Whether you're making curry in a hurry or mash in a flash, invest in a quality microwave. We've selected the top performers, from cheap microwaves to convection grills.
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For a meal in minutes, microwave ovens are hard to beat – but with so many models boasting different features, how do you choose the one that's right for you? We’ve done the research and picked the best microwaves on the market.
Sharp R959SLMAA Combination Microwave Oven
Capacity: 40 litres
Best for: Big use
Pros: Bakes a perfect Victoria sponge in 20 minutes
Cons: Takes up a huge amount of space
If you’re after an all-singing (or should that be all-pinging) microwave, then look no further than Sharp's latest combination gadget. It was by far one of the largest models we tried and came with both a grill and a combination oven inside – perfect if you'll use your microwave for a multitude of cooking tasks. With this model, you can choose from five power settings or simply use the presets to take away the guesswork. Instructions flash up on the display to prompt you when needed, and there’s a broad range of recipes and cooking charts to navigate you through the preparation of different dishes, food types and functions. The grill functionality crisped up some bacon beautifully, while the convection oven produced a perfect Victoria sponge. It’s designed either for countertop or as a built-in, but be aware that at 40 litres, it’s a big unit.
Capacity: 20 litres
Best for: Saving space
Pros: Pleasing on the eye and streamline in size
Cons: Limited on functionality, but ideal for the basics
At the other end of the scale, this was the smallest of all the products we tried. Despite its diminutive stature, it still offers five power settings, an express button which quickly selects 30 secs, 1 min or 1 min 30, and the option to delay the cooking start time. Bang on trend in a visually pleasing shade of copper, this sleek model is ideal for basic use (for example, if you only really want to use your microwave for making porridge in the mornings). It comes with a 20-litre capacity, making it ideal for singles and small families. A high quality product at a relatively modest price – we're sold!
Available from Wilko (£70)
** STAR BUY **
Russell Hobbs Luna Microwave
Capacity: 23 litres
Best for: Ease of use
Pros: Comes with a pull handle and super simple instructions
Cons: Food smears appear quite easily, meaning you'll need to keep it clean
Many microwaves come in at around this price, but what we loved about the Luna was its design simplicity. It's fairly large in terms of capacity (23 litres), has clearly marked buttons on its display and comes with a pull handle which makes it sturdy and functional. Most models offer spring buttons to release their doors, which isn't ideal if you're juggling a lot of things – a handle makes it easier and safer to open. The instruction booklet that comes with the Luna is equally straightforward, assuming no knowledge of microwave cookery, so it’s perfect for beginners and technophobes. It's also worth noting that the inside is super simple to clean. Another tick in the advantages box.
Swan Retro SM22080 Digital Combi Microwave with Grill
Capacity: 25 litres
Best: Value combination microwave
Pros: Moderately priced for a combination oven
Cons: Limited in terms of oven temperatures
For a combination microwave oven, this comes in at a great price. The capacity is sufficient for standard use and it provides a handy addition to your oven when entertaining. However, the convection oven temperatures are fairly limited. For example, you can set it to 140C and 180C but not 160C, which we found restrictive, especially for baking. Basic instructions and functionality of the mode are clear, but we would have liked more information on how to cook different dishes – it takes a little bit of guesswork. Available in an array of colours, this retro-style microwave is great if you don't want to be restricted to the typical black, white or stainless steel varieties on the market. There's also a matching kettle and toaster in some shades, so you can have the full set.
Electriq Freestanding Microwave
Capacity: 25 litres
Best for: Value for money
Pros: Slick design with spacious capacity
Cons: Takes up a fair amount of space
This sleek-looking unit comes with a mirrored front, making it look more expensive than it is. We liked that you can time to the nearest five seconds, whereas most models only offer 10 seconds – useful for more specific timings and delicate heating, like melting butter or chocolate. As well as five power settings, presets and a quick start of 30 seconds, bonus features include a child lock and a kitchen timer. With a generous capacity of 25 litres and a substantial plate diameter of 31.5cm, there's plenty of space inside. If you often use your microwave to defrost, this is an ideal model – it conveniently offers the ability to defrost by weight, meaning you'll be less likely to over-defrost your food.
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Our microwave recipe collection is a popular destination on the site, and 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. However, as 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.
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.
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.
Microwaves are seldom needed for showstopping dishes. When asked, our readers told us their main reasons for using one were defrosting, reheating meals and cooking porridge. It’s the little things that make a microwave a useful kitchen addition. If you don’t have a lot of time for cooking on a daily basis, then a microwave can help you out.
What should I buy?
The main points to consider are how often you plan to use your microwave and what it will be used for. There’s no point in getting a combi microwave and grill if you’re likely to employ it solely for reheating leftovers. Size is a factor too – for infrequent or basic functionality, we’d recommend going small. That said, 25 litres is really the minimum for a larger family, especially if you’ll be reheating oven dishes, rather than single plates of food. Finally, if you’re looking to expand your cooking options when entertaining, then a combi is the way forward.
What we looked for
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.
How we tested
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 cakes using the convection oven.
More on microwaves...
Check out our guide on how to cook food in a microwave.
For recipe inspiration, browse our microwave recipe collection.
For more product picks, visit our reviews section.
This review was written in April 2018. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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