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Microwave Reviews

By: Kelly Burgess on November 03, 2016

Editor's note:
While updating this report, I realized that I already own our new pick for the best over-the-range microwave and it's the best microwave I've ever had. But all of the other microwaves we recommend are terrific too; sensor technology is becoming more accurate than ever and all of these ovens are super easy to use.

Offering powerful performance in an attractive package, the 2.0 cubic foot GE JES2051SNSS offers a nice array of one-button presets, an accurate sensor and a roomy interior. The JES2051SNSS is a particularly great choice for families that use their microwave a lot. This workhorse would even be appropriate for an office break room, especially since it gets decent reviews for long-term durability. It's available in stainless, black or white.

The LG LCS1112ST is the top-rated mid-sized microwave in one professional test, earning top scores for both performance and ease of use. Owners love it too, saying this LG microwave works very well and has plenty of features for the price, without being overwhelming to use. It also gets a lot of praise for being attractive and easy to clean. Many note that it seems spacious for its size.

It's the little sibling of our Best Reviewed large microwave, the GE JES2051SNSS (Est. $180), but don't be fooled, you get big performance from the 700 watt GE JES1072SHSS. It's perfect for a tiny apartment or dorm room and is very easy to use. While you may not be able to make a full meal in it, for everyday tasks like reheating coffee or nuking a frozen meal, this is a terrific value.

The 1,000 watt Samsung MC12J8035CT gets good ratings in professional tests for performance, and praise from owners who appreciate the versatility it offers. The convection features add, grilling, roasting, baking and more -- all with the right level of crisping and browning -- to the repertoire of standard microwave tasks. At 1.2 cubic feet, it's a good fit for most lifestyles, with the exception of the tiniest spaces or biggest families.

The GE JVM3160RFSS earns top scores across the board for performance, getting raves from experts and owners who say it will be a great addition to your kitchen. Its 1.6 cubic feet is roomy enough for all but the largest dishes, and at 1,000 watts, it's got plenty of power. Brackets and mounting hardware are included, and owners say it's easy to install -- but they do suggest recruiting a friend.

Drawer-style microwaves are pricey, rarely reviewed by experts, and often draw mixed user feedback, especially when it comes to durability, but models such as Sharp KB-6524PS 24-Inch Microwave Drawer Oven offer compelling aesthetics that can trump all of that in the eyes of some users. The KB-6524PS installs under the counter and pulls out, just like a drawer, saving valuable counter space and making it easier to use for young cooks.

Types of Microwaves

Countertop Microwave Ovens

These are the most common and most affordable type. As the name implies, they sit on a counter or microwave stand. Countertop microwave ovens offer the widest range of sizes, from under 1 cubic foot to 2 cubic feet or more. Even the cheapest of these come with a good array of features: Instant cook buttons, popcorn and potato presets, and auto-defrost and reheat modes. More expensive models have high-end sensors that can perfectly, and quickly, cook a potato or thaw a hunk of meat without cooking any part of it.

Convection Microwaves

While these are much less common than simple microwaves, they offer two-in-one convenience that busy cooks appreciate. A convection features allows you to use a microwave like a small oven -- you can roast and bake. The best microwave/convection oven combination browns well, bakes evenly, and puts a nice crust on burgers or roasts. While a lot of people say convection is unnecessary in a microwave, or that it's something they use rarely, plenty of cooks love having it because they don't have to use their big oven for a small job, and they have an extra cooking appliance available for parties and holidays.

Built-In Microwaves

The word "built-in" is tossed rather freely around the microwave world to denote any type of microwave that doesn't sit on your counter. Over-the-range microwaves are in the built-in category, as are any countertop microwaves that can be built in, either as a custom set-up or over an oven or range using an optional trim kit. Drawer microwaves are installed lower in the kitchen, below the countertop, and they open like a drawer. They're often installed in kitchen islands or underneath wall ovens. Professional reviews of drawer microwaves are hard to find, however, and user reviews are limited and somewhat mixed -- especially when it comes to durability.

Size matters

Size is an important consideration with any microwave. It needs to fit in the available space you have for it; either on a countertop or into a specific area where it will be built in. Some microwaves even have an optional kit to suspend them under a cabinet. You also need to consider capacity. If you have a big family or make a lot of large dishes in the microwave (think a 9- by 13-inch pan of lasagna), you need at least 2.2 cubic feet. If you need a big microwave, but don't have the counter space and can't build it in, you may be able to fit a microwave stand in your kitchen area to hold it. That will also provide extra shelving. However, experts say that most people only need a mid-sized microwave of about 1.2 to 1.7 cubic feet, plenty large enough for most dishes. For small spaces, there are a lot of good choices in the 1.0 cubic foot and smaller range.

Power is also important. Experts say the best microwaves have at least 1,000 watts of power. And, in fact, cooking instructions for frozen foods are often based upon 1,000 watts. Many microwaves have more power -- 1,100 or 1,200 watts. If you're upgrading from a less powerful microwave, reviewers say, you need to be careful not to overcook foods until you get used to it.

A microwave can't do it all

Although microwaves are becoming increasingly versatile, and many come with cookbooks that feature a wide array of dishes you can cook in them, they aren't the best appliance for cooking everything. Even a microwave with a convection feature will not be as effective as a dedicated convection oven for baked goods, and its capacity will be smaller. For better options for baking and roasting, see our reports on wall ovens, ranges and toaster ovens.

If you do opt for a drawer microwave or for a custom built-in microwave anywhere in your kitchen but over the range, you may want to upgrade your kitchen exhaust and air flow, as well; if so, see our report on range hoods.

Finding The Best Microwaves
Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Not Dated
Credibility:
Tim Heffernan and Jessie Kissinger, Aug. 10, 2016
Credibility:
Contributors to HomeDepot.com, As of November 2016
Credibility:

Expert reviews of microwaves are getting harder to come by. Some previously reliable sources have stopped testing new models and their existing reports are quite old -- which is a particular problem since manufacturers tend to cycle microwave models in and out quite frequently. However, ConsumerReports.org provides regular updates complete with their reliable and rigorous testing. TheSweethome.com has scaled back its coverage, but you can infer a lot from the two lines they choose to focus on. Matching those results and recommendations to long-term, real-world experiences posted at user-review sites such as HomeDepot.com, Lowes.com and BestBuy.com helped us narrow the focus to a few top microwaves. The result of that research is our recommendations for the microwave ovens with the best combination of performance, features, ease of use and reliability.

Best Countertop Microwaves
Microwaves buying guide

What every Microwaves has:

  • A handy selection of presets.
  • Cooking sensors.
  • A turntable on/off button.

Read more >

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