Another misconception is that microwave ovens cook food "from the inside out", meaning from the center of the entire mass of food outwards. This idea arises from heating behavior seen if an absorbent layer of water lies beneath a less absorbent drier layer at the surface of a food; in this case, the deposition of heat energy inside a food can exceed that on its surface. This can also occur if the inner layer has a lower heat capacity than the outer layer causing it to reach a higher temperature, or even if the inner layer is more thermally conductive than the outer layer making it feel hotter despite having a lower temperature. In most cases, however, with uniformly structured or reasonably homogenous food item, microwaves are absorbed in the outer layers of the item at a similar level to that of the inner layers. Depending on water content, the depth of initial heat deposition may be several centimetres or more with microwave ovens, in contrast to broiling/grilling (infrared) or convection heating—methods which deposit heat thinly at the food surface. Penetration depth of microwaves is dependent on food composition and the frequency, with lower microwave frequencies (longer wavelengths) penetrating further.
A great microwave oven can cook food and heat food. Think: Not just popcorn and leftovers, but steamed veggies, like spaghetti squash, “baked” potatoes, and crispy bacon that’ll rival the cooking results you get from your range — not to mention it’ll do it two to five times faster. Plus, once you learn how to poach eggs in the microwave, you might also finally stop trying to learn how to the old-fashioned way.
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:
Of course, once you buy your favorite microwave model, you need to start thinking about what to put inside it! Fortunately, we can help there, too. We’ve also got answers if you’re wondering if styrofoam is microwave safe – or are trying to find the best microwave popcorn for movie night (even low-calorie options). You can also keep up with latest microwave inventions out there, like Samsung’s healthy frying microwave!
Born and raised in Paris, the land of unapologetic butter, Francois has spent the last 20 years shaping the American culinary world behind the scenes. He was a buyer at Williams-Sonoma, built the Food Network online store, managed product assortments for Rachael Ray's site, started two meal delivery businesses and runs a successful baking blog. When he's not baking a cake or eating his way through Europe, Francois enjoys sharing cooking skills with cooks of all levels. Rules he lives by: "Use real butter" and "Nothing beats a sharp knife."
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.
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.
Ever wondered how microwaves heat up food so quickly and efficiently? These appliances contain a part called a magnetron, which uses electricity to create high-powered radio waves. The waves are pushed into the microwave’s interior, where they bounce off the metal walls and penetrate whatever food you’re cooking. The turntable spins to help the waves hit the food from all angles, and this process makes the molecules in the food vibrate, warming them up. However, one of the downsides of microwave cooking is that radio waves can only travel a few centimeters into your food, so larger items don’t always cook evenly.
“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.
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.
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. Tests have shown confinement of the microwaves in commercially available ovens to be so nearly universal as to make routine testing unnecessary. 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. This is far below the exposure level currently considered to be harmful to human health.
Easily mistaken for a small television, this Whirlpool microwave is perfect for small spaces and can be tucked away into a cramped cabinet, thanks to its curved back. Measuring only 0.5 cubic feet, this countertop microwave is one of the smallest and mightiest we’ve found. Many customers were pleasantly surprised to find that it has a turntable that's still large enough for full-size dinner plates. At 700 watts, this model matches substantial power with a small footprint—but keep in mind it's not going to compete with larger models that feature 1,000 watts or more. Reviewers love how it performs all the basic functions you need, although some wished for a full numeric keypad to enter the time rather than pressing the plus button.
At Lowe’s, we carry a range of colors and finishes to choose from including stainless steel, white, black, matte finishes, fingerprint-resistant options and more. No matter your kitchen’s style, we’ll be able to help you find the best appliance for your space. If brand is a concern, you can easily filter your search to shop for specific brands on Lowes.com. From Whirlpool® microwave options, Samsung microwave options, GE microwave choices and more, we carry a variety of high-quality brand names to choose from. Waiting for a good microwave sale before you decide on a new appliance? Once you’re ready to make a purchase, take advantage of our buy online, pick up in store option as well as our installation services which include free delivery plus haul away of old appliances.
Microwaves generated in microwave ovens cease to exist once the electrical power is turned off. They do not remain in the food when the power is turned off, any more than light from an electric lamp remains in the walls and furnishings of a room when the lamp is turned off. They do not make the food or the oven radioactive. Compared to conventional cooking, the nutritional content of some foods may be altered differently, but generally in a positive way by preserving more micronutrients - see above. There is no indication of detrimental health issues associated with microwaved food.
Microwave ovens are a time-saving addition to the modern kitchen. From handy countertop microwaves to convenient over-the-range models, there’s a style for every space. For even better cooking results, opt for a convection microwave oven that combines fast cooking power with the browning and crisping ability of a traditional convection oven. You’ll find the right microwave with our microwave Black Friday deals 2019.