The GE JES1656SRSS used to be our main pick, but has been discontinued. Its replacement, the new GE JES1657SMSS, did well in our tests overall. However, we found that at 1.6 cubic foot, it’s too big for most things you’re ever likely to cook or reheat in a microwave. That said, this model would be a good option for anyone wanting a unit large enough to fit a 9-by-13-inch casserole dish. Like most microwaves we tested, it didn’t defrost meat well, and it lacks a control to silence the beeping.
Another hazard is the resonance of the magnetron tube itself. If the microwave is run without an object to absorb the radiation, a standing wave will form. The energy is reflected back and forth between the tube and the cooking chamber. This may cause the tube to overload and burn out. High reflected power may also cause magnetron arcing, possibly resulting in primary power fuse failure, though such a causal relationship isn't easily established. Thus, dehydrated food, or food wrapped in metal which does not arc, is problematic for overload reasons, without necessarily being a fire hazard.
Due to this phenomenon, microwave ovens set at too-high power levels may even start to cook the edges of frozen food while the inside of the food remains frozen. Another case of uneven heating can be observed in baked goods containing berries. In these items, the berries absorb more energy than the drier surrounding bread and cannot dissipate the heat due to the low thermal conductivity of the bread. Often this results in overheating the berries relative to the rest of the food. "Defrost" oven settings either use low power levels or turn the power off and on repeatedly - designed to allow time for heat to be conducted within frozen foods from areas that absorb heat more readily to those which heat more slowly. In turntable-equipped ovens, more even heating will take place by placing food off-centre on the turntable tray instead of exactly in the centre, so that no part of the food item will be continuously unheated by the center "dead zone".
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.
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.
You’ll find the perfect microwave from our microwaves Black Friday 2019 collection. Treat yourself to a microwave that is outfitted with features you’ll use frequently. There are many different features a microwave can have, including auto defrost, sensor cooking and shortcut keys. Check out our Microwave Buying Guide for more information on each feature and how they can simplify getting dinner on the table.