The included turntable is easy to remove for cleaning, and the large programming screen allows you to specify power levels, cooking times, and menu options for shortcuts and more complex cooking tasks. If you aren’t a fan of all those automatic options, then there are an amazing 14 auto-cook options for menu buttons that can cook a specific kind of food. Even the start button stands out and is easy to use.
The Toshiba EM925A5A-BS cooked the most evenly in our tests and was one of the few models we found with an option to mute the sound. The Toshiba has a control panel that’s very easy to use and includes express cooking options and preset cooking functions for specific tasks like making popcorn or cooking a potato. Also, the Toshiba is one of the few models we tested with a handle for opening the door (versus a push-button release), which some people may prefer.
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.
Modern microwave ovens use either an analog dial-type timer or a digital control panel for operation. Control panels feature an LED, liquid crystal or vacuum fluorescent display, in the 90s brands such as Panasonic and GE began offering models with a scrolling-text display showing cooking instructions, numeric buttons for entering the cook time, a power level selection feature and other possible functions such as a defrost setting and pre-programmed settings for different food types, such as meat, fish, poultry, vegetables, frozen vegetables, frozen dinners, and popcorn.
We talked to Bob Schiffmann, President of the International Microwave Power Institute for 18 years, who has worked with microwaves since the 1960s and consulted for frozen food companies. He told us that cheaper microwaves use cheaper components and end up costing more to fix than they’re worth. By digging through reviews and crunching some numbers, we found that the risk of buying an unreliable microwave doubles (at a minimum) once you go below that $100 mark. We didn’t consider anything under that price.
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 lower temperature of cooking (the boiling point of water) is a significant safety benefit compared to baking in the oven or frying, because it eliminates the formation of tars and char, which are carcinogenic. Microwave radiation also penetrates deeper than direct heat, so that the food is heated by its own internal water content. In contrast, direct heat can burn the surface while the inside is still cold. Pre-heating the food in a microwave oven before putting it into the grill or pan reduces the time needed to heat up the food and reduces the formation of carcinogenic char. Unlike frying and baking, microwaving does not produce acrylamide in potatoes, however unlike deep-frying, it is of only limited effectiveness in reducing glycoalkaloid (i.e., solanine) levels. Acrylamide has been found in other microwaved products like popcorn.
When you add in the competent wattage and the internal space, which is large enough for the bigger plates in your home, it’s tough to see what this Panasonic model doesn’t do right. This 2.2 cu ft microwave is a winner. Even the design is pleasantly modern and easy to clean in case of grease or stains. This microwave really does impress on every level…but it’s not an over the range model, which may limit your options.
Uneven heating in microwaved food can be partly due to the uneven distribution of microwave energy inside the oven, and partly due to the different rates of energy absorption in different parts of the food. The first problem is reduced by a stirrer, a type of fan that reflects microwave energy to different parts of the oven as it rotates, or by a turntable or carousel that turns the food; turntables, however, may still leave spots, such as the center of the oven, which receive uneven energy distribution. The location of dead spots and hot spots in a microwave can be mapped out by placing a damp piece of thermal paper in the oven. When the water saturated paper is subjected to the microwave radiation it becomes hot enough to cause the dye to be released which will provide a visual representation of the microwaves. If multiple layers of paper are constructed in the oven with a sufficient distance between them a three-dimensional map can be created. Many store receipts are printed on thermal paper which allows this to be easily done at home.
Aside from the 10 power levels that this microwave offers, the most impressive feature of the Breville Quick Touch is the Sensor IQ function that automatically adjusts the cooking time for your food — meaning your microwave automatically measures the humidity that's being released from the food you’re reheating or heating, and calculates the cook time.
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. 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.
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.”
Microwave ovens are a time-saving addition to the modern kitchen. From handy countertop microwaves to convenient over-the-range models, there’s a style for every space. For even better cooking results, opt for a convection microwave oven that combines fast cooking power with the browning and crisping ability of a traditional convection oven. You’ll find the right microwave with our microwave Black Friday deals 2019.