The Best Microwave Ovens of 2017
Looking for the best microwave? After researching 50 models, we bought 10 and subjected them to 150 hours of side-by-side tests. With over 1000 models available today, it can be hard to know what to buy. Our expert testers help you separate what is too cheap, what is overpriced and over-featured, and what is just what you need. We look at which model cooked the most evenly, was the easiest to use and was the best at defrosting frozen foods. Read on to see which model reigned supreme and zapped the competition.
Read the full review below >
Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
Best Overall Microwave
Best at heating
Great for Hot Pockets
Mediocre at frozen burritos
The Panasonic NN-SD745S earned the highest score overall in our tests, consequently winning the Editors' Choice award. This model was by far the best at heating up food — the most important metric for a microwave. It evenly and quickly heated up everything from lasagna to leftovers, all while being easy to use. The NN-SD745S has effective preset buttons, making some of the best popcorn we have ever had using the "popcorn" button. This model is a little on the expensive side, but it is the best you can get.
Read Full Review: Panasonic NN-SD745S
Best Bang for the Buck
The Kenmore P90D23AP-WJS is a fantastic model that won't break the bank, saving you plenty of money for all of those frozen burritos. This model earned a close second in our tests, but costs less than half of what our Editors' choice does, earning it our Best Buy award. While this model fared a little poorer than the top model in heating and defrosting, it was just as fast and actually was easier to use. All in all, this is a great pick if you are shopping on a budget.
Great at frozen burritos
Fantastic for frozen lasagna
Easy to use
Heats leftovers unevenly
Read Full Review: Kenmore P90D23AP-WJS
Best Bang for the Buck
The Westinghouse WM009 scored just a point lower than the Kenmore and had the same list price, earning it a Best Buy award as well. This model actually tied for the best at defrosting, it just wasn't quite as speedy as the top two. It matched the Kenmore in terms of heating performance and the Panasonic NN-SD745S in terms of ease of use, making this another superb choice if you are shopping on a budget.
Good for defrosting
Great for heating leftovers
Awful at frozen burritos
Read Full Review: Westinghouse WM009
Analysis and Test Results
We bought the top microwaves available and put them through the wringer, comparing their performance at everything from heating up frozen burritos to how fast they could heat up water. We directly compared the results in a side-to-side test to determine the overall scores, ranging from 0-100.
Our testing process was split into four metrics — Heating, Defrosting, Ease of Use, and Speed — with over 15 different tests spread among the metrics. We detail how each model did in each test in the following sections, assigning a subscore for each metric that was then used to compute the overall score and rankings.
Heating up food with little to no effort is the main reason that you are going to buy a microwave. Period. Whether you are heating up leftovers from last night's dinner or zapping a Hot Pocket for a quick lunch, you want a microwave that is going to quickly and evenly heat your food to the desired temperature. This metric is so important that it comprises 40% of the total score — a model that does poorly in this metric is something that we would definitely caution against buying. You can see how the models stacked up in the chart below.
We heated identical frozen burritos, trays of lasagna, and Hot Pockets in each model of microwave, then used an array of cooking thermometers to evaluate how uniform the food was heated. We also reheated a typical plate of leftovers, simulating a thanksgiving dinner, as well as chicken pot pies to test each model on a variety of different food types and see how they did. Finally, we generated a heat map with a plate of melted chocolate to look for any inconsistencies or dead spots while the microwave was heating.
The top performing model in this metric was the Panasonic NN-SD745S, earning an unmatched score of 8 out of 10. This model did a great job at heating up our sample thanksgiving dinner an even amount, with the green beans being just a tiny bit warmer than the other food items. It also did a great job at heating up the pot pie, easily heating it to the necessary temperature of 165°F, and having less than 10°F of temperature variation between different zones. However, where this model truly excelled was our frozen pocket sandwich test and our heat map test. We heated up a Hot Pocket brand sandwich using the "Frozen Pocket Sandwich" setting and then measured the internal temperature with an array of kitchen thermometers.
The SD745S had the smallest temperature variation between the thermometers, with less than 2°F of difference. This model also had a very uniform chocolate heat map, melting the entire plate evenly with no cold or burnt spots.
However, this model fell a little flat on our frozen burrito and frozen lasagna test, failing to heat the burrito to 160°F and both the lasagna and burrito having wide temperature variation across.
Following the SD745S, the Kenmore P90D23AP-WJS, the LG LCS1112St, the Oster OGH6901, the Panasonic NN-SU696S, the Sharp R309YK, and the Westinghouse WM009 all earned a 6 out for 10 for their slightly above average heating score. While these models all received the same overall score for their heating performance, they performed wildly different in the individual tests in this metric — meaning you will want to look at the models that performed the best in tests that most closely match what you tend to use microwaves for.
The Westinghouse and the Oster did the best of this bunch at reheating our plate of leftovers — all of the food types were piping hot and within a few degrees of each other. Following this pair was the other Panasonic model that we reviewed, the NN-SU696S, which just had a little too much temperature variation on our plate of leftovers, with a few of the chicken tenders being close to 40°F warmer than the mashed potatoes. The rest of the models — the Kenmore, the LG, and the Sharp all did a less than stellar job with the plate of leftovers, failing to evenly heat the same type of food. For example, the Kenmore had close to a 20°F temperature difference between the head and the foot of a single chicken tender.
When it came to heating up the pot pie, the LG almost matched the performance of the Panasonic NN-SD745S, but had slightly more temperature variation. The rest of this pack all did an acceptable job at the pot pie, with the exception of the Sharp and the Westinghouse. These two models did poorly, failing to hit the necessary temperature and having differences of over 40°F between different regions of the pie. The story changed dramatically when it came to Hot Pockets, with the Westinghouse doing the best job of this group, finishing just ever so slightly behind the Panasonic NN-SD745S. The Westinghouse was followed closely by the Sharp with about a 7°F maximum temperature difference compared to the 4°F of variation with the Westinghouse.
The rest of the models in this group (Kenmore, LG, Panasonic NN-SU696S, and Oster) all did close to average, exhibiting 10-15°F of temperature variation across the pocket sandwich, with the Kenmore on the lower end of that range and the Oster on the higher.
This group of 5 products also displayed a wide variation in performance in our chocolate heat map test, with the Sharp and the LG doing the best, matching the performance of the Panasonic NN-SD745S. Next came the Kenmore, which almost matched the performance of the three top-scoring models, but left an unmelted board around the outside of the plate that was about a quarter-inch thick.
The Oster and the Panasonic NN-SU696S did a little worse than the Kenmore, with the Oster burning a slight ring in the chocolate and leaving an unmelted ring on the outside, and the NN-SU696S leaving a nickel-sized cooler spot in the exact middle.
There also was a wide array of results in our frozen burrito test, with the Sharp making the best frozen burrito of the entire group. This burrito hit the required internal temperature and only had about 2.2°F of variation from the left to ride side of it.
The Kenmore, LG, Oster, and the Panasonic all did well at heating up a frozen burrito, averaging 8-12°F of temperature differences between left, right, and center of the burrito. The Westinghouse did terribly at heating up a burrito — the worst of the bunch — failing to reach the required 160°F and having almost a 65°F temperature difference between the left and the right side of the burrito.
The Kenmore, LG, Oster, Panasonic NN-SU6969S, Sharp, and Westinghouse all passed our frozen lasagna test, with each model heating the lasagna past the required 160°F. The Oster and the Kenmore tied for the best frozen lasagna of the the group in this review, with a minuscule amount of temperature variation across the different areas of the lasagna.
This pair was followed by Sharp, which had about 2°F of variation, and then the LG and the Westinghouse with about 7°F of difference. The Panasonic NN-SU696S had about 9°F of difference, with all regions exceeding 160°F.
Following the middle pack, the Samsung MG14H3020CM earned a 5 out of 10 for its overall average heating performance. This model actually did very well at heating up the plate of leftovers — almost as well as the Panasonic NN-SD745S, but not quite. It did much worse at heating up the pot pie, doing a below average job as it failed to heat it up the pie evenly, with some areas over 190°F and others below the required temperature of 165°F. This Samsung microwave did a little better at heating up a frozen pocket sandwich (Hot Pocket) and frozen lasagna, doing an average job at both. However, this model of microwave did exceptionally terrible in our frozen burrito test and in our heat map test. The burrito had a ton of temperature variation throughout, with a small sliver that was not up to temperature. Looking at the heat map, it was immediately clear why this happened. The heat map showed a clear bullseye pattern, with the center and the outer ring remaining solid with the middle ring melting.
Finishing out the bottom of the group in our heating test, the Breville BMO734XL and the Samsung MS11K3000AS earned a 4 and a 3 out of 10 respectively. These models had tons of temperature variation across most of our tests, in extreme amounts. For example, the Samsung MS11K3000AS had close to a 70°F difference between the center and the right side of the burrito, and the Breville had over 30°F between the left side and the center.
Ease of Use
For this metric, making up 30% of the total score, we looked at the various features and functions that these machines have to make your life easier. We evaluated how effective the preset settings were, whether or not there were quick buttons present and how they worked, the quality of the interior lighting and timer, as well as if the microwave would slide around on the counter when the door was opened or closed or when a button was pressed. For the preset effectiveness, we made a bag of popcorn and baked a potato in each model, precisely following the manufacturer's directions, and rated the results. You can see how all of the models ranked in the graphic below.
The Kenmore led the pack in this metric, earning the highest score overall with an 8 out of 10. This model had the best quick buttons, with a "+30 second" button that would automatically start the microwave, as well as one-touch buttons to quickly start the microwave — pressing the "3" button automatically put three minutes on the machine and started it. The Kenmore had a great interior light, could act as a kitchen timer independent of heating food and had an alright keypad. This model also did about average when we tested the presets, popping almost all of the popcorn on the popcorn preset, but leaving a drier and slightly burnt taste compared to some of the other models.
It did a little better at baking a potato using the potato preset. This model allows you to input a rough weight, though there were no beeps to flip the potato. It produced a potato that was perfectly cooked on the sides, but slightly firmer than we would have preferred in the middle. This model didn't have the best anti-slip feet going, and it would slide slightly on the counter when we opened and closed the door.
Following the Kenmore, the Breville and the Sharp earned the next highest score in terms of ease of use, both earning a 7 out of 10. The Breville had an exceptionally bright light inside and would have a light on when the door was opened, in direct contrast to the Sharp. However, the Sharp had much better quick features, having both quick buttons and a "+30 seconds" button, both starting automatically. The Breville had the "+30" button, but lacked the quick buttons. Neither of these models could run a separate timer from heating food and both had average keypads. These models were both very solid on the counter, with the Breville refusing to budge when the keypad was used or the door opened, and the Sharp moving maybe a 1/16 of an inch.
The Sharp did about the same as the Breville in our preset test, doing a good job at making popcorn and baking a potato using the presets. The Breville left behind more kernels than the Sharp, but made the best tasting popcorn out of the entire group. However, the Sharp made a much better baked potato.
Next were the majority of models, with the LG, Oster, Panasonic NN-SD745S, Samsung MS11K3000AS, and the Westinghouse all earning a 6 out of 10. These models all has some sort of light inside that will turn on when the food is being heated, but the Oster and the Samsung MS11K3000AS were much dimmer, making it harder to see the food. Out of this group, only the Oster and the Westinghouse had the capabilities to act as an independent kitchen timer. We liked the interface on the LG and the Oster, finding that that dial on the Panasonic NN-SD745S was a little irritating to use. The Samsung MS11K3000AS lacks a keypad, using a large group of presets instead, something we found extremely annoying and was the worst interface of the entire set. The Westinghouse has a keypad, but doesn't have a cancel/stop key to retract a mistake, instead of requiring you to hit reset and start from scratch. The Oster, Panasonic NN-SD745S, Samsung MS11K3000AS, and the Westinghouse wouldn't slide on the counter when opening or closing the door or using the keypad, but the LG would slide about a quarter of an inch every time we opened or closed the door.
The Panasonic NN-SD745S and the Westinghouse did the best out of this group of 5 in our preset effectiveness test. The Panasonic NN-SD745S produced better popcorn than the Westinghouse, heating it close to perfection and only leaving about 27 leftover kernels. The Westinghouse only left 19 kernels, but overcooked the popcorn, making it taste a little burnt. The Westinghouse did redeem itself with the baked potato, heating the perfect potato that was one of the best out of the entire group. The Panasonic NN-SD745S did alright at baking the potato, but left the center a little harder than we would have liked.
The preset effectiveness on the LG and the Oster were just slightly behind the Panasonic NN-SD745S and the Westinghouse. The LG left more popcorn kernels behind than the Panasonic NN-SD745S and created popcorn that didn't taste quite as nice. The Oster left behind the least kernels, but also gave the finished popcorn a distinctive burnt taste.
However, the Oster made one of the nicest baked potatoes out of the group, far superior to the LG. The LG overcooked the potato on the bottom and on the left side, lacking a notification to stop and flip the potato like other models.
The Samsung MS11K3000AS did slightly worse than the LG and the Oster when it came to presets. The popcorn tasted fine, but it left over a hundred kernels behind without popping. It also left the center of the baked potato a little raw, though the left side was perfect and the right was just slightly underdone.
Rounding out the back of the pack for ease of use, the Samsung MG14H3020CM and the Panasonic NN-SU696S earned a 5 and a 4 out of 10 respectively. You can see inside the Panasonic NN-SU696S while it's running, but there is no light when the door is opened. This Samsung has a light, but it's really hard to see the food inside with its mirrored exterior.
Neither of these models could be used as a kitchen timer, and both had an alright keypad. The Panasonic NN-SU696S would slide a little bit when the door was opened and closed, but the Samsung MG14H3020CM was solid as a rock on the counter. These both had a "+30 Seconds" button, but it would not automatically start heating and neither had any one-touch quick buttons.
The Samsung MG14H3020CM left behind a larger number of kernels compared to the Panasonic NN-SU696S, but none of them were burnt tasting. The Panasonic did an average job at baking a potato, significantly better than the Samsung MG14H3020CM which left the center completely raw.
Defrosting made up 20% of the overall score for these products and was a much smaller group of tests than heating. We rated these products on how effectively they could defrost a 1 lb roll of ground turkey — if the microwave could satisfactorily defrost a muffin. In addition, we looked at what type of options were available to choose from when it came to defrosting, such as defrosting by time or by weight. You can see how all of the products scored in the following graphic.
Redeeming itself from its poor heating performance, the usually lower scoring Samsung MS11K3000AS tied with one of our Best Buy award winners, the Westinghouse WM009, for the top score in this metric, both models earning a 7 out of 10. These models both had similar performance at defrosting the turkey roll, with practically the entire pound being defrosted without any of it being cooked, though the Samsung MS11K3000AS did accomplish this about three minutes faster.
Performance varied substantially when it came to defrosting a muffin, with the Samsung MS11K3000AS doing much better than the Westinghouse. The Samsung MS11K3000AS was basically throughout, while the Westinghouse which had an extremely hot side and an extremely cool side. Both of these models can defrost by weight, but the Westinghouse has a speed defrost option.
Following this top performing pair, the Oster and the Panasonic NN-SU696S came in next, both earning a 6 out of 10 for their defrosting capabilities. The Oster did very well at defrosting the roll of ground turkey, better than the Panasonic NN-SU696S but not quite as well as the Westinghouse or the Samsung MS11K3000AS. The Panasonic NN-SU696S had some almost cooked parts and was just a little harder to break apart than the top models. The Panasonic NN-SU696S did do much better at defrosting the frozen muffin, heating everything except the very bottom of the muffin. The Oster did the opposite, overheating the bottom of the muffin and leaving the sides cold. You can defrost by weight on both of these microwaves, but only the Oster has a speed defrost by time.
Next were the LG LCS1112St and the Panasonic NN-SD745S, both meriting a 5 out of 10 for their defrosting abilities. The LG did better than the Panasonic NN-SD745S at defrosting the roll of ground turkey, but not as well as the Panasonic NN-SU696S. There were a few warm parts in the LG's roll of ground turkey, compared to the completely cooked sections in the NN-SD745S's. However, the NN-SD745S did one of the best jobs of the entire group at defrosting a frozen muffin, evenly heating it throughout and just lightly melting the chocolate chips. The LG did almost as well, but the top portion was just a little bit cooler than the rest of the muffin, dropping its score. The LG has a quick defrost and a weight defrost, while the Panasonic NN-SD745S only has a defrost by weight.
The remainder of the models, the Breville, the Kenmore, the Samsung MG14H3020CM, and the Sharp all scored below average at defrosting, earning a 4 out of 10. The Breville did the worst of the bunch at defrosting the roll of ground turkey, where it was decently difficult to break apart. The other three microwaves did a little better than the Breville, but not by much. However, none of these four models cooked any of the turkey while defrosting.
These models all did roughly the same at defrosting a frozen muffin, with the Samsung MG14H3020CM and Sharp doing slightly better than the Breville and the Kenmore. These models all had defrost by weight functions and only the Samsung lacked a quick defrost function by time.
Microwaves are all about conveniently and quickly heating up food, and our final metric focuses on the latter. We heated up a set amount of water in a beaker in each model for 30 seconds, and compared the temperature rise between to determine scores. This metric made up 10% of the overall score. You can see how speedy the models were in the chart below.
The speediest model of the bunch, the Panasonic NN-SU696S, earned the top score of 7 out of 10 in this metric. This model boosted the temperature of 250 mL of water about 37°F in 30 seconds.
Next were the Panasonic NN-SD745S and the Kenmore, both earning a 6 out of 10. These models increased the water temperature by 36°F and 35°F respectively.
Following these, the LG, Oster, Sharp, and Westinghouse all did about average, meriting a 5 out of 10. The Oster and the Westinghouse drove a 34°F temperature increase in the water, just a hair better than the 33°F created by the LG and the Sharp.
The Breville increased the temperature by 32°F, enough to earn it a 4 out of 10, beating out both of the Samsung models. The MG14H3020CM earned a 3 out of 10 for boosting the water 28°F, and the MS11K3000AS earned a 2 for increasing the temperature by a measly 25°F.
It can be difficult to find the perfect product. Hopefully, this review can alleviate that pain and help you find the model that best suits your needs and your budget.
— David Wise and Austin Palmer
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