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.
The exploitation of high-frequency radio waves for heating substances was made possible by the development of vacuum tube radio transmitters around 1920. By 1930 the application of short waves to heat human tissue had developed into the medical therapy of diathermy. At the 1933 Chicago World's Fair, Westinghouse demonstrated the cooking of foods between two metal plates attached to a 10 kW, 60 MHz shortwave transmitter. The Westinghouse team, led by I. F. Mouromtseff, found that foods like steaks and potatoes could be cooked in minutes.
There are, however, a few cases where people have been exposed to direct microwave radiation, either from appliance malfunction or deliberate action. The general effect of this exposure will be physical burns to the body, as human tissue, particularly the outer fat and muscle layers, has similar composition to some foods that are typically cooked in microwave ovens and so experiences similar dielectric heating effects when exposed to microwave electromagnetic radiation.
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.
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). 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". Contracts were awarded to Raytheon and other companies for mass production of the magnetron.
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.
^ "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.
^ 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.
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.
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.
Capacity is a measurement of the inside cooking space in your microwave, and it can vary drastically from model to model. In other words, the dishes that fit into your old microwave may not fit into a new one…which is why capacity is an important feature for the best microwave brand. It needs to at least hold a dinner plate. Microwaves below 1 cu ft may not be large enough for all plates, platters, or tall mugs. Saving space is great, but don’t do it at the expense of the dishes you prefer to microwave.
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.
From the late 1970s, Japanese companies such as Sharp Corporation manufactured low-cost microwave ovens that were affordable for residential use, leading to the rapid expansion of the microwave oven market in the 1980s. After Japanese dominance for much of the 1980s, with Sharp as market leader, South Korean manufacturers began entering the market in the late 1980s, with Samsung becoming a major microwave manufacturer.
This 0.7-cubic-foot Hamilton Beach model performs well enough to earn plenty of rave reviews, despite its budget-friendly price. Reviewers love how well it works and the full set of features it offers, in addition to its small footprint. The microwave features six preset settings to quickly cook popcorn, pizza, frozen veggies, and more. Its 700 watts of power is enough to cook frozen dinners and heat beverages but can take longer compared to more robust microwaves. The microwave can fit a 10.5-inch dinner plate, but some customers felt that the small interior was limiting. A few also complained that the light in the microwave stopped working after a few months.
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.
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.
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.”
Reviewers of this multipurpose microwave celebrate its great value. “This is the best microwave I’ve ever owned under $200. It works great and it arrived in less than 24 hours. Color me impressed,” writes one. In addition to microwaving food, it includes a convection function for baking or roasting and a broil setting with a removable grill rack. “This oven seems to do everything that I wanted it to do. It … makes fast work of anything I put in it,” says one. “The browner element on the top is just icing on the cake.” Another happy customer writes: “This was my only way to cook for six weeks during flood repair of my kitchen. We were able to have normal meals without going out every time.”
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.
“What is microwave radiation? Is it dangerous? Are microwaves safe?” We see these questions a lot, so let’s clear it up once and for all: this type of electromagnetic radiation can be dangerous at high levels, but we’ve been using microwaves for decades, and it’s never been a problem. This is because, from the mesh door to the locking mechanism, microwaves are specifically sealed to prevent radiation from escaping, and the design works really, really well. However, if your oven door is damaged or if you think something is wrong, call a contractor and have them test radiation levels. It only takes a few seconds, and then you’ll know for sure.
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).
In 1947, Raytheon built the "Radarange", the first commercially available microwave oven. 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. 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. 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.