Formerly found only in large industrial applications, microwave ovens increasingly became a standard fixture of residential kitchens in developed countries. By 1986, roughly 25% of households in the U.S. owned a microwave oven, up from only about 1% in 1971; the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that over 90% of American households owned a microwave oven in 1997. In Australia, a 2008 market research study found that 95% of kitchens contained a microwave oven and that 83% of them were used daily. In Canada, fewer than 5% of households had a microwave oven in 1979, but more than 88% of households owned one by 1998. In France, 40% of households owned a microwave oven in 1994, but that number had increased to 65% by 2004.
The Breville’s accuracy and customizability were unmatched in testing. Because microwave heat conducts from the outside in, you’ll usually get rubbery edges if you don’t lower power to allow the heat to seep in further. But with the Breville, if something starts boiling over, you can use its power level and time dials in the midst of cooking and let the heat penetrate.
Our microwave buying guide has everything you need to make the right choice for your kitchen, but if you buy on Amazon, check out every Amazon reviewer for your favorite models and see what they had to say. After all, they have already purchased it. To see it in person, go to a store like Home Depot and get a first-hand look at all of their microwave ovens, overtherange microwave
Capacity is a measurement of the inside cooking space in your microwave, and it can vary drastically from model to model. In other words, the dishes that fit into your old microwave may not fit into a new one…which is why capacity is an important feature for the best microwave brand. It needs to at least hold a dinner plate. Microwaves below 1 cu ft may not be large enough for all plates, platters, or tall mugs. Saving space is great, but don’t do it at the expense of the dishes you prefer to microwave.
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.
A microwave’s wattage tells you how much power it has, and more wattage means your food will cook faster and more evenly. You’ll typically see microwaves between 500 and 1,200 watts. Be aware that microwaves with fewer than 700 watts are generally underpowered and add time to the cooking process. These models are a good option for people limited by a budget, looking to save space, or willing to wait a few extra minutes. If you want a fully functional microwave to cook meat and vegetables, look for models with 1,000 watts or more.
The Panasonic NN-T945SF offers 2.2 cubic feet of interior space and 1,250 watts of power to heat food in less time than much of the competition. “It offers power levels from 1-10 with 10 being the highest,” explained one of our testers, “and I found that even using level 5, the microwave is able to heat the food very quickly and evenly.” Other pluses include the sleek stainless steel appearance and 14 auto cook options. If you frequently use your microwave to cook, steam, or defrost, you’ll appreciate the built-in inverter, which delivers consistent heating power that won’t leave food rubbery or unevenly heated. People find the display and controls to be easy enough to use, but a few online reviewers said they experienced button failure for the door after several years. The microwave is also quite large, so it's not a good choice for small homes.
A variant of the conventional microwave is the convection microwave. A convection microwave oven is a combination of a standard microwave and a convection oven. It allows food to be cooked quickly, yet come out browned or crisped, as from a convection oven. Convection microwaves are more expensive than conventional microwave ovens. Some convection microwaves—those with exposed heating elements—can produce smoke and burning odors as food spatter from earlier microwave-only use is burned off the heating elements.
If you really want microwave power levels that function accurately, look for a microwave with an inverter. What is an inverter microwave? Essentially, it uses a different type of microwave production that actually does change the power levels and heating. Set power to 5, and the inverter will make sure heating is at 50%. Other types of microwaves will use a cycling method, where the power is always set to 100% but at level 5 it cycles half as much as at level 10. Inverter technology tends to make power levels much more effective and sensible, but either way it’s important to know what you’re getting into.
Microwave ovens are a common kitchen appliance and are popular for reheating previously cooked foods and cooking a variety of foods. They are also useful for rapid heating of otherwise slowly prepared foodstuffs, which can easily burn or turn lumpy when cooked in conventional pans, such as hot butter, fats, chocolate or porridge. Unlike conventional ovens, microwave ovens usually do not directly brown or caramelize food, since they rarely attain the necessary temperatures to produce Maillard reactions. Exceptions occur in rare cases where the oven is used to heat frying-oil and other very oily items (such as bacon), which attain far higher temperatures than that of boiling water.