Best Microwave of 2021
|Price||$112 List||$170 List|
$129.99 at Amazon
|$190 List||$100 List|
$99.99 at Amazon
|Pros||Excellent with packaged frozen foods, compact, very easy to use||Excellent at defrosting, convenient||Great with premade foods, easy to use||Good at reheating, does well with premade frozen foods||Good at defrosting meat|
|Cons||So-so with mixed leftovers||Large, expensive||Expensive, so-so at defrosting||Didn't defrost frozen turkey well||Not the most convenient to use, heating performance could be better|
|Bottom Line||For those with limited kitchen space, this is the best compact model we tested||An excellent all-around product with a large capacity, this model is exceptional at defrosting and being convenient to use||This product scored well in most of our tests but we think it was outperformed by a handful of other products||This larger product did decently well but we don't think it quite matches the performance of the top-tier models||This product pairs average results with an average price in our minds, failing to stand out from the competition|
|Rating Categories||Kenmore 70929||Toshiba EM131A5C||Panasonic NN-SN67KS||BLACK+DECKER EM031MB11||Panasonic NN-SB458S|
|Frozen Foods (30%)|
|Ease Of Use (10%)|
|Specs||Kenmore 70929||Toshiba EM131A5C||Panasonic NN-SN67KS||BLACK+DECKER EM031MB11||Panasonic NN-SB458S|
|Dimensions||14.5" x 17.7" x 11"||20.5" x 17.1" x 12.8"||12.25" x 20.7" x 15.8"||20.2" x 15.6" x 12.1"||19.1" x 11.5" x 14.8"|
|Internal Dimentions||9.3" x 12.4" x 13.6"||13.1" x 15" x 9.5"||9.9" x 13.9 x 14.4"||13.9" x 14.5" x 9.1"||12.4"x 13.9" x 8.1"|
Best Overall Microwave
If you're on the hunt for a full-sized, high-end microwave, we recommend checking out the Toshiba EM131A5C. This appliance performs well across all our metrics yielding especially exceptional results when defrosting. It defrosts without cooking, which can be a tall order for most microwaves, making this a great option for those who like to keep frozen meat around. The EM131A5C also has no problem heating up frozen meals, quickly and the user-friendly interface is chock-full of convenient presets, which make tasks like this hassle-free.
While this speedy kitchen appliance will have your dinner warmed up in no time, we did notice that it falls a little short in heating our food evenly (an issue we found with almost every microwave tested). This mostly occurs when there are different types of food being heated at once, such as a plate of leftovers or even a slice of pizza, as the cheese heats up much faster than the crust. It's also on the larger side and a bit more expensive than some of its competitors, but we still highly recommend it if you're looking for the best of the best and don't mind spending a few extra bucks for a high-quality product.
Read Full Review: Toshiba EM131A5C
Best Smaller Option
If the size of your kitchen limits the size of your appliances then have no fear, because the Kenmore 70929 packs a lot of punch into a small package. It performs impressively well across the board with an emphasis on premade frozen food and defrosting frozen meat, delivering some of the best results we've seen. On top of its stellar performance, the Kenmore is very easy to use. Its quick-start buttons, like the 30-second cook or popcorn preset, make using this device a breeze, and the bright light makes it easy to keep an eye on your food while it's cooking.
While the Kenmore offers amazing results, we did notice some inconsistencies. This model creates some temperature gradients in food when spanned across the turntable. Food items placed in the center of the turntable heat up much faster than food items that sit closer to the perimeter. Generally speaking, it is not the most powerful option out there but we were pleasantly surprised with the impressive results this miniature appliance was able to yield. Nevertheless, we heartily recommend the Kenmore to anyone shopping for a top-tier option with a smaller, more compact footprint.
Read Full Review: Kenmore 70929
Best Bang for Your Buck
AmazonBasics Microwave 0.7
If you are looking for a microwave whose price is as small as its footprint, then look no further than the AmazonBasics 0.7. This budget-friendly option performs admirably across all our metrics. Despite its low power output, it does especially well at heating pre-prepared frozen items. It is simple and easy to use, with the added benefit of being compatible with Alexa-enabled smart home devices.
We did notice some hot spots in our heat map testing, and food takes longer to heat up in this smaller, less powerful option. Its interface, while mostly user-friendly, requires some getting used to. The Alexa-enabled smart home capabilities also require some additional setup, and some of our testers wondered if it's worth the hassle. All in all, this offering from AmazonBasics is one of our top suggestions to anyone looking for a more economical option.
Read Full Review: AmazonBasics Microwave 0.7
Fun Retro Look
While microwaves in the fifties were scarce among the general public, it's always fun to have retro-looking appliances scattered about your kitchen, and the Nostalgia RMO4AQ is no exception. From the font of the logo to the large dial to the round viewing window, this unique kitchen appliance is exceptionally eye-catching, especially when compared to the drab appearance of most modern models. On top of making a distinct style statement, the Nostalgia also performed admirably in our defrosting and frozen foods tests, meaning you're not completely sacrificing function for fashion.
Unfortunately, the Nostalgia falls short in evenly heating your food. We noticed a distinct temperature gradient appearing on our heat map test. The evenness is even worse when heating a plate of various foods, although this is a rather common issue that even high-end microwaves struggle with. It's not the best option out there in terms of value or performance, but it takes the lead if you love that old-school style.
Read Full Review: Nostalgia RMO4AQ
Why You Should Trust Us
Our testing team of Austin Palmer and David Wise has extensive experience with kitchen appliances, including testing more than 250 products for GearLab ranging from juicers and food processors to ice cream makers and blenders. Throughout the testing process, both Austin, David, and the rest of the office became frozen food connoisseurs, consuming far more Hot Pockets, mini-lasagnas, and frozen burritos than anyone perhaps should.
We conduct extensive head-to-head tests and have a group of judges evaluate the quality of the heated food. We objectively compare how efficiently each appliance is able to heat the desired item by measuring the temperature increase of a controlled volume of water. Finally, we use the products in our office and personal kitchens over multiple months to see how they perform over a longer period and how easily they function in a real-world kitchen.
Related: How We Tested Microwave Ovens
Analysis and Test Results
We split our suite of testing assessments into four weighted metrics: heating, frozen foods, defrosting, and ease of use. Each metric includes a variety of different tests, with the performance of each product detailed in the sections below.
Related: Buying Advice for Microwave Ovens
When you pay more for a microwave, you'll often get a more powerful unit that heats food quickly and has more convenient (AKA more specific) functions. If you're on a budget, one product stands out well above the rest: the AmazonBasics 0.7. It is substantially more affordable than many of the other contenders yet still holds its own when it comes to performance. It's also quite a bit smaller, so it may take slightly longer to heat food, but it's hard to beat when it comes to the price.
First and foremost, we started our side-by-side testing process by rating and ranking how well each of these kitchen appliances did at heating up food. We used a plate of leftovers, a bowl of canned soup, and two slices of pizza as our test foods. We also scored speed and consistency by calculating the temperature increase of 125 milliliters of water and creating a "heat map" using a plate of marshmallow fluff.
Coming in at the top of the heap in the heating metric were the BLACK+DECKER EM031MB11, the Panasonic NN-SN67KS, and the Toshiba EM925A5A. The Panasonic NN-SN67KS did very well in our heat map test, showing very few hotspots with the marshmallow fluff, though the inner section did heat up slightly more than the outer areas. It also impressed us by warming the bowl of canned soup and the slices of pizza quickly and evenly. However, it performed just average in the side-by-side heating test, raising the 125 milliliters of water by 78.1 degrees Fahrenheit after 45 seconds. There was a large temperature spread between the sausage, potatoes, and green beans on the mixed plate of leftovers.
The BLACK+DECKER EM031MB11 didn't perform as well in the heat map test, leaving a darker middle ring and almost completely raw outer ring. However, it did much better than the Panasonic NN-SN67KS at heating the plate of leftovers. The three types of food were all within about 35 degrees Fahrenheit of each other. The soup and pizza were also reheated very nicely. It also managed to raise the water's temperature by 83.2 degrees Fahrenheit in our time trial, narrowly outperforming the Panasonic NN-SN67KS but failing to match the 89.4 degrees Fahrenheit of the Toshiba EM925A5A.
While the Toshiba EM925A5A scored the best of this group in the speed test, the Panasonic NN-SN67KS bested the others in the heat map test. We noticed that the marshmallow fluff showed a significant difference in heat across the diameter of the plate.
The Toshiba EM925A5A redeemed itself and gave strong showings with the leftovers and the canned soup, but the interior of the pizza was less warm than desired.
Next in terms of performance were the AmazonBasics 0.7, the Kenmore 70929, the Panasonic NN-SB458S, and the Toshiba EM131A5C in this set of tests. The Kenmore 70929 and the Panasonic NN-SB458S did the best with the heat map test, followed by the AmazonBasics 0.7 and then the Toshiba EM131A5C. Both the AmazonBasics and the Toshiba models heated the center areas of the fluff much more than the outer ones, practically burning the center while the edges remained raw.
The Toshiba EM131A5C, however, did heat the water the fastest in our speed tests, raising it 110.6 degrees Fahrenheit. The AmazonBasics 0.7 raised it the least, only boosting the temperature by 70.1 degrees Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, the Kenmore 70929 and the Panasonic NN-SB458S ranked in the middle, raising the temperature 82.5 and 89.1 degrees Fahrenheit respectively.
Moving on to the food tests, the AmazonBasics 0.7 and the Panasonic NN-SB485S did the best with the mixed plate of leftovers, heating all three types of food fairly evenly, an admittedly difficult task for a microwave. The Toshiba EM131A5C also performed poorly in our pizza test but rebounded when it came to the canned soup, delivering almost perfect results.
The AmazonBasics 0.7 did great with soup, with the Kenmore 70929 and the Panasonic NN-SB458S following. The AmazonBasics and the Kenmore both did about average with the pizza, but the Panasonic NN-SB458S delivered very lackluster results with both slices.
Our next series of tests focused on how well each of these products could heat premade frozen food items, such as Hot Pockets, mini-lasagnas, or frozen burritos. We followed the manufacturers' instructions for reheating, adjusting for the power level of each model when necessary. We used a grid of instant-read kitchen thermometers to compare how evenly heated each piece of food was to determine the scores.
Of all the products we tested, the Panasonic NN-SN67KS stood out when heating prepared frozen foods. This appliance did an excellent job with all three types of frozen foods, producing an average temperature difference of 10 degrees Fahrenheit or less between zones.
The Kenmore 70929 and the Toshiba EM925A5A closely followed, both performing nearly as well. These products delivered almost perfect results with the Hot Pockets and heated our burritos evenly. However, they showed a bit more of a temperature spread with the mini-lasagna, particularly the Toshiba EM925A5A, which left an average temperature difference of 23 degrees Fahrenheit.
The bulk of our test suite — the AmazonBasics 0.7, the BLACK+DECKER EM031MB11, the Nostalgia RMO4AQ, the Panasonic NN-SB458S, and the Toshiba EM131A5C — all lagged behind the top performers. These underperformers all did decently well with the Hot Pocket and the frozen burrito but average or below with the lasagna. Of these products, the Nostalgia RMO4AQ was the least impressive, showing an average temperature variation of 43 degrees Fahrenheit between zones. The rest of the group ranged between 15 and 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
Our defrosting metric is based on the results of a single test: defrosting a one-pound block of frozen ground turkey. We ran a defrosting cycle for that weight of food based on the instructions for each model, then based scores on the amount of turkey that was successfully defrosted after the test, and noted if any of the turkey was prematurely cooked.
The Toshiba EM131A5C led the way, perfectly defrosting the entire block of meat without cooking any of it in a little under 10 minutes. This microwave also beeps halfway through to alert you to flip the meat over.
The BLACK+DECKER EM720CB7 and the Kenmore 70929 came next, with the BLACK+DECKER defrosting about 12 ounces of turkey and the Kenmore defrosting just under 11 ounces. The remaining turkey broke apart fairly easily even if it was still a little frozen, and we wouldn't have any issue tossing it directly in a pan after taking it out of either of these models. The Nostalgia RMO4AQ narrowly followed, marked down because it ended up cooking a tiny bit of the turkey during the defrosting process.
The Panasonic NN-SB458S defrosted just under nine ounces of the turkey, but the remainder was barely frozen and crumbled easily. The AmazonBasics 0.7 performed similarly, but the residual frozen parts were still quite solid and would be a struggle to break apart without further defrosting. The remaining microwaves all delivered lackluster results, not only leaving a large frozen chunk of turkey but also cooking sections in the process.
Ease of Use
Our final set of tests assessed how user-friendly these kitchen appliances are. We looked at the different preset features and one-touch buttons, as well as the internal lighting and whether they were prone to sliding around on a counter when you opened and closed the door or pushed a button.
Both the Toshiba EM131A5C and the Toshiba EM925A5A impressed us with their overall ease of use. They don't slide around and shine plenty of light inside. Their popcorn buttons were actually pretty good at correctly popping popcorn. They both have +30 seconds buttons and one-touch quick start functions for one to six minutes. However, their standalone kitchen timers can be somewhat finicky.
The BLACK+DECKER EM031MB11 and the Kenmore 70929 have all the one-touch features you would typically want, but both slide around a bit on slicker surfaces. They feature decent lighting, but the preset popcorn feature wasn't amazing, particularly the Kenmore's.
The AmazonBasics 0.7, the BLACK+DECKER EM720CB7, and the Panasonic NN-SN67KS were each hampered by a few flaws that we believe make these products less convenient to use. The AmazonBasics 0.7 did very well in the popcorn preset test and is rock-solid on most countertops, but the +30 seconds button requires you to hit it twice, and this appliance's internal lighting is only so-so. The Alexa integration can also make it easier or harder to use, depending on how you feel about smart home systems.
We liked the interface on the BLACK+DECKER EM720CB7, but the entire appliance slid around some when we opened or closed the door. It fared poorly in the popcorn test, leaving tons of un-popped kernels behind after the preset time elapsed. Conversely, the Panasonic NN-SN67KS delivered excellent popcorn results and remained securely in place when pushed. However, it lacks some one-touch features we like to see.
We sincerely hope that you have found this review to be both helpful and informative. If it has made it a little easier to find your perfect new microwave, we've done our job. We're confident that there's something out there to match your needs and budget.
— David Wise and Austin Palmer