If you really want microwave power levels that function accurately, look for a microwave with an inverter. What is an inverter microwave? Essentially, it uses a different type of microwave production that actually does change the power levels and heating. Set power to 5, and the inverter will make sure heating is at 50%. Other types of microwaves will use a cycling method, where the power is always set to 100% but at level 5 it cycles half as much as at level 10. Inverter technology tends to make power levels much more effective and sensible, but either way it’s important to know what you’re getting into.
Formerly found only in large industrial applications, microwave ovens increasingly became a standard fixture of residential kitchens in developed countries. By 1986, roughly 25% of households in the U.S. owned a microwave oven, up from only about 1% in 1971;[19] the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that over 90% of American households owned a microwave oven in 1997.[19][20] In Australia, a 2008 market research study found that 95% of kitchens contained a microwave oven and that 83% of them were used daily.[21] In Canada, fewer than 5% of households had a microwave oven in 1979, but more than 88% of households owned one by 1998.[22] In France, 40% of households owned a microwave oven in 1994, but that number had increased to 65% by 2004.[23]
It is possible for metal objects to be microwave-oven compatible, although experimentation by users is not encouraged. Microwaving an individual smooth metal object without pointed ends, for example, a spoon or shallow metal pan, usually does not produce sparking. Thick metal wire racks can be part of the interior design in microwave ovens (see illustration). In a similar way, the interior wall plates with perforating holes which allow light and air into the oven, and allow interior-viewing through the oven door, are all made of conductive metal formed in a safe shape.
Direct microwave exposure is not generally possible, as microwaves emitted by the source in a microwave oven are confined in the oven by the material out of which the oven is constructed. Furthermore, ovens are equipped with redundant safety interlocks, which remove power from the magnetron if the door is opened. This safety mechanism is required by United States federal regulations.[60] Tests have shown confinement of the microwaves in commercially available ovens to be so nearly universal as to make routine testing unnecessary.[61] According to the United States Food and Drug Administration's Center for Devices and Radiological Health, a U.S. Federal Standard limits the amount of microwaves that can leak from an oven throughout its lifetime to 5 milliwatts of microwave radiation per square centimeter at approximately 5 cm (2 in) from the surface of the oven.[62] This is far below the exposure level currently considered to be harmful to human health.[63]

Reviewers of this multipurpose microwave celebrate its great value. “This is the best microwave I’ve ever owned under $200. It works great and it arrived in less than 24 hours. Color me impressed,” writes one. In addition to microwaving food, it includes a convection function for baking or roasting and a broil setting with a removable grill rack. “This oven seems to do everything that I wanted it to do. It … makes fast work of anything I put in it,” says one. “The browner element on the top is just icing on the cake.” Another happy customer writes: “This was my only way to cook for six weeks during flood repair of my kitchen. We were able to have normal meals without going out every time.”

In the 1960s,[specify] Litton bought Studebaker's Franklin Manufacturing assets, which had been manufacturing magnetrons and building and selling microwave ovens similar to the Radarange. Litton then developed a new configuration of the microwave: the short, wide shape that is now common. The magnetron feed was also unique. This resulted in an oven that could survive a no-load condition: an empty microwave oven where there is nothing to absorb the microwaves. The new oven was shown at a trade show in Chicago,[citation needed] and helped begin a rapid growth of the market for home microwave ovens. Sales volume of 40,000 units for the U.S. industry in 1970 grew to one million by 1975. Market penetration was faster in Japan, due to a re-engineered magnetron allowing for less expensive units. Several other companies joined in the market, and for a time most systems were built by defense contractors, who were most familiar with the magnetron. Litton was particularly well known in the restaurant business.
Microwave ovens don’t actually deliver heat to a food item the way a conventional oven does (via heated air); they work by using microwave energy to cause the water and other simple molecules in food to rapidly vibrate, which generates internal friction at the molecular level, heating the food from within. That’s why microwave ovens can heat things so quickly, and why they’re so good at steaming vegetables in their own juices—they don’t rely on the slow and uneven process of transferring heat energy from the air, the way a conventional oven does. But the microwaves aren’t delivered evenly, the way heated air in a conventional oven is. That’s why microwave trays rotate: so that, ideally, every section of the food item gets equal treatment. But the world doesn’t operate on ideals, and neither do microwave ovens. Almost inevitably, you’ll get hotter spots near the center of the oven, which may or may not matter depending on the size of the thing you’re microwaving.

When shopping for the right model, consider the size, price, and type (countertop or over-the-range), depending on your kitchen space. Over-the-range microwaves are usually mounted over your stovetop, and they have a light and ventilation underneath. Depending on the model, you can also have the countertop or over-the-range microwave built into your kitchen setup. The options are limitless, fam.
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.
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.
We looked for small microwaves around 0.5 cubic foot and midrange models between 0.9 and 1.6 cubic foot. Unless you really need a turntable big enough to spin a 13-by-9-inch casserole dish or two small plates, we found that models over 1.6 cubic foot had too big a footprint for most spaces. Most people use microwaves for reheating leftovers, so there’s no reason to have an oven cavity that’s large enough to fit a 20-pound turkey. That said, you’ll want to measure the diameter of your dinner plates before getting a microwave to be sure they’ll fit.
All microwaves use this same core technology, but today, there are many models available that come with a variety of additional features. For instance, many products have pre-programmed settings to cook common foods, as well as various cooking methods, such as steaming and grilling. Depending on what size and features you want, you can spend anywhere from $20 to $2,000 on a new microwave. 
Formerly found only in large industrial applications, microwave ovens increasingly became a standard fixture of residential kitchens in developed countries. By 1986, roughly 25% of households in the U.S. owned a microwave oven, up from only about 1% in 1971;[19] the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that over 90% of American households owned a microwave oven in 1997.[19][20] In Australia, a 2008 market research study found that 95% of kitchens contained a microwave oven and that 83% of them were used daily.[21] In Canada, fewer than 5% of households had a microwave oven in 1979, but more than 88% of households owned one by 1998.[22] In France, 40% of households owned a microwave oven in 1994, but that number had increased to 65% by 2004.[23]
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.

Microwave doors generally come with either push-to-open buttons or handles, and they open either to the right or to the left. We’re fans of the door handle version, which allows you greater control and is easier on the long-term fate of the door. However, when it comes to direction make sure you note if you need a right-opening microwave to fit your kitchen’s layout.
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.
“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.
We wanted to find microwaves that could cook a variety of foods, including frozen meals, popcorn, and whole potatoes, quickly and evenly. Some models have functions that cook food using preprogrammed time and power level settings. Others use built-in sensors that automatically adjust the cooking time based on the amount of steam emanating from the food. But regardless of the technology used, none of the microwaves we tested were perfect. Some microwaves had a more accurate baked-potato setting, while others were better at defrosting ground beef. We’d recommend choosing a microwave that excels at cooking the food you plan to prepare most often.
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.
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.
×