We don't typically think of our refrigerator, stove, or oven as being advanced pieces of technology. But, indeed they are much more evolved than their predecessors from just 10 years ago. These common appliances have a number of features that make using them much more efficient and useful. If you decide to purchase a new microwave oven this year, there are a number of features you'll want to make note of before you make your choice.

First, there are a number of microwave ovens that can do much more than heat food for the purpose of re-warming or basic cooking. In the past, many of us used our microwave primarily for defrosting frozen foods, reheating leftovers, and popping popcorn. There are new convection microwave ovens that also include a type of convection oven; they have fan to circulate warm air to cook food faster and more evenly. Baking is something you can easily do with these convection microwaves, allowing users to step away from their slower, more energy hungry conventional oven for more of their cooking tasks.

Another example is a speedcook oven. These ovens provide the speed of microwave cooking, the ability to brown, grill, and roast foods, a warming oven to keep foods warm, and generally speaking, convection oven features as well.

Needless to say, convection microwaves or speedcook ovens are a bit more expensive than traditional models, but they can save in the longer term. They still consume less power than a conventional oven and perform your cooking task three to four times faster.

Secondly, there are many microwave ovens that now offer sensors which automatically determine when foods are done. This assures food won't be over cooked or under cooked. It also allows the cook to attend to other tasks rather than having to interrupt the cooking process constantly to check.

A third feature that is related to this is an increased number of pre-programmed cooking times. In many instances, you can set the oven to prepare a dish perfectly, with the push of a button.

Other features that you will see in increasing numbers are microwaves that offer things like steamers, toasters, grills, and so forth built-in. Some will have touchscreens and offer on board recipe guides as well. For those who are looking for a traditional oven too, they will also find more microwave oven/conventional oven combination units for in-the-wall installation.