Modern microwave ovens use either an analog dial-type timer or a digital control panel for operation. Control panels feature an LED, liquid crystal or vacuum fluorescent display, in the 90s brands such as Panasonic and GE began offering models with a scrolling-text display showing cooking instructions, numeric buttons for entering the cook time, a power level selection feature and other possible functions such as a defrost setting and pre-programmed settings for different food types, such as meat, fish, poultry, vegetables, frozen vegetables, frozen dinners, and popcorn.

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.[57] 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.
The 1.2-cubic-foot Toshiba EM131A5C-BS is a great option for anyone who wants a slightly larger microwave with more express cooking options. Initially, we found these additional controls less intuitive to operate than our main pick, the Toshiba EM925A5A-BS, but after a few tries, we got the hang of it. Like our other pick, this Toshiba has a mute button for silencing the beeping. Its 12-inch-wide turntable is large enough to accomodate most dinner plates or a 9-inch square baking dish, but it’s too small to fit a 9-by-13-inch casserole dish. The 1.2-cubic-foot Toshiba comes in a stainless steel or black stainless steel exterior.
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 effect of microwaving thin metal films can be seen clearly on a Compact Disc or DVD (particularly the factory pressed type). The microwaves induce electric currents in the metal film, which heats up, melting the plastic in the disc and leaving a visible pattern of concentric and radial scars. Similarly, porcelain with thin metal films can also be destroyed or damaged by microwaving. Aluminium foil is thick enough to be used in microwave ovens as a shield against heating parts of food items, if the foil is not badly warped. When wrinkled, aluminium foil is generally unsafe in microwaves, as manipulation of the foil causes sharp bends and gaps that invite sparking. The USDA recommends that aluminium foil used as a partial food shield in microwave cooking cover no more than one quarter of a food object, and be carefully smoothed to eliminate sparking hazards.[58]
Aside from the 10 power levels that this microwave offers, the most impressive feature of the Breville Quick Touch is the Sensor IQ function that automatically adjusts the cooking time for your food — meaning your microwave automatically measures the humidity that's being released from the food you’re reheating or heating, and calculates the cook time.
Closed containers, such as eggs, can explode when heated in a microwave oven due to the increased pressure from steam. Intact fresh egg yolks outside the shell will also explode, as a result of superheating. Insulating plastic foams of all types generally contain closed air pockets, and are generally not recommended for use in a microwave, as the air pockets explode and the foam (which can be toxic if consumed) may melt. Not all plastics are microwave-safe, and some plastics absorb microwaves to the point that they may become dangerously hot.

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.
Microwave ovens come in a variety of styles to fit all your home decor needs. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about otr microwaves or countertop microwaves. Some are black stainless steel, others are shiny stainless steel finish for the modern kitchen. If you have retro decor, there is also a retro microwave for you. Many people prefer a stainless steel exterior. It is easy to find the right model that blends right into your kitchen and matches your, espresso machines, food processors, coffee makers, air fryers and other appliances. Many of today’s models can even work with other smart home devices if your home is a smart home.
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.

In our experience, sensors and other smart features make microwaves more useful than they’ve been in the past. Technology that can detect the moisture in your food or note the size of what you’re cooking – and making cooking decisions for you based on that data – is almost always worthwhile. Just remember to give those sensor cooking features a try instead of ignoring them! It might make your baked potatoes perfect.
Like most microwaves we tested, the Toshiba wasn’t great at defrosting meat. This model doesn’t beep to remind you to flip the meat halfway through heating, so if you forget, the results are pretty unappetizing. The ground beef we attempted to defrost in this Toshiba remained partially frozen in the center, while the edges were slightly cooked. For that reason, we don’t ever recommend using a microwave for defrosting meat unless you absolutely have to. It’s always best to thaw meat in the fridge or under cold running water. That said, we still think the defrost mode is great for quickly thawing frozen bread or bagels.
Since this model is particularly affordable, this is a good time to mention that prices can fluctuate based on inventory and other factors. We can’t necessarily guarantee that our listed prices are the rule of law. The good news here is that they may drop and save you even more money! But this Toshiba model still remains one of the most affordable picks we found of the bunch.
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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.[72]
A microwave oven heats food by passing microwave radiation through it. Microwaves are a form of non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation with a frequency in the so-called Microwave Region (300 MHz to 300 GHz). Microwave ovens use frequencies in one of the ISM (industrial, scientific, medical) bands, which are otherwise used for communication amongst devices that don't need a license to operate, so they do not interfere with other vital radio services.
This affordable microwave receives high praises for its compact size. “It works excellently, had a small footprint so it fits perfect on our countertop,” one reviewer writes. “It’s fairly small but very well constructed. Especially if you don’t have tons of space in the kitchen.” While some purchase the appliance for college dorms or small apartments, one reviewer shares it’s a great size for the office: “We needed a microwave that fit in a fairly small space. This one fit the bill. It is used on a regular basis here at work, and we have had no problems with it to date.” While it lacks the bells and whistles of other, more expensive models, such as sensor technology and “softening butter” presets, “if you are looking for a simple microwave, this is it,” writes one commenter.
Preprogrammed cooking functions use sensors and/or preset power levels and times to cook a variety of foods, including popcorn, potatoes, beverages, vegetables, and frozen meals. The sensors detect how much steam is emitted from the cooking food, but they aren’t always accurate. Franke said, “A lot depends on the skill of the person who’s programming it.” In our tests, the accuracy of these functions varied from model to model.

Frequently used microwaves need to be cleaned at least once per week, because any food remnants stuck to the walls can get overheated and cause damage to the microwave itself. A simple trick (courtesy of Wirecutter deputy editor Christine Cyr Clisset) is to nuke a bowl of water for a few minutes on high: The steam will loosen most gunk, and you can wipe it out with just a plain paper towel or a sponge. For cleaning the outside of a microwave, Good Housekeeping recommends spraying cleaner onto a towel and not on the actual surface, where it can get into the perforations and damage the internal elements.

There are, however, a few cases where people have been exposed to direct microwave radiation, either from appliance malfunction or deliberate action.[67][68] The general effect of this exposure will be physical burns to the body, as human tissue, particularly the outer fat and muscle layers, has similar composition to some foods that are typically cooked in microwave ovens and so experiences similar dielectric heating effects when exposed to microwave electromagnetic radiation.


In our experience, sensors and other smart features make microwaves more useful than they’ve been in the past. Technology that can detect the moisture in your food or note the size of what you’re cooking – and making cooking decisions for you based on that data – is almost always worthwhile. Just remember to give those sensor cooking features a try instead of ignoring them! It might make your baked potatoes perfect.
Spinach retains nearly all its folate when cooked in a microwave; in comparison, it loses about 77% when boiled, leaching out nutrients. Bacon cooked by microwave has significantly lower levels of carcinogenic nitrosamines than conventionally cooked bacon.[44] Steamed vegetables tend to maintain more nutrients when microwaved than when cooked on a stovetop.[44] Microwave blanching is 3–4 times more effective than boiled water blanching in the retaining of the water-soluble vitamins folic acid, thiamin and riboflavin, with the exception of ascorbic acid, of which 28.8% is lost (vs. 16% with boiled water blanching).[47]
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.[16] 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).
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