The keypad on the Panasonic NN-SE785S is a confusing jungle of icons, which makes it difficult to clearly identify functions. (Below, the icon that looks like weeping asterisks turns out to mean defrost, for example.) There’s not even a numerical pad to set the time for cooking; to do that, you have to go through an icon-based menu, then press an up or down arrow half a dozen times or more to set the time. Though it has a sleek design, our testers felt this model was unnecessarily complicated.
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.
Japan's Sharp Corporation began manufacturing microwave ovens in 1961. Between 1964 and 1966, Sharp introduced the first microwave oven with a turntable, a feature that promotes convenient even heating of food. In 1965, Raytheon acquired Amana. In 1967, they introduced the first popular home model, the countertop Radarange, at a price of US$495 ($4,000 in 2018 dollars).
Microwaves come with a slew of cooking functions, but Franke told us, “There are so many features on microwave ovens and people just don’t use them. And I’ll admit that I use the minute-plus feature on mine more than anything else.” Though other cooking functions may not get used frequently, we still put them through their paces on the models we tested.
The development of the cavity magnetron made possible the production of electromagnetic waves of a small enough wavelength (microwaves). American engineer Percy Spencer is generally credited with inventing the modern microwave oven after World War II from radar technology developed during the war. Named the "Radarange", it was first sold in 1946. Raytheon later licensed its patents for a home-use microwave oven that was first introduced by Tappan in 1955, but these units were still too large and expensive for general home use. Sharp Corporation introduced the first microwave oven with a turntable between 1964 and 1966. The countertop microwave oven was first introduced in 1967 by the Amana Corporation. After Sharp introduced low-cost microwave ovens affordable for residential use in the late 1970s, their use spread into commercial and residential kitchens around the world. In addition to their use in cooking food, microwave ovens are used for heating in many industrial processes.