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.
In 2000, some manufacturers began offering high power quartz halogen bulbs to their convection microwave models, marketing them under names such as "Speedcook", "Advantium", "Lightwave" and "Optimawave" to emphasize their ability to cook food rapidly and with good browning. The bulbs heat the food's surface with infrared (IR) radiation, browning surfaces as in a conventional oven. The food browns while also being heated by the microwave radiation and heated through conduction through contact with heated air. The IR energy which is delivered to the outer surface of food by the lamps is sufficient to initiate browning caramelization in foods primarily made up of carbohydrates and Maillard reactions in foods primarily made up of protein. These reactions in food produce a texture and taste similar to that typically expected of conventional oven cooking rather than the bland boiled and steamed taste that microwave-only cooking tends to create.
There’s no keypad, and you’ll have to twist a dial to program anything over 30 seconds. After some initial acquainting, we found those differences made programming simple. We weren’t completely ignoring presets and extra keys like we all do on our ordinary microwaves, instead we found ourselves able to specify exactly what we wanted done — without having to consult the user’s manual.
Volume control is one of the best extra features a microwave can have, but it’s pretty rare. Some models allow you to mute the beeping, but few microwaves let you adjust the actual volume. We also prefer models that stop beeping when the oven door is opened. It’s a small perk but one that many of our testers appreciated, particularly those who find the beeping annoying.
The Toshiba EM925A5A-BS cooked the most evenly in our tests and was one of the few models we found with an option to mute the sound. The Toshiba has a control panel that’s very easy to use and includes express cooking options and preset cooking functions for specific tasks like making popcorn or cooking a potato. Also, the Toshiba is one of the few models we tested with a handle for opening the door (versus a push-button release), which some people may prefer.
Here at the Strategist, we like to think of ourselves as crazy (in the good way) about the stuff we buy, but as much as we’d like to, we can’t try everything. Which is why we have People’s Choice, in which we find the best-reviewed products and single out the most convincing ones. (You can learn more about our rating system and how we pick each item here.)
Any object containing pointed metal can create an electric arc (sparks) when microwaved. This includes cutlery, crumpled aluminium foil (though some foil used in microwaves is safe, see below), twist-ties containing metal wire, the metal wire carry-handles in paper Chinese take-out food containers, or almost any metal formed into a poorly conductive foil or thin wire, or into a pointed shape. Forks are a good example: the tines of the fork respond to the electric field by producing high concentrations of electric charge at the tips. This has the effect of exceeding the dielectric breakdown of air, about 3 megavolts per meter (3×106 V/m). The air forms a conductive plasma, which is visible as a spark. The plasma and the tines may then form a conductive loop, which may be a more effective antenna, resulting in a longer lived spark. When dielectric breakdown occurs in air, some ozone and nitrogen oxides are formed, both of which are unhealthy in large quantities.
Many reviewers of this Panasonic microwave oven rave about its power, efficiency, and spacious interior. “We have been totally delighted with this microwave,” writes one. “We have had to scale back cooking times because of the incredible cooking power. The spacious interior and ease of use are just the best.” Another says, “Constant microwave power emission cooks to total satisfaction with no cold spots. Baked potatoes are the best I’ve ever had in my life, and I’m old, smooth, creamy, uniform texture throughout. No overdone skins. Sensor cooking works too. At this price, it’s a steal.” Part of what sets this microwave apart is the stylish stainless-steel front, with several reviewers noting that it “blends in well with a kitchen with stainless-steel appliances and black, as well.”
“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.
Reviewers can’t contain their delight about this microwave’s Genius Sensor, which automatically adjusts the time and power based on the food type. “It feels very futuristic to press the Sensor Heat and let the microwave figure out on its own how long it should cook for. Most of the time, it’s dead-on, too, which is nice,” praises one commenter. “It’s pretty much impossible to overcook something,” writes another. Others note they “have had nothing boil over” and it “cooks super evenly. The days of half-molten-half-frozen food are gone.” Its modern exterior is another strong selling point. “The stainless steel looks very sleek and nice and will fit in with most kitchens,” one says.
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 want a smaller microwave that still offers plenty of power, then this 1.1-cubic-feet, 1000-watt option from Samsung is a great pick. Customers love the modern black color scheme and the brushed stainless steel handle. The design of the control panel is also unique because it combines digital controls with a metal dial. The ceramic enamel interior is designed to wipe clean easily and resist grease, oil, and scratches. Online reviewers appreciate the unique LED display and say that one of the microwave's highlights is Eco mode, which allows you to turn the digital display off to conserve energy. One downside is that the microwave can be quite loud, according to current owners.
^ Egert, Markus; Schnell, Sylvia; Lueders, Tillmann; Kaiser, Dominik; Cardinale, Massimiliano (19 July 2017). "Microbiome analysis and confocal microscopy of used kitchen sponges reveal massive colonization by Acinetobacter, Moraxella and Chryseobacterium species". Nature. 7 (1): 5791. Bibcode:2017NatSR...7.5791C. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-06055-9. PMC 5517580. PMID 28725026.
In 1945, the heating effect of a high-power microwave beam was accidentally discovered by Percy Spencer, an American self-taught engineer from Howland, Maine. Employed by Raytheon at the time, he noticed that microwaves from an active radar set he was working on started to melt a chocolate bar he had in his pocket. The first food deliberately cooked with Spencer's microwave was popcorn, and the second was an egg, which exploded in the face of one of the experimenters. To verify his finding, Spencer created a high density electromagnetic field by feeding microwave power from a magnetron into a metal box from which it had no way to escape. When food was placed in the box with the microwave energy, the temperature of the food rose rapidly. On 8 October 1945, Raytheon filed a United States patent application for Spencer's microwave cooking process, and an oven that heated food using microwave energy from a magnetron was soon placed in a Boston restaurant for testing.