To find the best microwave, we tested 10 microwaves in our Kitchen Appliances and Technology Lab, checking how well they melted cheese, "baked" potatoes, reheated food, defrosted frozen food, popped popcorn, and cooked vegetables. We also looked at their ease of use — controls, opening the doors, view-ability inside, cooking alerts, and cleaning. For models with convection and/or grill capabilities, we tested their ability to roast chicken, bake cake, and broil steak, then noted the surface temperatures. Based on our extensive tests, we've rounded up our top-rated microwaves:
Microwave ovens are frequently used for reheating leftover food, and bacterial contamination may not be repressed if the safe temperature is not reached, resulting in foodborne illness, as with all inadequate reheating methods. While microwaves can destroy bacteria as well as conventional ovens, they do not cook as evenly, leading to an increased risk that parts of the food will not reach recommended temperatures.
Thanks to its compact form, retro appearance, and efficient functionality, the Daewoo Retro Microwave is our top pick for heating up food in a dorm room. Available in three colors—turquoise, red, and white—the microwave features a digital control pad that lets you choose your function and set power levels, while a retro-inspired turn knob is used to set cook time. Its 10-inch turntable is large enough for most single servings, and its 700-watt power should be sufficient for heating up leftover pizza and ramen. It also powers down in between uses, saving you money on your energy bill. There's no timer or clock display, however. A few customers noted issues with button functionality over time, but most people find this microwave more than suitable for everyday needs.
The second problem is due to food composition and geometry, and must be addressed by the cook, by arranging the food so that it absorbs energy evenly, and periodically testing and shielding any parts of the food that overheat. In some materials with low thermal conductivity, where dielectric constant increases with temperature, microwave heating can cause localized thermal runaway. Under certain conditions, glass can exhibit thermal runaway in a microwave to the point of melting.
And let’s not forget about design! Today’s microwaves come in sleek, stainless steel frames that will look great in your kitchen and match your other appliances well. Microwave doors are easier to open, too. And if your current microwave is a little too small on the inside for your plates or cups, you can always upgrade to more cubic feet of space so you can use the dish of your choice! These microwaves cook your food better than ever.
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The Toshiba EM131A5C-BS handles all your basic tasks and balances counter space with a roomy capacity. Available in either black or silver stainless steel, this countertop microwave has an interior capacity of 1.2 cubic feet while measuring just over 20 inches wide and 17 inches long. Its 1,100 watts of power can be adjusted with 10 power settings, and customers agree that it cooks food evenly and quickly. The unit also is equipped with sensor cooking and two defrost settings, though some people found that not all of the pre-set cook modes worked as expected and the microwave defrosted too aggressively for some meats. Still, this Toshiba countertop microwave has a solid reputation for being easy to use and reliable.
Its high-tech capabilities don’t seem to cause complications, and reviewers find it easy to set up. A visually impaired reviewer writes: “I’m always hesitant when I buy something that needs to be paired with something else in order to get the full benefit of it. Sometimes, something on the screen needs to be entered which we can’t see. There might be on-screen prompts or whatnot. This microwave had none of that. It was a cinch to set up and works beautifully.” Others love its small size. “We have a VERY small kitchen with barely any counter space so I was very pleased with how compact it is,” writes one commenter.
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The included turntable is easy to remove for cleaning, and the large programming screen allows you to specify power levels, cooking times, and menu options for shortcuts and more complex cooking tasks. If you aren’t a fan of all those automatic options, then there are an amazing 14 auto-cook options for menu buttons that can cook a specific kind of food. Even the start button stands out and is easy to use.
The Toshiba microwave is covered by a one-year warranty, and the claims process is better than what most manufacturers offer. Typically they require you to ship the unit to and from a service center at your own cost, which likely costs as much as or more than the microwave itself. If anything should go wrong with the microwave under warranty, Toshiba will not repair the unit. Instead, they’ll issue you a refund check, which, according to the representative we spoke to, can take anywhere from four to eight weeks. Just know that you’ll need to provide your original receipt, the cut power cord from your unit, and the model number label in order to receive the refund. Contact Toshiba’s customer support center for more information.
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.
The Toshiba has an easy-to-use digital interface, with one key feature that helps it stand out from much of the competition: a mute button. Since this model doesn’t stop beeping when you open the door, we appreciated having the option to mute the beeping entirely. The Toshiba also has six preset cooking functions for popcorn, potatoes, pizza, frozen vegetables, beverages, and reheating a dinner plate. It has one-touch start controls from 1 to 6 minutes, and a plus-30-seconds button so you can quickly add extra time. Also, its lock function prevents kids from accidentally operating the machine (you simply hold the stop/cancel button for 3 seconds to lock or unlock the door). This model also has several other features that other microwaves we tested lacked, including a memory function (that saves up to three customized cooking times and power levels) and a multistage cooking function (that allows you to set two different cooking times and power levels to operate in succession), but we don’t think most people will use these often.
In 1947, Raytheon built the "Radarange", the first commercially available microwave oven. It was almost 1.8 metres (5 ft 11 in) tall, weighed 340 kilograms (750 lb) and cost about US$5,000 ($56,000 in 2018 dollars) each. It consumed 3 kilowatts, about three times as much as today's microwave ovens, and was water-cooled. The name was the winning entry in an employee contest. An early Radarange was installed (and remains) in the galley of the nuclear-powered passenger/cargo ship NS Savannah. An early commercial model introduced in 1954 consumed 1.6 kilowatts and sold for US$2,000 to US$3,000 ($19,000 to $28,000 in 2018 dollars). Raytheon licensed its technology to the Tappan Stove company of Mansfield, Ohio in 1952. They tried to market a large 220 volt wall unit as a home microwave oven in 1955 for a price of US$1,295 ($12,000 in 2018 dollars), but it did not sell well.