Microwave ovens

We’ve tested standard microwaves, as well as models that grill.

Microwave embedded in kitchen cabinet.

Microwaves are the easy way to heat meals and defrost meat.

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We've tested 32 models for cooking performance and ease of use. Find out which models we recommend.

Our test results

What size microwave should I buy?

If you have a spot in mind for your microwave, then you need to make sure it’ll fit. Check the external dimensions, including the power cord at the back. You’ll need to allow at least 10mm (preferably 50mm) at the sides and back where the heat vents are usually located for ventilation.

Microwaves vary in size from about 18 to 35L. For a family, look for at least 30L, which will have a larger turntable and more interior height.

Check the usable space – actual capacity can be less than what manufacturers claim. Also make sure your microwave cookware will fit.

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Features to look for

Generally, the more features and functions, the higher the price. So think about what you’ll actually use your microwave for. If you’re only going to reheat cups of forgotten coffee or last night’s leftovers, you won’t need a model with a grill and lots of automatic programmes.

Controls

Should be easy to use and read.

Viewing window

If you like to see what’s cooking, or to catch unintended spills, make sure the window is large and gives a clear view.

Oven light

Check it gives good illumination of the turntable.

Child lock

Lets you deactivate the microwave so children can’t use it.

Standalone timer

Lets you time other tasks – such as boiling an egg – without operating the microwave.

Grill

Some models have a grill, which makes them more versatile. You can whip up meals such as mac ‘n’ cheese and potato bake.

Inverter

Inverter models deliver continuous heating at reduced power. For example, if you select 50% power the microwave delivers a true 50% power, not a “pulsed” delivery of full power half the time (like most microwaves do). Manufacturers claim inverter models cook more evenly, but we found this claim doesn’t stack up in our testing. If you have a Bluetooth connection, there’s also a risk your inverter microwave will interfere with it.

Cleaning

  • Check inside for vents and cracks where grease and grime can accumulate.
  • Easily removable racks and turntables make cleaning less hassle.
  • Sealed controls are easier to wipe clean
  • A stainless-steel exterior looks stylish, but needs more elbow grease to keep clean compared with a plastic exterior.

Microwave functions

Most people don’t get the most out of their microwave and only use a few functions. Reading your manual, and some trial and error, will give you a new perspective on what they can do.

Automatic programmes

These make defrosting, cooking and heating more convenient. Automatic defrost usually prompts you to enter the weight and type of food, and calculates the defrosting time. Common automatic programmes are for potatoes, fresh vegetables, rice, drinks, meat, soups and frozen dinners.

Sensor programmes

These measure vapours emitted during cooking to control cooking time. You don’t have to estimate cooking times and food quantities.

Quick/boost start

This starts the microwave, usually by pressing one button. With most models, the cooking times increases in 30-second or one-minute increments. It’s handy for reheating.

Multi-stage cooking

The microwave performs a sequence of functions, such as defrost then cook.

Adjust time during cooking

Lets you increase or decrease cooking time without stopping the microwave.

Microwave cookware

For microwave cooking use glassware, such as Pyrex, and heat-resistant plastic containers that are microwave-safe. China, pottery, earthenware and ceramic containers are also suitable if they are non-porous and don’t have a metal trim.

Safety advice

Exploded eggs in a microwave

Water can heat past its boiling point without bubbles forming. This is called “superheating”. When you move the cup or add coffee, the water can explode into steam and cause scalding.

To reduce the risk of superheating:

  • Use a wide-mouthed container. Avoid using a straight-sided
    container with narrow neck.
  • Let the container stand for 20 seconds after heating.
  • Add sugar or instant coffee before heating.

Eggs can also superheat and explode in their shells or during poaching. It’s best to not cook eggs in the shell, or prick yolks before cooking.

Tips for microwave cooking

Most people don’t get the most out of their microwave and only use a few functions. Reading your microwave’s manual, and a bit of trial and error, will give you a new perspective on what it can do. Here’s how to get the most out of your microwave.

Heating food evenly

  • Uneven heating – cold and hot spots – are common in a microwaved meal. It’s important to stir your food part-way through cooking or let food stand. Standing gives the heat time to distribute evenly through the food. This is particularly important for solid or dense dishes, such as lasagna or quiche, which can’t be stirred.

Improving taste and appearance

  • Microwaving is great for fresh vegetables because you need less water, which can dilute the natural flavour. Shorter cooking times can also help retain flavour.
  • A downside to microwave cooking is some foods fail to brown. If your microwave doesn’t have a grill, try basting with seasonings such as soy sauce.

Nutrition

  • Microwave cooking is comparable to steaming or baking. It’s more nutritious than boiling as nutrients aren’t lost in the water.

Heating infant milk

  • Babies have been severely scalded by milk heated in a microwave. Always let the milk stand for at least 20 seconds, shake it well and test it first.
  • Never overheat breast milk as it can coagulate (curdle) at high temperatures, causing loss of quality and nutritional value.

Safe defrosting

  • If you’re defrosting a whole chicken in the microwave, put it on a microwave-proof rack so the meat doesn’t sit in the thawed ice and start to cook.
  • Don’t defrost meat in its wrapping.
  • Don’t let the meat get warm and/or brown during defrosting.
  • After defrosting, leave meat to stand so it can reach a uniform temperature. For mince that’s about 10 minutes; for a whole chicken 15 minutes.
  • Meat defrosted in the microwave should be cooked immediately. Never refreeze raw meat that’s been defrosted. It’s OK to freeze it after it’s been cooked.

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