The wattage of your microwave is one of its key features. It tells you how powerful your microwave is, how fast it cooks your food and ultimately how your food will taste.
Understanding the wattage and using it will help you heat food more thoroughly and consistently. Best of all, your food will taste better.
Join me as we explore the ins and outs of microwaves and their wattages!
What Is Microwave Wattage?
Wattage is a measure of electrical power, measured in Watts. Technically speaking, it’s the amount of energy per second that an electrical device can impart.
Everything electric you own has a wattage. From a lightly powered 100W lightbulb up to a powerful 15000W air conditioning unit.
For microwaves, this translates to the speed your microwave heats up food. A typical microwave imparts 800W of power which can cook a plate of food in about three minutes. A powerful, top-of-the-line microwave with 1200W would take just two minutes for the same plate.
The way wattage works is linear, which means that a 1200W microwave is twice as powerful and cooks twice as fast as a 600W microwave.
How To Find The Wattage Of Your Microwave
Microwaves are required by law to state the wattage on the machine. It can be written on the front where the controls or keypad is, on the inside of the door, or sometimes on the back of the microwave.
Here’s a photo of a microwave displaying its wattage.
What Is The Standard Microwave Wattage?
The standard microwave wattage has hovered between 700W and 900W for a few decades now. Just recently this range has been pushed up by new technology making higher wattages available for home use microwaves. Even 1200W microwave ovens are commonplace these days.
This has been a trend for some time. When microwaves were first introduced to the home market, a standard microwave wattage was more like 600W which would be positively glacial by modern standards.
What Is A Good Wattage For A Microwave?
Microwave ovens are produced with a wattage in the range of 600W to 1200W. The middle of that range is the most common. The higher the wattage, the faster the food cooks.
So you might think the higher the better, right?
Well, if you want to heat and reheat food as quickly as possible then yes, treat yourself to a 1200W microwave.
You’ll save around 10 seconds for each 100W extra on your oven. (For a better calculation, check the next section). Those 30 seconds or so can come in pretty useful when you have lots of food on the go.
One issue with higher wattage microwaves is that packaged foods will give heating instructions based on lower wattage microwaves, usually 700-900W. So when you buy your favorite microwave lasagne you’ll need to use a lower power setting to heat it. Or you can do a quick calculation in your head to work out how long to heat it.
The 1100W+ microwaves fall on the expensive side of the microwave spectrum. You run into cool features like “moisture sensors” which can automatically work out cooking times and “turbo defrost” to speed up thawing times. At the same time, you can expect to pay 2-3x the cost for a higher watt microwave.
If you’re in the market for a new microwave, here’s my pick for the best high wattage microwave. It’s from Panasonic and comes with a bunch of useful features. Check out this link to read about them.
Is 700/800/900 Watts Enough For A Microwave?
No wattage is too low to be able to cook food. Your low power 700W microwave is just as capable of cooking whatever you want to put in it as the latest and greatest devices on the market. It simply takes longer.
Even something as low as 600W (the absolute lowest you’ll come across) will be perfectly capable of heating and reheating food. The issue is you will have to wait twice as long as you might with a more powerful and faster microwave.
If you want my advice, then get the most powerful microwave you can afford. The extra wattage will cook food quicker and you can always dial down the power a little if need be.
How To Convert Between Wattages
Let’s say you want to cook some microwave fries but the packaging gives instructions for 900W and you have a 1200W microwave. What a crisis!
Well, you can avert disaster with a quick calculation. If the time needed is three minutes, then you convert that into seconds (180) and do:
So you heat the food up for 135 seconds (or 2 minute and 15 seconds) and it will be perfect. Hopefully it’s clear how the rest of the equation worked!
If that seems too much like hard work then this website will do the hard yards for you!
When heating food, it’s good to get a feel for how quickly your own microwave works. Remember, your microwave will often heat up the outside of the food first. So stab a fork into your food and wait a few seconds then check if the fork is warm. This will tell you whether the food is cooked through or not.
When using a microwave, it’s better to overheat rather than underheat. Burnt edges and cool spots can be a real problem, so nuke until you’re sure it’s done. The heat will dissipate and leave you with evenly warm food. And even if it’s too hot, you can just wait for the food to cool down.
Why Are High Wattage Microwaves More Expensive?
The technology in microwave ovens is pretty neat stuff. Bear in mind these things only started appearing in our kitchens in the 70s…
The appliance uses a “magnetron” which generates radio waves, this is radiation which heats up the water molecules in your food. Producing all that in such a small machine takes some advanced engineering.
In addition, safety is an aspect of microwaves that takes some skillful technology. After all, you don’t want any of that radiation coming near you or your family!
Basically, if you want a quality microwave that can nuke food in double quick time, you gotta fork out a few bucks.