Buyer’s Guide to Microwave and Toaster Ovens

Microwave and toaster ovens both offer convenient methods of countertop cooking at a reasonable price. They are easy to re-locate and can use a regular electrical outlet as well. The following guide provides tips on purchasing one or both of these appliances…

Some features and characteristics of microwave ovens which differ from one model to the next are the size, wattage, turntable, and preset buttons. Microwaves with a higher wattage cook food more quickly, but are more expensive. 1600+ watt microwave ovens are usually referred to as “commercial” and are commonly used in cafeterias and convenience stores. Some foods have separate instructions for high-wattage microwaves, but keep in mind that foods may be overcooked if standard directions are followed in a very high-wattage unit. Most microwaves have a digital display; a few older units have analog controls. A useful feature built into some microwaves is the rotating turntable. Microwave ovens with this feature eliminate the need to rotate food manually, which also reduces wear on the buttons used to stop and start the microwave (as well as its door). Space-saving units which can be installed above a counter or electric stovetop are also available.

PRICE: Microwave and toaster ovens can both be purchased for under $60 new. Toaster ovens are less expensive, but the difference between the cheapest toaster oven and microwave listed on Wal-Mart’s website is only about $18. Purchasing a toaster oven over the internet can be considered, but the potential for buying a microwave online is limited by its weight and size. However, it may be worth checking for a microwave if you live in or near a large city – some sellers let people in the local area pick up their item directly instead of paying for shipping.

BUSINESSES: If you need to purchase a microwave oven which is going to be made available to customers and/or employees in a business, you may want to look for a model which only has a row of buttons with different preset amounts of time listed on them. This style of microwave eliminates the need for people to learn how to use it, reducing the amount of time it is occupied with each person. If a high-wattage microwave oven is to be used, you may want to put up a notice advising users that the microwave will cook foods more quickly than lower-wattage units they may be familiar with.

FOOD INSTRUCTIONS: While most frozen foods provide directions for microwaves and conventional ovens (and most canned food has instructions for both stovetops and microwaves), there are some exceptions for both types. A few also have directions for using a toaster oven, but not many. It is usually faster to heat food in a microwave than a conventional or toaster oven. Some foods indicate the wattage of the microwave which was used to develop their instructions – for example, Banquet Macaroni and Cheese has directions developed using an 1100-watt microwave, so a higher or lower wattage unit may take a different amount of time to heat the food thoroughly enough. Foods which are designed to be easily portable (some types of soup, ravioli, beans, etc. in special containers) have directions both for commercial/high-wattage microwave ovens and lower-wattage units.

COMBINATION UNITS: Combination units which combine a toaster and/or toaster oven with a microwave are available, and combined toaster-oven/coffee-makers can be found as well. Browsing some eBay listings, I even came across a device made by Technosonic with a coffee maker, toaster oven, grill, and AM/FM radio built in. Purchasing a combination unit such as this may be cost-effective if you need to buy multiple small appliances at the same time.

BUYING USED: While toaster ovens are inexpensive enough that you probably don’t need to consider purchasing a unit which is used (unless, perhaps if it is almost new and in very good condition), buying a used microwave can provide substantial savings. However, before purchasing a used microwave oven you should check to make sure its internal light works, the buttons haven’t worn out, and the door closes securely. If it has a turntable, make sure it functions as well.

SHOPPING: Microwaves and toaster ovens can be purchased at a wide variety of locations, especially department stores. Some grocery stores sell toaster ovens. Used microwaves are most commonly found at garage sales and used merchandise stores. Kenmore and Panasonic both manufacture toaster ovens and microwaves.

Considering the above-mentioned factors should help you more easily choose the appropriate microwave or toaster oven for your home or business.

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