Stainless steel Whirlpool® Built-In Microwave

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.

Stainless steel Whirlpool® Low Profile Microwave Stainless steel Whirlpool® Low Profile Microwave

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.

Hand touching microwave control panel Hand touching microwave control panel

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 such as green beans

  • 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, ground beef, poultry and precooked frozen foods

  • 20% - defrost, softening butter, ice cream and cheese

  • Low or 10% - lightly warming fruits and vegetables
Hand touching microwave control panel Hand touching microwave control panel

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. Alternatively, you can reheat pizza in the oven.

  • 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.

Covered pot inside microwave Covered pot inside microwave

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

Chicken and vegetables cooking inside a microwave Chicken and vegetables cooking inside 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.

Frozen dinners inside a microwave Frozen dinners inside a microwave

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.

Close up of cooked salmon and vegetables Close up of cooked salmon and vegetables

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, chicken and precooked meals, be sure to use the defrost setting. This setting uses 30% power to ensure that thawing occurs slowly and evenly.

Nachos inside a microwave Nachos inside a microwave

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, especially useful when you’re trying to cook food without a stovetop, thanks to the additional heating element and fan that circulates hot air around the cavity.

Vegetables in a dish inside a microwave Vegetables in a dish inside a microwave

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.

Hand wiping up a mess with a rag Hand wiping up a mess with a rag

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.

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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.

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