Microwave Features Explained

After watts and oven capacity, included features are next in importance when selecting the perfect microwave for your home or office. Features can also be confusing if you aren’t already familiar with what it is and how it works. Finally, microwaves can be hard to compare because microwaves don’t all have the same features. 

I am going to take away one level of confusion by explaining every microwave feature in this blog post. This post should help you decide which features are important, and which ones to skip. In my experience, the only feature included in every microwave is quick start buttons. 

In this blog post, I will describe what each feature is, what it does, and how important it should be.  

Click here to see my recommended microwaves.

Add 30 Seconds

What it does: Add 30 seconds is either a separate button or a feature included with the start button that adds 30 seconds to your cook time. For example, if you’ve set your microwave to cook for 3 minutes, anytime before the 3 minutes expires you can press the add 30 seconds button to extend the cook time. You food will cook for 3 minutes and 30 seconds instead of 3 minutes.

When to use: Usually, I only use this feature if I’m unsure how long it takes to cook something. For example, if I’m reheating last nights dinner I don’t know if it will take 2 or 3 minutes to cook.

Lately I’ve been using this feature more because a number of the buttons on my microwave have stopped working.

How important is it: On a scale of 1 – 10, I think this feature is a 5. It is nice to have, but you won’t be missing out without it.

ADA Compliant

What it does: ADA stands for Americans with Disabilities Act and it sets guidelines for electronic devices. This While this set of rules is for commercial and public spaces that require reasonable accommodation for Americans with disabilities, you may find some microwaves are rated as ADA compliant. These microwaves may have larger buttons, one hand operation, or any other feature to accommodate persons with disabilities.

When to use: If you are someone with a disability, or elderly, you should consider microwaves with these features. 

How important is it: This really depends on the person buying. If the person that is buying the microwave has a disability or elderly, this feature is a 9. Otherwise, this feature isn’t very important.

Child Lock

What it does: A microwave with a child lock simply prevents someone from opening the microwave and exposing themselves to risk. Depending on the model you can enable the lock by pressing the start button 3 times. Then to cancel the lock, you press cancel three times.

On many of the microwaves, a key or lock icon will appear on the display when the child lock is enabled.

When to use: You should consider using this feature when you have a small child that can reach a countertop microwave. This is especially important when your child begins to walk and reach for things.

How important is it: This feature also depends on your living situation. If you have a countertop microwave and small children, this feature is going to be an 8. However, if you don’t have small children or are mounting the microwave, this feature will be a 1.

Convection Cooking

What it does: Using a different heating source, convection cooking allows you to cook foods that solo and grill microwaves cannot cook. For example, convection cooking allows you to bake cookies, cakes, and pies. In addition, you can cook these foods much faster than a normal oven.

When to use: You would use this feature when you’d normally use an oven, but want to cook food in a fraction of the time. As I mentioned, convection microwave ovens are great for cooking cookies, cakes, and pies.

How important is it: This feature is about a 6.5. This feature makes a typical microwave much more expensive and may not be worth it for some households.

Cooking Light

What it does: A cooking light is just a light that shines below an over-the-range microwave. This light is usually pointing at the range below. 

When to use: Sometimes we use this light at night, like a nightlight. This feature can be used whenever you want to bring more light (like reading a recipe). 

How important is it: This feature is a 2. It isn’t really important because we can use our phones as a flashlight to read recipes. 


What it does: Defrosting thaws frozen food in a short amount of time. I remember we used to thaw frozen food by letting it sit in a sink full of hot water. This method is better because it is much quicker and saves on water. 

Many microwaves have a few different defrosting features including auto, weight, and manual defrosting. With auto defrost, you simply set the power level, and press start.

Weight-based defrost requires you to know your frozen foods weight. Once you have that information, enter it into the microwave and press start. The microwave will defrost for a period of time-based on weight and power level.  

When to use: You can use this feature when you need to thaw food quickly. You should check your microwaves’ manual to determine the maximum weight you are able to defrost.

How important is it: I think this feature is at least an 8. This will come in handy when your wife asks you to take meat out of the freezer in the morning, but you didn’t remember until you got home from work. 

Click here to see the best medium size microwave on Amazon

Easy Clean

What it does: This feature makes it much easier to clean dried food left in your microwave. In this post, I discussed the different ways to clean a microwave. However, there is a new feature in some microwaves that will make it even easier.  Simply press some water in the microwave, press the easy clean button, then wipe away.

When to use: You would want to use this feature weekly, or when your microwave becomes too dirty. The more frequently you clean the microwave, the easier it will be to clean.

How important is it: This feature is a 7 because it is only available in higher end microwaves and not all brands have this feature yet. 

Eco Mode

What it does: Eco mode reduces the amount of power the microwave consumes when it is not in use. This mode is designed to conserve energy and reduce your electricity bill. 

When to use: When enabled, this feature turns on automatically. This feature is used whenever you are using the microwave for cooking or timing something.

How important is it: This feature is a 6 because it is not available for all brands and it can be difficult to confirm how well this works. 


What it does: This feature is only available for commercial microwaves but is based on cooking energy efficiency and maximum idle energy rates. 

When to use: This is a rating given by Energy Start and is denoted by a sticker on the appliance. 

How important is it: This feature is a 7.5 because it notes that your appliance is energy efficient. 

Express cooking

What it does: Express cooking allows you to cook food for a period of time just by pressing the corresponding number. For example, to cook for 1 minute, press the 1 on your microwave. Then the microwave will cook on 100% power for 1 minute. Usually, most microwaves have up to 6 express cooking options (1-6).

When to use: I like to use this feature when the directions call for an exact time. For example, if the directions say “cook on high for 3 minutes,” I put the food in the microwave and press 3. 

How important is it: Before my buttons stopped working, I used this feature all of the time. For me, it is a 7, but it might be lower for others. 

Genius Sensor

What it does: The genius sensor allows you to cook food for the exact amount of time without entering the time. Simply press the sensor button and walk away. 

When to use: This can be used when you don’t know the amount of time to cook your food or you don’t want to waste time punching numbers. 

How important is it: This feature is mostly only available on higher end microwaves, so 5.5. 

Grill Function

What it does: The grill function combines the taste of an outdoor grill, with the speed and convenience of a microwave. The grill function provides a browned exterior, with a perfectly cooked interior like outdoor grills. Grill microwaves have multiple features including grill, combo (grill and microwave), and just microwave. 

When to use: Use this feature when you are cooking meats and vegetables and want the outdoor taste. This feature is great for people that live in apartments or condos that don’t have access to an outdoor drill.

How important is it: This feature adds an additional cost to the microwave. But if you live in a condo, apartment, or in a location where it is cold more than it is warm, you should consider this feature.

Inverter Technology

What it does: This feature attempts to control the microwaves inverter to provide a better, more even cook. Microwaves without inverter technology use a series of on/ off “switches” to achieve the requested power level. For example, if you set your microwave to 50% power, you microwave will heat at 100% power, then switch off for 5 seconds, then back to 100% power.

Inverter Technology aims to microwave your food at 50% power for the entire cook time. 

When to use: You would use this feature whenever you are cooking with less than 100% power. This feature also works for defrosting food as well.

How important is it: I think this feature is a 7.5. Anything that can cook the food even, and provide a better taste is okay with me. This feature may be considered a premium feature in some brands. 

One-touch Cooking

What it does: One-touch cooking enables you to cook your favorite foods with a touch of a button to the exact cooking time. Most microwaves have 6 one-touch buttons: popcorn, beverage, pizza, potato, frozen dinner, and reheat. 

When to use: I use this feature whenever I am cooking popcorn. I just place the bag in the microwave, press the microwave one-touch button and walk away. Usually, the popcorn is cooked perfectly,  Using this feature, I’ve never had to listen for the popcorn to be done.

How important is it: I think this feature is a 9 because it cooks food perfectly. This feature is on every single microwave, and its the only feature I use weekly. 

Power Level

What it does: The power level is the percent of the total watts that will be used to cook your food. The number of levels will depend on the watts of your microwave. The lowest number of levels I’ve seen is 5, and the highest is 11. To use the power level feature, press the power level button and press the corresponding number you’d like to use.

Below is a breakdown of 10 power levels for a 1000 watt microwave

  • Power level: 10 – 100%
  • Power level: 9 – 90%
  • Power level: 8 – 80%
  • Power level: 1 – 10%

When to use: Power levels are most often used when defrosting food and cooking food longer at a lower temperature.

How important is it: This feature is a 10, as every microwave has it. Also, this function can be used in almost any situation

Removable Filter

What it does: Removable filters absorb all of the filth in and around your microwave. These filters are composed of charcoal and can be found in over-the-range microwaves. 

When to use: This feature is working in the background all of the time. It is important that you create a replacement schedule for this filer.  

How important is it: This feature is very important if you have an over-the-range microwave. However, it is much less important if you are using a countertop microwave. 

Smart Functions

What it does: Smart microwaves use a virtual assistant and voice commands to cook food. Other smart microwaves can look up the cook time of foods by scanning the barcode. Finally, the Amazon Basics Smart Microwave can reorder popular foods like popcorn before you run out. Click here to learn more about smart microwaves.

When to use: You would use this feature whenever you are unable to physically interact with the microwave. You can say phrases like “Alexa, add 30 seconds to the microwave.” Then Alexa will interact with the microwave to add 30 seconds of cook time

How important is it: This feature is a 3. While it will be interesting to see where this goes in the future, there aren’t enough brands that are integrating smart technology into their microwaves. In addition, the functionality is pretty limited.

Sound On/Off

What it does: This feature enables and disables the “your food is done” beeping sound. Depending on the microwave, this sound can be turned on or off by pressing a series of buttons. 

When to use: This feature is perfect when you have little kids and don’t want to wake them up too early. This is also a great feature if you don’t want to share your food.

How important is it: While you will survive if you don’t have this feature, having this feature will improve your quality of life 10 times over. This feature is an 8.


What it does: This function is a countdown timer that beeps when the timer reaches 0. This function is independent of the microwave and can be used to time anything.

When to use: Examples for using this timer include:

  • Timing for grilling
  • Timing for timeouts
  • Anytime you need to time something

How important is it: This feature is a 3.5 because we have some any other options to use as timers. We can use the oven timer, smartphones, smartwatches, Amazon Alexa, etc for timing.  


What it does: The turntable is used to ensure your food is cooked evenly. Usually, the turntable is made of glass and can be removed for cleaning. Some microwaves include an option to turn this setting on and off. If you are using the convection function, then you’d consider turning this function on.

When to use: This is enabled by default and is used to cook food evenly. Unless the recipe calls for the turntable to be disabled, leave it on.

How important is it: This feature might be the second most important feature on this list. Without this feature, you may experience uneven cooking and cold spots. 


What it does: Vents are used to push air away from the range. Usually, the vent has two settings (high and low). 

When to use: I use the vents when cooking with our oven. Pushing the air reduces the chance of the smoke detector alarming while I’m cooking. The only downside is the high setting can be really loud.  

How important is it: For our family, this feature is really important. You will not find this feature useful if you are using a countertop microwave. 


These are all of the features that you will see when buying a new microwave. While all of these features have a place, some are far more important than others. In addition, some features will add 5% or 10% to the price of the microwave.

Which of these features is most important to you? Which features are new to you? Do you even use microwave features? why or why not?

Leave a comment below!

Additional Questions

What are the benefits of a convection microwave oven?

The biggest benefit of convection microwave ovens is that the microwave combines all of the benefits of ovens and microwaves. Convection microwaves can bake cookies, cakes, and pizzas. In addition, Convection microwave ovens can also cook foods fast and easily. 

Why is the microwave important?

Microwaves are important for a number of reasons including:

  • Cooking snacks
  • Faster cooking
  • Thawing food left in the freezer

What are the uses of microwaves?

The most common uses for microwaves include:

  • Defrosting frozen food
  • Heating coffee, tea, and other beverages
  • Cooking bagged popcorn
  • Convection ovens can back cookies and cakes
  • Grill Microwaves can grill meats, fish, and vegetables
  • Reheat last nights leftovers
  • Pizza
  • Bread 
  • Frozen dinners
  • Potatoes 
  • Kitchen timers