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Need a new microwave? Our appliance experts researched over 70 models before purchasing and testing 11 of the best microwaves available today. We put them all to the test, reheating plate after plate of leftovers, zapping family dinners, popping popcorn, and defrosting meats. We compared how evenly and quickly each model heats and ranked and rated how easy each one is to use. No matter what kind of microwave you're looking for, our extensive review highlights many options to help you find the one that best suits your home needs and budget.
If you're looking for an excellent, large-capacity microwave, we'd be hard-pressed to recommend a better option than the Panasonic NN-SN936. This giant appliance not only offers an enormous capacity but pairs that with top-tier performance. It heats food very evenly and does well at defrosting. If you have space in your kitchen for a larger appliance, the reheating and defrosting abilities of the Panasonic are sure to impress.
Though it did well with other frozen foods, this microwave had a sub-par showing in our frozen burrito tests, failing to heat the center above the required temperature in the allotted time. It also didn't have the most comprehensive set of convenience features. Although it has a +30 second button, it does not start automatically and does not have quick start 1-6 minute buttons. However, this is still one of our all-around favorite microwaves and our top recommendation overall.
If you mostly use a microwave to heat packaged frozen foods, you'll want to check out the Panasonic NN-SN67KS. It delivered the best performance in two of our three frozen food tests and tied for second place in the third. It also stood out on one of the most frustrating aspects of microwave use: uneven heating, where one part of the item is still cold, and other parts are steaming hot. The Panasonic left the competition in the dust on our Heat Map test, which measures consistent and even heating of foods, and earned the top score on heating overall.
Surprisingly, this Panasonic microwave delivered below-average performance defrosting meat despite being the top performer on heating frozen foods. It also carries a premium price tag, which may give some consumers pause. But, if you are looking for a microwave that's perfect for frozen foods, delivers more even heating across your food items, and aren't concerned about the price tag, the Panasonic NN-SN67KS is a good choice.
If you're on the hunt for a full-sized, high-end microwave that excels at defrosting, we recommend checking out the Toshiba EM131A5C first. This appliance performs well across all test metrics, yielding exceptional defrosting results. It defrosts without cooking, which can be a tall order for most microwaves, making this an excellent option for those who frequently keep frozen meat on hand. The EM131A5C also has no problem heating frozen meals quickly, and the user-friendly interface is chock-full of convenient presets, making tasks like this hassle-free.
While this speedy kitchen appliance will have your dinner warmed up in no time, it falls a little short in heating our food evenly (an issue we found with almost every microwave tested). This issue mainly occurs when different food types are heated at once, like a plate of leftovers or pizza, as the cheese heats up much faster than the crust. It is also larger and a bit more expensive than some competitors, but if you have a few extra bucks to spend on a high-quality product, we think you'll be satisfied with this contender.
We've purchased and tested over 25 different microwaves since 2017. To assess microwaves, we conducted extensive head-to-head tests and had a group of judges evaluate the quality of the heated food. We objectively compared how efficiently each appliance heated the desired item by measuring the temperatures across food and liquids with multiple digital thermometers and a laser infrared thermometer. We used 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.
We subjected this fleet of microwaves to 162 individual tests to rate their individual performance. The most emphasis was placed on the Heating tests, which corresponds to 40% of each product's total score. We broke that metric down into five specific tests that include heat mapping and the rate at which each product heated food. We also placed a significant amount of scoring weight on how well each microwave could heat frozen foods.
Our microwave testing is divided across four rating metrics:
Heating tests (40% of overall score weighting)
Frozen Foods tests (30% weighting)
Defrosting tests (20% weighting)
Ease of Use tests (10% weighting)
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 top-tier food processors, and juicers to ice cream makers and blenders. Throughout the testing process, Austin, David, and the rest of the GearLab team became frozen food connoisseurs, consuming far more Hot Pockets, mini-lasagnas, and frozen burritos than anyone perhaps should.
Analysis and Test Results
For the 11 microwaves we tested, 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. Remember to consider what you typically use a microwave for and what aspects matter most to you as you read through our metrics and scores.
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 Toshiba EM131A5C. It is substantially more affordable than many of the other top contenders yet still holds its own when it comes to performance.
Heating performance is of fundamental importance to your day-to-day use of, and satisfaction with, a microwave. So, it is no surprise that we gave heating 40% of the overall score weighting. To rate microwaves on heating, we challenged each product with five different tests:
Heating Map test (35% of Heating score weighting)
Heating Speed test (20% weighting)
Leftover Heating test (15% weighting)
Soup Heating test (15% weighting)
Pizza Heating test (15% weighting)
The standout performer in our heating metric was the Panasonic NN-SN936on heating was the high-end Panasonic NN-SN67KS, which led the way or tied for the top-tier position in the bulk of our heating assessments. The Toshiba EM925A5A and the lower cost Panasonic model NN-SB458S also delivered strong heating performance, but unlike the top-end Panasonic, neither was above average when it came to even heating.
The worst performer in our heating test was the retro-looking Nostalgia RMO4AQ, which heated foods unevenly, leaving too many hot and cold areas. The Galanz Retro and the Breville The Compact Wave came close but performed slightly better than the Nostalgia.
Heating Map Test
Our heating map test rates the consistency of heating across a wide area of the microwave. To perform this test, we spread an even layer of Kraft Jet-Puffed Marshmallow creme on parchment paper, cut out a disk the size of the turntable, and then heated it on high for 2 minutes. We scored each product based on the consistency of temperature and browning. The products that scored best created an even amount of heating across the entire disk of marshmallow fluff. Poor performers had hot and cold spots, which are visually evident on the marshmallow creme surface. We also looked at the underside of the disk, which was visible through the parchment paper.
The high-end Panasonic model, the Panasonic NN-SN936, achieved the best result in our heat map test. We found minimal marshmallow temperature variation, no distinct hot spot, and even browning.
Poor performers in the heat map test include the Nostalgia which left the inner ring hardly cooked at all, while the outer ring was nearly burnt. Similarly, the lower-cost Toshiba model, the Toshiba EM121A5C, had a center ring that gets super-heated compared to the rest of the disk.
Heating Speed Test
To test heating speed, we put a 125 mL beaker of water in the center of the oven, then heated it on high for 45 seconds. This allowed us to measure the temperature rise, from the starting temp (room temperature) to the temperature after 45 seconds of heating.
The high-end Toshiba EM131A5C and the Panasonic NN-SN936 both outpaced the rest in heating speed, raising the water temperature over 110 degrees Fahrenheit, a full 25% higher than any other oven.
Heating leftovers was the one test where the lowest-cost products shined. The low-end Panasonic product, the Panasonic NN-SB458S, did the best with the mixed plate of leftovers, heating all three types of food fairly evenly, an admittedly difficult task for a microwave. Tied for 2nd place were the Galanz Retro, the Panasonic NN-SN936, and the low-end Toshiba.
Some surprising and notably poor performances on Leftovers came from the Toshiba EM131A5C and Panasonic NN-SN67KS. Despite doing very well across many tests across the metrics and landing at the top of the pile overall, these models failed to achieve consistent heating results with this evaluation.
This test assessed the ability to heat a bowl of canned soup. After heating, a thermometer was moved around to ensure there was a consistent temperature throughout. Although many of the microwaves performed well in the soup heating category, the Toshiba ovens and the Panasonic NN-SN936 ranked highest in our soup heating tests.
We heated two slices of leftover pizza in each microwave according to its specific wattage, checking which models could heat them evenly and thoroughly. This test accounted for 15% of the Heating metric.
If you love pizza, keep the Panasonic NN-SN67KS at the top of your list. This model not only excelled with frozen foods but was one of the top scorers at reheating pizza.
Conversely, the Panasonic NN-SB458S performed the worst in the pizza test, unevenly heating the slices, with one being nowhere near hot enough to eat and the other exhibiting hot and cold spots.
Our next series of tests focused on how well each contender could heat premade frozen food items, such as Hot Pockets, mini-lasagnas, or frozen burritos. We followed the manufacturers' instructions for reheating based on individual wattage, adjusting each model's power level 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 — making it one of the highest ranking in the frozen foods category.
The Toshiba EM925A5A closely followed, performing almost as well. This product delivered near-perfect results with the Hot Pockets and heated our burritos evenly. However, it showed a bit more of a temperature spread with the mini-lasagna, which left an average temperature difference of 23 degrees Fahrenheit.
The bulk of our test suite — the Farberware Classic, Black+Decker EM031MB11, Nostalgia RMO4AQ, 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.
The Breville, the Galanz Retro, and the Panasonic NN-SN936 all did decently well with the Hot Pocket and the individual lasagna but struggled with the frozen burrito, all failing to heat it sufficiently to serve based on the manufacturer's direction.
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 the weight of food based on the instructions for each model, then based scores on the amount of turkey that was successfully defrosted after testing, noting if any 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 Panasonic NN-SN936 came next, with the Black+Decker and the Panasonic defrosting about 12 ounces of turkey. 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 approximately nine ounces of the turkey, but the remainder was barely frozen and crumbled easily. The Galanz Retro and the Breville performed similarly. 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 the user-friendliness of these kitchen appliances. 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 we opened and closed the door or pushed a button.
Both the Toshiba EM131A5C, Toshiba EM925A5A, and the Faberware Classic impressed us with their overall ease of use. They don't slide around and shine plenty of light inside. Their popcorn buttons were 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 has all the one-touch features you would typically want but slides around a bit on slicker surfaces. It has decent lighting, but the preset popcorn feature wasn't amazing. The Breville performed similarly overall but has better lighting and popcorn functions. However, we didn't find its quick buttons to be as convenient.
The Black+Decker EM720CB7and the Panasonic NN-SN67KS were each hampered by a few flaws that made these products less convenient to use. The Farberware Classic did very well in the popcorn preset test and is rock-solid on most countertops.
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 unpopped kernels behind after the preset time had 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.
Most people have a microwave in their kitchen that is used daily. We are here to help you make sure you have the right equipment to reheat leftovers, defrost or heat frozen foods and make popcorn for movie night. However, not all microwaves perform the same. Our review provides the information and details you need to narrow the contenders to one that matches your needs and budget.
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GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.