The affordable Toshiba EM925A5A-BS microwave is simple to use, with a plainly labeled keypad and intuitive controls. It cooked popcorn, baked potatoes, and frozen mac and cheese perfectly every time, and its mute button—a rare feature that lets you stealthily reheat midnight snacks without waking your housemates. We also appreciated the express cooking option, which immediately starts the microwave with a press of one of the numbered buttons (from 1 to 6 minutes). A dedicated plus-30-seconds button helps further fine-tune cook times. The compact 0.9-cubic-foot Toshiba model is large enough to fit an 11-inch dinner plate or a 9-inch square casserole dish. It’s also available in a stainless steel or black stainless steel exterior.
Consumer ovens work around a nominal 2.45 gigahertz (GHz) — a wavelength of 12.2 centimetres (4.80 in) in the 2.4 GHz to 2.5 GHz ISM band— while large industrial/commercial ovens often use 915 megahertz (MHz) — 32.8 centimetres (12.9 in). Water, fat, and other substances in the food absorb energy from the microwaves in a process called dielectric heating. Many molecules (such as those of water) are electric dipoles, meaning that they have a partial positive charge at one end and a partial negative charge at the other, and therefore rotate as they try to align themselves with the alternating electric field of the microwaves. Rotating molecules hit other molecules and put them into motion, thus dispersing energy. This energy, dispersed as molecular rotations, vibrations and/or translations in solids and liquids raises the temperature of the food, in a process similar to heat transfer by contact with a hotter body. It is a common misconception that microwave ovens heat food by operating at a special resonance of water molecules in the food. As noted microwave ovens can operate at many frequencies.
Every microwave oven contains a magnetron, which generates microwaves. Those waves are then guided into the oven’s cavity, where they bounce around, rapidly swinging the polarity of charged molecules in foods (particularly water, fats, and sugars) and generating heat. Metal mesh on the door keeps those large-wavelength microwaves from escaping the metal box and cooking you. (This great video uses a disassembled model to explain further.)
Any form of cooking will destroy some nutrients in food, but the key variables are how much water is used in the cooking, how long the food is cooked, and at what temperature. Nutrients are primarily lost by leaching into cooking water, which tends to make microwave cooking healthier, given the shorter cooking times it requires. Like other heating methods, microwaving converts vitamin B12 from an active to inactive form; the amount of conversion depends on the temperature reached, as well as the cooking time. Boiled food reaches a maximum of 100 °C (212 °F) (the boiling point of water), whereas microwaved food can get locally hotter than this, leading to faster breakdown of vitamin B12. The higher rate of loss is partially offset by the shorter cooking times required.
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 GE JES2051SNSS was one of the best models we tested at defrosting frozen meat. But at 19.25 by 13.63 by 23.88 inches, we felt it was just too large for most kitchens. Our own experience and user feedback taught us that a smaller microwave is preferable. However, we think this is an excellent choice for someone who has ample counter space and prefers a larger 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.
Power settings are commonly implemented, not by actually varying the effect, but by repeatedly turning the power off and on. The highest setting thus represents continuous power. Defrost might represent power for two seconds followed by no power for five seconds. An audible warning such as a bell or a beeper is usually present to indicate that cooking has completed.
Updates writer Eleanor Ford has used a secondhand Toshiba EM925A5A-BS for about seven months now. Even with the previous life of this microwave, our pick has lived up to its reputation. “It’s never failed to do what I expect a microwave to do, heats evenly, doesn't scorch, and is significantly more quiet than any other microwave I’ve used (including my parents’),” Eleanor said. They also noted that the small size allows the microwave to sit on a shelf rather than take up valuable counter space. Eleanor also said that the only notable downside is that they find it difficult to locate the kitchen timer button.
“What is microwave radiation? Is it dangerous? Are microwaves safe?” We see these questions a lot, so let’s clear it up once and for all: this type of electromagnetic radiation can be dangerous at high levels, but we’ve been using microwaves for decades, and it’s never been a problem. This is because, from the mesh door to the locking mechanism, microwaves are specifically sealed to prevent radiation from escaping, and the design works really, really well. However, if your oven door is damaged or if you think something is wrong, call a contractor and have them test radiation levels. It only takes a few seconds, and then you’ll know for sure.