For most people, microwaves are a must-have kitchen appliance for meal prep. Whether you want to popcorn or a warm bowl of soup, a microwave will get the job done in mere minutes. Plus, there's nothing to preheat, which helps you conserve energy in your home. Their convenience and ease of use are what make microwaves a staple for most modern households.
For an over the range microwave, you need the right kind of airflow for your setup, and you may need additional features like the ability to control oven range lights. Over the range units are specifically designed for these tasks, but they vary from model to model, so don’t get complacent when buying. Know what you need to keep your stove clear of smoke first!

The GE JES2051SNSS was one of the best models we tested at defrosting frozen meat. But at 19.25 by 13.63 by 23.88 inches, we felt it was just too large for most kitchens. Our own experience and user feedback taught us that a smaller microwave is preferable. However, we think this is an excellent choice for someone who has ample counter space and prefers a larger microwave.
This microwave’s voice-control integration with the Amazon Echo is a big selling point among reviewers. Hundreds of people mention Alexa in their reviews, and commenters use it in some unique ways: “It’s great and has some unexpected uses besides the coolness factor. For example, sometimes I’ll reheat a cup of coffee while working at home and forget about it. The Echo alarm in my room lets me know the microwave is done. If I forget about it, I can just say, ‘Alexa, reheat for one minute,’ and it goes. Verbal confirmation from the Echo is a great feature.” Another reviewer shares, “Surprisingly, the voice command is more fluid to use even than using the buttons we all are so used to.”

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.

In our heat map test, the Toshiba produced the most even heating pattern of all the microwaves we tested, perfectly browning the layer of marshmallows from edge to edge. It expertly cooked a baked potato in about 6 minutes, which was average for the microwaves we tried. It also reheated beverages well and perfectly cooked frozen macaroni and cheese. And it made tasty popcorn, with only 5 grams of kernels left unpopped, which was on a par with most of the models we tested. This model allows you to defrost by time or weight, but like most of the microwaves we tested, it didn’t defrost meat well.


Microwave ovens heat food without getting hot themselves. Taking a pot off a stove, unless it is an induction cooktop, leaves a potentially dangerous heating element or trivet that will stay hot for some time. Likewise, when taking a casserole out of a conventional oven, one's arms are exposed to the very hot walls of the oven. A microwave oven does not pose this problem.
Microwave ovens heat food without getting hot themselves. Taking a pot off a stove, unless it is an induction cooktop, leaves a potentially dangerous heating element or trivet that will stay hot for some time. Likewise, when taking a casserole out of a conventional oven, one's arms are exposed to the very hot walls of the oven. A microwave oven does not pose this problem.
Any object containing pointed metal can create an electric arc (sparks) when microwaved. This includes cutlery, crumpled aluminium foil (though some foil used in microwaves is safe, see below), twist-ties containing metal wire, the metal wire carry-handles in paper Chinese take-out food containers, or almost any metal formed into a poorly conductive foil or thin wire, or into a pointed shape.[57] Forks are a good example: the tines of the fork respond to the electric field by producing high concentrations of electric charge at the tips. This has the effect of exceeding the dielectric breakdown of air, about 3 megavolts per meter (3×106 V/m). The air forms a conductive plasma, which is visible as a spark. The plasma and the tines may then form a conductive loop, which may be a more effective antenna, resulting in a longer lived spark. When dielectric breakdown occurs in air, some ozone and nitrogen oxides are formed, both of which are unhealthy in large quantities.
For an over the range microwave, you need the right kind of airflow for your setup, and you may need additional features like the ability to control oven range lights. Over the range units are specifically designed for these tasks, but they vary from model to model, so don’t get complacent when buying. Know what you need to keep your stove clear of smoke first!
Microwave heating can cause localized thermal runaways in some materials with low thermal conductivity which also have dielectric constants that increase with temperature. An example is glass, which can exhibit thermal runaway in a microwave to the point of melting if preheated. Additionally, microwaves can melt certain types of rocks, producing small quantities of molten rock. Some ceramics can also be melted, and may even become clear upon cooling. Thermal runaway is more typical of electrically conductive liquids such as salty water.[32]
If your microwave is broken, do not attempt to repair it yourself. Microwaves are dangerous to tamper with and should be serviced by professionals because the magnetron can retain a hazardous charge even when it isn’t plugged in. Most microwave manufacturers discourage people from even changing the light bulbs. But realistically, it’s probably cheaper and less of a hassle to buy a new microwave than to have it repaired.

Microwave ovens heat food without getting hot themselves. Taking a pot off a stove, unless it is an induction cooktop, leaves a potentially dangerous heating element or trivet that will stay hot for some time. Likewise, when taking a casserole out of a conventional oven, one's arms are exposed to the very hot walls of the oven. A microwave oven does not pose this problem.
What is a microwave ovens role in your home? Do you need the best compact microwave to fit on a tiny counter and travel with you when you switch apartments? Do you need the best built in microwave that works with your oven range? No matter your kitchen appliance situation, if you’re stuck with a clunky, ugly microwave, it’s time to improve your cooking situation.
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.

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.

In our experience, sensors and other smart features make microwaves more useful than they’ve been in the past. Technology that can detect the moisture in your food or note the size of what you’re cooking – and making cooking decisions for you based on that data – is almost always worthwhile. Just remember to give those sensor cooking features a try instead of ignoring them! It might make your baked potatoes perfect.
The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best dining room décor items, coffee-makers, knife sets, Japanese coffee brewer, charcoal water filter, and drinking glasses for water and more. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.
Fast cooking was our top priority — if a microwave can’t prepare a meal speedily, it isn’t the best. Ray Boxman, Professor Emeritus of Electrical and Electronics Engineering at Tel Aviv University, told us microwaves cook fast “because the microwave energy penetrates into the food, in contrast to conventional heating, which only delivers heat to the surface of the food, and a lot of time is needed for the heat to diffuse inward.”
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.
The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best dining room décor items, coffee-makers, knife sets, Japanese coffee brewer, charcoal water filter, and drinking glasses for water and more. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

Closed containers, such as eggs, can explode when heated in a microwave oven due to the increased pressure from steam. Intact fresh egg yolks outside the shell will also explode, as a result of superheating. Insulating plastic foams of all types generally contain closed air pockets, and are generally not recommended for use in a microwave, as the air pockets explode and the foam (which can be toxic if consumed) may melt. Not all plastics are microwave-safe, and some plastics absorb microwaves to the point that they may become dangerously hot.


Many reviewers of this Panasonic microwave oven rave about its power, efficiency, and spacious interior. “We have been totally delighted with this microwave,” writes one. “We have had to scale back cooking times because of the incredible cooking power. The spacious interior and ease of use are just the best.” Another says, “Constant microwave power emission cooks to total satisfaction with no cold spots. Baked potatoes are the best I’ve ever had in my life, and I’m old, smooth, creamy, uniform texture throughout. No overdone skins. Sensor cooking works too. At this price, it’s a steal.” Part of what sets this microwave apart is the stylish stainless-steel front, with several reviewers noting that it “blends in well with a kitchen with stainless-steel appliances and black, as well.”
^ 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.

Toshiba makes microwaves in other sizes too: 1.2, 1.5, and 1.6 cubic foot, all of which have slightly different internal parts and control panels. However, after testing the 0.9 and 1.2 cubic foot models for this guide, we think the former is the best for most people because it’s simpler to use and takes up less space. You can’t fit a 9-by-13-inch casserole dish in the cavity of the 0.9-cubic-foot unit, but its 10.5-inch turntable is still wide enough to fit an 11-inch dinner plate or a 9-inch square casserole dish. At 900 watts, the 0.9-cubic-foot Toshiba also packs a lot of power for its size. It measures 19.1 by 16.1 by 11.5 inches, so it’s a nice midsize option that falls in between the two other microwaves we recommend. And while we realize the control panel looks straight out of the ’90s, the microwave is available in a stainless steel or black stainless steel exterior, so it will fit the aesthetic of most kitchens.
Wattage is not only about size, but also about how powerful the microwave is. If your microwave has 1,000 watts of power or more, it’s going to be very effective at heating. If it has a lower wattage, you may need to temper your expectations: the best way to microwave a potato, for example, may vary based on wattage, especially if you’re making a big change from your old model to the new one.

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.
Over the range microwaves are a different sort of beast – they typically have extra features like air flow fans underneath their base (used to clear smoke off stoves, which can add to the cost) and tend to be larger than other options. With 300 CFM of air flow and two speed fan controls, this GE model can handle over the range tasks as necessary. That spacious 1.6 cubic ft countertop microwave is also great for larger dishes.
The Quick Touch is a little expensive at $250. Amazon reviews also warn that the words printed on the buttons can wear off after years of use … but we actually liked the implication that this microwave will last long enough for some surface-level wear. If you’re going to pay more for an appliance it should be long-lasting and awe you with its usability and features — the Quick Touch did that for us.
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.
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]
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