A microwave finished cooking food

How do you use a microwave?

Countertop microwaves are useful appliances for heating up leftovers, defrosting frozen food and much more. Understanding how to use a microwave, recognizing various microwave symbols and knowing the dos and don’ts of microwave cooking is essential to getting the most out of your appliance. Read more to learn how to use a microwave.

Hand pressing a microwave display Hand pressing a microwave display

How do you use the microwave for the first time?

Using a microwave for the first time is a simple process when following the proper instructions. After consulting your owner’s manual, plug your microwave into a grounded three-prong socket. When you’ve aligned the turntable onto the hub, place your food in a microwave-safe dish at its center and select your settings. Press the cook timer and finish by removing your food from the microwave when it is done heating, using oven mitts if needed.

  • Microwave-safe container

  • Water

  • Dish soap

  • Cloth or sponge

Read Manual Icon

Step 1: Read the Owners’ Manual

Because every microwave contains different features and instructions, it is important to start by consulting your owner’s manual. Your manual will provide general setup instructions as well as information regarding your microwave’s settings and features.

Warning label for electrical shock hazard Warning label for electrical shock hazard
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Step 2: Plug the Microwave In

When plugging your microwave in, make sure to plug it into a grounded three-prong outlet. You shouldn’t use an extension cord or adapter, and do not remove the ground plug. If the power supply cord is too short, consult an expert for outlet installation.

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Step 3: Set Up Turntable

As the part of the microwave upon which you place your food, the turntable is also an internal component you must set up yourself. Take your turntable and place it over the support and rollers, locking it into the hub. When the microwave operates, the hub will turn the turntable, but if the microwave is not spinning, follow these tips to resolve the issue.

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Step 4: Put Food in a Microwave-Safe Dish

To heat up food in a microwave, you must first make sure it is in a microwave-safe dish. If your dish has a microwave-safe lid, leave it on loosely to reduce splatter while also allowing steam to escape, then place the dish in the center of the turntable. Remember to read up on what you can and can’t heat up in a microwave. And learn more about how to troubleshoot a microwave that’s not heating properly.

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Step 5: Choose Setting

Using your microwave to its fullest potential begins with choosing the right setting. Depending on your model, you will have a variety of settings available, typically including: cook, reheat, defrost, melt and more. You can also usually select settings that will alter the power level (100% is the default; lower levels can be used for defrosting, reheating and more). Your microwave’s wattage determines the max cooking power level.


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Step 6: Start Microwave

After selecting your settings, touch the number keypads to set the length of time to cook your food. When the stop time is reached, the microwave will shut off automatically and the display will indicate that your cooking is complete. There will also be an accompanying noise with select models.

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Step 7: Microwave Maintenance and Cleaning

Like your other kitchen appliances, maintaining your microwave can help keep it in good working condition. For example, if you have an over-the-range filter, be sure to routinely change your filters to help clear the air in your kitchen. Additionally, cleaning your microwave is a crucial practice to help prevent that all-too-common burnt smell.

Shop Whirlpool® Microwaves

Get delicious results with less hassle when using Whirlpool® microwaves. Whether you are looking to reheat, defrost or prepare food with ease, Whirlpool brand microwaves help make meals that will have everyone in your family clamoring for more.

A list of various microwave symbols A list of various microwave symbols

What are the microwave symbols?

Microwave symbols indicate whether it is safe to place certain containers in your microwave. There are different versions of these symbols featuring three to four wavy lines, a microwave icon, a dish with wavy lines above it or three wave lines above the word “micro.”

A fresh dish of shrimp over rice A fresh dish of shrimp over rice

What can you cook in a microwave?

Many foods can be cooked in the microwave, including common items like corn on the cob and eggs, as well as less thought-of items, like pasta or s’mores. Microwaves are also helpful for steaming vegetables, cooking rice and pre-heating foods like potatoes before transferring to another step of the cooking process.

How do you defrost in a microwave?

Locate the dedicated defrost button on your microwave and press it to begin defrosting your food. If your microwave does not carry a defrost button, you can manually defrost by setting the microwave to 20 to 30 percent power using the Power Level button.

By utilizing your microwave's defrost setting, it is possible to lower your appliance's power to defrost food without cooking it. This allows frozen food to thaw more quickly than if it were to sit overnight in your refrigerator. For more tips on how to defrost produce and other items in the microwave, read this guide.

A built-in Whirlpool® microwave A built-in Whirlpool® microwave

What are the dos and don'ts of microwaves?

  • Check to see whether the container you are placing into the microwave is microwave-safe, like certain glassware

  • Adjust cook time by item—foods with higher water contents may cook faster and more evenly than those that don’t.

  • Stir liquids intermittently so that the entire dish is properly heated.

  • Use your microwave for simple baking processes.

  • Put aluminum foil or other metals in your microwave.

  • Place plastic or styrofoam in your microwave, either.

  • Run food in the microwave without a covering (unless you do want to clean up the mess afterward).

  • Eat your microwaved food before allowing it to stand for three minutes after cooking. This completes the cooking process of certain foods.

Explore all Whirlpool® Microwaves and Microwave Combinations

With multiple microwave options to fit any kitchen and lifestyle, Whirlpool® microwaves and over-the-range microwave combinations provide flexibility and performance to fit your family's needs. With features on select models like Scan-to-Cook Technology, steam cooking and integrated design, you can heat your favorite dish any night of the week.

Learn more about microwaves with Whirlpool

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