Understanding Your Microwave’s Power Levels and Settings

Microwaves are a useful tool in the kitchen whether they serve as a stepping stone in the process for your homemade baked goods or you need to defrost chicken for your favorite Chicken Piccata recipe. Understanding how to use a microwave and the different microwave power levels and microwave settings is important to get the most out of your appliance. If you’re shopping for a microwave upgrade, KitchenAid® microwaves come in many different styles to suit your needs and your kitchen’s layout.

What are Microwave Power Levels?

Microwaves typically have around 5-10 power settings, and each level has a cooking purpose. Choosing the correct microwave power level can help prevent under or overcooking your food. Some microwave-specific recipes will specify which level to use by either a percentage or name. If your food is not heating up despite selecting the correct power level, check out our guide to fix a microwave that’s not heating.

Microwave power settings will vary depending on the model, so consult your product manual before cooking.

  • 100% / High - Quick heating convenience foods and foods with high water content such as soups, beverages and most vegetables. High power settings are ideal for making microwave bread.

  • 90% - Cooking small, tender pieces of meat, ground meat, poultry pieces and fish filets, as well as heating cream soups

  • 80% - Heating rice, pasta or stirrable casseroles, and cooking and heating foods that need a cook power lower than high, for example, whole fish and meat loaf

  • 70% / Medium-High - reheating a single serving of food

  • 60% - Cooking sensitive foods such as cheese and egg dishes, pudding and custards, and cooking non-stirrable casseroles such as lasagna

  • 50% / Medium - Cooking ham, whole poultry and pot roasts, as well as simmering stews

  • 40% - Melting chocolate and heating bread, rolls and pastries

  • 30% / Medium-Low / Defrost - Defrosting bread, fish, meats, including ground beef, poultry and precooked foods

  • 20% - Softening butter, cheese and ice cream

  • 10% / Low - Taking chill out of fruit

How to Change Microwave Power Levels

The control panel on a microwave will vary depending on the model, but typically you will press the COOK TIME button and enter the length of time you’d like to cook the food. You will then touch POWER LEVEL and enter the desired power level.

Microwave Settings

In addition to changing your microwave’s power levels, you can also customize how you prepare your food on select models featuring programmed settings. Different microwave buttons correspond with specific programmed microwave settings. Using these options can make achieving your desired outcome easier and your microwaved results more consistent.

Meat on a plate inside microwave

Defrost Setting

The defrost setting is used for foods that need to be thawed before cooking. Microwaves typically have cooking times and power levels preset for defrosting a number of food types. Options will vary based on your microwave model. Check your owner's manual for specific custom options for your microwave.

Meal on top rack and another meal on the turntable inside a microwave

Convection Setting

A convection microwave utilizes oven-like heating elements and a fan to circulate heat around the microwave cavity. The convection setting on your microwave typically lets you bake, broil and roast similar to the way you would in a convection oven.


The KitchenAid® Microwave-Hood Combination with Convection Cooking circulates heat around the oven cavity and allows baking at temperatures up to 425° F. There are many types of microwaves to choose from, and a convection microwave combines the convenience of a microwave and the power of an oven into one appliance.

Three small dishes inside open microwave

Soften/Melt Setting

The soften/melt setting on a microwave is great for melting things like butter for an icing glaze or softening butter for a range of homemade baked goods. Some microwaves with this setting will have a menu of items to choose from as well as the ability to choose the amount of the food.

Large dish on microwave turntable

Steam Setting

Use the steam setting to cook things like fresh vegetables, including carrots and broccoli, or shrimp. Microwaves with this setting may have various foods to choose from and will often come with a steamer vessel.

Cut pizza on a cutting board

Crisp Setting

Microwaves with a crisp setting usually also come with a crisper pan and can deliver crispy pizza, bacon or french fries in minutes. When using the crisp setting, follow your model’s instructions for crisping.


The KitchenAid® Microwave-Hood Combination with Convection Cooking features Crispwave Technology and a crisper pan that allows it to be used for grilling, frying and convection cooking.

Microwave Tips

Microwaves are a practical tool for everyday cooks who are accustomed to multitasking in the kitchen. The more you know about how your microwave functions, the more you can enhance your creative process. These microwave tips will help you make the most out of your appliance.

  • Learn how to remove burnt smells to keep your microwave fresh
  • Never microwave anything made of or containing steel, iron, copper or other hard metals
  • Read your user guide or owner’s manual to be able to fully use all of the settings and options your microwave has to offer. Also, review our guide on microwave power levels to get the best out of your appliance.

Explore KitchenAid® Microwave Features

If your kitchen is ready for an upgrade, KitchenAid® microwaves offer excellent performance in a variety of styles to suit your needs and your kitchen layout. Features like convection cooking and Crispwave Technology give you the flexibility and freedom to create delicious homemade meals in a fraction of the time.

Get More Microwave Tips From KitchenAid