Buying a new microwave

My mom after having the same microwave for over twenty years has finally decided to get rid of it, which is good as the thing has been slowly dying for the last 5 years. She asked me to find a new one and I’m really not knowledgeable on what’s good now which is why I’m posting this.

She is looking to spend at max around $60 and wants at least a .9 cu ft. I was at Target today and saw what they had, a sunbeam, panasonic and Emerson but I don’t know if any of them are good or not.

You’re looking at what’s commonly referred to as a “midsize” microwave. In that range, they’re all going to be pretty much the same in quality - most microwaves these days are a dime a dozen unless you spend major money (which you don’t want to do if she’s not a big time chef or you have serious money to burn) or your searching for pennies under your car seat (in which case there’s probably a soup line at your local church). Make sure whatever you get has a decent warranty, and don’t spend extra for an extended one.

Look for size, power, and features in that order.
Make sure that whatever you get fits the dimensions she’d need in order to fit the slot available in her kitchen.
Size: get the biggest that will fit her needs, plain and simple, unless the only thing it’s ever going to see use for is microwave popcorn and defrosting ice cream (you’ll have to ask an insane family member of mine on that last one).
Power: modern home use midrange models should ideally have 1100 watts, but 1000 is okay. 900 is a bit underpowered and an indication of being potentially substandard in other areas (nobody gets a 900 unless they’re budget shoppers, and manufacturers know that).
A turntable is a must, and only the most basic models won’t have that these days.
Removeable trays are handy to zap two dishes at once, although some math is involved when computing how much extra time to provide for the additional items.
Presets are presets - some people like to use them, others swear they’re off by five seconds one direction or ten seconds another. Ask for her preference on that to determine if that’s something you even want to pay attention to.

Anecdotal, when I graduated someone gave me a 700w microwave. It couldn’t do shit, I don’t even know where they got it! Chinese knockoff maybe? I upgraded to a 900w microwave within 2 months, obviously I didn’t know anything about microwaves because this one still didn’t have even the power to cook popcorn properly.

…defrosting ice cream…

This is one of those phrases that make me expect to hear the Inception musical hit and kick the hospital up the layers, because a world in which it occurs is simply not the waking one.

Well… if you’ve let the icecream partially melt before when it freezes it’ll get all sorts of crystals and become fairly hard. Sometimes defrosting on the way to the store freezer will make it abnormally hard as well. In these cases I defrost my icecream, usually by letting it sit for several minutes. However when I was young we loved soft serve ice cream, my grandparents would put the icecream in the microwave to make it into something similar to soft serve.

Mini-rant: The controls on almost all microwaves these days are absolutely horrible. They’re overly complicated, providing functions that won’t be used 99% of the time, and they’re ergonomically dire, with smooth spill-proof “buttons” that provide only minimal tactile feedback (thus necessitating the BEEP BEEPITY BEEP auditory feedback).

This, IMHO, is a well-designed microwave:

You turn the knob and it just works. Want a different power setting? Turn that knob. No smegging keypad. Nothing to puzzle over. It’s obvious and it works and when it’s done it goes DING.

In conclusion, argh.

Either check the latest consumer reports or pick the highest-rated microwave in your price range on

I’m with you here, man. Fuckin’ A.

And nobody I know actually uses preset buttons.

You seriously don’t use the popcorn button? But it makes perfect popcorn everytime! Even with different brands that require different cooking times!

I’m also shopping for a new microwave, thanks for the tips.

I agree with Zylon on the interface.

I confess that I also defrost ice cream.

Microwaving popcorn is for suckers.

You can get one of these and pop the loose kernels, rather than using the industrial waste product in the bags.

I have a Panasonic microwave that is, good lord, ten years old now. I’ve always been super-skeptical of anything other than straight time-based cooking, but its Sensor Reheat feature is really pretty great. If I’m reheating something normal, I can just push that button, walk away, and come back to find it heated just about perfectly.

It’s not magic – it won’t work with soup, for instance, because its moisture/heat sensor is confused by that – but it’s extremely handy.

I love my convection microwave. We bought it when we had a broken microwave and moved into this house which had a broken wall oven, and while the size is limited, it’s cheap, fast and versatile, and is still 15 inches wide. Roasts are great.


So I get home and smell a horrible burning smell in the kitchen, apparently the microwave isn’t heating stuff right anymore, and earlier in the day I am told it partially melted a microwave safe plastic measuring cup that was set to 90 seconds. Inside there is a dark yellow stain/discoloration along the entire back and sidewalls about half way up the walls.

Bad things are happening, so I go to see for myself, and try and heat up a cup of water. 30 seconds and its almost boiling hot. Listening when it turned on, the microwave makes a few weird noises it never did before and now emits a burnt plastic smell, probably from the cup that was partially melted.

Its a 2007 GE and its been used hard, so no tears needed as its being retired. I unplugged it and will figure out what you do with a broken microwave, I guess the trash company will recycle it?

I shot over to the wirecutter site, gonna probably get this microwave (their 2nd best suggestion) during Prime Day tomorrow. I want the bigger 1.2cu.ft size.