Microwave ovens have changed the way that we cook and heat food. For several decades they have been a valued kitchen appliance and the technology is improving all the time. Microwaves are highly regarded for their short cooking times and their convenience. You can even get microwave that is also a grill and convection oven.
As well as cost, you need to consider the size and features of the oven before you buy it. Think about what you are most likely to use it for and get a model that will suit you. Whether it’s cooking complicated recipes from scratch or reheating a shop-bought meal, a microwave plays a big role in the modern domestic kitchen. To help you decide what sort of microwave oven would suit you, here is a comprehensive guide.
The Best Microwave Oven
An impressive 1250-Watt Panasonic microwave oven with a capacity of 2.2 cubic feet. It will cook food rapidly whilst maintaining nutrients and taste. Thanks to ground-breaking technology, it directs a constant stream of microwaves at your food so that it cooks evenly and you don’t get patches that are overcooked. There is also a Turbo defrost setting so you can use your frozen food quickly. It will require a 120V / 60Hz power source.
The interior of this microwave is surprisingly spacious. It’s turntable measures 16-1/2 inches in diameter and is lighter than in many other models. This makes it highly efficient and leaves more space to fit the food! The interior dimensions of the cooking area are 10 15/16 inches x 18 7/16 inches x 18 ½ inches. It takes a lot of the guesswork out of microwave cooking because of a ‘Genius Sensor’ which automatically adjusts the power and cooking time depending on what food is being cooked. There are also 14 preset menu items and a quick-minute timer. With this model, you get a delay start feature and a child safety lock. If you have family members who arrive home at different times, you will certainly find the ‘Keep Warm’ feature to be invaluable. It will keep foods like soups and gravies at a warm, palatable temperature until you are ready to eat them.
2.2 cu ft capacity
Interior dimensions:10 15/16 inches x 18 7/16 inches x 18 ½ inches
14 preset menu items and a quick-minute timer
- Weight37 pounds
Cooks very quickly
Large inside capacity for a small footprint
Door closes easily
Useful keep warm feature
Quite a lot of buttons to press to get it to work
Some issues with electrical faults
A compact, functional microwave with a capacity of 0.9 cubic feet and an internal cooking area that measures 12.36 inches x 13.66 inches x 8.7 inches. It delivers 900 watts of power and has a useful LED interior light. It has a glass turntable of 10.6 inches diameter and the exterior is made from black stainless steel.
It is controlled via a digital control panel and has 10 power settings as well as a kitchen timer. You can defrost by selecting the time that you wish to set it for or by entering the weight of the food. The six pre-programmed functions include settings for popcorn and pizza. This microwave has a power saving mode and a child safety lock and you can turn the sound off if you wish.
Capacity of 0.9 cu ft
Delivers 900 watts of power
Six pre-programmed functions
- Weight27.3 pounds
Can turn off the sound which is very useful
Looks great in any kitchen
Useful power saving mode
When you pull handle to open the door, the whole oven moves
A bit noisy when it starts up
Now you can pair up your microwave with your home Alexa device. It’s one of the new generation of smart microwaves with a turntable of 10 inches diameter. It is more than capable of defrosting vegetables as well as making superb popcorn and cooking potatoes. If you have an Echo, you can access the quick-cook presets using your voice or use the simplified keypad.
It is a very compact size and will sit neatly on the countertop. For safety, there is also a child lock. The internal capacity is comfortable enough to fit a three-ounce bag of popcorn.
Smart microwave pairs with Alexa
10 power levels
Will defrost vegetables
- Weight21.9 pounds
Plenty of safeguards to prevent Alexa getting it wrong
You don’t have to use voice commands
Doesn’t take up too much space
Alexa doesn’t always understand the phrases
May be a bit small for larger families
A compact little microwave with a modern brushed stainless steel finish. The internal dimensions are 2.4 x 8.7x 13.7 inches
It has a ceramic turntable with a diameter of 10.6 inches and a scratch-resistant glass door and its power output is 900 watts. You control it via a touch button display with a blue LED digital light. It has a convenient +30 seconds key and you can set the cooking time, the defrost time or select auto defrost. It has automatic settings for reheating and popcorn and for speed, it has a one-touch start button that cooks for up to six minutes.
0.9 cubic foot capacity
11 cooking power levels
Automatic settings for reheating and popcorn
- Weight28 pounds
Easy to clean
No cold spots in food
Useful automatic settings
Some owners find internal height limited
Moves around when you pull on handle
A larger microwave oven that has an internal capacity of 1.5 cu ft and delivers a full 1000 Watts of power. It’s not just a microwave, it also has a grill function (with a removable rack) so you can grill food to a golden color yet retain all the nutritional advantages of microwave cooking.
It has an attractive black cabinet with a stainless steel front, and the glass turntable is removable for easy cleaning. You operate it by selecting the cooking time, the weight of the food (for defrosting), or using the preset cooking functions.
Child lock for safety
- BrandEmerson Radio
- Weight48.4 pounds
Easy to open door
Large size – can fit a lot into it
Simple and easy to use
High powered microwave
Convection oven only heats up to 425 degrees
Buzzes a bit when operating
You have ten power levels to choose from in this 1000 Watt microwave that offers superb flexibility in cooking options. You can adjust the power level to be 100 percent or turn it down to just 10 percent of the maximum. There is even the option to select a staged cooking option customizing the cooking process for your family.
When you are in a hurry and need a quick reheat, there is a one minute up to six-minute express cooking option. You can select the cooking time precisely or add 30 seconds at a time. There are also six cooking functions that will start with just one touch that you can use for things like popcorn and pizza. A highly useful memory function will store your frequently used cooking settings. When you need to defrost, you can do this by time or weight of the food. The rotating glass turntable can be removed for cleaning and there is a keypad lock for safety.
Internal capacity of 1.1 cubic feet
Defrost by time or weight
- Weight34.4 pounds
Modern, sleek design
Big enough to fit a dinner plate
Powerful enough to quickly cook potatoes
Can be a bit noisy
Some owners found turntable noisy
A stunning, bright-red and chrome retro-style microwave oven that will bring a touch of nostalgia to your kitchen. It delivers 800 Watts of power and has a cooking area of 0.9 cubic foot.
However, this useful kitchen appliance is far from old-fashioned. It has 12 pre-programmed cooking settings as well as customizable commands. There is a delay timer feature and options for automatically cooking popcorn and pizza. The digital clock has an easy to read LED display which also indicates the selected setting. Your food will be evenly cooked thanks to the glass carousel which can be removed for cleaning.
800 Watts of power
12 pre-programmed settings
- Weight30.7 pounds
Easy to set up
Very useful express button
Only has 10 second increments
Setting the clock can be tricky
There are plenty of options to choose from with this sleek 1000 Watt microwave oven. It has an external case of brushed stainless and at the front, there is a tinted glass window.
The internal surface is also stainless steel which is easy to clean and does not absorb odors. It also has a glass rotating plate with a diameter of 12 inches as well as a reversible grill rack.
You control it via a touchpad and LCD display. You can choose the time or it has some preset options. As well as microwave cooking, this appliance will function as a convection oven and a grill and will keep food warm.
Internal capacity of 1.2 cubic feet
Control via a touchpad and LCD display
Glass rotating plate
- Weight38 pounds
More powerful than other budget microwaves
Very convenient having the convection function
Very attractive exterior
Some parts seem to be made cheaply
Heating element only at the top
A compact yet powerful microwave with a maximum output of 1200 Watts. The internal capacity is an impressive 1.2 cubic-foot but it will not take up too much space.
It will defrost quickly using seamless power so the food is evenly heated but not overcooked. The turntable is 13 1/2-inches in diameter and is thin and light. The microwave uses a ‘Genius Sensor’ to detect when the food is starting to cook and it adjusts the power accordingly. There are 12 preset menu choices for popular items as well as a delay start and keep warm feature.
Maximum output of 1200 Watts
Thin, lightweight turntable
- Weight23.4 pounds
Sensor works very well
30 second quick start is useful
Very large interior
Doesn’t have a 10 second quick start
Display is hard to see at an angle
A functional microwave oven that will fit comfortably onto your kitchen countertop. It’s great for preparing snacks and reheating food. The microwave is enclosed in a durable, black case.
The handle is easy to grasp and allows you to open the oven quickly and simply. It has a basic operation so you won’t need to spend hours looking at a manual and the controls are rotary rather than digital. It will deliver 900 watts of cooking power and is ideal for people living alone or as a couple who have a kitchen with limited space.
0.9 cubic foot
900 watts of cooking power
- Weight29.9 pounds
Doesn’t waste power on LED display
Fits into a small kitchen
Very simple to use
Turntable is a bit noisy
Can vibrate a little
A versatile and efficient kitchen microwave that is very low maintenance and perfect for singles, students, and couples. It delivers 700 Watts of power but has a very small footprint with an internal area of 0.7 cubic feet. You get the convenience of choosing from 10 power settings or you can simply select one of the six quick-cook modes for the most commonly cooked items. This allows you to cook things like popcorn and baked potato with a touch of a button.
The turntable measures 9.5 inches in diameter and is made from tempered glass. It also has an LED digital clock which you can also use as a handy kitchen timer.
700 Watts of power
10 power settings
Six quick cook modes
- BrandCommercial Chef
- Weight23.1 pounds
Very compact so ideal for small spaces
Perfect for an office or student flat
Simple to use
No 30 second button
Door handle a little flimsy
You will be assured of even cooking with this Panasonic microwave thanks to the Inverter technology that it utilizes. It also maintains texture and flavor and does not destroy nutrients.
It will cook and defrost using its time settings or quick programs – all controlled via the easy to read blue LED screen with a four-digit display. It’s a 950 Watts oven with a sensor that will detect how your food is cooking and a reheat feature. The interior dimensions are 8 1/8 inches x 12 3/8 inches x 13 7/8 inches.
Delivers 950 Watts
Interior dimensions: 8 1/8 inches x 12 3/8 inches x 13 7/8 inches
- Weight20.9 pounds
Bright blue light is easy to use
Smart, stainless steel finish
Cooks very quickly
Some ovens have had a problem with the heating element
Some models have peeled a little
Best Microwaves Buying Guide & FAQ
Features to Consider When Buying a Microwave Oven
There are plenty of microwaves to choose from so here are a few features that you should consider when you are buying one. Check out the microwave reviews to find out which model would fit in with your lifestyle.
- External dimensions. Most microwaves are designed to fit on a kitchen counter so make sure that the model that you are buying will actually fit! The height could be critical if there are cupboards above so choose the best countertop microwave for your kitchen space.
- Internal capacity. The internal capacity of a microwave is often given in cubic feet. The smaller microwaves will be cheaper but you won’t be able to fit much in them.
- Internal dimensions. The internal dimensions are just as important as the overall capacity. Think about what you will want to put in the oven. Will it take one of your dinner plates if you want it to reheat plated meals? Height is also important for bowls and so on.
- The higher the power setting, the stronger the microwaves and the faster they will cook the food. If you want to cook things very quickly, you should opt for a powerful microwave oven. A cheap microwave is usually less powerful.
- Look at what settings are available. Can you set the time and power levels and how easy is it to do this? Does the timer go up in increments of 10 seconds? All of this will matter when you are using the oven regularly.
- Dial or digital. Some people prefer a more traditional rotary dial whilst others prefer a digital display and touch button.
- Additional features. Microwaves can come with a range of additional features including pre-set programs and a clever sensor that can tell when the food is steaming. Typically, these will add to the purchase price but could save you a lot of time.
- Child safety lock. This is a very useful feature if you have young children in the house.
Why You Should Use a Microwave
Microwave ovens have been in common use for several decades and there are some very compelling reasons for investing in one yourself. Here are the main ones.
- Microwave cooking preserves nutrients. All cooking results in some loss of nutrients. Microwave cooking is one of the methods that destroy the least nutrients. This is partly because it uses so little water and therefore nutrients do not leach out. However, only cook vegetables until they are still crispy to maintain the most goodness.
- Microwave cooking is convenient. Microwaves have been one of the main drivers of the increase of convenience foods or ‘microwave meals’. They are very convenient for anyone who has a busy life and needs food quickly. Snacks such as soup and popcorn can be prepared in seconds.
- Microwaves reduce cooking time. If you do decide to cook a recipe from scratch, a microwave will do it in a fraction of the time that a regular oven would take. There are plenty of microwave-friendly recipes online these days.
- Microwaves are energy efficient. You can do your bit to save the planet and save yourself some money by cooking in a microwave. They don’t need to be preheated and all the energy goes into the food. This makes them very efficient.
Types of Microwave Ovens
There are three basic types of a microwave oven.
- Simple microwave oven
These are the most basic ovens. They produce microwaves to cook the food and come in many sizes. The smaller sizes suit those who live on their own. They are cheap and are best used for reheating food and preparing snacks. They cannot be used for grilling or baking purposes. This type of microwave is perfect for students, singles and for office use.
- Grill microwave oven
Grill microwaves are a standard microwave that will also function as a grill. One of the problems with microwave cooking is that it does not brown food but this appliance will. It can be used for grilling meat or vegetables. Usually, the microwave and grill function operate together so you get the best of both worlds – golden food produced in just minutes.
- Convection microwave oven
A convection microwave oven will produce microwaves but also has a heating element so it circulates hot air as well. This means that you can cook and bake a lot faster than you would in a normal convection oven. You can use this type of oven very successfully for making cakes and pizzas. It can be used independently as just a microwave or a convection oven or it can use both at the same time. These tend to be high-end devices that are more expensive.
Microwave Oven FAQ:
Q: How does a microwave work?
A: As the name suggests, a microwave oven cooks food using microwaves which are similar to radio waves. They are produced in the oven by a special tube called a magnetron. They bounce all over the cavity in all directions and enter the food. The rotating turntable helps them to be spread uniformly. As they enter the food, the water molecules start to vibrate and the resulting friction produces heat which cooks the food.
Q: Are microwaves safe?
A: According to the World Health Organization, the short answer is that microwave ovens are safe provided they are used according to the manufacturers’ instructions.
In terms of microwave safety, all ovens have been designed to keep the microwaves inside but a door that is dirty, damaged or modified could allow them to leak out. Therefore, make sure that the seals are clean and that the door closes properly. If there is visible damage around the door (e.g. rust) the microwave should not be used.
People have suffered burns from food cooked in a microwave and this is also something to look out for. Water, in particular, can get super-heated and then suddenly boil over when you put a spoon in it. Eggs in their shells and hot dogs can heat up unevenly and therefore can explode causing nasty injuries.
There are also a few problems relating to food safety. Microwaves are not very good at penetrating into very thick pieces of food so you get uneven heating. This is a problem if there are harmful pathogens in that piece of food. Therefore, instructions will often tell you to have a break in heating when the food can stand for a while or you may need to stir it.
Q: What can I cook in a microwave?
A: You can cook so many things in a microwave, it would almost be easier to list what you cannot cook! Microwaves are most widely used for snacks like popcorn, for baked potatoes and for reheating all sorts of food that has been purchased ready-made or has been made by you.
You may not know, however, that the following dishes can also be prepared in a microwave:
- Scrambled egg – takes around 40 seconds with one break for stirring
- Poached eggs – in a mug covered with cling film
- Steamed salmon- takes less than five minutes
- Pasta – takes around 10 minutes
- Bacon – cooked between sheets of kitchen paper
Foods that you should never cook or reheat in a microwave include eggs in their shells, chili peppers, breast milk, a mug of water, processed meats and bread.
Q: How can I make my microwave last longer?
A: A microwave is a significant investment so it makes sense to ensure that it lasts for a long time. Here’s how you can do that.
- Think about where you put it. Your microwave should come with instructions that will tell you where you should position it. It must not be too close to a wall – typically, there should be a gap of at least four inches.
- Keep it clean. This is not just for hygiene reasons. It will also help your microwave to last. When you have finished using it, unplug it and let it cool. Then, then wipe all around the inside with a damp cloth. It is also a good idea to put some water with a teaspoon of vinegar into a microwave-proof bowl and heat it up inside for a minute. Then turn it off, remove the bowl and wipe down the internal surface. Do this once a week.
- Use the right bowls. Only microwaveable glass, ceramic and plastic should be placed in your microwave. Check the labels to make sure that they are microwave-safe. Dishes with wooden handles and anything metallic or painted (including tin foil) can never be used in a microwave.
- Look after the door. Be gentle with the microwave door even when you are in a hurry. Slamming it shut can cause a fuse to blow. The microwave door will only shut correctly if you do so slowly.
- Use the programs. The programs on your microwave have been carefully worked out to give you the most efficient cooking method. If you use these, you are less likely to overcook your food and splatter the inside which can cause damage.
Our Top Pick
Our top pick of the best microwave oven is an impressive NN-SN936 model from Panasonic. It directs a constant stream of microwaves at your food so it cooks evenly and there is a Turbo defrost setting.
The spacious interior has a turntable that measures 16-1/2 inches in diameter and the interior dimensions of the cooking area are 10 15/16 inches x 18 7/16 inches x 18 ½ inches. The ‘Genius Sensor’ automatically adjusts the power and cooking time and there are 14 preset menu items and a quick-minute timer. There’s also a delay start feature, a child safety lock, and a ‘Keep Warm’ feature.