Preprogrammed cooking functions use sensors and/or preset power levels and times to cook a variety of foods, including popcorn, potatoes, beverages, vegetables, and frozen meals. The sensors detect how much steam is emitted from the cooking food, but they aren’t always accurate. Franke said, “A lot depends on the skill of the person who’s programming it.” In our tests, the accuracy of these functions varied from model to model.
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.
There are three main styles of microwaves, and they’re distinguished predominantly by where and how they’re installed. First, there are your standard countertop microwaves, which simply sit on the kitchen counter and are plugged into an electrical outlet. This style is often the least expensive and works best for anyone who lives in a rented home, as they can be moved easily. Countertop microwaves are also a good option if you don’t want to remodel your kitchen to accommodate a built-in style. 
It still offers excellent capabilities like nine different menu buttons for specific foods, but the design makes things easy without the need to learn any new controls. The model also sports an interior, Teflon-like finish called EasyClean, which is designed to allow you to wipe down spills easily (although if you are wondering how to clean a microwave that’s truly dirty, we’ve got some more detailed information for you). The model also comes in both standard and black stainless steel, although the black stainless version is a little more expensive, so you may lose out on the excellent cost savings that come with this Kenmore if you go for that option instead. It has 10 power settings.
Every microwave oven contains a magnetron, which generates microwaves. Those waves are then guided into the oven’s cavity, where they bounce around, rapidly swinging the polarity of charged molecules in foods (particularly water, fats, and sugars) and generating heat. Metal mesh on the door keeps those large-wavelength microwaves from escaping the metal box and cooking you. (This great video uses a disassembled model to explain further.)
You’ve probably heard of a convection oven, but did you know that there are convection microwaves, too? These specialty appliances use the same technology as their oven counterparts: A fan blows and circulates hot air into the microwave, helping to cook food faster and more evenly. Convection microwaves can also brown or crisp food, similar to a traditional oven. 
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.

The most shocking revelation in all of our research was the fact that among the hundreds of microwaves for sale today, many have completely identical hardware. Like, exactly the same—except for slightly different keypads and brand-name badges. This is because most of the microwaves in the world are produced by only a handful of manufacturers. But we also learned that even if the housing looks exactly the same, the way the models are programmed can still make a big difference in performance between seemingly identical microwaves.


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.
Though some reviewers found the dial control on this Panasonic microwave “odd” at first, many others think it’s more convenient and easier to use than a keypad. “If you haven’t used a microwave with a simple dial to control the time, try one, you’ll never go back,” raves one reviewer. “The controls are super simple (because of the dial!).” And dozens of reviewers agree that this microwave does its job exceptionally. “This is the best microwave I have owned,” a satisfied customer says. “It feels like this microwave is more responsive to my food and not just zapping it. The lighting on the inside makes it a little harder to see the contents inside, but really, except to assure that something is spilling over the side of the container, it isn’t necessary to see through the door. It has many, many presets for both frozen, reheat, milk, coffee, almost everything that put into a microwave.”
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.
Though some reviewers found the dial control on this Panasonic microwave “odd” at first, many others think it’s more convenient and easier to use than a keypad. “If you haven’t used a microwave with a simple dial to control the time, try one, you’ll never go back,” raves one reviewer. “The controls are super simple (because of the dial!).” And dozens of reviewers agree that this microwave does its job exceptionally. “This is the best microwave I have owned,” a satisfied customer says. “It feels like this microwave is more responsive to my food and not just zapping it. The lighting on the inside makes it a little harder to see the contents inside, but really, except to assure that something is spilling over the side of the container, it isn’t necessary to see through the door. It has many, many presets for both frozen, reheat, milk, coffee, almost everything that put into a microwave.”

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.
Ever wondered how microwaves heat up food so quickly and efficiently? These appliances contain a part called a magnetron, which uses electricity to create high-powered radio waves. The waves are pushed into the microwave’s interior, where they bounce off the metal walls and penetrate whatever food you’re cooking. The turntable spins to help the waves hit the food from all angles, and this process makes the molecules in the food vibrate, warming them up. However, one of the downsides of microwave cooking is that radio waves can only travel a few centimeters into your food, so larger items don’t always cook evenly.
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.
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]
Countertop microwaves are some of the most popular models, and there are many options to choose from. They are quick and easy to install—just plug them in—and you can move them around as needed, making them a top choice for renters. The main downside of countertop microwaves is that they take up valuable counter space, which can be frustrating if you have a small kitchen. 
It is possible for metal objects to be microwave-oven compatible, although experimentation by users is not encouraged. Microwaving an individual smooth metal object without pointed ends, for example, a spoon or shallow metal pan, usually does not produce sparking. Thick metal wire racks can be part of the interior design in microwave ovens (see illustration). In a similar way, the interior wall plates with perforating holes which allow light and air into the oven, and allow interior-viewing through the oven door, are all made of conductive metal formed in a safe shape.

Microwaves come with a slew of cooking functions, but Franke told us, “There are so many features on microwave ovens and people just don’t use them. And I’ll admit that I use the minute-plus feature on mine more than anything else.” Though other cooking functions may not get used frequently, we still put them through their paces on the models we tested.
If you need a new oven range microwave, then it needs to have the right features for your oven setup. Not only does it need to fit in the same space, but it also needs to handle the same (if any) venting capabilities. Our GE pick is a great option because it can fit in many different types of kitchens, but you need to match features to your requirements.
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.
Sir Henry Tizard travelled to the U.S. in late September 1940 to offer the magnetron in exchange for their financial and industrial help (see Tizard Mission).[7] An early 6 kW version, built in England by the General Electric Company Research Laboratories, Wembley, London, was given to the U.S. government in September 1940. The magnetron was later described by American historian James Phinney Baxter III as "[t]he most valuable cargo ever brought to our shores".[9] Contracts were awarded to Raytheon and other companies for mass production of the magnetron.
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