Reviews You Can Rely On

How We Tested Microwave Ovens

Wednesday July 7, 2021

We bought the top microwaves currently available and put them through the wringer to see which model came out on top. We split our testing process into four different metrics, with a handful of tests in each metric.

We weren't too impressed with the performance of the AmazonBasics...
We weren't too impressed with the performance of the AmazonBasics Microwave 0.7 when it came to reheating pizza.
Credit: Laura Casner

Heating


For our heating metric, we looked at both how well each product heated up different types of foods but also how quickly and evenly they heated using a pair of side-by-side tests. We used a plate of breakfast sausage, green beans, and potatoes to represent a plate of leftovers, a bowl of canned soup, and two slices of pizza as our test food items. Each was heated according to instructions for the power level for each microwave and then scores were determined based on temperature readings across each type of food. For the mixed plate of leftovers, we looked at the range of temperatures across each type of food, how closely the temperature of each type of food was to the others, and if all three were warmed enough to serve.

The Nostalgia yields different temperatures for different foods, so...
The Nostalgia yields different temperatures for different foods, so it's not great for leftover.
Credit: Laura Casner

To measure and compare how quickly each product heated up food, we took 125 ml of water in a beaker in each microwave and ran them for 45 seconds, comparing the temperature increase to award points.

We measured the temperature increase to determine scores.
We measured the temperature increase to determine scores.
Credit: Laura Casner

We ranked and rated evenness and consistency of heating by spreading out a thin layer of marshmallow fluff on a piece of parchment paper and heated it up in each microwave.

We found some very uneven heating with the Toshiba EM925A5A in our...
We found some very uneven heating with the Toshiba EM925A5A in our heat map test.
Credit: Laura Casner

We wanted to see even browning across the marshmallow, without any raw or burned spots.

The miniature lasagna did a great job of highlighting differences in...
The miniature lasagna did a great job of highlighting differences in how each microwave heats up food.
Credit: Laura Casner

Frozen Foods


For our frozen foods metric, we used three types of prepared food to test performance: Hot Pockets, a frozen burrito, and an individual serving of lasagna. For each test, we used a series of instant read digital kitchen thermometers to compare the thermal gradient throughout each type of food.

We did find that one side was just a tiny bit cooler than the rest...
We did find that one side was just a tiny bit cooler than the rest during out Panasonic NN-SB458S heat test.
Credit: Laura Casner

We also checked to make sure that each type of food reached the recommended serving temperature.

The Toshiba EM131A5C defrosted the entire block of turkey.
The Toshiba EM131A5C defrosted the entire block of turkey.
Credit: Laura Casner

Defrosting


We used a one pound block of frozen ground turkey for this metric, attempting to defrost it according to the instructions for each microwave. After the conclusion of the defrosting cycle, we scraped off all the completely thawed meat and weighed it to determine scores. We also deducted points if any of the turkey was prematurely cooked.

The Toshiba EM131A5C does a great job with premade frozen items.
The Toshiba EM131A5C does a great job with premade frozen items.
Credit: Laura Casner

Ease of Use


Our last round of tests scored and compared how user-friendly and easy to use each microwave is, including how effective the preset functions are using the popcorn button as our test options.

We started by looking at the interface for each appliance, specifically if they have a +30 seconds button that automatically start the microwave and if they have one-touch features. For example, if you hit the "2" button, does it automatically put two minutes on the clock and start it.

We think the Panasonic NN-SB458S doesn't have quite as many...
We think the Panasonic NN-SB458S doesn't have quite as many convenience features as some of the others.
Credit: Laura Casner

We then looked at the internal lighting and how easily each product slid around on a smooth countertop when opening the door or hitting buttons. We were looking for products that easily remained in place with normal use. Finally, we looked at the popcorn preset function by making a bag of popcorn in each product. Scores were based on the number of kernels that remained unpopped and if any were burned.

The popcorn preset on the Nostalgia left a decent number of kernels...
The popcorn preset on the Nostalgia left a decent number of kernels un-popped.
Credit: Laura Casner