Best wattage for microwave

The wattage (W) is the universal measurement for electrical power, and the number explains the operating power capacity of the electrical appliance in question. When it comes to microwaves, the wattage number is shown along the inside of the door or on the microwave’s face. You may also see the wattage listed on the features or specs listing for a microwave. Basically, the microwave’s wattage is based on the magnetron size and level of electric current induced when the unit is powered on. This determines how fast the microwave cooks. 

The higher the wattage, the more powerful the microwave will be, and the quicker the appliance performs. A higher wattage microwave can cook food more evenly as well. Understanding the wattage of your microwave unit is important so you can cook your food thoroughly, without struggling through trial and error. So what exactly is the best wattage for microwave?

For the best results, you should select a microwave with a wattage level that aligns with your desired performance or cook time:Pies with raw egg ready to cook

  • 1,000 watts – 4:03 cook time
  • 1,200 watts – 3:10 cook time
  • 1,800 watts – 2:40 cook time

Also, if you live in a dorm room, you may need to pay particular attention to the wattage of your microwave. Most dorms restrict the wattage that’s allowed in the building.

What’s the Best Wattage for Microwave?

Microwaves on the market today, no matter what type, range in wattage from between 500 to 1,250 watts. Smaller microwaves typically offer less power, while the bigger microwaves are suited to a family’s needs. The larger, more expensive models often come with a higher wattage. However, you pay more for a larger sized microwave and more cooking performance.

Recent manufacturers have adopted Europe’s standard test to rate the wattage of their microwaves, which may result in a higher number than the United States’ test standards. Keep this in mind when looking at microwave ovens, as the models won’t actually cook your food faster. 

You can expect a 700-watt microwave to boil a cup of water in around 2 and a half minutes. A 1,000-watt or 1,200-watt option is the best for most people’s needs, however. It’s enough power to heat or defrost anything from the freezer section thoroughly. Cheaper microwaves with under 700-watts take longer to cook your food efficiently and may struggle to heat things evenly. 

A difference of around 100 watts, however, doesn’t make much difference between microwaves.

What’s the Best Wattage for My Needs?

The right microwave for you depends on how you use it. While some people use their microwave for nearly every meal, others only use it to pop popcorn for movie nights sometimes. Whether you use your microwave frequently or not, there is an option that’s best for you. 

The lowest wattage, 500 watts, is not great for cooking food. Rather, people use these compact, low power options to dehydrate food or quickly heat a beverage. It’s best for a person who lightly uses the microwave on occasion. These microwaves won’t come with tons of features to cook different foods or other sensors to boost the results, and they tend to cost much less as well. 

With an option between 600-800 watts, you can steam or fry foods, heat a frozen dinner, and cook small foods. Heating beverages like tea and coffee are better at this range as well. Most recipes are written for microwaves with at least 800 watts of power to ensure the food cooks all the way through. Many households enjoy a microwave in this range. 

The wattage for you may be determined based on your cooking needs and preferences as well. If you want to cook chicken, make popcorn, boil rice, or cook a small desert thoroughly, you need closer to 1,000 watts. With a wattage this high, you should use the setting features for each type of food to help cook each adequately.Baked goods in top of wooden table

Any model with over 1,000 watts is close to an over, perfect for people who cook full meals in microwaves and ovens. They’re also ideal for large families. If you like to experiment with different cooking methods or tend to prepare large meals at once, top models with updated safety features and innovations may be helpful to you. Casserole dishes tend to fit better in a larger, 1,000-watt option. 

Finally, the microwave for you may be based on the size of your family. A larger, powerful microwave is often ideal for huge families. While a family of four is typically found with an average full-size model, a single or couple may only need a mid-size or compact option depending on how often you use the appliance.

Best Wattage for Microwave Types

With a wide variety of microwave types, designs, and sizes available, each unit offers a different wattage. Explore the common wattage options available for each type of microwave on the market today below to find the best option for your needs. 

Countertop Microwaves

Countertop microwaves, as the name suggests, sit on a kitchen counter. This is the most affordable and widely accessible option in microwaves, with most options starting around $20. Although they come in a wide range of sizes, they are often found in either compact, mid-size, or full-size models. The size correlates with the interior cubic feet space or cook space of the microwave, and the compact models tend to come with lower wattages. 

The best wattage for microwave options with a traditional countertop design may come down to the size you buy:Kitchen with different cooking tools

  • Small (0.4-0.5 cubic feet) – 600 to 950 watts 
  • Mid-size (0.5-0.8 cubic feet) – 800 to 1,200 watts
  • Large (0.7-1.5 cubic feet) – 900 to 1,250 watts

A smaller option with under 1,000 watts of power is considered a light-duty commercial microwave, which is better for people who tend to use their microwave infrequently. Medium-sized options of around 1,200 watts of power increase the wattage to speed up your cook time. You can use these options up to 150 times each day. 

Over-the-Range Microwaves

Although they come in many sizes, most over-the-range microwaves are around 1.6 cubic feet or bigger. Expect to fit a 15″ baking dish inside easily. This type of microwave frees up counter space by calling for installation above the stove in place of an oven hood. They tend to offer ventilation systems due to their placement, and they make cooking easy. Expect your over-the-range microwave to come in 0.6-1.5 cubic feet and offer between 850 and 1,100 watts of power. 

Drawer Microwaves

A model designed to free up the kitchen counter, a drawer microwave comes in many sizes as well. You pull the appliance out from the kitchen cabinet when you’re ready to use it, and many short people love this type of microwave because they’re easily accessible. You can stir your food mid-cook time without even removing the dish from the microwave. Built-in models, such as drawer microwaves, can range in size from 0.9-1.1 cubic feet and offer 950 to 1,100 watts.Kitchen with microwave on drawer

Convection Microwaves

A smaller version of an oven, a convection microwave is also called a microwave oven because they pack in nuking power. It’s a great option for people who entertain often and want a smaller option to use while the main, larger oven takes on another job. On the flip side, people who don’t cook often also enjoy the versatility to use the unit as an oven or microwave. Convection microwaves tend to offer the highest wattage options.

How to Match a Different Wattage Microwave than Your Needs

If you’re following a recipe that calls for a microwave with a different wattage than your model contains, you need to adjust the cooking time appropriately. Match directions for a lower microwave wattage by diving your desired wattage by your microwave’s wattage. Then, shift the decimal point two spaces to the right to find the percentage of power needed. For example, if your recipe calls for 600 watts of power and your microwave has 1,000 watts, set your machine to 60% to cook accurately.

On the other hand, if the recipe calls for a wattage generated by a much more powerful microwave than you have to offer, you’ll need to adjust the cooking time instead. Adding around ten seconds per minute of cook time for every 100 watts of power you’re lacking should do the trick. Therefore, a recipe that calls for two minutes of cook time in a 1,200-watt unit on full power takes 2 minutes and 20 seconds in a lower 1,000-watt microwave.

What is the highest wattage for a microwave?

The highest wattage I’ve ever seen is 2,400 watts. This microwave was rated as commercial grade (restaurants), weighs 70 pounds, and costs over $2,000. Usually, consumer or residential microwaves max out at 1,300 watts.

What is the standard size microwave?

Size can mean one of two things: it can mean the oven capacity, or it can mean the dimensions. The average oven capacity of a microwave is about 1.5 cubic feet. The smallest consumer microwave is 0.6 cubic feet, while the largest is around 2.2 cubic feet.

How do I know the wattage of my microwave?

The wattage of your microwave is listed at least two places. The first place is on the front of the microwave. You should see a number, at least 500, with a “w” after. If the wattage is not on the front on the microwave, look inside the microwave itself. Inside the microwave, where you cook your food, there will be a label. The label contains the product/ model number, manufacturer, and possibly the number of watts. 

If you are only about to find the model/ product number, take that number and search “manufacturer name” + product number. 

How do you tell what size your microwave is?

As I’ve mentioned the inside of your microwave is based on cubic feet. To calculate the cubic feet of your microwave, simply multiply length x width x height. 

To measure, grab a ruler, or measuring tape, pencil, calculator, and scratch paper. First, measure from the front of  the microwave to the ridge of the front. Write that number down. Next measure from one side to the other. Once again, write that number down.

Finally, measure from the inside top of the microwave to the inside bottom. Again write that number down. Now that you have three numbers multiply in the calculator. You should receive a number between 700 – 2,500. 

The final step is to take that number and divide it by 1000. You should receive a number between .7 – 2.5. This number is your cubic feet.

Can I change my microwaves wattage?

In most cases, yes, you can change your microwaves’ wattage. To change the wattage, simply find the power level button and adjust. Each microwave is a little bit different. If you are unsure of how to change the power level, consult your user manual, or the internet. 

When you adjust the power, it is a percent of the maximum power. For example, if you have a 1500 watt microwave with 10 power levels, each level will be 1/10 of the full power. See a break down below.

  • Level 1: 10% – 150 watts
  • Level 2: 20% – 300 watts
  • Level 3: 30% – 450 watts
  • Level 4: 40% – 600 watts
  • Level 5: 50% – 750 watts
  • Level 6: 60% – 900 watts
  • Level 7: 70% – 1050 watts
  • Level 8: 80% – 1200 watts
  • Level 9: 90% – 1350 watts
  • Level 10: 100% – 1500 watts

What are the best microwaves?

The best microwave is going to vary from person to person, but in general, the best microwave for you is one that has all of the features you need, at a price you can afford. One way to help determine the best microwave is to divide wattage by the price. This will put all of the microwaves on a level playing field. From there, look at all of the features, and what will fit for your needs. 

How to buy a microwave

Your Pizza Rolls deserve a good microwave. This countertop wonder, whose origins date back to the 1940s, is probably one of the most frequently used appliances in your kitchen thanks to its ability to reheat food fast (and cook a mug cake or two). There are a variety of options when it’s time to select a microwave, so we’ve broken down the options you have when you’re ready for a new microwave.

Location

The first decision you need to make about a new microwave is where in your kitchen you want to put it. The location affects the price, features, size and installation of the appliance. You have three main options:

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Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Countertop

This is the most common type of microwave. They generally cost less and are significantly easier to install than other models. Just find a spot on the counter for it to sit, plug it into an outlet and you can use it right away.

The biggest issue with the countertop microwave is how much space it needs. If you have limited room on your countertop, you may either want to look at the smaller countertop models available, look into placing your microwave on a small cart, or consider another style of microwave.

Price: $40 to $700

External dimensions: From roughly 10 by 18 by 14 inches for compact models to roughly 14 by 24 by 20 inches for larger models

Internal capacity: Less than 1 cubic foot to more than 2 cubic feet

Wattage: Typically 600 to 1,200 watts

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Some of GE’s stoves and over-the-range microwaves are connected via Bluetooth.Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Over-the-range

You install this style of microwave above your range, which will save you some counter space. These models have vent systems that take the place of the oven hood and lights to illuminate your cooktop.

Price: $190 to $1,300

External dimensions: Usually wider than countertop models, about 16 by 30 by 15 inches

Internal capacity: Less than 1 cubic foot to more than 2 cubic feet

Wattage: Typically 600 to 1,200 watts

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Sharp

Built-in

Built-in models that you place among custom cabinets or paired with built-in, full-sized wall ovens are the most high-end (aka expensive) types of microwaves. Some microwaves in this category are even designed specifically as drawers with a compartment you pull out for your food.

Price: $500 to $5,000 and up

External dimensions: This varies widely depending on type, and drawers tend to have more depth than countertop or over-the-range models, hitting about 15 by 30 by 26 inches

Internal capacity: Less than 1 cubic foot to more than 2 cubic feet

Wattage: Typically 600 to 1,200 watts

Size

It’s important to find the right-sized microwave that will meet your food needs and fit in the space you have for it. First, you want to measure the counter or other space where you plan to put your microwave. Then, measure the height, width and depth of any model you’re considering to find out if it will fit on your counter top, over your range or in a custom spot. The external dimensions can vary a lot, from 10 by 18 by 14 inches on the smaller side to 14 by 24 by 20 inches on the larger side.

Then there’s also the internal capacity, which can range from less than 1 cubic foot to 2 cubic feet or more. There doesn’t seem to be any set rule for how internal capacity correlates to size (like 1 cubic foot = small, 1.5 cubic feet = medium, etc.), but here’s an attempt to break it down:

Compact: Under 1 cubic foot

Midsize: 1 to 1.5 cubic feet

Full-size: 1.6 to 2 cubic feet

Extra-large: More than 2 cubic feet

Most microwaves are somewhere around 1.4 to 1.8 cubic feet. Still not sure which size you need? If you’re out shopping, bring in a plate or bowl from home that you plan to use often to make sure that it fits inside the microwave.

Still in doubt? Measure everything, take notes and check with your appliance retailer for help deciding what would work best. For over-the-range and other built-in models, you most likely won’t be the one installing your new microwave, so you can always avail yourself of their expertise.

Wattage

Microwave wattage equals power. In general, the higher the wattage, the faster and more evenly your food will cook. Most microwaves sit somewhere between 600 to 1,200 watts. Larger, more expensive microwaves tend to have a higher wattage, so this is a price and size consideration that can strongly influence microwave cooking performance.

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This GE microwave has scan-to-cook tech via a related app.Chris Monroe/CNET

Features

Many microwaves share common functions. Here are some microwave cooking essentials: cook time, defrost, power level and timer. Each one requires your direct input, but they are usually very easy to set. Most microwaves have touch panel controls and a rotating carousel to spin your food for more even cooking.

Default settings

Many microwaves come with preset cooking modes so you only have to press one button to automatically cook a dish. For example, many microwaves have a “popcorn” button that will cook your bag based on factory settings. This can be handy for common dishes you heat in the microwave, but you’ll have to figure out if the microwave’s default cook times work for your own food. Other common presets include: baked potato, pizza, beverage, frozen dinner and reheat.

Broil

Manufacturers are increasingly including features in microwaves that mimic what we see in full-size ovens, such as a broiler. This is a good addition for finishing off a dish or cooking something for which you’d prefer more direct heat.

Convection

A convection fan that’s built into the back of a microwave oven circulates the heat around the food to cook things more quickly and evenly. (Many new full-size ovens come with at least one convection fan.) However, microwaves with convection fans are generally more expensive than those without.

Inverter technology

Inverter heating is another option available on some high-end models. If you want to heat something at a 50 percent power level, most microwaves actually switch between 100 percent power and 0 percent power to average in at 50 percent power. This doesn’t yield great results if you want to heat something on a lower heat and achieve an even result. So, some models now use inverter technology, which maintains a consistent 50 percent power. That way, you can poach salmon, make a fluffy omelet, etc.

Other advanced features

In addition to new heating technologies, higher-end models usually have more presets than just the basic pizza, popcorn and baked potato standard. Some use moisture sensors to detect food doneness. And we’ve started to see models include LED lighting on the interior.

“Smart” technology, i.e. options that connect microwaves to the internet and other products, aren’t as widespread in microwaves as we’ve seen in other kitchen appliances. However, we’ve seen GE Appliances include Bluetooth technology in some of its over-the-range microwaves. This connection, which GE calls “Chef Connect,” pairs the microwave with compatible GE ranges so the light and fan beneath the microwave automatically turns on when you turn on a burner.

More options

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Will the June Intelligent Oven become the next microwave?Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Other small appliances have started to make a case for forgoing the microwave, such as steam ovens that use water to cook for more moist heating or the basic toaster oven that mimics a full-size stove. These options promise to cook more effectively than a microwave, but it might take longer to reheat your food.

Smart countertop ovens have also started to become an option. The June Intelligent Oven uses facial recognition technology to identify food and cook it automatically, and the Tovala Smart Oven will scan packaged meals for automatic cooking, including frozen meals from Trader Joe’s. These options are promising, but the technology is too new to determine whether or not these will become kitchen staples.

A Final Word

The best wattage for microwave options your family considers depends on how you cook, how big your family is, and how often you use the appliance. Consider your needs to find the perfect amount of power. Bigger isn’t always better if you only use the microwave to pop popcorn for a movie night once in a while, for instance.

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