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10 best microwaves of 2021: combination, retro and more

·11-min read

2020 was a year of many things, and thanks to Nigella Lawson, we can add the latest way to pronounce the word ‘microwave’ into the mix.

The celebrity chef offered a somewhat unique take on the kitchen essential, calling it a “meecro-wa-vay” on her BBC2 show, Cook, Eat, Repeat.

If yours is looking decidedly worse for wear, it’s a great time to shop for a replacement model.

While it’s important to eat fresh, cooking from scratch isn’t always possible. Whether you want to heat up a ready meal, make a quick snack or simply need a more efficient way to cook, a microwave can help.

A crucial piece of kitchen kit for students, flatshares and the culinary-challenged across the country, microwaves are an invention of the last century that remain popular to this day. Modern designs are super versatile, offering a huge selection of add-ons and functions that do more than simply heat up food.

Shop online and you can find microwaves with grill and convection oven functions as well as ones with pre-programmed buttons to cook pizza and popcorn to perfection. For those with simple tastes (in more ways than one), there are budget designs that do no more than cook food quickly and efficiently.

How to shop for a microwave

Before you begin, decide first on the functions you’d like it to perform. For instance, do you like the sound of all-singing, all-dancing advanced features? Or are you shopping for someone who needs a simple option, like your uni-bound children or an elderly relative?

It’s also worth considering the capacity of your ideal microwave, especially if you plan to use it for big groups. Needless to say, the bigger it is, the more space it will take up in your kitchen.

What to consider when buying a microwave

When purchasing your pre-heating device, you should take the following into consideration:

  • Type of microwave: These tend to fall into three categories - standard (your classic, cheap and cheerful option), combi (that have both a grill and an oven), and grill (for a quick and easy way to create grilled favourites like cheese sandwiches, pizza and more).

  • Wattage: This is the unit of measurements in which your microwave is measured in and tends to fall into the bracket of 700 to 1,200. The higher the wattage, the faster and more even the bake. Simple.

  • Programs / adjustable power levels: Whether you opt for a basic microwave or one packed with programs is a matter of personal choice. As you may expect, the more bells and whistles, the more expensive the microwave will be. You can opt for devices with pre-sets for defrosting or cooking certain items like chicken, meat or rice as well as various power levels.

  • Size and capacity: For larger families, you may need a microwave with a larger capacity. This is measured in litres. There are small or large models ranging from 15 to 32 litres. If it is acting as your main cooking facility, consider big dishes like chicken or turkey.

  • Noise level: This may or may not be important to you as all microwaves make some level of humming or buzzing when in use. If it sounds noisier than normal, this could be an indication that its time to replace your model.

  • Integrated vs countertop: This refers to where your microwave will be placed - either on your counter or shelf or built into your cupboards. Integrated devices don’t tend to come with exterior sides for ease in installation.

How to deep clean a microwave

You’ll most likely use a microwave far more than an oven, so grease and caked-on food are to be expected - but not necessarily tolerated. It’s easy to return your device to its sparkling best with a few simple cleaning hacks and microwave cleaning products.

  • Hack: cut a lemon in half and squeeze the juice from both pieces into a microwave-safe bowl filled with water. Drop the lemon shells into the bowl and microwave the whole lot for three minutes, leaving to stand for five minutes after the beep so the steam can loosen the gunk. Wipe clean with a microfibre cloth. This technique also works with lime or oranges.

  • Hack: microwave one part white vinegar with one part water for five minutes. Wipe clean after the beep.

  • Hack: keep the glass turntable fresh by handwashing it in the sink with soapy water or adding it to a loaded dishwasher.

  • Product: HG Combi Microwave Cleaner 500ml is a powerful cleaner in a handy spray bottle, good for use on microwaves and combi microwaves, £5.74, Amazon.

  • Product: make cleaning that bit more amusing with this Angry Mama Microwave Cleaner, £5.99, Amazon. Simply twist off her hair, fill with vinegar and water and reseal before microwaving for around eight minutes on high. Wipe down the steam she emits with a cleaning cloth.

  • Product: this pack of 25 heat-activated wipes make light work of microwave cleaning. Simply place one inside the machine, heat according to the instructions, then use it to clear up the filthy interior. Done!

Best microwave deals to bag now

Take advantage of models on discount and special offer

Whether you’re in the market to buy your first ever microwave or need to replace an old model, we’ve reviewed the best microwaves to order for home delivery right now.

Sharp R861 900W Combination Microwave

Best for: Simplicity and effectiveness

This 25-litre, 900W combi microwave from Sharp ticks a crucial box that seems oddly to elude most other microwaves: it’s easy to operate.

The R861’s usability is thanks in part to its clearly marked cooking time buttons (which add 10 seconds, 1 minute or 10 minutes); pre-sets for commonly cooked foods including jacket potatoes, pizza and rice; and refreshingly uncomplicated grill and convection oven modes.

It cooks evenly without the need for a rotating plate, which makes it possible to cook larger meals than most other microwaves of the R861’s size would allow.

£169.99 | Argos

Panasonic NN-DS596BBPQ

Best for: Grill, steam, microwave and oven options

When you turn this microwave on for the first time, the blue digital display urges you to 'Refer to operating instructions before use'.

We think this is astute, and we say that because this microwave is a complex machine, operated with twelve buttons and a multifunctional dial. If you’re after a feature-rich combination oven that can fit on a work surface to use in place of a traditional oven, it would make a superb purchase.

An impressive array of grill, steam, microwave and oven options just a few button-presses away. Simply enter your desired function and cooking time settings and hit 'Start'.

£354.99 | Amazon

Hotpoint ​Combination Microwave MWH27321B Ultimate Collection 25L​

Best for: Intuitive features

This smart-looking microwave from Hotpoint has loads of handy features that set it apart from the crowd. Add, Stir and Turn buttons allow you to programme in pauses during the cooking time, which triggers the display to remind you what you need to do to the food. You can also stop the turntable rotating, which is handy when it comes to accommodating large meals.

You’ll need a deep surface to place this microwave on – but if you have the space, it will make for a stylish and helpful addition to your kitchen. It also comes with a grill accessory.

£149.97 | Appliances Direct

Bosch Serie 2 HMT84M451B brushed steel

Best for: Metallic style

We love the brushed steel finish and red digital display on this quality Bosch microwave. Teamed with other metal appliances and surfaces, it could round off your kitchen with a real touch of class. The white metal interior is particularly easy to clean – if there’s any food left on it, you’ll see it.

Putting appearances aside for a moment, we’d also like to highlight this microwaves excellent usability. Alongside its standard microwave function, it also includes a range of automatic cooking and defrosting programs, which are easy to master using the microwave’s simple controls.

This excellent microwave combines style, simplicity and an effectiveness few others can muster. We thoroughly recommended it.

£161 | Currys

Also available at AO

Swan Retro 25L Digital Combi Microwave with Grill

Best for: Attractiveness

Did you know that the first microwave oven was made in 1947? That particular model – “the Radarange” – was nearly six-foot tall and weighed 340 kilograms.

For mid-20th-century style that comes with the welcome benefits of contemporary tech, you’d probably be better off purchasing the Swan Retro Digital Combi instead.

This remarkably easy-on-the-eye microwave provides a mixture of grill, convection oven and microwave functions up to 900W. It’s incredibly easy to use, and unlike so many other microwaves, it will be an asset to your kitchen’s aesthetic.

From the reflective glass panel on the front, to the stainless steel interior, this is a class act that marries function to fabulous form. Available in nine colours.

From £89.99 | Currys

Also available at Amazon and Swan

Miele M7140TC 46L Built-In Microwave, Clean Steel

Best for: Luxury seekers

Built to slot into your kitchen cupboards, this lavish luxury appliance works exceptionally well, glows with a homely light as it cooks and chirrups winningly when your food’s ready. These traits epitomise the M7140TC’s convincing combination of class and character.

Other selected highlights include its enormous 46-litre cooking compartment, 40 cm turntable, internal LED spotlight, and of course, its dedicated popcorn-making mode. We could go on...

If money’s no object, this may well be the microwave for you.

£924.97 | Appliance Direct

Samsung MC28H5013AK 28 Litre Combination Microwave

Best for: Keen cooks

This powerful, versatile smart oven from Samsung has healthy cooking presets for a wide range of vegetables, poultry and fish, it features dough-proofing and yoghurt-making modes as well as offering simultaneous microwave and grill combi cooking, which rapidly cooks and browns your food.

Clever, stylish and loaded with a huge array of features, this is a highly impressive microwave, capable of working wonders for chefs who wish to improve their efficiency in the kitchen – without losing quality.

The microwave also comes with a high rack and low rack, enabling you to cook to your taste.

£149 | Samsung

Also available at Argos (£189.99)

Bosch Serie 4 BFL523MB0B Built-In Microwave

Best for: In-built affordability

Simple, effective and reasonably priced for an in-built microwave, the BFL523MB0B could well prove to be the ideal choice for those seeking to fully integrate their kitchen appliances on a reasonable budget.

With a capacity of 20 litres and a turntable diameter of 25.5cm, the BFL523MB0B does its job without dominating the space – something you might consider another boon from a design perspective.

In terms of features, this microwave focuses on doing the basics well, with five power levels ranging up to 800W, plus a few additional tricks up its sleeve including 7 auto cook programs. It is available in black, silver or white.

£311 | AO

Samsung MS23H3125AW 23 Litre Microwave Oven

Best for: Smart features

Samsung has a knack for smart technology and sleek looks – and this microwave epitomises both of these virtues to a tee.

Its cooking capabilities are straightforwardly microwave-based, without the grill and convection oven settings offered by some of our other featured microwaves. If you already have an oven and you simply wish to add a microwave to your arsenal, you couldn’t choose a more equipped machine.

This microwave has an Auto Sensor mode that is particularly impressive. To cook vegetables perfectly, turn the dial to select which type of food you’re cooking, then press 'Start'. The microwave will then adjust its mode and cooking time based on its measurement of the gases escaping the food. It can also self-deodorise, and has a Soften/Melt mode that will no doubt come in handy for the chocolate-lovers amongst you.

£119 | Amazon

Daewoo Retro Style KOR9LBKCR 20 Litre Microwave

Best for: Cutesy kitchens

Forgive us if this sounds absurd, but isn’t this microwave adorable?

At a petite 20 litres and designed in a retro style that makes it look ever so slightly like an old CRT TV, this microwave has an unusual aesthetic that sets it apart from the exceptionally uniform crowd. This will doubtless divide opinion amongst shoppers - but in our eyes, it’s a virtue.

Of course, this microwave isn’t all about quirky looks. It also boasts automatic cooking programs, minute minder alerts, a serviceable 800W power output and a very reasonable price. The KOR9LBKCR may well be an alternative option, but it’s also a smart one. Available in other colours.

£95.99 | Amazon

Verdict

Whilst we’ve been taken in by characterful microwaves at both ends of the price spectrum (that means you, the cutesy Daewoo KOR7LBKW) we have to stick with our guns and name the Sharp R860SLM our ES Best Pick. It’s simply the best at being a microwave.

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