research appliances before heading to the store.

What type is best for me?

A microwave oven is a kitchen staple, given that it is a quick and convenient tool for defrosting and reheating food. Many people also use it to cook certain foods, although many people do not realise how versatile a microwave can be when it comes to preparing food.

When selecting a new microwave, it is important to understand the difference between different types of microwave ovens, as well as what they can do, in order to pick one that best suits your needs while still giving you value for money.  

  1. Countertops

This is found in most homes and is often placed on the counter.

Counter-top Microwave Oven

The Good: You can find inexpensive, yet quality microwaves that sit on a counter (many of these microwaves are under N30,000).  It’s also nice to have the flexibility to move the microwave around as you reorganize and it can be taken with you if you move. You can’t do that with any built-in models. Newer types of countertop microwaves put the controls on the door, so there is more capacity in a smaller footprint, which is perfect for small kitchens.

The Hitch: It is not the best placement because it’s fairly low and it takes up counter space.  That said, if you don’t have any other option, it’s better to put one on the counter than not have one at all.

Bottom-line: If possible, place your countertop microwave in a location where you can’t use the counter space much.  An alternative to placing your countertop microwave on the counter is to buy a microwave cart that stands freely wherever you want in your kitchen.

2. Above the Range

These are stove range microwaves and are placed directly above the stove.

Above the Range Microwave Oven

The Good: Microwaves as range hoods mounted above the stove is a great placement location because that’s often wasted space and the microwave ends up being eye-level. 

The Hitch: The downside to over-the-range microwaves is they cost more money… most above N30,000.  Also, you may need help installing the unit above the stove which adds to the cost.

Bottom-line: Be sure to get a colour or finish that matches the oven.   

3. Suspended or Under the Cabinet

Another option is to get a microwave designed to mount below your upper cabinets so that it’s suspended or hangs or drops down from the upper cabinets. 

The Good: The only real advantage here is it makes keeping the counter top clean easier. 

The Hitch: Usually the microwave drops down so low to the counter space that the counter space is practically useless anyway.

Bottom-line: If your upper cabinets have a decent amount of clearance above the counter and/or you buy a compact microwave, you can still end up with enough usable counter space beneath it.   

4. Built-in Above the Counter

This type is built into the cabinets.  You can consider this when renovating a kitchen or designing a new kitchen.  

Built-in Microwave Oven

The Good: This is a great location because you can put it at any height you want and it takes up no countertop space.

The Hitch: The Built-in microwaves require professional installation, though they are usually more powerful.

Bottom-line: Over the stove microwaves can have fans built in, include more options and features, and save valuable counter space.

What functions do I look for?

It’s always a great idea to know what you want to use the microwave for and what it can do. Below are the functions that will guide your buying decision.

  • Solo Function
  • Solo microwave oven: Best for Reheat, simple cooking (Solo microwave ovens are basic models or entry level models in microwave oven category. It has one magnetron to produce microwaves. They are best suited for bachelors or 2 member family.)
  • Combo Functions: These days you can buy what are called combo microwaves that incorporate other functions.  The two most popular combo options are microwaves with a convection oven or a microwave and grill combo.   
  • Grill microwave oven: Best for Reheat and Grill (Grill Microwave ovens are provided with additional grilling accessories. They are best suitable to grill meat, or vegetables. Both microwave and grill function can run parallel and making delicious grills in minutes. The grill microwave has heating coils which helps in grill, toast or roast.)
  • Convection microwave oven: Best for Reheat, Grill and Bake

(A convection oven cooks food faster because it blows hot air around the food.  According to experts, convection ovens can decrease cooking time by 25%.  However, this can be an issue if recipes stipulate a set cooking time based on a traditional oven.)

Solo and Convection Compared

What will I cook with it?

The first consideration in buying a microwave is determining how you’ll use it. Some people rely on this appliance, while others use it only on occasion or for specific tasks. No matter which category you fall into, there’s a good microwave for you.

If you are a light user, your microwave is used primarily for melting and reheating or perhaps making popcorn. You won’t need lots of fancy features, so don’t pay for them.

If you enjoy experimenting with products and use your microwave to prepare entire meals—even spaghetti or meatloaf—look for the latest innovations and more variable features.

If your children use the microwave, ease of use and safety features become more important.

Based on the cuisine you can choose the right type of microwave oven from the below table.

Re-heat food
Milk, Tea, Coffee
Rice, Noodles, Pasta
Grilled Items
Cakes and Breads

What wattage is best for me?

A higher wattage will cook foods faster, which is good if you use the microwave often. The power output of most microwaves falls between 600 to 1200 watts.

Recipes that are written for the microwave usually specify a power of at least 800 watts so the foods cook evenly. This would be a good base for the majority of households, other than one that plans on only light usage.

What features do I look for?

Once you start shopping, you’ll be amazed at the features microwaves have. It can be overwhelming at first and you may not need all of them, but some are nice to have.

  • Automatic defrost settings: quickly warm up snacks and take the guesswork out of preparing meals.
  • Sensor Cooking: Cooks the food based on the humidity in the oven. It does this by measuring the moisture released from your food. This feature calculates cook time based on the amount of steam the food emits.
  • Preprogrammed Cooking: Starts the oven with one touch: you add the food, tell the appliance what you are cooking, and hit “start.”
  • Programmable Cooking: Lets you select various power outputs and the timing for complete control.
  • Cook and Crisp: The Microwave-Convection Ovens allow you to brown and crisp food, as well as cook it. That’s something you don’t get out of the average microwave.

Other possible features you will come across include minute-plus options, automatic one-touch defrost, perfect popcorn features, and more. If you have children, a safety lock should be included.

How long does it last?

Microwaves typically have a life span of about 10 years. But if your unit is operating properly after that amount of time, you can continue to use it. Even if you think your microwave still works well, you’ll want to replace or repair it if it has any defects in the door or in the seal around the door.

What size is best for me?

​The larger your family, the larger your microwave should be. A family of four will probably want a family or full-size microwave, while a couple or single person may only need a compact or mid-size oven, depending on how much you cook with it.

The size ranges for microwaves include:

Compact: 0.5-0.8 cubic feet

Mid-Size: 0.9-1.3 cubic feet

Family: 1.4-1.6 cubic feet

Full-Size: 1.8-2.0 cubic feet

What you cook also has a bearing on the size you choose.

Where do I buy from?

You can buy online from Jumia and Konga or offline at any mall or home appliances shops. 

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