Best value microwave

Every one needs the best value microwave. While some people are content with using microwaves for occasional tasks such as reheating a cup of tea that’s gone cold or melting butter, others depend on them for everything from baking cakes to cooking complex dinners. Whatever your needs, the good news is there’ll be a microwave to suit you. Standard microwaves, which are the cheapest, are great for the simple stuff like reheating and defrosting. They don’t take up much room and are the easiest to use. But if you want something more whizzy, consider a microwave grill, which also has a heating element, or a combi which can heat, roast, crisp and brown just like a normal oven.

Remember more watts mean faster cooking and think about capacity too, bearing in mind that anything less than 20l can feel cramped for larger households. Microwaves have received a bad rep in the past, mainly due to the close association with unhealthy ready meals.However, for the modern family and individuals who live alone microwaves can be a godsend in the kitchen – it’s no wonder that 93% of British households have one.

Whether you’re hoping to cook more efficiently, or reheat that final portion from the batch cooking you made last week; there’s no doubt about it that microwaves offer versatility and efficiency.

With all the fancy new functions many now offer (grilling, sensor and convection cooking), microwaves have become the ultimate kitchen staple.

Below, we’ve rounded up the best microwaves you can get to add to your kitchen.

Best value microwave

1. Panasonic NN-E28JMMBPQ Freestanding Microwave

Panasonic NN-E28JMMBPQ Freestanding Microwave

If you’re looking for something compact to slot into your kitchen, or a great little accent to take with you on your travels, this freestanding model from Panasonic is a top contender.

The microwave has five power levels and a choice of nine automatic programmes to choose from. The interior is made using easy-to-clean enamel liners, so there’s no need to scrub after accidental explosions – a simple wipe will do.

An Auto Weight programme cooks your food perfectly no matter what it is and a child lock prevents programmes from being tampered with whilst in use.

Price: £79.96, John Lewis – buy here now

2. Morphy Richards Microwave Accents Colour Collection

Morphy Richards Microwave Accents Colour Collection

This microwave is on the smaller side and comes in as one of our cheapest on the list.

The Accents colour range from Morphy Richards allows you to brighten up your kitchen with a selection of futuristic metallic shades.

It features eight automatic programs to easily cook meals, re-heat and defrost meals.

It’s 20 litre capacity fits most standard dinner plates. This one does all the basic jobs you’ll need it to and will fit nicely in your kitchen.

Price: £89, Amazon – buy here now

3. Russell Hobbs RHFM2363S Flatbed Digital Solo Microwave

Russell Hobbs RHFM2363S Flatbed Digital Solo Microwave

This microwave definitely looks more expensive than it is, with its sleek finish and mirrored door.

The pull handle makes for easy access, while the flatbed interior allows you to fit more food and a larger, square plates inside to cook.

This microwave has a ‘diamond cavity’ ie bumpy walls, which will help encourage even cooking as the microwaves are reflected in different directions.

There are eight auto cook menus, a child safety lock and countdown timer.

Price: £119.96, Amazon – buy here now

4. Sage the Quick Touch Crisp Microwave

Sage the Quick Touch Crisp Microwave

On the higher end of the price scale, this techy microwave boasts some impressive features that are well worth the money.

The large detailed display makes it easy to navigate the varied smart menu, while there are ten additional shortcut buttons hidden inside the door for quick access.

There’s a button for every need you could think of – including melting caramel, chocolate or softening butter – great if you’re an avid baker and you usually find yourself burning ingredients when melting them on the hob.

It’s a microwave grill combi (not an oven) with a 31cm turntable, which will fit most large plates. The inverter function ensures food is coked throughout consistently too.

The additional crisper plate stands on three folding legs and this can be used for grilling (high) and crisping (low).

And for when you need your food is that little bit hotter but don’t want to completely re-program it, select the “A Bit More” function.

Price: £229.99, John Lewis – buy here now

5. Bosch Serie 2 Freestanding Microwave

Bosch Serie 2 Freestanding Microwave

If you’re looking for microwave that isn’t overloaded with features, but still does a great job for the functions it has included, this is a great pick.

Featuring a 24.5cm turntable, this is on the smaller side, so if space is limited in your kitchen it’s a good optoin. You can also choose to mount it on the underside of a cabinet to save even more space.

There are 11 buttons and a dial on the front with basic power and program controls, there’s also a memory function to remember your favourite preference to save time.

The LED display, electronic clock timer and 99 minute timer make this a great basic kitchen microwave at a great value price.

How to buy a microwave

Your Pizza Rolls deserve a good microwave. This countertop wonder, whose origins date back to the 1940s, is probably one of the most frequently used appliances in your kitchen thanks to its ability to reheat food fast (and cook a mug cake or two). There are a variety of options when it’s time to select a microwave, so we’ve broken down the options you have when you’re ready for a new microwave.

Location

The first decision you need to make about a new microwave is where in your kitchen you want to put it. The location affects the price, features, size and installation of the appliance. You have three main options:

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Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Countertop

This is the most common type of microwave. They generally cost less and are significantly easier to install than other models. Just find a spot on the counter for it to sit, plug it into an outlet and you can use it right away.

The biggest issue with the countertop microwave is how much space it needs. If you have limited room on your countertop, you may either want to look at the smaller countertop models available, look into placing your microwave on a small cart, or consider another style of microwave.

Price: $40 to $700

External dimensions: From roughly 10 by 18 by 14 inches for compact models to roughly 14 by 24 by 20 inches for larger models

Internal capacity: Less than 1 cubic foot to more than 2 cubic feet

Wattage: Typically 600 to 1,200 watts

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Some of GE’s stoves and over-the-range microwaves are connected via Bluetooth.Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Over-the-range

You install this style of microwave above your range, which will save you some counter space. These models have vent systems that take the place of the oven hood and lights to illuminate your cooktop.

Price: $190 to $1,300

External dimensions: Usually wider than countertop models, about 16 by 30 by 15 inches

Internal capacity: Less than 1 cubic foot to more than 2 cubic feet

Wattage: Typically 600 to 1,200 watts

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Sharp

Built-in

Built-in models that you place among custom cabinets or paired with built-in, full-sized wall ovens are the most high-end (aka expensive) types of microwaves. Some microwaves in this category are even designed specifically as drawers with a compartment you pull out for your food.

Price: $500 to $5,000 and up

External dimensions: This varies widely depending on type, and drawers tend to have more depth than countertop or over-the-range models, hitting about 15 by 30 by 26 inches

Internal capacity: Less than 1 cubic foot to more than 2 cubic feet

Wattage: Typically 600 to 1,200 watts

Size

It’s important to find the right-sized microwave that will meet your food needs and fit in the space you have for it. First, you want to measure the counter or other space where you plan to put your microwave. Then, measure the height, width and depth of any model you’re considering to find out if it will fit on your counter top, over your range or in a custom spot. The external dimensions can vary a lot, from 10 by 18 by 14 inches on the smaller side to 14 by 24 by 20 inches on the larger side.

Then there’s also the internal capacity, which can range from less than 1 cubic foot to 2 cubic feet or more. There doesn’t seem to be any set rule for how internal capacity correlates to size (like 1 cubic foot = small, 1.5 cubic feet = medium, etc.), but here’s an attempt to break it down:

Compact: Under 1 cubic foot

Midsize: 1 to 1.5 cubic feet

Full-size: 1.6 to 2 cubic feet

Extra-large: More than 2 cubic feet

Most microwaves are somewhere around 1.4 to 1.8 cubic feet. Still not sure which size you need? If you’re out shopping, bring in a plate or bowl from home that you plan to use often to make sure that it fits inside the microwave.

Still in doubt? Measure everything, take notes and check with your appliance retailer for help deciding what would work best. For over-the-range and other built-in models, you most likely won’t be the one installing your new microwave, so you can always avail yourself of their expertise.

Wattage

Microwave wattage equals power. In general, the higher the wattage, the faster and more evenly your food will cook. Most microwaves sit somewhere between 600 to 1,200 watts. Larger, more expensive microwaves tend to have a higher wattage, so this is a price and size consideration that can strongly influence microwave cooking performance.

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This GE microwave has scan-to-cook tech via a related app.Chris Monroe/CNET

Features

Many microwaves share common functions. Here are some microwave cooking essentials: cook time, defrost, power level and timer. Each one requires your direct input, but they are usually very easy to set. Most microwaves have touch panel controls and a rotating carousel to spin your food for more even cooking.

Default settings

Many microwaves come with preset cooking modes so you only have to press one button to automatically cook a dish. For example, many microwaves have a “popcorn” button that will cook your bag based on factory settings. This can be handy for common dishes you heat in the microwave, but you’ll have to figure out if the microwave’s default cook times work for your own food. Other common presets include: baked potato, pizza, beverage, frozen dinner and reheat.

Broil

Manufacturers are increasingly including features in microwaves that mimic what we see in full-size ovens, such as a broiler. This is a good addition for finishing off a dish or cooking something for which you’d prefer more direct heat.

Convection

A convection fan that’s built into the back of a microwave oven circulates the heat around the food to cook things more quickly and evenly. (Many new full-size ovens come with at least one convection fan.) However, microwaves with convection fans are generally more expensive than those without.

Inverter technology

Inverter heating is another option available on some high-end models. If you want to heat something at a 50 percent power level, most microwaves actually switch between 100 percent power and 0 percent power to average in at 50 percent power. This doesn’t yield great results if you want to heat something on a lower heat and achieve an even result. So, some models now use inverter technology, which maintains a consistent 50 percent power. That way, you can poach salmon, make a fluffy omelet, etc.

Other advanced features

In addition to new heating technologies, higher-end models usually have more presets than just the basic pizza, popcorn and baked potato standard. Some use moisture sensors to detect food doneness. And we’ve started to see models include LED lighting on the interior.

“Smart” technology, i.e. options that connect microwaves to the internet and other products, aren’t as widespread in microwaves as we’ve seen in other kitchen appliances. However, we’ve seen GE Appliances include Bluetooth technology in some of its over-the-range microwaves. This connection, which GE calls “Chef Connect,” pairs the microwave with compatible GE ranges so the light and fan beneath the microwave automatically turns on when you turn on a burner.

More options

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Will the June Intelligent Oven become the next microwave?Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Other small appliances have started to make a case for forgoing the microwave, such as steam ovens that use water to cook for more moist heating or the basic toaster oven that mimics a full-size stove. These options promise to cook more effectively than a microwave, but it might take longer to reheat your food.

Smart countertop ovens have also started to become an option. The June Intelligent Oven uses facial recognition technology to identify food and cook it automatically, and the Tovala Smart Oven will scan packaged meals for automatic cooking, including frozen meals from Trader Joe’s. These options are promising, but the technology is too new to determine whether or not these will become kitchen staples.

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