If you are a fan of television cooking shows, you may have noticed that one popular kitchen item rarely features. It’s the microwave.
It doesn’t seem that long ago that bookshelves included titles on how to cook meals using the microwave.
There didn’t seem to be anything you couldn’t do with one, from cooking meats to making risottos to melting cooking chocolate.
Today, however, sales have plummeted and few reputable chefs have one in their kitchens.
In the US, sales of microwaves have fallen 25 per cent since 2000 and 40 per cent since their peak in 2004.
That’s not surprising, you may say. Why would you buy one if you already have one? Indeed, 90 per cent of American homes currently have a microwave.
But while sales of all other kitchen appliances have gone up since 2000, the sale of microwaves has gone down.
The simple explanation, both for the American market and here in Australia, is that our eating habits have changed.
TV dinners are no longer trendy. For most, freshness and quality have replaced speed and ease. Taste matters and healthy is important, and the types of foods that were once prepared in microwaves are now increasingly unacceptable.
This is supported by American figures that show the sales of frozen meals have dropped since 2008 or, at very least, haven’t increased.
At the same time, sales of alternative cooking options, such as griddle pans, slow cookers, crockpots and rice-makers, have grown 50 per cent since 2000. All these items put pressure on limited bench space, meaning microwaves are feeling the competitive pinch.
While we’re not necessarily throwing them out, we are using them less. Some industry analysts are even saying that the microwave is dying and will soon be deceased, but try telling that to a feeding mother who enjoys the convenience of quickly warming her baby’s bottle in the middle of the night.
No, while we still design kitchens with cubbyholes for the microwave, they’ll continue to survive. So if you’re in the market for one, where do you turn?
Well, prices vary from $100 to more than $1000, but what are you looking for besides the price?
For a start, microwaves are usually judged by their power, so look for ones with an output of 900 watts or more.
Microwave sizes are measured in litres, so consider what you’ll be using it for. If it’s to prepare family meals, you’ll need something approaching 30 litres. If it’s only to heat milk or pop corn, something less will suffice.
Pre-set programs are good. They save you wondering about heating times.
‘Chaos defrost’ has become a popular feature, enabling the defrosting process to be quicker and more effective.
And finally, wherever you put it, make sure it either has a safety feature to prevent children from getting to it, such as a child lock, or it’s up high where they can’t press buttons because if they can see them, they’ll push them.
Do you have a microwave? Do you use it as much as you always have? What for?