What do you need in a kitchen? Water. Power. A means to prepare food. A means to cook food. A means to preserve food (like a fridge-freezer). A washing machine if you haven’t got a utility room. A dishwasher perhaps? Over the years kitchens have developed. They started off being the second smallest rooms in the house with a kitchen table, a cooker with oven, gas/electric rings and a grill on the top, all on a concrete floor, perhaps with linoleum if you were lucky. Now are kitchens are places of wonder- many would argue the most important room in the home. With built in appliances, luxury work surfaces, breakfast bars, and a plethora of electric sockets. A housewife from 1950’s Britain would most likely be lost in a modern kitchen!
If you have a small “galley” kitchen, or are on a tight budget, what are the must-have appliances? A few years ago I would have said a hob built in to the work surface, and an oven/grill were the most important items. These days, they would be number two on my list. Why? Because of the advances in modern microwave cooking.
With a microwave oven, you can speed up the cooking process and undertake cooking, defrosting, grilling and re-heating very easily. Microwaves are very reasonably priced and the general consensus of opinion is not only are they eco-friendly (because they use less power to cook than other forms of cooking) but they actually can preserve nutrients that would be destroyed in other forms of cooking: Steaming or poaching in a microwave preserves the goodness that would otherwise be boiled away on a hob, or smoked away under a grill.
With such a variety of models out there, you need to decide what your primary use of the microwave will be. If you have a family, then you’ll probably want a larger model with all the trimmings (grill, browning, various one press settings) or if you mainly are cooking just for yourself, a smaller more modest counter-top might suffice.
I would always go for the highest wattage. You can still cook more slowly, but you have the flexibility to cook really quickly and efficiently. A 1,000-watt microwave oven will cook quickly and efficiently, while a model with 700 watts or less are slower and may not cook evenly. In general, the higher the wattage, the faster the cooking time.
So I would always opt for a microwave for my number one appliance. You can have them built-in and they come in a number of standard sizes to fit above your oven or range. And they last a long time. At least ten years, and sometimes longer, although there are two reasons why you might want to get a new one after that time. Firstly the door seal needs to be checked and if there’s anything iffy there, you should consider replacing it pronto. Secondly with so many new features being introduced year-on-year, you’ll be tempted to upgrade and get a new one with all the latest bells and whistles.