Person removing popcorn from the microwave

Microwave power levels, settings and features

Microwaves come with a variety of ways to help you keep mealtime moving. Whether you have an over-the-range microwave or a countertop model, understanding microwave features can help you make the most of your appliance. Read this guide to learn more about microwave power levels, settings and features.

Microwave keypad Microwave keypad

What are microwave power levels?

Microwave power levels refer to the different preset levels of power a microwave uses to cook your food. Typically, microwaves have between 5 and 10 different power levels. Knowing the power levels on your microwave can help you keep from over or undercooking food.

Power levels vary between models, so you can refer to your appliance’s owner’s manual for your model-specific levels. You can read more about how microwaves work here. Check out the table below to learn more about microwave power levels and what they are best used for.

How do microwave power levels work?

Microwave power levels represent a percentage of “on” time for the magnetron tube. The magnetron tube cycles on and off to reach each level. When used as recommended, each power level serves its own purpose.

Food cooking in a microwave Food cooking in a microwave

How to adjust microwave power levels

Refer to the steps below to help you adjust the power level on your microwave. Check the owner’s manual for your specific model, if necessary, as steps may vary. 

1. Touch Cook Power

First press the Cook Time button and select the amount of time. Then press Cook Power to enter the desired power level.

2. Enter Cook Power

Using the number keypad, enter the power level you would like to use. For example, enter 8 for 80% power.

Microwave Power Level Chart

High or 100% Quick heating convenience foods and foods with high water content, such as soups, beverages, and most vegetables
90% Cooking small, tender pieces of meat, ground meat, poultry pieces and fish filets. Heating cream soups
80% Heating rice, pasta or casseroles. Cooking and heating foods that need a cook power lower than high, for example, whole fish and meat loaf
Medium-High or 70%
Reheating a single serving of food, such as steak
Cooking sensitive foods such as cheese and egg dishes, pudding and custards. Cooking non-stirrable casseroles, such as lasagna
Medium or 50%
Cooking ham, whole poultry and pot roasts. Simmering stews
Melting chocolate. Heating bread, rolls and pastries
Defrost, Medium-Low or 30%
Defrosting bread, fish, meats, ground beef, poultry and precooked foods
Softening butter, cheese and ice cream
Low or 10% Taking chill out of fruit
Person pushing buttons on a microwave keypad Person pushing buttons on a microwave keypad

What are microwave settings?

Microwaves also typically come with pre-programmed settings that make cooking specific foods more convenient. Settings and their uses may vary by model, so check your owner’s manual for more information. Some common microwave settings include popcorn, defrost and potato.


Following the instructions found on the bag, place the popcorn bag in the microwave and press the “popcorn” button on your appliance. The popcorn setting makes popping a bag of popcorn for movie night quick and easy.


To use the potato preset on your microwave, first pierce the potato’s skin with a knife or fork several times. Then place it on a paper towel towards the sides of the microwave turntable and press the potato button. Let the potato stand for 5 minutes before serving.


Place 1 to 3 slices of pizza on a paper towel-lined plate inside the microwave. Press the pizza button on your appliance. This preset will reheat your pizza to the correct temperature without overcooking it.

Learn more about how to reheat pizza in the microwave.


The defrost setting on your microwave will help you defrost foods like meat, poultry and fish. Preset times and cooking powers are typically programmed on the appliance and can be found in the owner’s manual. For best results when using the defrost setting, food should be 0° F.


The soften and melt functions can be used to soften or melt your foods such as butter, ice cream and cream cheese. Times and cooking powers are typically preset for a number of food types. You can find this information in your owner’s manual. 


Times and cooking powers have typically been pre-set for reheating a number of food types such as pizza, soups, sauces and baked goods. You can refer to your owner’s manual for specific information about different types of foods and the reheat settings. 

Keep Warm

The keep warm setting is great for getting everything on the table hot during a busy mealtime. It uses the crisp/brown element available on some microwaves. For best results, your food should be at serving temperature when you place it in the microwave and use this setting.


The timed Dual Crisp setting is a manual crisp mode setting available on select Maytag® microwaves. The Dual Crisp feature with crisping tray uses an extended cycle to crisp up everything from soggy pizza slices to frozen fries. A broiler-like crisp element combines with microwave cooking power to deliver better microwaved meals. Always use an oven-proof and microwave safe dish.


The Brown setting is available on select Maytag® microwaves. This setting is meant for top browning cooked foods such as casseroles. It adds a crunchy layer to the top of food using direct heat without microwave cooking power and gives a finishing touch to a meal without having to touch an oven. When using this setting, use an oven-proof and microwave-safe dish or plate.

Sensor Cooking

Select Maytag® microwaves are equipped with Sensor Cooking. Sensor cooking adjusts to your meal with ideal time and microwave power settings for everything from large casseroles to pasta.

Maytag® stainless steel microwave Maytag® stainless steel microwave

Tips for using a microwave

When used correctly, microwaves can help you get meals on the table more quickly and conveniently. Use the tips below to help you make the most of your microwave.

Use your microwave’s power levels and settings

Using your microwave’s power levels and settings correctly can help you keep from over or undercooking your food. Some recipes that specifically use the microwave will detail which power level or setting to use. Once you have familiarized yourself with the settings, you can determine ways to best use them, as well.

Place food in microwave safe dishes

Microwaves use electromagnetic waves to cook your food by causing their molecules to vibrate. Certain dishes and containers, such as those made with metal cannot be used in microwaves. It is very important to ensure you only use dishes that clearly state they are microwave-safe. 

Cover food

Covering your food in the microwave will help prevent splatter and messes in your microwave’s interior. You can use a microwave-safe plate or bowl to cover your dishes, or you can also use paraffin wax paper, parchment paper or a paper towel.

Regularly clean and replace your microwave filter

Most over-the-range microwaves have a grease filter and a charcoal filter to help reduce odors. Cleaning these filters regularly and occasionally replacing them will help keep your appliance functioning at its best.

Clean your microwave’s interior

Keeping your microwave clean prevents food buildup on the interior walls. Wiping down the interior with a warm, wet washcloth and dish soap weekly, will help you maintain the cleanliness of your appliance and keep it functioning at its best.

Shop Maytag® microwaves for your kitchen

Look forward to leftovers and quick cooking with Maytag® countertop and over-the-range microwaves. With convenient features like the Keep Warm function and Sensor Cooking on select models, you’ll be ready to master any meal. 


Get more microwaving tips from Maytag brand


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