We took into account both the best compact microwaves for people with less space and more temporary setups, as well as extra-large models for huge oven ranges. But the inside space matters even more, and for the average microwave we preferred to see capacity at least over 1 cubic foot, if not closer to 1.5. For smaller models we went down to 0.7 cubic feet (although there are impressive models out there that are even smaller).
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.
The AmazonBasics Microwave brings Alexa voice control to the kitchen, so you can call up cooking times, power levels, and even popcorn reorders via Amazon Dash Replenishment. We’re skeptical about the usefulness of features that you can otherwise do with one finger, and the 700-watt model’s 0.7-cubic-foot capacity won’t heat foods as fast as our top pick and may be too small for some people.
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.
The Toshiba EM131A5C-BS handles all your basic tasks and balances counter space with a roomy capacity. Available in either black or silver stainless steel, this countertop microwave has an interior capacity of 1.2 cubic feet while measuring just over 20 inches wide and 17 inches long. Its 1,100 watts of power can be adjusted with 10 power settings, and customers agree that it cooks food evenly and quickly. The unit also is equipped with sensor cooking and two defrost settings, though some people found that not all of the pre-set cook modes worked as expected and the microwave defrosted too aggressively for some meats. Still, this Toshiba countertop microwave has a solid reputation for being easy to use and reliable.
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; the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that over 90% of American households owned a microwave oven in 1997. In Australia, a 2008 market research study found that 95% of kitchens contained a microwave oven and that 83% of them were used daily. In Canada, fewer than 5% of households had a microwave oven in 1979, but more than 88% of households owned one by 1998. In France, 40% of households owned a microwave oven in 1994, but that number had increased to 65% by 2004.
However, unlike the smaller model, this Toshiba has a learning curve to navigating the other controls. When you hit the sensor reheat button on the control panel, you’re given the option of choosing between several cryptic codes. By consulting the legend on the inside of the microwave, you’ll discover that these codes correspond to various commands: reheat, frozen pizza, frozen entree. Oddly, several of these commands already have their own buttons on the control panel, which means there are two ways to perform the same action. The Soften/Melt button also has a jumble of codes you have to scroll through, and you’ll need to refer to the legend if you want to decipher what they mean. While we didn’t find these commands intuitive, we don’t think they’re a dealbreaker since most people won’t use them that much anyway.
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.
For most people, microwaves are a must-have kitchen appliance for meal prep. Whether you want to popcorn or a warm bowl of soup, a microwave will get the job done in mere minutes. Plus, there's nothing to preheat, which helps you conserve energy in your home. Their convenience and ease of use are what make microwaves a staple for most modern households.
Uneven heating in microwaved food can be partly due to the uneven distribution of microwave energy inside the oven, and partly due to the different rates of energy absorption in different parts of the food. The first problem is reduced by a stirrer, a type of fan that reflects microwave energy to different parts of the oven as it rotates, or by a turntable or carousel that turns the food; turntables, however, may still leave spots, such as the center of the oven, which receive uneven energy distribution. The location of dead spots and hot spots in a microwave can be mapped out by placing a damp piece of thermal paper in the oven. When the water saturated paper is subjected to the microwave radiation it becomes hot enough to cause the dye to be released which will provide a visual representation of the microwaves. If multiple layers of paper are constructed in the oven with a sufficient distance between them a three-dimensional map can be created. Many store receipts are printed on thermal paper which allows this to be easily done at home.
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.