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ByDanika Miller Internet & Entertainment Writer

Danika is currently covering the internet and entertainment beat. Her previous work lives in random corners of the internet and fiction anthologies hidden in university libraries.

The Best Microwaves

We spoke to engineers and microwave experts, only to discover that the internal construction of all microwaves is nearly the same. The best are separated by their smaller details, like high wattage and easy-to-use features. We tested nine ourselves and found two that are well-rated by consumers, reliably long-lasting, and intuitive to operate.

The 2 Best Microwaves

The Best Microwaves: Summed Up

Sharp Carousel
Breville Quick Touch
The Best
For Most Kitchens
High-Tech Upgrade
Price
$80
$250
Finish
Stainless steel
Stainless steel
Wattage
1,000 watts
1,100 watts
Sensor
Capacity
1.1 cubic feet
1.2 cubic feet
Dimensions
14.9 x 20.3 x 12 inches
18 x 20.5 x 12.5 inches
Power Levels
11
10

Sharp Carousel

The Best
High-Tech Upgrade

Breville Quick Touch
Breville
A futuristic, impressive variety of easy-to-navigate functions.
Pros
Futuristic tech
Accurate, customizable cooking
Enjoyable to use
Cons
Learning curve
Pricey

Why we chose it

Futuristic tech

Typically, the more dials and options a microwave has, the more complicated it is to use. But not so with the Breville. It has large and intuitive LCD screen that lays out all your options simultaneously.

Programming felt like browsing through a smartphone app, meaning we didn’t have to wait for words to slowly creep across a tiny square display.

Is Breville the microwave of the future? We hope so.

There’s no keypad, and you’ll have to twist a dial to program anything over 30 seconds. After some initial acquainting, we found those differences made programming simple. We weren’t completely ignoring presets and extra keys like we all do on our ordinary microwaves, instead we found ourselves able to specify exactly what we wanted done — without having to consult the user’s manual.

Accurate, customizable cooking

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.

The Breville also makes it simple to customize based on the size, weight, and nature of the food you’re cooking. There’s even a reheat option for pizza. Alternatively, you can leave it up to the Breville’s sensor to detect moisture and temperature and accurately reheat. When we tried this in our testing of beverages and with our own lunches, it was surprisingly accurate.

Enjoyable to use

Performance aside, simply using this microwave is a lot of fun. The buttons and dials have a satisfyingly crisp click to them, similar to punching letters on a typewriter. The Breville also features some extra convenience with a designated noise level button for one-push incognito mode, and a button labeled “A Bit More” that adds 20 seconds to the cook time.

Breville-Controls-for-Microwave

Adjusting cook time and power — even mid-cook time — is as easy as spinning a dial.

Points to consider

Learning curve

This is a great microwave for power users who want complete control over their cooking — those often frustrated with overcooked leftovers or constantly sticking their finger in to check for cold spots. We didn’t mind spending a little extra time learning the features and extras we came to value, but it could be overkill for the average user looking for a familiar design.

Pricey

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.

Guide to Microwaves

How to find the right microwave for you

Don’t dwell on what’s inside

You won’t find much variation in how a microwave heats things up. Their innards are all, basically, the same.

"Sixty million of the 80 million microwave ovens produced annually are manufactured by just two companies (Midea and Galanz) … in Shunde, China. Thus, for the most part, the difference between brands is purely cosmetic."

Consider your space

Size and appearance will play a role in your decision to buy any appliance. We preferred microwaves with capacities that hovered just above one cubic foot. If you know that the dishes you use to store leftovers need more room, keep that in mind. For appearance, take into account the finish and “look” of any appliances already in your kitchen.

Expect to spend at least $100

Most microwaves under $50 didn’t meet our 800-watt requirement, meaning they aren’t powerful enough to heat your food quickly. If you’re looking for a true budget option, you’ll sacrifice performance significantly.

Microwave FAQ

What are microwaves?

Microwaves are a type of electromagnetic radiation, like radio waves with a similar frequency to that of cell phones. Microwaves can provide energy to matter and most kitchen microwaves use water molecules to accomplish this. Microwaves can also be used for radar and communication.

How does a microwave work?

According to the FDA, microwaves inside the oven are produced by an electron tube called a magnetron. Those waves then bounce around inside, off of the oven’s reflective surfaces. Microwave radiation is simply microwaves that cause water molecules to vibrate. Those vibrating molecules, not the microwaves themselves, produce the heat that cooks food.

Is microwaved food bad for you?

The FDA assures that, “The microwave energy is changed to heat as it is absorbed by food, and does not make food ‘radioactive’ or ‘contaminated’ … Microwave cooking does not reduce the nutritional value of foods any more than conventional cooking. In fact, foods cooked in a microwave oven may keep more of their vitamins and minerals, because microwave ovens can cook more quickly and without adding waste.”

Why do some foods cook evenly in the microwave, while others don’t?

From one of our experts:

“It’s the food that is influencing the evenness. Particularly in frozen foods … ice is very transparent to microwaves. When it starts melting, it will start to heat like crazy while the rest isn’t heating as fast.”

-Bob Schiffmann
President of the International Microwave Power Institute

So how do I get my food to cook more evenly in the microwave?

Microwaves work by increasing energy in water molecules, so foods with more water in them (broccoli) will heat much quicker. If the water content is lower, you’ll want to use lower power to avoid uneven cooking. Spreading out dense foods and microwaving meals in separate parts can help achieve a more evenly cooked meal.

What else can I use my microwave for, besides heating up food?

A few other, unexpected challenges that microwaves can conquer:

  • Peeling peaches: Place a peach in a microwave-safe bowl and cover with warm water. Microwave it for about 1 min and then let stand for 5-10 min. Drain, then peel.
  • Decrystallizing honey: Uncover the honey jar (if it’s glass) and heat on 50% power for 30 sec-1 min.
  • Ripening an avocado: Place the unripe avocado on a paper towel and prick the skin a few times, then defrost for 2 min. Turn the avocado over and repeat for 30-60 seconds.

How can you determine if cookware is microwave safe?

Most manufacturers include a symbol with wavy lines or text indicating the cookware is microwave safe. However, if you want to test whether and unmarked item is microwave safe, you can use a simple test: Fill one cup of water and place the cup beside the dish in question, and then microwave on high for one minute. Then check to see whether the water in the cup was heated and the dish in question remained cool. If so, then the dish is microwave safe. But if the dish heated up along with the cup of water, then the dish should not be used in the microwave because it could potentially heat up enough to cause burns.

Is it safe to run a microwave when there is no food in it?

No. The electrical components that make up the microwave can damage the appliance if not properly absorbed. Food absorbs the energy when the microwave is operating, but running the microwave with no food inside can ruin the microwave or cause a fire.

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