Need a new microwave? Our appliance experts researched over 70 models before purchasing and testing 12 of the best microwaves available today. We put them all to the test, reheating plate after plate of leftovers, zapping family dinners, 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.
|Price||$250 List||$120 List||$170 List|
$141.99 at Amazon
|$220 List||$75 List|
|Pros||Even heating, integrated heat sensor, large capacity||Excellent with packaged frozen foods, compact, very easy to use||Excellent at defrosting, convenient||Excellent heating, great with frozen foods, large capacity||Inexpensive, above-average performance, compact|
|Cons||Large, no time defrost, no volume adjust||So-so with mixed leftovers||Large, expensive||Expensive, so-so at defrosting||Low power, Amazon Alexa device required for some functions|
|Bottom Line||This is a top-tier appliance with a large capacity and very even heating||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 has convenient features and is exceptional at defrosting||Offers unmatched performance for heating frozen food, and is one of the better products available for heating food evenly, without annoying hot and cold spots||This compact model is a great value, offers good performance, and features smart home integration|
|Rating Categories||Panasonic NN-SN936B||Kenmore 70919||Toshiba EM131A5C||Panasonic NN-SN67KS||Amazon Basics Micro...|
|Frozen Foods (30%)|
|Ease of use (10%)|
|Specs||Panasonic NN-SN936B||Kenmore 70919||Toshiba EM131A5C||Panasonic NN-SN67KS||Amazon Basics Micro...|
|Wattage||1250 watts||900 watts||1100 watts||1200 watts||700 watts|
|Size||2.2 cu. ft.||0.9 cu. ft.||1.2 cu. ft.||1.2 cu. ft.||0.7 cu. ft.|
|Dimensions||19.44" x 23.88" x 14"||17.7"W x 11.0"H x 14.5"D||20.5"W x 12.8"H x 17.1"D||20.7"W x 12.3"H x 15.8"D||17.3"W x 10.1"H x 14.1"D|
|Internal Dimentions||18.4"W x 10.4"H x 18.5"D||13.6"W x 9.3"H x 12.4"D||15"W x 9.5"H x 13.1"D||14.4"W x 9.9"H x 13.9"D||10.9"W x 6.9"H x 10"D|
|45 Sec Heating Temp Rise||112 F||83 F||111 F||78 F||70 F|
Best Large-Capacity Microwave
If you seek the best of the best and one of the largest options out there, then we would 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.
Unfortunately, this microwave didn't do the best with the frozen burrito, failing to heat the center above the required temperature. It also didn't have the most comprehensive set of convenience features. However, this is still one of our all-around favorite microwaves and one that we strongly recommend.
Read review: Panasonic NN-SN936
Best Small-Capacity Microwave
The Kenmore 70919 packs a lot of punch into a small package. It performs impressively well across all test metrics and executes exceptionally with frozen food and defrosting frozen meat, delivering some of the best results we've seen. On top of its stellar performance, the Kenmore is straightforward to operate. Its quick-start buttons, like the 30-second cook or popcorn preset, make this device a breeze, and the bright light lets you keep an eye on your food while cooking.
While the Kenmore offers impressive results, there were still 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 more than food items that sit closer to the perimeter. Generally speaking, it is not the most powerful option out there either, but we were pleasantly surprised with the impressive results this compact appliance yielded. Nevertheless, we recommend the Kenmore to anyone shopping for a top-tier option with a smaller footprint.
Read review: Kenmore 70919
Best Bang for Your Buck
Amazon Basics Microwave 0.7
For a microwave with a price as small as its footprint, check out the Amazon Basics Microwave 0.7. This budget-friendly option performs admirably across all our metrics. Despite its low power output, it heats pre-prepared frozen items with ease. It is simple and easy to use, with the added benefit of being compatible with Alexa-enabled smart home devices.
We noticed 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 practice. The Alexa-enabled smart home capabilities also require additional setup, and some of our testers wondered if it's worth the hassle. All in all, this offering from Amazon Basics is one of our top suggestions to anyone looking for a more economical option.
Read review: Amazon Basics Microwave 0.7
Best for Even Heating of Frozen Foods
If you want a kitchen appliance that delivers top performance on frozen foods, look no further than the Panasonic NN-SN67KS. It delivered the best performance in two of our three frozen food tests and tied for 2nd place in the third. It also stood out on one thing that can make microwave use frustrating: 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 is also premium priced, which may give some consumers pause before buying. But, if you are looking for a microwave that's perfect for frozen foods and delivers more even heating across your food items, the Panasonic NN-SN67KS is a good choice.
Read review: Panasonic NN-SN67KS
Best for Defrosting
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.
Read review: Toshiba EM131A5C
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, 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.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)
We've purchased and tested over 25 different microwaves over the last five years. 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 can heat 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 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.
Analysis and Test Results
For the 12 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 Amazon Basics 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 the price.
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 and no distinct hot spot.
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. The slowest heating performance was by the affordably-priced Amazon Basics 0.7, only boosting the temperature by 70.1 degrees Fahrenheit.
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 was the value-priced Amazon Basics 0.7, 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.
All the products did an acceptable job heating soup, but this was another test where the Amazon Basics was tied for first place in our tests. The Toshiba ovens and the Panasonic NN-SN936 also performed very well in our soup tests, sharing the first place position with the Amazon Basics.
We heated two slices of leftover pizza in each microwave, 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, 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.
The Kenmore 70919 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 Amazon Basics 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.
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 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, 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, the Panasonic NN-SN936, and the Kenmore 70919 came next, with the Black+Decker and the Panasonic 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 approximately nine ounces of the turkey, but the remainder was barely frozen and crumbled easily. The Galanz Retro and the Breville performed similarly. The Amazon Basics 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 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 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 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 70919 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 Breville scored similarly overall, having better lighting and popcorn functions but we didn't find its quick buttons to be as convenient.
The Amazon Basics 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 Amazon Basics 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.
Equipping your kitchen with a microwave will likely come in handy more often than not, especially if you frequently defrost frozen foods or need to prepare a meal quickly. 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.
— David Wise & Austin Palmer
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