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Tips for using a microwave, power levels & settings
When you’re short on time, one of the quickest ways to make yourself a satisfying meal is by tossing some leftovers in the microwave. Check out this guide to get the most out of your appliance and discover how to use a microwave to its best capabilities. If you’re looking to give your kitchen an upgrade, Whirlpool offers a variety of microwaves that can help you get dinner on the table faster.
10 tips for using a microwave
Microwaves are a staple in modern kitchens, and for good reason. When used correctly, they can help you to create delicious and healthy meals in a short amount of time. Explore these tips and tricks about how to use a microwave to make your appliance work for you.
1. Use microwave power levels for the best results
A typical microwave has around 5–10 different power settings, and each level has a specific cooking purpose. Utilizing your microwave’s power levels can help to prevent under or overcooking your food. Some microwave-specific recipes will specify which cooking power to use by either a percentage or name, so it’s important to understand what each power level does when you’re cooking. Power levels may vary depending on the model, so be sure to consult your product manual before cooking.
High or 100% - quick heating and cooking foods with a high water content like soups and vegetables
90% - cooking small pieces of meat or poultry, fish fillets and cream-based soups
80% - heating starches like rice and pasta as well as stirrable casseroles
Medium-High or 70% - reheating a single serving of food
60% - for cooking temperamental foods like cheese, eggs and custards
Medium or 50% - cooking ham, pot roasts and stews
40% - melting chocolate and heating pastries or bread
Defrost, Medium-Low or 30% - defrosting bread, fish, meat, poultry and precooked frozen foods
20% - defrost, softening butter, ice cream and cheese
- Low or 10% - lightly warming fruits and vegetables
2. Understand your microwave settings and how to use them
In addition to changing your microwave’s power levels, you can also customize how you cook your meals by using the programmed settings. Using the wrong setting can lead to overcooking your food, which can leave you with an empty stomach and a burnt smell in your microwave. Settings and their uses may vary by model, be sure to check your product manual before use.
- Add 30 seconds - can be used to adjust your cooking time by 30 second intervals as your meal is cooking to ensure proper heating.
- Popcorn - following the instructions found on the bag of popcorn, place the popcorn bag in the microwave and press the “popcorn” button on your appliance.
Pizza reheat - place 1–3 slices on a paper towel-lined plate inside the microwave and heat.
Frozen entree - following the instructions found on the entree packaging, place entree inside the microwave and press the “frozen entree” button.
Beverage - place 1–2 cups of liquid in a microwave-safe container and heat.
Soup - place 1–4 cups of soup in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover with vented microwave-safe plastic wrap and heat using the “soup” setting. Stir and let stand for 2 minutes.
Potato - pierce potato skin with a knife or fork several times. Place it on a paper towel towards the sides of the microwave turntable and heat. Let the potato stand for 5 minutes.
Dinner plate - place refrigerated leftovers on a microwave-safe dish and cover. Heat and let it stand for 2–3 minutes.
Fresh vegetables - in a microwave-safe container, add 2–4 Tbsp. of water to 1–4 cups of vegetables and cover with vented plastic wrap. Stir and let stand for 3 minutes after heating.
Frozen vegetables - place 1–4 cups of frozen vegetables in a microwave-safe dish with 2–4 Tbsp. of water and cover with vented plastic wrap. Stir and let stand for 3 minutes after heating.
3. Place food in microwave-safe dishes and containers
The heating element in microwaves uses electromagnetic waves to cook your food by causing their molecules to vibrate. Because of these electromagnetic waves, certain dishes and containers pose a health and safety risk when used in microwaves. It is very important to ensure you only place food on dishes that clearly state they are microwave-safe inside your appliance.
Read more: What you can and can’t put in a microwave
4. Prepare food for microwaving
You can save some cooking time when you properly prepare your food for the microwave. Foods with higher density like meats take longer to heat through than more porous foods like breads. Separating the food by density reduces the number of microwaving intervals you will have to use to reheat a meal.
Properly arranging food on your microwave-safe dish will help to avoid cold spots. For unevenly sized pieces of food, arrange your dish to keep the thickest pieces outward towards the walls of the appliance. Foods that are cut into even shapes and sizes should be arranged in a ring or square around your dish, leaving the center empty. If possible, cut foods into smaller pieces for a quicker cook time.
5. Cover food to avoid messes
You can prevent food splatter on the interior of your microwave if you enclose your plate or bowl with a microwave-safe cover. You can also use household items such as paper towels, wax paper and plastic wrap to shield your meal and lock moisture in, as well as plastic or glass covers that are made specifically for the microwave.
6. Defrosting food
If you forget to thaw a food item before meal time, your microwave can come in handy. When you use this appliance to thaw frozen meats, fish and precooked meals, be sure to use the defrost setting. This setting uses 30% power to ensure that thawing occurs slowly and evenly.
7. Cooking and reheating food
Select the proper setting and power level for the foods you intend to cook in your microwave. For reheating leftovers, you should select the medium-high (or 70%) power level for a more even temperature. Cooking starchy foods like rice and pasta requires an 80% power level. Always refer to your product manual as it will provide the model-specific power and settings recommended for the foods you can cook in a microwave.
Your microwave can be used to cook a variety of foods, from snacks like popcorn to full fish dinners depending on the model’s settings and capabilities. Whirlpool offers convection microwaves that can be used like a second oven, thanks to the additional heating element and fan that circulates hot air around the cavity.
8. Steaming food
If cooking instructions require you to steam foods like rice or vegetables, you can simply add 2 Tbsp. of water to your dish. Be sure to cover the plate or bowl with a microwave cover or plastic wrap to lock in moisture for optimal steaming.
9. Regularly clean and replace microwave filters
Most over-the-range microwaves have a grease filter and a charcoal filter that helps to reduce odors. These filters need to be cleaned regularly and occasionally replaced to keep your appliance functioning at its best. You can find step-by-step instructions on cleaning and replacing these filters in this how-to guide.
10. Regularly clean microwave interior
Keeping your microwave clean prevents pesky food buildup on the interior walls that can flake off onto your food. If you wipe down the interior with a washcloth soaked in warm water and dish soap weekly, you can help to maintain the cleanliness of your appliance and keep it functioning at its best.
Shop for Whirlpool® Microwaves
Whirlpool offers a variety of countertop microwaves, built-in microwaves and low profile microwave hood combinations that feature options like variable cooking power, convection options and food-specific cooking settings. Compare Whirlpool® Microwaves to find the right fit for your kitchen.
Get more microwave tips from Whirlpool
8 Types of Microwaves Explained Which microwave type is best for your home? Learn about the different types of microwave ovens so you can find the best fit for your kitchen.
A Guide to Microwave Sizes What is a standard microwave size? Learn more about microwave dimensions so you can choose the right fit for your kitchen.
Microwave Buying Guide: How to Choose in 3 Steps There are many things to consider when buying a microwave. Learn what to look for in a microwave, and choose the right size and features for you.