Whether you're making curry in a hurry or mash in a flash, invest in a quality microwave. Discover which microwaves are best by reading our expert review.
Our microwave recipe collection is a popular destination on the BBC Good Food site, it’s amazing what you can rustle up at the touch of a button. From chocolate cake to butternut squash risotto, microwaves can add an extra dimension to your cooking while saving valuable time.
They are a phenomenally popular appliance. Since 1994, when just 67% of households had a microwave, ownership has increased rapidly, to 93% in 2018 – that’s more than the number of households with a toaster.
Despite their ubiquity, microwaves can be quite an investment, ranging in price from low double figures for a basic, low-watt model, to hundreds of pounds for the latest multi-functioning cookers.
Since even the smallest models take up a substantial amount of kitchen space, it’s important to have a clear idea of how you’ll use it before buying so you can find the best microwave for you.
We tested microwaves for every requirement to make sure you find the perfect fit.
Best microwaves to buy
We’ve done the research to recommend the best microwaves to buy. For more unbiased expert buyer's guides to investment kitchen kit, visit our reviews section to find 400+ round-ups of everything from fridge freezers and slow cookers to the best dishwashers.
Best combination microwaves
*Star Buy* Hotpoint Supreme Chef MWH 338 SX
Best combination microwave overall
This multi-cooking microwave has similar functions to some of the other models we tested, but its performance, ease-of-use and clear instructions made it stand out from the rest. Offering microwaving, grilling and a convection oven, it’s got everything the average kitchen might need in one.
It does the basics very well but comes loaded with settings and functions, including dough-rising and butter-softening. The ‘Dual Crisp’ function produced excellent results when we tested bacon. Overall, this was our favourite microwave: a robust option that can do pretty much everything except the washing up.
Panasonic NN-CD58JSBPQ combination microwave
Best microwave for families
A microwave that's excellent value for money and an outstanding performer in the multi-cooker bracket, Panasonic really want you to get the most of out of this machine. Its unique functions – such as a ‘junior menu’ option for kids meals – give this the edge, plus despite it's slimline footprint has a large capacity, its turnable comfortably fitting a dinner plate. There are few negatives, although the grill was a little sluggish, it was still better than others we tested.
Samsung combination microwave MC28M6055CK
Best microwave for healthy cooking
Tech lovers will enjoy experimenting with the many cooking functions that come with this modern microwave. Samsung is known for its patented features and this combi oven is no exception with its Easy View™ door and HotBlast™ technology. The design has a particular focus on healthy cooking, with settings including quinoa, spinach and grilled salmon. Overall, the reasonable cost means this is great value for such an impressive, multi-functioning machine.
Sharp R959SLMAA combination microwave oven
Best microwave for perfect baked potatoes
If you have a large household and need an equally large, multi-function microwave to cope, this machine will certainly suit your needs. It'll easily hold large plates and oval dishes – the downside being that the turntable won’t easily fit into a small sink to be cleaned. It's simple to get to grips with thanks to the straightforward manual and we were particularly impressed by the detailed baked potato setting.
Wilko copper-effect microwave
Best cheap microwave overall
This cheap-and-cheerful microwave is a great basic buy. Although it only offers microwave cooking, it’s simple and straightforward, and does the job well enough. Some of the preset options required a little tweaking, but once the timings are right the cooking results are good. A great basic buy, perfect for starter homes, students and smaller kitchens.
Available from Wilko (£70)
Russell Hobbs Buckingham digital microwave
Best microwave for ease of use
If you're looking for a reliable, sturdy, basic microwave which you can set up and start cooking with in no time, this is a great option. It has few added extras but above average cooking prowess. Its defrost option impressed, evenly defrosting a chicken breast without leaving frozen patches, as did the preset baked potato function. Instructions are very clear and detailed, meaning extras are easy to use.
Swan Nordic digital microwave
Best microwave for stylish kitchens
Microwaves are notoriously bulky and monochrome, so the matte coloured finish of this Scandi-influenced Swan oven is a welcome addition to the microwave scene. Its diminutive size makes it a good option for smaller kitchens, although its 20-litre capacity matches its footprint, so we wouldn't recommend this for larger families.
Beko MOF20110B 800W compact microwave
Best microwave for older and solo users
If you're looking for a basic microwave that's affordable and easy-to-use, this Beko model might fit the bill. It doesn't have the added functions or stylish finish of more expensive models, but it works very well and the cooking results were impressive. The display is clear, the buttons are tactile, timing is set with a dial rather than buttons, and the handle is sturdy and easy to pull, making this a great option for older or less dexterous users, or the less tech-savvy.
Appliances Direct (£69.97)
Bosch HMT84M451B Solo microwave
Best microwave for longevity
With an impressive 25-litre capacity, 315mm turntable and 900W maximum power, the Bosch Solo is a good choice for families. Bosch is a heritage brand and its ‘Invented for Life’ label carries some heft, so we'd expect this to endure the test of time. It's a utilitatian machine with intuitive buttons and simple presets, although spud lovers should be aware there's no baked potato option. However, we used pack instructions to blast a potato and the results were good.
Different microwave types explained
Life is complicated enough without the added stress of trying to get your head around microwave terminology. To break it down for you, there are three types of microwave – generally speaking, you will pay more for each additional feature a model offers.
Depending on what you want to use the microwave for, will depend on what you want to buy. Maybe you simply want to defrost meat, cook ready meals and prep the odd baked potato. You may also want your microwave’s performance to rival an oven’s in terms of crispness and water retention. Or do you want something which goes even further and will, in effect, replace your oven by offering grilling, microwaving and convection cooking in one?
Unless otherwise stated in the product title, most microwaves tend to be classed as ‘microwave-only’. This means they'll perform the basic tasks expected of them – heating up or defrosting food. If you don't fancy blowing the budget and you only need the basic features, then a classic microwave will serve you well.
A grill microwave goes one step further than a traditional model and is able to grill food, giving foods such as bacon that authentically grilled texture rather than making them dry out.
This is the closest you'll find to a traditional oven in microwave form. Depending on how much you fork out, some models will even be able to bake sponge cakes. What's more, they also have the ability to brown foods – so if you're trying to achieve a perfectly crisp baked potato, a combination microwave will certainly do the trick.
What we looked for in a microwave
Ease of use: we figure microwaves are mostly used by those who want to make life simpler. We looked for pared-down functionality, simple design and easy-to-follow instruction booklets.
Cooking versatility: we wanted to know if customising settings and using presets delivered equally good results. We also checked that these options were adequately explained in the instructions and simple to put into practice.
Defrosting: when we asked our visitors what they looked for in a microwave, defrosting was considered key. We looked for effective thawing – and presets were a bonus.
Moisture retention: we checked the food didn’t dry out before it had finished cooking.
Additional features: small features like a child lock or kitchen timer were appreciated, plus we looked at how well more prominent features such as grills and convection ovens performed.
Size: we assessed the size of the microwave and the space they took up in the kitchen, considering small machines for infrequent and basic use, and larger ones for families who will be reheating oven dishes. All the models we tested need to be installed a specified height above the floor, with plenty of room all around for ventilation.
How we tested microwaves
When asked, our readers told us their main reasons for using a microwave were defrosting, reheating meals and cooking porridge. So we blasted jacket potatoes to make sure they cooked through to the centre yet stayed moist at the edges. We defrosted chicken breasts, then went on to cook them, looking for a tender, juicy finish. Where applicable, we also grilled bacon and made recipes using the convection oven.
Microwave recipes and tips
This review was last updated in April 2020. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability, please get in touch at email@example.com.
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