This 0.7-cubic-foot Hamilton Beach model performs well enough to earn plenty of rave reviews, despite its budget-friendly price. Reviewers love how well it works and the full set of features it offers, in addition to its small footprint. The microwave features six preset settings to quickly cook popcorn, pizza, frozen veggies, and more. Its 700 watts of power is enough to cook frozen dinners and heat beverages but can take longer compared to more robust microwaves. The microwave can fit a 10.5-inch dinner plate, but some customers felt that the small interior was limiting. A few also complained that the light in the microwave stopped working after a few months.
Toshiba makes microwaves in other sizes too: 1.2, 1.5, and 1.6 cubic foot, all of which have slightly different internal parts and control panels. However, after testing the 0.9 and 1.2 cubic foot models for this guide, we think the former is the best for most people because it’s simpler to use and takes up less space. You can’t fit a 9-by-13-inch casserole dish in the cavity of the 0.9-cubic-foot unit, but its 10.5-inch turntable is still wide enough to fit an 11-inch dinner plate or a 9-inch square casserole dish. At 900 watts, the 0.9-cubic-foot Toshiba also packs a lot of power for its size. It measures 19.1 by 16.1 by 11.5 inches, so it’s a nice midsize option that falls in between the two other microwaves we recommend. And while we realize the control panel looks straight out of the ’90s, the microwave is available in a stainless steel or black stainless steel exterior, so it will fit the aesthetic of most kitchens.
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 Toshiba microwave is covered by a one-year warranty, and the claims process is better than what most manufacturers offer. Typically they require you to ship the unit to and from a service center at your own cost, which likely costs as much as or more than the microwave itself. If anything should go wrong with the microwave under warranty, Toshiba will not repair the unit. Instead, they’ll issue you a refund check, which, according to the representative we spoke to, can take anywhere from four to eight weeks. Just know that you’ll need to provide your original receipt, the cut power cord from your unit, and the model number label in order to receive the refund. Contact Toshiba’s customer support center for more information.
Though some reviewers found the dial control on this Panasonic microwave “odd” at first, many others think it’s more convenient and easier to use than a keypad. “If you haven’t used a microwave with a simple dial to control the time, try one, you’ll never go back,” raves one reviewer. “The controls are super simple (because of the dial!).” And dozens of reviewers agree that this microwave does its job exceptionally. “This is the best microwave I have owned,” a satisfied customer says. “It feels like this microwave is more responsive to my food and not just zapping it. The lighting on the inside makes it a little harder to see the contents inside, but really, except to assure that something is spilling over the side of the container, it isn’t necessary to see through the door. It has many, many presets for both frozen, reheat, milk, coffee, almost everything that put into a microwave.”
The 1,250-watt rating is enough to nuke even thick foods easily, the 2.2 cubic capacity is large enough for most dishes, and the slick screen interface makes it easy to choose from 10 power levels and sensors that detect moisture and more. Unless you absolutely need an over-the-range microwave, this Panasonic model will bring you into the new age quick cooking. Keep reading to learn more about the Panasonic and the other 9 microwaves that made the list.
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 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.
However, lower-frequency dielectric heating, as described in the aforementioned patent, is (like induction heating) an electromagnetic heating effect, the result of the so-called near-field effects that exist in an electromagnetic cavity that is small compared with the wavelength of the electromagnetic field. This patent proposed radio frequency heating, at 10 to 20 megahertz (wavelength 30 to 15 meters, respectively). Heating from microwaves that have a wavelength that is small relative to the cavity (as in a modern microwave oven) is due to "far-field" effects that are due to classical electromagnetic radiation that describes freely propagating light and microwaves suitably far from their source. Nevertheless, the primary heating effect of all types of electromagnetic fields at both radio and microwave frequencies occurs via the dielectric heating effect, as polarized molecules are affected by a rapidly alternating electric field.