How To Easily Determine Your Microwave's Wattage

Think about the first microwave you ever bought. It was probably for your college dorm room or first apartment, and there were two factors to consider before making your choice: Was it cheap and would it fit in your tiny living space? Once it blew out or was completely caked with dried spaghetti sauce and charred popcorn kernels, you may have upgraded. Price was probably still a factor, but you also likely wanted one that would last a little longer. Presumably, you could not have cared less about wattage, if you even knew what it was.

Once you hit the time of your life when kitchen appliances are important (first house, kitchen remodel, mega work bonus, etc.), you may start to pay attention to the small, technical variations that might make a difference in your daily life. For example, do you live alone or with three hungry teens that think microwaves are the only way to cook? Wattage may now become something you care about.

What exactly is it and why does it matter? Good Housekeeping states it plainly — wattage equals power. The higher the wattage, the faster the cooking time. Sounds simple enough, so then how do you know the wattage of your microwave? Since it's highly unlikely you've got the manual around (kudos to you if you do!), there's an easy way to find out.

Watts cookin'?

Many times, a microwave's wattage is listed inside the oven's door, or on the serial number plate on the back of the oven (per USDA). If not, try the "time-to-boil" test. Measure a cup of water in a 2-cup measuring glass. Add ice cubes and stir until the water is very cold. Discard the ice and pour out any excess water over one cup. Set your microwave on high for four minutes and watch closely to see when the water boils. Here is how to interpret the results, taken from the USDA's guide: Less than two minutes means a very high-wattage oven, likely 1000 watts or more. Two and a half minutes, a high-wattage oven, about 800 watts or more. Three minutes means you have an average-wattage oven, 650 to 700 watts or more. More than 3 minutes you have a slow oven, 300 to 500 watts.

What does all of this mean for you? Most frozen meals or microwave-friendly food directions will give the consumer a time range in which the food should be done. If you have a lower wattage oven, use the maximum cooking time given. If your wattage is higher, use the minimum cooking time. According to Eat Happy Project, a lower-wattage microwave is perfect for instant meals, small meals, and for heating beverages. A higher-wattage oven will obviously cook very quickly, which might be better for larger families. Test your newly found microwave skills on these nachos and salty-sweet popcorn.