Here at the Strategist, we like to think of ourselves as crazy (in the good way) about the stuff we buy, but as much as we’d like to, we can’t try everything. Which is why we have People’s Choice, in which we find the best-reviewed products and single out the most convincing ones. (You can learn more about our rating system and how we pick each item here.)
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.
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]
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.
Adoption has been slower in less-developed countries, as households with disposable income concentrate on more important household appliances like refrigerators and ovens. In India, for example, only about 5% of households owned a microwave in 2013, well behind refrigerators at 31% ownership.[24] However, microwave ovens are gaining popularity. In Russia, for example, the number of households with a microwave grew from almost 24% in 2002 to almost 40% in 2008.[25] Almost twice as many households in South Africa owned microwaves in 2008 (38.7%) as in 2002 (19.8%).[25] Microwave ownership in Vietnam was at 16% of households in 2008—versus 30% ownership of refrigerators; this rate was up significantly from 6.7% microwave ownership in 2002, with 14% ownership for refrigerators that year.[25]
The best size microwave for you will depend on how much space you have available and how much food you'll need to heat up at a time. If your space is limited or you're only heating food for one person, a 0.5 cubic-foot model may be a good choice. If you're furnishing a gourmet kitchen, you may want a 2.5 cubic-foot combination microwave-convection oven.

It’s a good idea to clean your microwave regularly, even if you clean up spills or splatters here and there. To clean the inside, heat a microwave-safe bowl filled with water and a tablespoon of vinegar (white or apple cider will work) for several minutes. You want the inside to get steamy without the bowl of water to boiling over. Let the mixture cool for a few minutes before opening the door. Then, wipe the inside clean with a paper towel or use an abrasive sponge for any stuck-on food. Remove the turntable and either wash it by hand or in the dishwasher. Use an all-purpose cleaner for the exterior, but spray onto a paper towel or sponge first—not directly onto the microwave—to avoid it getting into the venting system. You should also avoid using bleach in your microwave.
The Toshiba EM131A5C-BS is best for anyone seeking out a slightly bigger, more powerful 1,100-watt microwave. It looks similar to our main pick, the Toshiba EM925A5A-BS, but offers a few more express controls for specific tasks like cooking bacon, defrosting frozen muffins, and making oatmeal. It also has a Soften/Melt button for butter, chocolate, cheese, and marshmallows. However, we found these additional controls less intuitive to operate than what our other pick offers, and we don’t think they’ll get used often. This Toshiba also boasts a cooking sensor that’s supposed to automatically determine when your pizza or potato is hot enough, but it didn’t perform any better than the 0.9-cubic-foot Toshiba, which lacks this feature. The 1.2-cubic-foot Toshiba has a larger 12-inch turntable, so it will fit most dinner plates and a 9-inch square casserole dish. Like our main pick, this model is available in a stainless steel or black stainless steel exterior.

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.[40]
The Toshiba microwave is covered by a one-year warranty, and the claims process is better than what most manufacturers offer. Typically they require you to ship the unit to and from a service center at your own cost, which likely costs as much as or more than the microwave itself. If anything should go wrong with the microwave under warranty, Toshiba will not repair the unit. Instead, they’ll issue you a refund check, which, according to the representative we spoke to, can take anywhere from four to eight weeks. Just know that you’ll need to provide your original receipt, the cut power cord from your unit, and the model number label in order to receive the refund. Contact Toshiba’s customer support center for more information.
Adoption has been slower in less-developed countries, as households with disposable income concentrate on more important household appliances like refrigerators and ovens. In India, for example, only about 5% of households owned a microwave in 2013, well behind refrigerators at 31% ownership.[24] However, microwave ovens are gaining popularity. In Russia, for example, the number of households with a microwave grew from almost 24% in 2002 to almost 40% in 2008.[25] Almost twice as many households in South Africa owned microwaves in 2008 (38.7%) as in 2002 (19.8%).[25] Microwave ownership in Vietnam was at 16% of households in 2008—versus 30% ownership of refrigerators; this rate was up significantly from 6.7% microwave ownership in 2002, with 14% ownership for refrigerators that year.[25]
When shopping for a new countertop microwave, make sure to look for a microwave with adjustable heat settings: while most microwave tasks are performed on “high,” lower power levels are usually built-in to defrost frozen foods or tackle delicate tasks like softening butter or melting chocolate (one of our favorite uses: it’s quicker and less likely to scorch if you look away for a second).

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.
Any form of cooking will destroy some nutrients in food, but the key variables are how much water is used in the cooking, how long the food is cooked, and at what temperature.[44] Nutrients are primarily lost by leaching into cooking water, which tends to make microwave cooking healthier, given the shorter cooking times it requires.[45] Like other heating methods, microwaving converts vitamin B12 from an active to inactive form; the amount of conversion depends on the temperature reached, as well as the cooking time. Boiled food reaches a maximum of 100 °C (212 °F) (the boiling point of water), whereas microwaved food can get locally hotter than this, leading to faster breakdown of vitamin B12. The higher rate of loss is partially offset by the shorter cooking times required.[46]
The affordable Toshiba EM925A5A-BS microwave is simple to use, with a plainly labeled keypad and intuitive controls. It cooked popcorn, baked potatoes, and frozen mac and cheese perfectly every time, and its mute button—a rare feature that lets you stealthily reheat midnight snacks without waking your housemates. We also appreciated the express cooking option, which immediately starts the microwave with a press of one of the numbered buttons (from 1 to 6 minutes). A dedicated plus-30-seconds button helps further fine-tune cook times. The compact 0.9-cubic-foot Toshiba model is large enough to fit an 11-inch dinner plate or a 9-inch square casserole dish. It’s also available in a stainless steel or black stainless steel exterior.
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.
Like the 0.9-cubic-foot model, this Toshiba has one-touch start buttons from 1 to 6 minutes, a plus-30-seconds button, and a child-lock function. This model also shares several other features with the smaller Toshiba, such as a memory function and a multistage cooking function—but, realistically, we don’t think most people will use these controls often.

In 1947, Raytheon built the "Radarange", the first commercially available microwave oven.[13] It was almost 1.8 metres (5 ft 11 in) tall, weighed 340 kilograms (750 lb) and cost about US$5,000 ($56,000 in 2018 dollars) each. It consumed 3 kilowatts, about three times as much as today's microwave ovens, and was water-cooled. The name was the winning entry in an employee contest.[14] An early Radarange was installed (and remains) in the galley of the nuclear-powered passenger/cargo ship NS Savannah. An early commercial model introduced in 1954 consumed 1.6 kilowatts and sold for US$2,000 to US$3,000 ($19,000 to $28,000 in 2018 dollars). Raytheon licensed its technology to the Tappan Stove company of Mansfield, Ohio in 1952.[15] They tried to market a large 220 volt wall unit as a home microwave oven in 1955 for a price of US$1,295 ($12,000 in 2018 dollars), but it did not sell well.
×