The radiation produced by a microwave oven is non-ionizing. It therefore does not have the cancer risks associated with ionizing radiation such as X-rays and high-energy particles. Long-term rodent studies to assess cancer risk have so far failed to identify any carcinogenicity from 2.45 GHz microwave radiation even with chronic exposure levels (i.e. large fraction of life span) far larger than humans are likely to encounter from any leaking ovens. However, with the oven door open, the radiation may cause damage by heating. Every microwave oven sold has a protective interlock so that it cannot be run when the door is open or improperly latched.
We took into account both the best compact microwaves for people with less space and more temporary setups, as well as extra-large models for huge oven ranges. But the inside space matters even more, and for the average microwave we preferred to see capacity at least over 1 cubic foot, if not closer to 1.5. For smaller models we went down to 0.7 cubic feet (although there are impressive models out there that are even smaller).
Due to this phenomenon, microwave ovens set at too-high power levels may even start to cook the edges of frozen food while the inside of the food remains frozen. Another case of uneven heating can be observed in baked goods containing berries. In these items, the berries absorb more energy than the drier surrounding bread and cannot dissipate the heat due to the low thermal conductivity of the bread. Often this results in overheating the berries relative to the rest of the food. "Defrost" oven settings either use low power levels or turn the power off and on repeatedly - designed to allow time for heat to be conducted within frozen foods from areas that absorb heat more readily to those which heat more slowly. In turntable-equipped ovens, more even heating will take place by placing food off-centre on the turntable tray instead of exactly in the centre, so that no part of the food item will be continuously unheated by the center "dead zone".
Another misconception is that microwave ovens cook food "from the inside out", meaning from the center of the entire mass of food outwards. This idea arises from heating behavior seen if an absorbent layer of water lies beneath a less absorbent drier layer at the surface of a food; in this case, the deposition of heat energy inside a food can exceed that on its surface. This can also occur if the inner layer has a lower heat capacity than the outer layer causing it to reach a higher temperature, or even if the inner layer is more thermally conductive than the outer layer making it feel hotter despite having a lower temperature. In most cases, however, with uniformly structured or reasonably homogenous food item, microwaves are absorbed in the outer layers of the item at a similar level to that of the inner layers. Depending on water content, the depth of initial heat deposition may be several centimetres or more with microwave ovens, in contrast to broiling/grilling (infrared) or convection heating—methods which deposit heat thinly at the food surface. Penetration depth of microwaves is dependent on food composition and the frequency, with lower microwave frequencies (longer wavelengths) penetrating further.
Microwave heating can cause localized thermal runaways in some materials with low thermal conductivity which also have dielectric constants that increase with temperature. An example is glass, which can exhibit thermal runaway in a microwave to the point of melting if preheated. Additionally, microwaves can melt certain types of rocks, producing small quantities of molten rock. Some ceramics can also be melted, and may even become clear upon cooling. Thermal runaway is more typical of electrically conductive liquids such as salty water.
The Toshiba has an easy-to-use digital interface, with one key feature that helps it stand out from much of the competition: a mute button. Since this model doesn’t stop beeping when you open the door, we appreciated having the option to mute the beeping entirely. The Toshiba also has six preset cooking functions for popcorn, potatoes, pizza, frozen vegetables, beverages, and reheating a dinner plate. It has one-touch start controls from 1 to 6 minutes, and a plus-30-seconds button so you can quickly add extra time. Also, its lock function prevents kids from accidentally operating the machine (you simply hold the stop/cancel button for 3 seconds to lock or unlock the door). This model also has several other features that other microwaves we tested lacked, including a memory function (that saves up to three customized cooking times and power levels) and a multistage cooking function (that allows you to set two different cooking times and power levels to operate in succession), but we don’t think most people will use these often.
The Toshiba EM925A5A-BS cooked the most evenly in our tests and was one of the few models we found with an option to mute the sound. The Toshiba has a control panel that’s very easy to use and includes express cooking options and preset cooking functions for specific tasks like making popcorn or cooking a potato. Also, the Toshiba is one of the few models we tested with a handle for opening the door (versus a push-button release), which some people may prefer.
When looking at midsize models, we only considered microwaves with a minimum of 900 to 1,000 watts. Good Housekeeping and RepairClinic.com both reported that midsize microwaves with cooking power lower than 1,000 watts are significantly slower and cook much less evenly. However, just because a microwave has the highest wattage on the market does not necessarily mean that it will cook the fastest or the most evenly; these qualities depend to a great degree on how efficiently the microwave is programmed and how the microwaves themselves are delivered. A smaller machine, by contrast, can potentially get away with somewhat less power; the small GE microwave (at 0.7 cubic foot less than half the size of most of the midsize models we tested) runs at 700 watts and heated very evenly in our tests. Bottom line? Numbers count less than real-world results.
In our experience, sensors and other smart features make microwaves more useful than they’ve been in the past. Technology that can detect the moisture in your food or note the size of what you’re cooking – and making cooking decisions for you based on that data – is almost always worthwhile. Just remember to give those sensor cooking features a try instead of ignoring them! It might make your baked potatoes perfect.
There are three main styles of microwaves, and they’re distinguished predominantly by where and how they’re installed. First, there are your standard countertop microwaves, which simply sit on the kitchen counter and are plugged into an electrical outlet. This style is often the least expensive and works best for anyone who lives in a rented home, as they can be moved easily. Countertop microwaves are also a good option if you don’t want to remodel your kitchen to accommodate a built-in style.
The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best dining room décor items, coffee-makers, knife sets, Japanese coffee brewer, charcoal water filter, and drinking glasses for water and more. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.
Adoption has been slower in less-developed countries, as households with disposable income concentrate on more important household appliances like refrigerators and ovens. In India, for example, only about 5% of households owned a microwave in 2013, well behind refrigerators at 31% ownership. However, microwave ovens are gaining popularity. In Russia, for example, the number of households with a microwave grew from almost 24% in 2002 to almost 40% in 2008. Almost twice as many households in South Africa owned microwaves in 2008 (38.7%) as in 2002 (19.8%). Microwave ownership in Vietnam was at 16% of households in 2008—versus 30% ownership of refrigerators; this rate was up significantly from 6.7% microwave ownership in 2002, with 14% ownership for refrigerators that year.
You’ve probably heard of a convection oven, but did you know that there are convection microwaves, too? These specialty appliances use the same technology as their oven counterparts: A fan blows and circulates hot air into the microwave, helping to cook food faster and more evenly. Convection microwaves can also brown or crisp food, similar to a traditional oven.
Sir Henry Tizard travelled to the U.S. in late September 1940 to offer the magnetron in exchange for their financial and industrial help (see Tizard Mission). An early 6 kW version, built in England by the General Electric Company Research Laboratories, Wembley, London, was given to the U.S. government in September 1940. The magnetron was later described by American historian James Phinney Baxter III as "[t]he most valuable cargo ever brought to our shores". Contracts were awarded to Raytheon and other companies for mass production of the magnetron.