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.
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.

Food and cookware taken out of a microwave oven are rarely much hotter than 100 °C (212 °F). Cookware used in a microwave oven is often much cooler than the food because the cookware is transparent to microwaves; the microwaves heat the food directly and the cookware is indirectly heated by the food. Food and cookware from a conventional oven, on the other hand, are the same temperature as the rest of the oven; a typical cooking temperature is 180 °C (356 °F). That means that conventional stoves and ovens can cause more serious burns.


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.
Capacity is a measurement of the inside cooking space in your microwave, and it can vary drastically from model to model. In other words, the dishes that fit into your old microwave may not fit into a new one…which is why capacity is an important feature for the best microwave brand. It needs to at least hold a dinner plate. Microwaves below 1 cu ft may not be large enough for all plates, platters, or tall mugs. Saving space is great, but don’t do it at the expense of the dishes you prefer to microwave.
For our 2018 update, we ran a series of tests on 12 microwaves. First, we created our own version of a heat map by cutting a piece of parchment paper to fit the turntable of each model and completely covering it with a layer of plain mini marshmallows. Then we nuked it on high for 2 minutes until the marshmallows began to brown. By looking at the underside of each piece of parchment paper, we could see the pattern of browning and determine how evenly the microwaves generated heat (for more on how microwaves work, see above).

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).


With a capacity of 2.2 cubic feet, the stainless steel GE Profile microwave boasts a smooth easy-to-clean control panel and a large interior, making it a great model for big families. Seriously, you can heat an entire casserole or pizza on the 16-inch turntable and still have plenty of room to spare. It cooks evenly so you won't find a cold spot in the middle of your ziti and delivers perfectly steamed veggies.
The 1.2-cubic-foot Toshiba didn’t heat as evenly as the smaller Toshiba. Unlike the 0.9-cubic-foot version, this Toshiba uses a steam and temperature sensor to automatically determine cooking time. However, we didn’t find the sensor particularly accurate: The baked potato we cooked using it came out completely raw in the center. In our heat map test, the marshmallows near the center of the turntable came out very dark. That said, it heated more evenly across the surface of the turntable than most of the microwaves we tested. The popcorn we made wasn’t burned, though it did have twice as many unpopped kernels as the 0.9-cubic-foot model. We liked that this model beeps to prompt you to flip meat while defrosting, something the smaller one doesn’t do. Impressively, this Toshiba only slightly cooked the edges of ground beef on the defrost mode, unlike most of the models we tested, which fully cooked entire sections of meat.
There’s no keypad, and you’ll have to twist a dial to program anything over 30 seconds. After some initial acquainting, we found those differences made programming simple. We weren’t completely ignoring presets and extra keys like we all do on our ordinary microwaves, instead we found ourselves able to specify exactly what we wanted done — without having to consult the user’s manual.
We talked to Bob Schiffmann, President of the International Microwave Power Institute for 18 years, who has worked with microwaves since the 1960s and consulted for frozen food companies. He told us that cheaper microwaves use cheaper components and end up costing more to fix than they’re worth. By digging through reviews and crunching some numbers, we found that the risk of buying an unreliable microwave doubles (at a minimum) once you go below that $100 mark. We didn’t consider anything under that price.

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.
Due to this phenomenon, microwave ovens set at too-high power levels may even start to cook the edges of frozen food while the inside of the food remains frozen. Another case of uneven heating can be observed in baked goods containing berries. In these items, the berries absorb more energy than the drier surrounding bread and cannot dissipate the heat due to the low thermal conductivity of the bread. Often this results in overheating the berries relative to the rest of the food. "Defrost" oven settings either use low power levels or turn the power off and on repeatedly - designed to allow time for heat to be conducted within frozen foods from areas that absorb heat more readily to those which heat more slowly. In turntable-equipped ovens, more even heating will take place[citation needed] by placing food off-centre on the turntable tray instead of exactly in the centre, so that no part of the food item will be continuously unheated by the center "dead zone".
With a capacity of 2.2 cubic feet, the stainless steel GE Profile microwave boasts a smooth easy-to-clean control panel and a large interior, making it a great model for big families. Seriously, you can heat an entire casserole or pizza on the 16-inch turntable and still have plenty of room to spare. It cooks evenly so you won't find a cold spot in the middle of your ziti and delivers perfectly steamed veggies.

The Breville also makes it simple to customize based on the size, weight, and nature of the food you’re cooking. There’s even a reheat option for pizza. Alternatively, you can leave it up to the Breville’s sensor to detect moisture and temperature and accurately reheat. When we tried this in our testing of beverages and with our own lunches, it was surprisingly accurate.
The microwave frequencies used in microwave ovens are chosen based on regulatory and cost constraints. The first is that they should be in one of the industrial, scientific, and medical (ISM) frequency bands set aside for unlicensed purposes. For household purposes, 2.45 GHz has the advantage over 915 MHz in that 915 MHz is only an ISM band in some countries (ITU Region 2) while 2.45 GHz is available worldwide.[citation needed] Three additional ISM bands exist in the microwave frequencies, but are not used for microwave cooking. Two of them are centered on 5.8 GHz and 24.125 GHz, but are not used for microwave cooking because of the very high cost of power generation at these frequencies.[citation needed] The third, centered on 433.92 MHz, is a narrow band that would require expensive equipment to generate sufficient power without creating interference outside the band, and is only available in some countries.[citation needed]
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]
^ Egert, Markus; Schnell, Sylvia; Lueders, Tillmann; Kaiser, Dominik; Cardinale, Massimiliano (19 July 2017). "Microbiome analysis and confocal microscopy of used kitchen sponges reveal massive colonization by Acinetobacter, Moraxella and Chryseobacterium species". Nature. 7 (1): 5791. Bibcode:2017NatSR...7.5791C. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-06055-9. PMC 5517580. PMID 28725026.
It’s a rare compact model that comes equipped with 10 power levels, but this AmazonBasics model offers them. It also has Alexa voice control, which feels almost too futuristic for a microwave. You save on space without giving up much of anything with this model, which we call a solid win! This 0.7 cubic ft microwave is awesome and worth the counter space. The control panel is easy to use and laid out well.
When you add in the competent wattage and the internal space, which is large enough for the bigger plates in your home, it’s tough to see what this Panasonic model doesn’t do right. This 2.2 cu ft microwave is a winner. Even the design is pleasantly modern and easy to clean in case of grease or stains. This microwave really does impress on every level…but it’s not an over the range model, which may limit your options.
Over-the-range microwaves give you the convenience of quick reheating without sacrificing counter space. This 1.9-cubic-foot model from Whirlpool is available in multiple colors and finishes, including fingerprint-resistant stainless steel. Featuring 1,000 watts of power, it's also equipped with a 300 CFM ventilation system to keep odors and smoke from your cooktop under control. Customers particularly love the inclusion of the three-speed fan. Reviewers found installation to be fairly straightforward, but some noted that the instructions for all the settings aren't very clear.
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]

The Quick Touch is a little expensive at $250. Amazon reviews also warn that the words printed on the buttons can wear off after years of use … but we actually liked the implication that this microwave will last long enough for some surface-level wear. If you’re going to pay more for an appliance it should be long-lasting and awe you with its usability and features — the Quick Touch did that for us.
A microwave with a convection function, like the Toshiba EC042A5C, offers multiple ways to cook your meals with one appliance. This 1,000-watt microwave has enough power to reheat food in microwave mode or cook, roast, and bake using the convection function between 170 and 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Featuring 1.5 cubic feet of space, it's large enough to microwave full-size dinner plates or accommodate a small chicken or pizza. A grill rack (for convection mode cooking) makes it easy to get a crispy exterior. People love this unit for its versatility, but others mention that it’s bigger and heavier than expected. It also may tack a few minutes onto recipe cook times when using convection mode.
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.
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.
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