Panasonic uses a supposedly superior power-regulating mechanism called an inverter, which can deliver continuous heating at varying strengths—50 percent power, for example, means continuous delivery at 50 percent of the unit’s max. Most other manufacturers use a cheaper and more common technology, a transformer, which means that it delivers 50 percent power by cycling between periods of full power and zero power. Panasonic’s inverter technology is supposed to cook more evenly, but Franke told us, “I’ve never found that [an inverter] necessarily means the oven performs better.” The Panasonic models we tested cooked potatoes and frozen meals well, but they overcooked the edges of frozen ground beef using the defrost mode. In the end, we don’t think paying more specifically for inverter technology is worth it.
A microwave’s wattage tells you how much power it has, and more wattage means your food will cook faster and more evenly. You’ll typically see microwaves between 500 and 1,200 watts. Be aware that microwaves with fewer than 700 watts are generally underpowered and add time to the cooking process. These models are a good option for people limited by a budget, looking to save space, or willing to wait a few extra minutes. If you want a fully functional microwave to cook meat and vegetables, look for models with 1,000 watts or more.
^ "Efficient" here meaning more energy is deposited, not necessarily that the temperature rises more, because the latter also is a function of the specific heat capacity, which is often less than water for most substances. For a practical example, milk heats slightly faster than water in a microwave oven, but only because milk solids have less heat capacity than the water they replace.
Updates writer Eleanor Ford has used a secondhand Toshiba EM925A5A-BS for about seven months now. Even with the previous life of this microwave, our pick has lived up to its reputation. “It’s never failed to do what I expect a microwave to do, heats evenly, doesn't scorch, and is significantly more quiet than any other microwave I’ve used (including my parents’),” Eleanor said. They also noted that the small size allows the microwave to sit on a shelf rather than take up valuable counter space. Eleanor also said that the only notable downside is that they find it difficult to locate the kitchen timer button.
To find out what makes a great microwave, we spoke to Sharon Franke, former director of the Kitchen Appliances and Technology Lab at Good Housekeeping; appliance expert Chris Zeisler of RepairClinic.com; cookbook author Leslie Bilderback, who wrote Mug Cakes: 100 Speedy Microwave Treats to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth; and product managers at both Panasonic and GE. We also read reviews from Good Housekeeping and CNET.
This 0.7-cubic-foot Hamilton Beach model performs well enough to earn plenty of rave reviews, despite its budget-friendly price. Reviewers love how well it works and the full set of features it offers, in addition to its small footprint. The microwave features six preset settings to quickly cook popcorn, pizza, frozen veggies, and more. Its 700 watts of power is enough to cook frozen dinners and heat beverages but can take longer compared to more robust microwaves. The microwave can fit a 10.5-inch dinner plate, but some customers felt that the small interior was limiting. A few also complained that the light in the microwave stopped working after a few months.
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.
A microwave oven (commonly referred to as a microwave) is an electric oven that heats and cooks food by exposing it to electromagnetic radiation in the microwave frequency range. This induces polar molecules in the food to rotate and produce thermal energy in a process known as dielectric heating. Microwave ovens heat foods quickly and efficiently because excitation is fairly uniform in the outer 25–38 mm (1–1.5 inches) of a homogeneous, high water content food item.