Putting the heat on
A microwave is a handy appliance to have in your kitchen and we test them regularly in the CHOICE labs. If dinner time is fast approaching and you're in a rush, a microwave can be useful to defrost meat, quickly cook vegetables or reheat last night's leftovers.
Our home economist, Fiona Mair, has put many microwaves through their paces over the years and can tell you which ones deserve a spot in your kitchen. See our latest test results in our microwave oven reviews or convection microwave reviews, or check out our microwave buying guide or convection microwave buying guide to learn more about what to look for.
Our expert testers
There's no doubt that Fiona knows her way around a kitchen and has endless knowledge about kitchen appliances. With 30 years of experience, she's seen lots of new technology enter the kitchen space, such as the development of sensor functionality for microwaves. Fiona knows how to put appliances through their paces in the test kitchen and she certainly knows a thing or two about getting the most out of your microwave.
Our test officer Chantelle has also joined the team so we can put more and more popular kitchen products like microwave ovens to the test.
How we choose what we test
With a range of products on the market, what makes us choose one microwave to test over another? As with most of our product testing, our aim is to choose the most popular models on the market – the ones you're most likely to see in the shops.
We survey manufacturers to find out about their range of models, we check market sales information and we also check for any requests from CHOICE members to test specific models. From this information we put together a final list that goes to our buyers. They then head out to the retailers and purchase each product, just as a normal consumer would. We do this so we can be sure they're the same as any consumer would find them and not 'tweaked' in any way.
How we test
We assess the performance of regular microwaves by conducting four main cooking tests:
- Reheating – we reheat quiche to assess heating a solid, high-fat food to measure whether the oven heats evenly throughout to a high-enough temperature.
- Defrosting mince meat – assesses the microwave's auto-defrost ability. Parts of the food can start cooking if the auto-defrost time is too long, the power program is poorly designed or the oven's microwave distribution is not even.
- Defrosting a whole chicken – also assesses the microwave's auto-defrost ability. Due to the structure of a whole chicken (a non-uniform food containing bones and a cavity), defrosting can easily lead to parts being warmed or cooked while others are still frozen.
- Cooking vegetables – we cook broccoli to assess the microwave's ability to cook vegetables. Broccoli is the chosen vegetable as it shows overcooking very quickly by way of colour change. Its non-uniform shape also makes it a tricky vegetable to cook.
In addition to the four cooking tests above that assess the microwave performance, we conduct a further four cooking tests when reviewing convection microwaves, to assess the microwave oven and combination cooking functions:
- High temperature baking – we bake scones to test how evenly the ovens cooks at a high temperature over a short time.
- Combination roasting – we roast a whole chicken on a combination of convection and microwave function to assess roasting performance of a non-uniform food at a moderate to high temperature, therefore reducing the cooking time using microwave cooking while retaining moisture and crisping the skin.
- Combination baking pizza – we cook a freshly prepared pizza at a very high temperature for a short period on a combination of convection and microwave. This assesses the ability to crisp and brown the base and evenly cook the toppings.
- Grilling – we toast bread to assess the grill area for how quickly it toasts the bread and how evenly the heat is distributed.
Ease of use
- How easy the controls are to use. Are they intuitive and easy to operate?
- How easy the instructions are to follow.
- How effective the light is and whether the viewing window is large enough and easy to see through.
- How easy the interior and exterior are to clean – do the surfaces wipe clean easily and are there small holes that can accumulate dirt?
Test criteria explained
The overall score is made up of:
- Cooking performance (70%)
- Ease of use (30%).
Our test lab
We maintain a kitchen lab that is up to date with the latest reference machines and calibrated measurement tools for our testers to bring you the right results.