Consumer household microwaves usually come with a cooking power of 600 watts and up, with 1000 or 1200 watts on some models. The size of household microwaves can vary, but usually have an internal volume of around 20 liters (1,200 cu in; 0.71 cu ft), and external dimensions of approximately 45–60 cm (1 ft 6 in–2 ft 0 in) wide, 35–40 cm (1 ft 2 in–1 ft 4 in) deep and 25–35 cm (9.8 in–1 ft 1.8 in) tall.

To find the best microwave, we tested 10 microwaves in our Kitchen Appliances and Technology Lab, checking how well they melted cheese, "baked" potatoes, reheated food, defrosted frozen food, popped popcorn, and cooked vegetables. We also looked at their ease of use — controls, opening the doors, view-ability inside, cooking alerts, and cleaning. For models with convection and/or grill capabilities, we tested their ability to roast chicken, bake cake, and broil steak, then noted the surface temperatures. Based on our extensive tests, we've rounded up our top-rated microwaves:
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.
Direct microwave exposure is not generally possible, as microwaves emitted by the source in a microwave oven are confined in the oven by the material out of which the oven is constructed. Furthermore, ovens are equipped with redundant safety interlocks, which remove power from the magnetron if the door is opened. This safety mechanism is required by United States federal regulations.[60] Tests have shown confinement of the microwaves in commercially available ovens to be so nearly universal as to make routine testing unnecessary.[61] According to the United States Food and Drug Administration's Center for Devices and Radiological Health, a U.S. Federal Standard limits the amount of microwaves that can leak from an oven throughout its lifetime to 5 milliwatts of microwave radiation per square centimeter at approximately 5 cm (2 in) from the surface of the oven.[62] This is far below the exposure level currently considered to be harmful to human health.[63]

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.


The radiation produced by a microwave oven is non-ionizing. It therefore does not have the cancer risks associated with ionizing radiation such as X-rays and high-energy particles. Long-term rodent studies to assess cancer risk have so far failed to identify any carcinogenicity from 2.45 GHz microwave radiation even with chronic exposure levels (i.e. large fraction of life span) far larger than humans are likely to encounter from any leaking ovens.[64][65] However, with the oven door open, the radiation may cause damage by heating. Every microwave oven sold has a protective interlock so that it cannot be run when the door is open or improperly latched.
The Breville’s accuracy and customizability were unmatched in testing. Because microwave heat conducts from the outside in, you’ll usually get rubbery edges if you don’t lower power to allow the heat to seep in further. But with the Breville, if something starts boiling over, you can use its power level and time dials in the midst of cooking and let the heat penetrate.
This GE microwave oven with a 16-inch turntable proves you don't need to spend a bundle to get perfectly "baked" potatoes, steamed broccoli, or evenly heated mac 'n cheese. Thanks to a smooth control panel with lettering that contrasts well with the background, it's super easy to read the display and wipe it clean. If stainless steel isn't your style, this model also comes in black and white. 
^ 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.

We looked for small microwaves around 0.5 cubic foot and midrange models between 0.9 and 1.6 cubic foot. Unless you really need a turntable big enough to spin a 13-by-9-inch casserole dish or two small plates, we found that models over 1.6 cubic foot had too big a footprint for most spaces. Most people use microwaves for reheating leftovers, so there’s no reason to have an oven cavity that’s large enough to fit a 20-pound turkey. That said, you’ll want to measure the diameter of your dinner plates before getting a microwave to be sure they’ll fit.

Power settings are commonly implemented, not by actually varying the effect, but by repeatedly turning the power off and on. The highest setting thus represents continuous power. Defrost might represent power for two seconds followed by no power for five seconds. An audible warning such as a bell or a beeper is usually present to indicate that cooking has completed.
Nearly 100 five-star reviews praise the Panasonic’s “huge” size. “This is a must for our family,” writes one commenter. “It’s VERY spacious inside — bigger than my built-in — big platters fit inside,” shares another. The wide appliance is even large enough for reheating casseroles, and several reviewers note that it’s big enough to fit a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. One reviewer finds it “cooks much faster and more thoroughly than other microwaves.” “Makes a huge difference in the quality of cooking!” raves another. This comes as no surprise to those already loyal to brand’s line of microwaves, like this reviewer, who raved, “This replaced our previous Panasonic that was almost 15 years old before it died. In our experience, Panasonic makes reliable microwave ovens.”
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]
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.

The radiation produced by a microwave oven is non-ionizing. It therefore does not have the cancer risks associated with ionizing radiation such as X-rays and high-energy particles. Long-term rodent studies to assess cancer risk have so far failed to identify any carcinogenicity from 2.45 GHz microwave radiation even with chronic exposure levels (i.e. large fraction of life span) far larger than humans are likely to encounter from any leaking ovens.[64][65] However, with the oven door open, the radiation may cause damage by heating. Every microwave oven sold has a protective interlock so that it cannot be run when the door is open or improperly latched.
^ "Efficient" here meaning more energy is deposited, not necessarily that the temperature rises more, because the latter also is a function of the specific heat capacity, which is often less than water for most substances. For a practical example, milk heats slightly faster than water in a microwave oven, but only because milk solids have less heat capacity than the water they replace.[citation needed]
Born and raised in Paris, the land of unapologetic butter, Francois has spent the last 20 years shaping the American culinary world behind the scenes. He was a buyer at Williams-Sonoma, built the Food Network online store, managed product assortments for Rachael Ray's site, started two meal delivery businesses and runs a successful baking blog. When he's not baking a cake or eating his way through Europe, Francois enjoys sharing cooking skills with cooks of all levels. Rules he lives by: "Use real butter" and "Nothing beats a sharp knife."
Microwave ovens produce heat directly within the food, but despite the common misconception that microwaved food cooks from the inside out, 2.45 GHz microwaves can only penetrate approximately 1 centimeter (0.39 in) into most foods. The inside portions of thicker foods are mainly heated by heat conducted from the outer 1 centimeter (0.39 in).[38][39]

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.
In 1945, the heating effect of a high-power microwave beam was accidentally discovered by Percy Spencer, an American self-taught engineer from Howland, Maine. Employed by Raytheon at the time, he noticed that microwaves from an active radar set he was working on started to melt a chocolate bar he had in his pocket. The first food deliberately cooked with Spencer's microwave was popcorn, and the second was an egg, which exploded in the face of one of the experimenters.[10][11] To verify his finding, Spencer created a high density electromagnetic field by feeding microwave power from a magnetron into a metal box from which it had no way to escape. When food was placed in the box with the microwave energy, the temperature of the food rose rapidly. On 8 October 1945, Raytheon filed a United States patent application for Spencer's microwave cooking process, and an oven that heated food using microwave energy from a magnetron was soon placed in a Boston restaurant for testing.[12]
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