Having a microwave in your home kitchen is pretty much a given in this day and age, but what about when you’re out on the high seas?
There are indeed several options available to you if you want to reap the benefits of microwave cooking onboard your boat. The first thing to determine is whether or not you’ll actually be able to run the thing from your existing electrical infrastructure.
Given that most ‘domestic’ microwaves suck up between 700 and 1200 Watts you’re going to need a enough battery power and a decent inverter to take on the job, and even then you want to be sure you’re not going to drain the batteries. Erring on the side of caution it’s better to choose a less powerful microwave than you would have at home so that it will function as expected, and require less power to run.
Even with a battery bank and a hardwired pure sine wave inverter that can cope with the power of the microwave, it’s even better to have the added security of a generator as well as your boat house battery bank, not to mention a separate starter battery should you find yourself powerless following frivolous use of your microwave and other power hungry appliances.
It’s also important to be aware that whichever microwave you choose, it’s unlikely that it will heat as effectively as it would when connected to a mains supply. Due to the losses and inefficiencies of a boat’s 12 volt system you can expect at least a 25% reduction in power, meaning you will need to factor in additional time to heat your food or drink.
In other words don’t expect miracles, but if you can make allowances for them you’ll have great success with a microwave on board!
Opting For a Standard Microwave: Black & Decker EM720CB7 Digital Microwave Oven
Let’s face it there are more microwaves on the market than anyone could ever hope to use. So what I’ve tried to do when selecting a good ‘all rounder’ for a marine environment is go for something fairly low powered, that is constructed from materials that will last in a salty environment, and that offers a reasonable level of functionality.
This microwave from Black and Decker ticks those boxes, and coming from a fairly ‘agricultural’ brand you can be sure that it’s built to last and hopefully take a few (gentle) knocks.
Space is nearly always at a premium on board a boat, and finding a microwave that fits within the tight constraints of a small galley is always going to be difficult. At 0.7 cubic feet in capacity and 10.2” high this is a fairly shallow microwave and the smallest that Black and Decker offer, so with any luck you’ve already got a shelf that you tuck it underneath. Despite its small size however, it will still accept a ‘standard’ dinner plate, so you won’t need to buy new crockery if you don’t want to!
I also like the way it uses a push button to open the door rather than a handle – having a protrusion like this is just something else to accidentally snag things on, which is quite likely when you’ve got limited food prep space.
Knowing how chaotic the living space on a boat can be, you want to be sure that cleaning and tidying is as simple as it can be. What I like about this microwave is that it uses a ‘wipe clean’ keypad rather than tangible buttons and dials which are prone to harboring grease and dirt.
If you’re out on deck whilst the microwave is doing its thing you want to be sure you hear the beeper once the microwave has finished heating. Luckily in this case the beeps seem to be extremely loud, and there are 5 of them, so no excuses for not grabbing the pizza as soon as it’s ready!
Opting For a 12 Volt Microwave
You might well be wondering if there is such a thing as a 12 volt microwave that is designed specifically for boating. Well as it turns out there is something that comes close: The Wavebox 12V Microwave, is the last vestige of a period in history when manufacturers experimented with the concept of a 12 Volt microwave. An experiment which you can probably guess wasn’t particularly successful!
The trouble is that microwaves are by their very nature designed to be quick and convenient, and that’s always going to be a challenge for a 12 volt unit. At the very least you’ll need to factor in a longer cooking time, and at worst this might leave you with a drained battery bank, although given that this is designed primarily for cars and campers, that is probably slightly less of a concern.
Despite the criticisms and being increasingly difficult to find for sale anywhere, the Wavebox does have a solid fanbase among those who make allowances for its faults, and to its credit they do have a few good points.
Above all it’s a far smaller microwave than any other microwave on the market at just 10 x 15 x 11 inches it will fit into a more compact space than any other microwave could.
It’s also built to be portable, the outer housing is constructed from rugged ABS plastic which won’t rot in damp salty air as a metal enclosure would, and it will also stand up up to the odd knock if you choose to lug it on and off the boat (with the aid of the chunky carry handle) as and when you need it.
As an added bonus (or should that be gimmick? You decide) the Wavebox also comes complete with a cool bag that fits inside the microwave when not in use. I quite like this myself, it makes good use of the otherwise redundant space with something useful, so why not?
Is A Microwave Really Needed Aboard a Boat?
Although fitting and using a microwave onboard your boat is certainly possible, it’s clearly not the most practical endeavor in the world, which begs the question, are they really necessary, or are there better alternatives?
I’ve got to be honest and say I think there is, especially given that microwaves on board boats tend to be underpowered and slow, which is kind of the whole point in them. For me you can’t beat a good gas stove: you don’t need to worry about generators, inverters and bleeding your batteries dry, instead the system is kept entirely separate. Sure it means you need to carry a gas bottle instead, but this can be sized according to your needs and won’t be anywhere near as expensive as overhauling your electrical system so you can run a microwave.
Having said that though…
Another Surprising Use For a Microwave
I’d you’re on the fence about installing a microwave on your boat, 120 volt or otherwise, then here’s an interesting little bonus advantage that might sway you firmly in their favor.
By their very nature microwaves are an enclosed metal box, they have to be to keep the hazardous microwave radiation inside where it should be, rather than outside, cooking you or me!
This design also means that microwaves act as a Faraday cage, and keeping microwave energy from escaping also means they prevent electrical energy from entering.
Voila! Instant protection against lightning strikes.
So in the event of a storm that could potentially fry vital electrical equipment such as your GPS chart plotter or mobile phone, you can stash them in the microwave safe in the knowledge they will still work once the storm passed
Oh just make sure everyone else aboard knows if you have put electrical items in the microwave or else you might actually end up cooking them even if the lightening storm doesn’t!