And let’s not forget about design! Today’s microwaves come in sleek, stainless steel frames that will look great in your kitchen and match your other appliances well. Microwave doors are easier to open, too. And if your current microwave is a little too small on the inside for your plates or cups, you can always upgrade to more cubic feet of space so you can use the dish of your choice! These microwaves cook your food better than ever.
When shopping for a new countertop microwave, make sure to look for a microwave with adjustable heat settings: while most microwave tasks are performed on “high,” lower power levels are usually built-in to defrost frozen foods or tackle delicate tasks like softening butter or melting chocolate (one of our favorite uses: it’s quicker and less likely to scorch if you look away for a second).
It’s a good idea to clean your microwave regularly, even if you clean up spills or splatters here and there. To clean the inside, heat a microwave-safe bowl filled with water and a tablespoon of vinegar (white or apple cider will work) for several minutes. You want the inside to get steamy without the bowl of water to boiling over. Let the mixture cool for a few minutes before opening the door. Then, wipe the inside clean with a paper towel or use an abrasive sponge for any stuck-on food. Remove the turntable and either wash it by hand or in the dishwasher. Use an all-purpose cleaner for the exterior, but spray onto a paper towel or sponge first—not directly onto the microwave—to avoid it getting into the venting system. You should also avoid using bleach in your microwave.
Microwave ovens heat food without getting hot themselves. Taking a pot off a stove, unless it is an induction cooktop, leaves a potentially dangerous heating element or trivet that will stay hot for some time. Likewise, when taking a casserole out of a conventional oven, one's arms are exposed to the very hot walls of the oven. A microwave oven does not pose this problem.
What is a microwave ovens role in your home? Do you need the best compact microwave to fit on a tiny counter and travel with you when you switch apartments? Do you need the best built in microwave that works with your oven range? No matter your kitchen appliance situation, if you’re stuck with a clunky, ugly microwave, it’s time to improve your cooking situation.
Like the 0.9-cubic-foot model, this Toshiba has one-touch start buttons from 1 to 6 minutes, a plus-30-seconds button, and a child-lock function. This model also shares several other features with the smaller Toshiba, such as a memory function and a multistage cooking function—but, realistically, we don’t think most people will use these controls often.
Closed containers, such as eggs, can explode when heated in a microwave oven due to the increased pressure from steam. Intact fresh egg yolks outside the shell will also explode, as a result of superheating. Insulating plastic foams of all types generally contain closed air pockets, and are generally not recommended for use in a microwave, as the air pockets explode and the foam (which can be toxic if consumed) may melt. Not all plastics are microwave-safe, and some plastics absorb microwaves to the point that they may become dangerously hot.
We talked to Bob Schiffmann, President of the International Microwave Power Institute for 18 years, who has worked with microwaves since the 1960s and consulted for frozen food companies. He told us that cheaper microwaves use cheaper components and end up costing more to fix than they’re worth. By digging through reviews and crunching some numbers, we found that the risk of buying an unreliable microwave doubles (at a minimum) once you go below that $100 mark. We didn’t consider anything under that price.
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.
The AmazonBasics Microwave brings Alexa voice control to the kitchen, so you can call up cooking times, power levels, and even popcorn reorders via Amazon Dash Replenishment. We’re skeptical about the usefulness of features that you can otherwise do with one finger, and the 700-watt model’s 0.7-cubic-foot capacity won’t heat foods as fast as our top pick and may be too small for some people.
It’s a rare compact model that comes equipped with 10 power levels, but this AmazonBasics model offers them. It also has Alexa voice control, which feels almost too futuristic for a microwave. You save on space without giving up much of anything with this model, which we call a solid win! This 0.7 cubic ft microwave is awesome and worth the counter space. The control panel is easy to use and laid out well.
There are, however, a few cases where people have been exposed to direct microwave radiation, either from appliance malfunction or deliberate action. The general effect of this exposure will be physical burns to the body, as human tissue, particularly the outer fat and muscle layers, has similar composition to some foods that are typically cooked in microwave ovens and so experiences similar dielectric heating effects when exposed to microwave electromagnetic radiation.
Consider both a microwave's dimensions and capacity as you shop. If you’re looking for an OTR or built-in model, it’s important to choose the proper size for the space, especially if you’re replacing an existing microwave. Also, make sure to check that the door has clearance to open. You have more leeway if you’re buying a countertop model, but it’s still important to measure that area in your kitchen.
The second problem is due to food composition and geometry, and must be addressed by the cook, by arranging the food so that it absorbs energy evenly, and periodically testing and shielding any parts of the food that overheat. In some materials with low thermal conductivity, where dielectric constant increases with temperature, microwave heating can cause localized thermal runaway. Under certain conditions, glass can exhibit thermal runaway in a microwave to the point of melting.
Reviewers of this multipurpose microwave celebrate its great value. “This is the best microwave I’ve ever owned under $200. It works great and it arrived in less than 24 hours. Color me impressed,” writes one. In addition to microwaving food, it includes a convection function for baking or roasting and a broil setting with a removable grill rack. “This oven seems to do everything that I wanted it to do. It … makes fast work of anything I put in it,” says one. “The browner element on the top is just icing on the cake.” Another happy customer writes: “This was my only way to cook for six weeks during flood repair of my kitchen. We were able to have normal meals without going out every time.”
The invention of the cavity magnetron made possible the production of electromagnetic waves of a small enough wavelength (microwaves). The magnetron was originally a crucial component in the development of short wavelength radar during World War II. In 1937–1940, a multi-cavity magnetron was built by the British physicist Sir John Turton Randall, FRSE, together with a team of British coworkers, for the British and American military radar installations in World War II. A more high-powered microwave generator that worked at shorter wavelengths was needed, and in 1940, at the University of Birmingham in England, Randall and Harry Boot produced a working prototype. They invented a valve that could produce pulses of microwave radio energy on a wavelength of 10 cm, an unprecedented discovery.