You'll find more automation as microwaves take on a growing list of cooking tasks. Browning and speed-cook modes, along with interactive recipe databases, are also on the menu as big brands push added capability for busy families. But as our tests have shown, you can pay a premium for those perks without getting the even heating and defrosting that are a microwave's two top tasks. Our Ratings also show that some brands overstate usable space by as much as 50 to 60 percent.
Pick a type and size
Countertop models cost the least and are best for kitchens with lots of counter space. Compact models can cost very little but typically offer the least cooking space. Midsized and large models add capacity and features, with midsized models taking the biggest slice of the market. But because manufacturers often include unusable space in their capacity claims, be sure to bring a large platter to see whether it fits inside models on your shopping list. Two other key caveats: While some countertop microwaves can hang below a cabinet, you wind up with little working space below the oven. And while over-the-range models save counter space and add convenience, they don't vent nearly as well as a dedicated range hood and may require an electrician to install.
Be realistic about extras
Decide whether you'll really use grilling and browning features, convection cooking, slow-cook, and other added functions before paying extra for them. Our tests have shown that you'll still get better grilling in a capable oven--and more-convenient slow cooking with a dedicated slow cooker. A sensor is a convenient feature, but think twice about shortcut and defrost settings for foods you don't eat.
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