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.
For an over the range microwave, you need the right kind of airflow for your setup, and you may need additional features like the ability to control oven range lights. Over the range units are specifically designed for these tasks, but they vary from model to model, so don’t get complacent when buying. Know what you need to keep your stove clear of smoke first!
If your microwave is broken, do not attempt to repair it yourself. Microwaves are dangerous to tamper with and should be serviced by professionals because the magnetron can retain a hazardous charge even when it isn’t plugged in. Most microwave manufacturers discourage people from even changing the light bulbs. But realistically, it’s probably cheaper and less of a hassle to buy a new microwave than to have it repaired.
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.
Microwaves generated in microwave ovens cease to exist once the electrical power is turned off. They do not remain in the food when the power is turned off, any more than light from an electric lamp remains in the walls and furnishings of a room when the lamp is turned off. They do not make the food or the oven radioactive. Compared to conventional cooking, the nutritional content of some foods may be altered differently, but generally in a positive way by preserving more micronutrients - see above. There is no indication of detrimental health issues associated with microwaved food.
Wattage is not only about size, but also about how powerful the microwave is. If your microwave has 1,000 watts of power or more, it’s going to be very effective at heating. If it has a lower wattage, you may need to temper your expectations: the best way to microwave a potato, for example, may vary based on wattage, especially if you’re making a big change from your old model to the new one.
From the late 1970s, Japanese companies such as Sharp Corporation manufactured low-cost microwave ovens that were affordable for residential use, leading to the rapid expansion of the microwave oven market in the 1980s. After Japanese dominance for much of the 1980s, with Sharp as market leader, South Korean manufacturers began entering the market in the late 1980s, with Samsung becoming a major microwave manufacturer.
This mistake can happen when buyers get a little too excited. When all you’re focused on is, “When did the microwave come out?” and “Does it have the latest features?”, then you’re ignoring how you currently use microwaves, which is just as important. If you don’t use any of those menu buttons or defrost features now, you probably won’t use them on a new microwave, either. Buy microwaves based on how you like to use them, not on the latest flashy features.
Over the range microwaves are a different sort of beast – they typically have extra features like air flow fans underneath their base (used to clear smoke off stoves, which can add to the cost) and tend to be larger than other options. With 300 CFM of air flow and two speed fan controls, this GE model can handle over the range tasks as necessary. That spacious 1.6 cubic ft countertop microwave is also great for larger dishes.
This microwave tells you exactly how long your food is cooking — a feature that seems like a given, but isn’t. When we cooked potatoes in testing, some of the microwaves with moisture sensors would cook for as long as five minutes with a few dots circling around the display, no indication of time. If you’re trying to follow a recipe or keep an eye out for overheating, these displays make it difficult to keep track of time.
If your primary concern is cooking speed, you need a microwave with higher wattage. The unit has to be large enough for your family's needs but not too large to fit in your kitchen. It is desirable to have quick keys, multi-stage cooking, and true variable power. Easy cleaning is a must because, at some point, you will need to wipe up after a cooking job.
This microwave’s voice-control integration with the Amazon Echo is a big selling point among reviewers. Hundreds of people mention Alexa in their reviews, and commenters use it in some unique ways: “It’s great and has some unexpected uses besides the coolness factor. For example, sometimes I’ll reheat a cup of coffee while working at home and forget about it. The Echo alarm in my room lets me know the microwave is done. If I forget about it, I can just say, ‘Alexa, reheat for one minute,’ and it goes. Verbal confirmation from the Echo is a great feature.” Another reviewer shares, “Surprisingly, the voice command is more fluid to use even than using the buttons we all are so used to.”
The Toshiba EM131A5C-BS is best for anyone seeking out a slightly bigger, more powerful 1,100-watt microwave. It looks similar to our main pick, the Toshiba EM925A5A-BS, but offers a few more express controls for specific tasks like cooking bacon, defrosting frozen muffins, and making oatmeal. It also has a Soften/Melt button for butter, chocolate, cheese, and marshmallows. However, we found these additional controls less intuitive to operate than what our other pick offers, and we don’t think they’ll get used often. This Toshiba also boasts a cooking sensor that’s supposed to automatically determine when your pizza or potato is hot enough, but it didn’t perform any better than the 0.9-cubic-foot Toshiba, which lacks this feature. The 1.2-cubic-foot Toshiba has a larger 12-inch turntable, so it will fit most dinner plates and a 9-inch square casserole dish. Like our main pick, this model is available in a stainless steel or black stainless steel exterior.
The most shocking revelation in all of our research was the fact that among the hundreds of microwaves for sale today, many have completely identical hardware. Like, exactly the same—except for slightly different keypads and brand-name badges. This is because most of the microwaves in the world are produced by only a handful of manufacturers. But we also learned that even if the housing looks exactly the same, the way the models are programmed can still make a big difference in performance between seemingly identical microwaves.
For years, there wasn't much innovation in microwave technology — that is, up until Amazon introduced its own AmazonBasics microwave that works with Alexa. Now, you can use your voice to command your appliance to heat foods and the built-in tech will know exactly how long and at what power level to use. It's also the most affordable microwave you can buy.
A microwave oven heats food by passing microwave radiation through it. Microwaves are a form of non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation with a frequency in the so-called Microwave Region (300 MHz to 300 GHz). Microwave ovens use frequencies in one of the ISM (industrial, scientific, medical) bands, which are otherwise used for communication amongst devices that don't need a license to operate, so they do not interfere with other vital radio services.