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.
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.
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 wanted to see even browning across the marshmallow, without any raw or burned spots.
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 also checked to make sure that each type of food reached the recommended serving temperature.
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.
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 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.