Why 10 power levels on microwaves?

When nobody uses any of them except high, defrost, and, very rarely, medium?

I use lower power levels to re-heat leftovers.

I only use 4 levels: Defrost, Reheat, Full and Popcorn. The rest are just wasted circuits.

Because the power required to take them to 11 isn’t readily available?

I use the microwave a lot for cooking and I do use the different levels depending on what I am doing. The tube actually cycles on and off the percentage of the number punched in. 10% gives you 6 secs of power and 54 seconds of rest in between. You can use the low power for sensitive stuff like chocolate.

The buttons are already there for you to punch in the minutes and seconds, so there’s no particular cost involved in offering ten power levels, so why not have it?

But, I agree - I’ve never had a desire or need to cook something at 80% power. It’s just a feature that sounds nice when you see “Ten power levels!” on the box.

It’s a little known fact that the Gokumatic Brand Microwave has a power level of OVER NINE THOUSAND!

I often use the “Power - 0” setting on my microwave when I need an extra timer.

I use all of the power levels from 5 through 10, I sometimes use the lower ones (usually 3) as well. When cooking things with a tendency to boil over (oatmeal, custard), you have to find the precise power level for your current recipe that lets it cook and just as it is about to reach that boil over point, cuts the power out and lets it recede.

A small bowl of oatmeal is usually 5, 6 or 7 depending on how much sugar is in it. Red River cereal on the other hand, doesn’t boil over as readily as oatmeal, so it’s 7 or 8. The custard I use is either 6 or 10 depending on the bowl I make it in.

I use lower ones for reheating, especially more liquidy things that could use some stirring.
And I actually read my microwave manual to see what the levels were recommended for!


Yes, I almost always use the power levels unless I am just trying to boil some water or something. I use a longer cooking time and a lower power level to more evenly heat stuff. The heating in my microwave is not very even, so I let the convection of the parts that do get warm heat the parts that don’t get warm to get a more evenly heated food item.

I use the power levels all the time. I wouldn’t buy a microwave without them.

10 for cooking
8 to thaw frozen leftovers (higher settings are more likely to scorch)
4 to melt butter
2 to soften butter
0 to just use the timer

I hit “popcorn” on mine, but then set 90 percent power to prevent burning it. I know I could set a manual time at 100%, but “popcorn” at 90 is easier to remember than 1:53 (or whatever) at 100%.

Nice use of zero power for the timer.

Obligatory microwaving water urban myth and the Straight Dope Science Advisory Board response.

Guess my premise was wrong; people do use the other power levels. Good to know.

Reducing the total time by 20% and the power by 80% will not provide the same results.
If you are running at 80% power - the tube cycles on and off during the cooking time.
If you run at full power, but for 20% less time, you are not allowing for any cycle/rest periods.
Delicate food items, such as melting butter, or liquids that tend to boil over, such a soups, need those brief rest periods to turn out properly

You cannot defeat me! My power level is off the charts! I’ll send you to… another dimension!

(Seriously, I came in here to make a similar joke.)

I don’t really get it either. I assumed it was a hold over from the old days when the power setting on the microwave actually was needed (and when the manuals came with recipes!). If I want some to cook more or less I just set the timer for longer or shorter. Microwaves are for convenience! If I was going to put that much thought into the microwave power settings, I might as well just, like, start… cooking on the stove.

For those wondering what me and BBVL are babbooning on about: Check this link -->Over 9000!