The 30-Second Review

After speaking to engineers and microwave experts, we discovered that the internal construction of microwaves is nearly all the same. The best is going to come down to some smaller details, like high wattage and easy-to-use features. We tested nine ourselves and found two that are well-rated by consumers, will reliably outlast your goldfish, and are intuitive enough for early-morning coffee making.

For Every Kitchen

A familiar design at an affordable price. This $120 microwave oven aced every test we threw at it and boasts 1,000 watts for speedy cooking. We loved its easy interface and intuitive programming. The Sharp's traditional interface will also fit unassumingly into any kitchen.

High-Tech Upgrade

High-tech meets highly intuitive in this $250 microwave oven. The Quick Touch offers tons of customizable presets for everything from defrosting butter to reheating pizza and supplements them by making adjustments easy. With thoughtful extras like a volume adjust button and a programmable “favorite” button, the Breville Quick Touch is an advanced appliance.

The Best Microwave

Microwaves are tools of convenience: They should be quick, easy to operate and last a couple of years. When looking for the best, we wanted microwaves that optimize convenience, allowing you to push a button and walk away without worry. We found two machines that gave us fully popped bags of popcorn, and frozen foods that come out looking more like freshly cooked meals than the usual soggy leftovers. The only thing left for you to do is decide whether you want something traditional and no-frills, or a microwave that’s a little more futuristic but offers more cooking options.

The $120 Sharp Carousel repeatedly impressed us with its results, making it a great fit for any kitchen. It’s a pretty unassuming machine — a dozen presets and the standard 10-digit number pad — but in our tests, this microwave held its own against the more expensive models. The Sharp left fewer than 10 popcorn kernels unpopped, accurately steamed a potato, and baked an edible frozen lasagna — feats that expensive Samsung and LG models couldn't match. Best of all, the Sharp managed these feats with its express-cook keys and presets, and we found them to be more accurate than the presets on any other microwave we tested.

The $250 Breville Quick Touch earned our admiration with its variety of preset options (everything from chocolate to leftover pizza) and a moisture sensor that auto cooks things based on steam and temperature. The design is a little more high-tech than the Sharp, with a dial instead of the standard keypad, but those buttons and dials work together to create a surprisingly smooth and seamless experience. Typically, the more dials and options a microwave had, the more complicated it was to use. But the Breville 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. That said, the Quick Touch doesn’t look like an ordinary microwave, and its advanced technology is reflected by a space-age design. This is a great microwave for power users who want complete control over their cooking — those often frustrated with overcooked chocolate and constantly sticking their finger in to test for cold spaghetti. But it could be overkill for the average user looking for a familiar design.

Our Picks for the Best Microwave

For Every Kitchen

Sharp CarouselDon't be fooled by the simple design: This microwave wowed us with its consistent cooking.

The 1,000-watt Sharp Carousel 1.1 (SMC1132CS) boasts reliable performance and intuitive function that managed to outperform microwaves twice its price. It’s also standard in visual design too, and will blend into any kitchen more seamlessly than the futuristic Breville. If you’re just looking for a traditional microwave that won’t disappoint, this Sharp is our recommendation.

We were impressed by how few popcorn kernels it left unpopped (around 10) when we used its popcorn preset. It beat out even the Breville here, which left closer to 20 kernels. The Sharp also hit the temperature sweet spot of 175 degrees on its beverage preset. With presets that will accurately heat your food, there’s no need to sprint across your kitchen to stop something from burning or have to continuously add 30 seconds because the popcorn is still popping when the time is up. This aligns with Sharp’s no-nonsense style when using those traditional keypad presets. Rather than displaying a mysterious pattern of dancing dashes when you hit a preset, like the G.E. does, the Sharp tells you exactly how long your food is cooking.

Timers-for-Microwave

For example, when we cooked potatoes some of the microwaves with moisture sensors would cook for as long as five minutes with just their “sensing dots,” no time indication. If you’re trying to follow a recipe or keep an eye out for overheating, this makes it difficult to keep track of time. And because the Sharp allowed us to enter an exact weight setting for our potato, it was just as accurate as microwaves that used moisture sensor technology to assess appropriate cook time.

If we had to nitpick, the button to add an additional 30 seconds is placed above the numbers with the presets rather than its traditional spot next to (or embedded in) the “Start” button. This quirk wasn’t a deal breaker, but ti's something that would take getting used to and a problem you wouldn’t have with the Breville (which combines its start and 30-second button). Reviewers sometimes complained that there wasn’t a 30-second button on the Sharp, having missed its counterintuitive placement.

Sharp console for Microwave

But the Carousel was also one of the most reliable microwaves, according to reviews. Only 0.8% of its 140 reviews were rated 1 star, and typical complaints were about the lack of an internal light when the door is opened — certainly not ideal, but not the biggest dealbreaker. But Sharp Carousel user consistently praised its easy operation and conservative size, both of which we saw borne out in testing.

The Sharp’s 1.1 cubic feet internal capacity struck a nice balance between conserving space and still fitting our food. (The Breville is just a bit bigger at 1.2.) In contrast, the 0.9 cubic feet LG NeoChef was simply too small, and our popcorn bag stopped rotating as it hit the roof. On the other end of the scale sat the 2.0 GE, so monstrous we could fit a Thanksgiving turkey in there. But the countertop space taken up by the GE felt excessive — we couldn’t imagine microwaving any meals that would need that much space.

Size-comparison-for-Microwave

For only $120, this Sharp Carousel microwave will exceed your standard nuking needs and optimize convenience with its reliable presets.

High-Tech Upgrade

Breville Quick TouchA futuristic option with an impressive variety of easy-to-navigate functions.

If you’re looking to be awed by an appliance, the 1,100 watt Breville Quick Touch (BMO734XL) features an interactive LCD screen that makes even the most complicated multi-step cooking simple.

We’ll be the first to acknowledge that the Breville is different, both in appearance and functionality. It more closely resembles The Jetson’s Rosie than it does a microwave, with its square angles, large handle, and rounded buttons. There’s no keypad, and you’ll have to twist a dial to program anything over 30 seconds. But 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.

The Breville produced the most enticing frozen lasagna, with a nice blend of melted cheese and soft pasta. That was an impressive feat after the Samgsung 1.1 dehydrated the cheese and the GE microwave produced something that looked like lasagna soup. The Breville makes accurate cooking easy with its dial. You can adjust the power level and time dials as things are cooking. Because microwave heat conducts from the outside in, you’ll get rubbery edges if you don’t lower to power to allow the heat to seap in further. But with the Breville, there’s no need to hit four or five buttons in a specific order just to cook something at a lower power: When the thinner lasagna sauce is boiling over, you can turn down the power to let the heat penetrate the pasta. This microwave was an instant crowd favorite in our office: Testers were also using it to reheat their lunchtime leftovers. With its automatic “Sensor Reheat” button, we noticed it left no cold spots in the middle of our meal.

Performance aside, simply using this microwave was an enjoyable experience. 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 button labled “A Bit More” that adds 20 seconds to the cook time.

Typically, ornate LCD screens and dials made programming more complicated than necessary. But the Breville is so intuitive that it makes complicated programming accessible and simple to customize every meal. The options are clearly laid out and you can select 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 that detects moisture and temperature to accurately reheat. When we tried this in our testing of beverages and with our own lunches, it was rarely wrong.

Breville-Controls-for-Microwave

The only catch? It’s 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.

Did You Know?

Microwaves probably aren’t poisoning your food. Microwave radiation is simply microwaves that cause water molecules to vibrate, those vibrate molecules produce the heat that cooks food, not the microwaves themselves. 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.’” They go one to elaborate about how, “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.”

Some surprising things you can use your microwave for:
Looking for ways to utilize your microwave more? Here are a few unexpected challenges that microwaves can conquer:

  • Peel 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. When it’s finished, drain and easily peel away the fuzzy outer layer with a knife.
  • Decrystallize honey: Simply uncover the honey jar (unless its a plastic jar then place in microwave safe dish) and heat on 50% power for 30 sec- 1min.
  • Ripen an avocado: For a last minute guac or when there’s no ripe avocados at the market, you can use your microwave to save snack time. 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.

The Best Microwave: Summed Up

Microwave
The Best
Sharp Carousel
For Every Kitchen
Breville Quick Touch
High-Tech Upgrade