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a range of microwaves

The best microwaves for home cooking

Published: April 8, 2022 at 12:45 pm
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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.

This guide is regularly updated with new models that have been tried, tested and top-rated by BBC Good Food's reviews experts. Those featuring earned it based on their performance during rigorous, impartial product testing. Included is a selection of new releases and firm favourites that continuously hold their position against new brand models. We will only ever feature microwaves that prove to be good value for money.

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Our microwave recipe collection is a popular destination on the BBC Good Food site; it's incredible 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. Plus, they're more budget-friendly than turning on the whole oven - a jacket potato can be ready in 10 minutes from the microwave rather than turning an oven on for an hour.

They are the workhorse of a busy household, and it is no surprise that 93% of households own one. However, 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.

If you get it right, a microwave can quickly become one of your best friends in the kitchen. Of course, what you want to use the microwave for will govern what type you should buy, so it. We’ve outlined the different styles of microwaves available and done the research to recommend the best.

Food writer and appliance reviewer Elaine Lemm has tested all the microwaves to bring you the best selection. Elaine is a former chef trained at the Ritz Escoffier School in Paris and was the owner of renowned cookery school Cuisine Eclairée for 10 years with bases in the UK, Italy, France, and Sweden. She now shares her passion for food and cooking as a freelance writer and has written for many leading titles including five years writing about and developing recipes on British and Irish food for the New York Times Company online and was voted one of the top 50 food writers in the UK by The Press Gazette. Read on for her top microwave picks, from the best budget microwave to microwaves for families, stylish kitchens or unique functionality.

For more unbiased expert buyer's guides to investment kitchen kit, visit our reviews section to find over 400 round-ups of everything from the best fridge freezers and best slow cookers to the best dishwashers and best kettles. Read more about how our experts review products.

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Best microwaves at a glance

  • Best budget microwave: Russell Hobbs RHMD714G Scandi Microwave, £69.97
  • Best microwave for small spaces: Swan Retro Digital Microwave, £75
  • Best combination microwave overall: Sage The Combi Wave 3-in-1 Microwave Oven, £399
  • Best combination microwave for steam cooking: Panasonic Combi Microwave Oven 4-in-1, £479
  • Best combination microwave for style: Smeg 34-litre Combi-Microwave Oven, £339
  • Best combination microwave for high functionality and price: Hotpoint Supreme Chef MWH 338 SX, £279
  • Best microwave for families: Panasonic NN-CD58JSBPQ combination microwave, £219
  • Best microwave for healthy cooking: Samsung combination microwave MC28M6055CK, £209
  • Best microwave for perfect baked potatoes: Sharp R959SLMAA combination microwave oven, £279.95
  • Best microwave for ease of use: Russell Hobbs Buckingham digital microwave, £109.99
  • Best microwave for Scandi kitchens: Swan Nordic digital microwave, £99
  • Best microwave for longevity: Bosch HMT84M451B Solo microwave, £149

Best microwaves to buy 2022

Russell Hobbs RHMD714G Scandi Microwave

Black microwave with wood handle and gold badge

Best budget microwave

Pros:

  • Small but punchy

Cons:

  • No baked potato setting
  • Slow

Wattage: 700W

Star rating: 4/5

The Russel Hobbs Scandi Microwave may be small with just 17 litres capacity. Still, it is big in good looks with its soft touch wood effect accents and mirrored door with programmes and settings rarely found in a microwave of this size and price, including eight auto-cook settings and various handy shortcuts. At just 700W, the Scandi may take a little longer to cook, but if you want a small, functional, good-looking microwave, then this is the one.

Read our full Russell Hobbs Scandi Microwave review.

Swan Retro Digital Microwave

yellow retro microwave with gold badge

Best microwave for small spaces

Pros:

  • Retro styling
  • Perfect for small spaces

Cons:

  • Fierce auto programmes

Wattage: 800W

Star rating: 4/5

Brighten up your kitchen with this retro-styled microwave which comes in a range of 11 different colours, so something for everyone. The footprint is small and at just 20 litres- this is not a microwave for families but one to sit beautifully in any small kitchen. It comes with several added extras, including a range of auto-programmes from defrosting by weight between 0.1 and 2kg and 12 simple auto cooking programmes, each with further choices.

Read our full Swan Retro Digital Microwave review.

Sage The Combi Wave 3-in-1 Microwave Oven - Star buy

silver microwave with gold badge

Best combination microwave overall

Pros:

  • Super easy to use, endless clever functions
  • Great for families

Cons:

  • Need adjusting from usual temperatures

Wattage: 1100W

Star rating: 5/5

As we have come to expect from Sage, with their intuitive technology, good looks and ease of use, this combi-microwave is no exception and more. Thanks to the well-written, logical instruction book of many preset programmes and cooking methods, it was one of the fastest to get up and running. Say hello to healthy cooking with the 3-in-1 merging of air-frying, convection and microwave and perfectly cooked food using their Element iQ™ inverter system, which steers power to where and when it's needed.

Read our full Sage The Combi Wave 3-in-1 Microwave Oven review.

Panasonic Combi Microwave Oven 4-in-1

Black panasonic microwave with gold badge

Best combination microwave for steam cooking

Pros:

  • Technology at its best
  • Steam for healthy cooking
  • Flatbed

Cons:

  • Confusing instruction book

Wattage: 1000W

Star rating: 4.5/5

The Panasonic 4-in-1 Combi was both the largest and most expensive combi microwave on our test. Still, it comes with a wealth of programmes and presets, including 12 combi-cooking options and 36 auto programmes. This is the only combi to offer steam for healthy, nutritious and super tasty food. For its sheer size and power, the Panasonic is remarkably quiet, easy to use and will easily replace a regular oven for those with less space or supplement for those who need more capacity.

Read our full Panasonic Combi Microwave Oven 4-in-1 review.

Smeg 34-litre Combi-Microwave Oven

black and silver microwave with gold badge on left side

Best combination microwave for style

Pros:

  • Stylish
  • Super-powerful yet quiet
  • Generous 34 litres

Cons:

  • Fierce auto-defrost

Wattage: 1000W

Star rating: 4.5/5

As we would expect for Smeg, their combi-microwave is lovely looking, well built, stainless steel oven that will stand out in any kitchen. There are ten programmes and 40 settings behind its seemingly simple interface covering all bases and a shortcuts menu of super-useful settings from melting butter and chocolate to a handy 30 second time increase while cooking. With a generous 34 litres, the Smeg will work well in any household needing extra capacity.

Read our full Smeg 34-litre combi microwave oven review.

Hotpoint Supreme Chef MWH 338 SX - Star buy

hotpoint microwave in black and grey with star buy badge

Best combination microwave for high functionality and price

Wattage: 900W (1200W for grill)

Star rating: 5/5

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.

Read our full Hotpoint Supreme Chef microwave review.

Available from:

Hughes (£249)

Panasonic NN-CD58JSBPQ combination microwave

Best microwave for families

Wattage: 1000W (1300W for grill)

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 its slimline footprint, has a large capacity, its turntable comfortably fitting a dinner plate. There are few negatives, although the grill was a little sluggish, it was still better than others we tested.

Read our full Panasonic combination microwave review.

Samsung combination microwave MC28M6055CK

Best microwave for healthy cooking

Wattage: 900W

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.

Read our full Samsung combination microwave review.

Sharp R959SLMAA combination microwave oven

Best microwave for perfect baked potatoes

Wattage: 900W

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.

Read our full Sharp combination microwave review.

Russell Hobbs Buckingham digital microwave

Best microwave for ease of use

Wattage: 700W

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.

Read our full Russell Hobbs Buckingham microwave review.

Swan Nordic digital microwave

Best microwave for Scandi kitchens

Wattage: 800W

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.

Read our full Swan Nordic digital microwave review.

Bosch HMT84M451B Solo microwave

Best microwave for longevity

Wattage: 900W

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 utilitarian 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.

Read our full Bosch Solo microwave review.

Buyer’s advice

What are the differences between standard, grill and combination microwaves?

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?

Standard microwave

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.

Grill microwave

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.

Combination microwave

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.

How to choose the right microwave

A solo microwave

If you simply want to defrost the occasional dish or piece of meat, reheat a beverage or leftovers and fast-bake a potato, then a simple microwave will do the job perfectly and not break the budget. Standard microwaves tend to be smaller, so if space is tight, this will be perfect, but if you have several to cook for, you may want to look for a larger size or, instead of a classic turntable, flatbed microwaves tend to be larger, and they are easier to clean.

Microwave and grill

The next step from the solo microwave is to add a grill for crisping up, browning, or fuss-free grilled bacon. You may, however, want to consider size as the grill does take up room in what often is already a smallish cavity – though, on some more expensive models, the grill element is enclosed, which helps.

Combi microwave oven – 2, 3 or 4

Should you have more room, a big family or want extra cooking capacity from time to time, then the combi is worth a look. They once had bad press for being a costly mistake; the element for the oven was exposed and challenging to clean and took up space in the cavity, but the latest technology has almost eliminated those issues (with hidden oven elements).

The straightforward combi will give you an extra oven to cook and bake, just like a regular oven, which can be a real bonus for smaller households, second homes, student accommodation or small flats.

Jumping to the following levels are the 2-in-1's, which combine oven-cooking with the speed of microwaving for either scratch cooking or ready meals to get supper on the table in no time.

3-in-1 microwave, oven and grill, or with some air frying) and even 4-in-1 (all as before plus steam).

All these extras come at a price and are a serious investment, so work out what you want from yours, and as you can see from our round-up, there are plenty to choose from.

Inverter technology:

If you are replacing an old microwave, you may be intrigued to find microwaves with inverter technology. Whatever you were used to with your old oven, you will be amazed at how this technology has changed using a microwave, and for the better. Without getting into science, this new technology means the oven constantly operates at the correct power for whatever is cooking, unlike an old oven where the power fluctuates continuously. The result is gentle cooking resulting in juicer, moist, evenly heated food.

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 and then cooked them, looking for a tender, juicy finish. Where applicable, we also grilled bacon and made recipes using the convection oven.

Each product was tested against a set matrix of criteria. The results of this decided each product's overall star rating. The following were:

Ease of use: microwaves are used mainly 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.

Defrosting: an essential function for most, we looked for effective thawing, with presets 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. The models we tested need to be installed a specified height above the floor, with plenty of room all around for ventilation.

Cleaning: the ease of cleaning both inside and out and finger marking, especially on stainless steel.

Microwave recipes and tips

Microwave recipes
10 dishes you can cook in a microwave
10 easy, healthy microwave meals
How to cook food in a microwave

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