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Using a microwave oven

Advantages of Microwaves and Combination ovens over conventional ovens:

  • Microwaves are compact and can be more easily sited or built-in at a convenient height.1 (combination ovens are deeper and often higher than a standard microwave).
  • Microwaves cook quicker and are therefore more economical to use
  • Microwaves can quickly cook small quantities of food without needing to warm up first
  • Microwaves require less liquid for the cooking process
  • Plastic containers can be used in a microwave. Plastic containers are light weight and do not conduct heat. 2
  • Cooking only commences when the timer is set and will turn off after the pre-set time which means there is less risk of burnt food, fumes and fire if the microwave oven is left unattended.2

Microwave doors

Most microwaves have left hand opening doors, a few have doors hinged at the bottom (drop down doors). Combination ovens often have drop down doors.

Microwave controls

Microwaves tend to have either dial controls or touch sensitive controls, a few models have both types of controls.

Dial controls
Microwaves with dial controls (also called analogue microwaves) have two rotary knobs / dials (with one dial for time and the other for power). A recent RNIB survey1, Good Housekeeping Institute report on microwaves2 and Internet reviews all suggest that many users prefer analogue microwaves, finding their controls simple to use.
If you have difficulty seeing to set dial controls you could place tactile or visual marks on and around the microwave control knobs/dials using raised self adhesive plastic dots or a bright liquid that drys to give a raised hard tactile indicator.3 4 For example, you could place one dot on the time control dial to indicator where its indicator line is located and another at the 5 minute mark beside the dial. To set the cooking time to 5 minutes the user can turn the dial to join the two dots by touch. To view tactile add on bumps please click on the image below:

Touch controls
Microwaves with touch controls have a flat control panel, users press specific 'buttons' on this panel to control the settings. Look for models with strong contrasting colours or a control panel that can be distinguished by touch. There may be different audible signals for the various controls, such as different tones when the minute or second button is pressed. Tactile dots or markings could be placed on certain buttons to distinguish them.


Talking microwaves Talking microwaves give audible speech output of the functions chosen, such as the power setting and cooking time selected. Thus as you press the control buttons the microwave may give you speech feedback such as "High Power", and "Two minutes and thirty seconds". Read more about talking microwaves. To view talking microwaves please click on the image below:

Further information

Which? If you are a new microwave user you may find Which's simple guide to microwave functions helpful. Which? is the largest consumer body in the UK. It provides independent advice and reviews on a wide range of topics.
  • The Good Housekeeping Institute (GH) in Aug 2007 produced a review of microwaves and combination ovens. If you are looking to purchase a new microwave (particularly if one of its main function would be for defrosting) the GH test report suggests the best models for this. The report also comments on the microwaves instructions and provides dimensions of turntables etc.

    All advice is either supported by references (cited in the text) or is based upon peer reviewed professional opinion. Our advice is impartial and not influenced by sponsors or product suppliers listed on the site.
    Conflict of interest statement