Compared to liquid water, microwave heating is less efficient on fats and sugars (which have a smaller molecular dipole moment). Sugars and triglycerides (fats and oils) absorb microwaves due to the dipole moments of their hydroxyl groups or ester groups. However, due to the lower specific heat capacity of fats and oils and their higher vaporization temperature, they often attain much higher temperatures inside microwave ovens. This can induce temperatures in oil or very fatty foods like bacon far above the boiling point of water, and high enough to induce some browning reactions, much in the manner of conventional broiling (UK: grilling), braising, or deep fat frying. Foods high in water content and with little oil rarely exceed the boiling temperature of water.
We stuck to countertop microwaves in this guide because they're widely available and affordable, and don’t require any special installation. If you’re in the process of remodeling your kitchen, you might be looking for an over-the-range (OTR) microwave based on the dimensions that will fit the existing slot above your range. OTR microwaves feature a vent fan underneath the cooking chamber, with the option to send the air to a duct or recirculate it through a filter, depending on your kitchen’s configuration. While OTR models are an excellent way for homeowners to save counter space, they’re more expensive than most countertop models and must fit specific space constraints. We plan to review OTR microwaves in the near future.
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.
When looking at midsize models, we only considered microwaves with a minimum of 900 to 1,000 watts. Good Housekeeping and RepairClinic.com both reported that midsize microwaves with cooking power lower than 1,000 watts are significantly slower and cook much less evenly. However, just because a microwave has the highest wattage on the market does not necessarily mean that it will cook the fastest or the most evenly; these qualities depend to a great degree on how efficiently the microwave is programmed and how the microwaves themselves are delivered. A smaller machine, by contrast, can potentially get away with somewhat less power; the small GE microwave (at 0.7 cubic foot less than half the size of most of the midsize models we tested) runs at 700 watts and heated very evenly in our tests. Bottom line? Numbers count less than real-world results.
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 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).
Microwave ovens come in a variety of styles to fit all your home decor needs. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about otr microwaves or countertop microwaves. Some are black stainless steel, others are shiny stainless steel finish for the modern kitchen. If you have retro decor, there is also a retro microwave for you. Many people prefer a stainless steel exterior. It is easy to find the right model that blends right into your kitchen and matches your, espresso machines, food processors, coffee makers, air fryers and other appliances. Many of today’s models can even work with other smart home devices if your home is a smart home.
The 1.2-cubic-foot Toshiba EM131A5C-BS is a great option for anyone who wants a slightly larger microwave with more express cooking options. Initially, we found these additional controls less intuitive to operate than our main pick, the Toshiba EM925A5A-BS, but after a few tries, we got the hang of it. Like our other pick, this Toshiba has a mute button for silencing the beeping. Its 12-inch-wide turntable is large enough to accomodate most dinner plates or a 9-inch square baking dish, but it’s too small to fit a 9-by-13-inch casserole dish. The 1.2-cubic-foot Toshiba comes in a stainless steel or black stainless steel exterior.
Our microwave oven tests found big differences in overall performance among models. To test heating we warm up mashed potatoes, and we use frozen ground beef to test defrosting. We also test speed of heating, noise, and ease of use. We measure usable capacity, too. (Manufacturers often include space you can't use.) Plus we test how well the over-the-range models vent.
Performance aside, simply using this microwave is a lot of fun. The buttons and dials have a satisfyingly crisp click to them, similar to punching letters on a typewriter. The Breville also features some extra convenience with a designated noise level button for one-push incognito mode, and a button labeled “A Bit More” that adds 20 seconds to the cook time.
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.
The 1,250-watt rating is enough to nuke even thick foods easily, the 2.2 cubic capacity is large enough for most dishes, and the slick screen interface makes it easy to choose from 10 power levels and sensors that detect moisture and more. Unless you absolutely need an over-the-range microwave, this Panasonic model will bring you into the new age quick cooking. Keep reading to learn more about the Panasonic and the other 9 microwaves that made the list.
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.