All About Microwaves: Facts and Our Favourites

Ding, dinner is done! If you need your meal fast, then the microwave can't be beat. But are they healthy to use? Margret Morlo from the German Association for Nutrition and Dietetics gives us the scoop on microwave use.

All About Microwaves: Facts and Our Favourites

Ms. Morlo, we hear again and again that preparing food in the microwave is unhealthy. Is this true? 

Margret Morlo: Food prepared in the microwave is just as healthy or unhealthy as food that’s been cooked on the stove or baked in the oven. Heating up or cooking our meals destroys anywhere from 40 to 80% of the vitamins in our food: this is true for the stove, oven or microwave. This is why it’s always important to include raw foods, such as fruit, in our diet. 

How exactly does the heating function in a microwave work?

Margret Morlo: Electromagnetic waves are produced (albeit at a very low frequency) in a microwave. These “microwaves” cause the water molecules in our food to start moving. These molecule vibrations then create heat. The higher the liquid content of your food is, the quicker your food will heat up. Bowls and plates of course stay unaffected, since the rays move through materials such as glass, porcelain and other synthetic materials. 

Speaking of rays, aren’t they dangerous? 

Margret Morlo: The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment determined that proper use of microwaves leads to no danger. The rays are harmless for the food, anyway. For safety measures, microwaves can only be turned on when the door is closed. Theoretically, rays could escape from spaces that aren’t sealed properly. If you have an old microwave and are unsure if it’s safe to use, just bring it to your nearest home appliance retailer to see if you can get it tested. 

Isn’t it better to just get rid of any old microwaves? 

Margret Morlo: New household appliances have the advantage that they save plenty of energy and electricity use. However, if your old microwave still works, there’s no reason to toss it out! Microwaves have been required to meet radiation safety standards for more than 20 years. But if you do discover that your device is damaged, for example, due to a fall during a move, be sure to get it checked. 

Nowadays there are devices that can not only just heat up, but also grill and steam food. Is it worth it to invest in something like this? 

Margret Morlo: These kind of appliances bear small resemblance to traditional microwaves. They have so many extra functions that they could theoretically replace an oven or stove, as well. It’s important to ask yourself just what you’d like to do with your appliance. If you just want to warm up some soup or stew from the day before, then a simple appliance should be enough. A student at university that doesn’t have his or her own kitchen, however, might enjoy a microwave with grilling or steaming features. 

What makes the microwave unbeatable?

Margret Morlo: Simply heating up a cup of milk or tea, clearly. You can’t do it any quicker or more energy-efficient unless you have an induction stove. 

It’s often recommended to stir up meals or drinks while using a microwave. Why’s that?

 Margret Morlo: Food is often heated up unevenly in microwaves. For example, the first sip of milk can be lukewarm, and the second piping hot. This is often an issue when heating up baby bottles. This is why it’s always important to stir up any foods or liquids after microwave use. Sometimes it helps to leave dishes in the microwave for a couple minutes longer so the heat can naturally spread throughout the food. 

Microwaves are often used for other purposes, such as cherry pit cushions or bean bags for back or neck use… 

Margret Morlo: Yes, microwaves are really practical for this and can save you a lot in heating costs. To get the oven to reach the correct temperature would cost a lot more time and energy. Important: be sure to stick to the manufacturer’s instructions. An exploded bean bag isn’t a pretty sight! Cherry pit cushions should always be put out in the fresh air after use so the pits can regain some of their moisture. If the cherry pits dry out too much, your cushion could burn up the next time you put it in the microwave. 

Here are some of our favourite microwaves on the market today: 

Back to the 50's: Swan SM22030CN Retro Digital Microwave

Back to the 50's: Swan SM22030CN Retro Digital Microwave

  • Charming retro design available in multiple colours
  • Very basic controls, easy to use
  • Digital display with clock
  • 6 different power levels
  • Somewhat loud
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High-tech, yet retro. This retro digital microwave from Swan will add a touch of retro charm to any kitchen. It comes in 9 different colours and is as much decoration as an appliance.

What can it do? This microwave can cook, heat up, and defrost. It boasts a powerful 80 watt output and has a range of temperature settings, including defrost and auto-cook. 

Who is it ideal for? Since it only has a 20 litre capacity, this microwave is best for single or two-person households in which only relatively small or single portions need to be heated up or defrosted. 

How much space is needed? Though its design might make it appear a bit bulky, the Swan Retro Digital Microwave is only 45 x 25.6 x 29.7 cm, which should fit well in most kitchen spaces. 

Easy and practical: Severin MW 7891 Microwave

Easy and practical: Severin MW 7891 Microwave

  • Affordable
  • 9 different programs, plus oven and grill function
  • Defrost
  • Not many extra functions
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Only the essentials. This easy to use, basic microwave from Severin doesn’t want to be anything that quality product, and that’s just what it is. A great starter microwave for every kitchen.

What can it do? With a 700 watt range and 9 different programmes, including grill and defrost, this microwave gets the job done!

Who is it ideal for? The great price makes this a good option for anyone looking to save money. Like the Swan Retro Digital Microwave, it only offers 20 litres of space, so it isn’t ideal for larger families.

How much space is needed? Not a lot! With 43.51 x 25.4 x 34.49 cm, this microwave is a good, basic size.

Stainless Steel Chic: Clatronic MWG 775H Microwave

Stainless Steel Chic: Clatronic MWG 775H Microwave

  • 3 combination levels with grill/microwave
  • 10 temperature settings for hot air
  • 9 automatic programmes
  • Has a child lock
  • Affordable
  • Stainless steel, so a bit more work to keep clean
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Elegant, multi-functional stainless-steel. This microwave from Clatronic is stylish with a mirrored glass door, a digital clock and a sleek menu bar.

What can it do? With an extra grill and hot-air function which operate with 1200 watts and an 800 watt microwave function, this appliance is great for heating up, grilling and baking. The choice of multiple power programmes are guaranteed to offer satisfactory results.

Who is it ideal for? The child lock feature makes this perfect for parents. Bigger food portions can be prepared thanks to the 23 litre capacity. The quick-start function also means that food gets on the table quicker.

How much space is needed? Measuring in at 40.5 x 48.5 x 29.5 cm, this unit needs a bit more space in your kitchen.

Multi-functional for the Family: Russell Hobbs RHM3002 30L Digital Combination Microwave with Grill & Convection

Multi-functional for the Family: Russell Hobbs RHM3002 30L Digital Combination Microwave with Grill & Convection

  • 30 L capacity
  • Grills, roasts, bakes and microwaves
  • 10 auto-cook menus
  • Has a child lock
  • Quite expensive
  • Bulky and large
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An all-around device: This device eliminates the need for other appliances which bake and grill food, therefore creating extra space in your kitchen. This is a microwave for people who want it all.

What can it do? This multi-functional device boasts a 110-watt grill, 2500-watt oven and 900 watts of microwave power. The extra grill function means you can brown and crisp plenty of different foods or toppings. With the option for conventional oven baking and many defrost settings as well, this microwave can truly do it all.

Who is it ideal for? For anyone who is looking to save time but would still like to eat a healthy variety of meals. It’s easy to use and has a simply display.

How much space is needed? With 30.5 x 51.3 x 49.5 cm and a 30L cavity, the Russell Hobbs Digital Combination Microwave takes up a bit of extra space, but its sleek silver look keeps it looking anything but bulky.

For Professionals: Samsung MC28H5013AS/EU Combination Microwave

For Professionals: Samsung MC28H5013AS/EU Combination Microwave

  • Ceramic interior is easy to clean
  • Power defrost function
  • Fermentation function
  • ECO Mode
  • Somewhat complicated controls
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Healthy, but quick: This high-quality Samsung microwave has a ceramic interior and has plenty of extra features, perfect for those who want to eat particularly healthy.

What can it do? Those aforementioned extra features are the true selling point of this device: a healthy cooking program, power defrost, fermentation function and an ECO mode let you cook any way you want to without worrying about cooking time or device limitations.

Who is it ideal for? For those who are willing to give out a little bit of extra cash for a high-quality appliance.

How much space is needed? It has dimensions of 47.48 x 51.7 x 31 cm and can hold up to 28L, so it definitely is a bit bigger than the average microwave.

No mess, no stress: Camcesory Microwave Cover

No mess, no stress: Camcesory Microwave Cover

  • Simple, yet elegant design
  • BPA free
  • Can only be used for up to 9 minutes in microwave
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Practical: Its heightened shape keeps the food from touching the plastic cover, so your dishes will come to the table without being smeared or smashed. 

Easy to clean: The robust plate cover is BPA free and perfect for the dishwasher, so you won't have to wash it by hand.

Perfect size: The 11.8 inch lid fits over most plates, bowls and platters. It also fits well into most microwaves.