Last updated: October 15, 2021

Are you looking for a space-saving alternative to a cooker and oven to heat up food? But you don't want to spend too much money? And you still don't want to do without cooking, defrosting or heating food?

Then you should take a closer look at the microwave. In our microwave test 2021 we present current and energy-saving microwaves and show you what you should consider regarding the volume and performance of your new kitchen appliance.

We also provide detailed information on safety instructions and the efficiency of your microwave. Whether you choose a microwave oven, a combi microwave or a microwave with hot air, we provide you with tips and tricks on automatic programmes, power consumption and additional functions.




Summary

  • A microwave is a household appliance that uses microwaves to quickly heat, cook and boil food, liquids and other suitable substances.
  • Basically, you can choose between three different types of microwaves. The simple microwave oven, the microwave with hot air and the combination microwave.
  • Microwave ovens cook your food and defrost it. Microwaves with a hot-air function also bake your food. Combi microwaves also include a grill.

The best microwave test: Our Picks

Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying a microwave

What is a microwave?

A microwave oven is an electrical household appliance used to quickly heat, defrost, cook and boil food. The application is simple because the small appliance resembles a small oven. However, the food is not placed on a baking tray, but for example on a plate or in a bowl.

The microwave oven can be found in almost every German kitchen and is an indispensable part of everyday life for many people. (Image source: pexels.com / Lisa Fotios)

After you have placed the dishes with the food in the microwave, you set the programme and time, and after a few minutes the microwave emits an acoustic signal. Et voilà: The meal is ready!

Although a microwave is not absolutely necessary, as its main functions can also be performed by other appliances, it has become a practical, time- and energy-saving aid for many people. It can now be found in around 75 % of all German households.

How does a microwave work?

A microwave oven is powered by electricity. A magnetic field tube called a magnetron ensures that this is converted into electromagnetic waves that heat the food. These waves have a low frequency (0.3 - 300 GHz) and a short range (0.1 - 10 cm), hence the name "microwaves".

The electromagnetic waves are evenly distributed in the cooking chamber, i.e. where the food is also heated. In the process, they penetrate various materials, such as porcelain and glass, which are therefore well suited for microwave dishes.

However, they cannot penetrate metal, which is why the interior of the microwave is made of metal. This means it reflects the waves, so they do not reach the outside. A turntable that rotates the food inside the microwave optimises the process of even heating.

So what exactly do the electromagnetic waves do to the food? It contains a certain amount of water, which is stimulated to vibrate by the waves. This oscillation, i.e. the friction of the molecules, causes the substances to heat up. In short, the water contained in the food is heated by the electromagnetic waves.

What are the advantages of a microwave oven over other kitchen appliances?

Buying a microwave enables you to prepare food quickly and save energy. With simple operation, you can easily get a hot meal on your plate.

Advantages
  • Fast
  • Energy-saving
  • Easy to use

In contrast to other kitchen appliances, the microwave convinces with its high time savings and the quick and easy use of various functions. In addition, the microwave combines many everyday functions in one appliance. It is space-saving and extremely energy-efficient compared to, for example, an oven.

What functions should a microwave have?

Of course, there are now many special functions and gimmicks with which manufacturers spice up their microwaves. At this point, we will tell you about some of the basic functions that are part of the equipment of a good microwave.

Function Benefits
Heating The absolute minimum that a microwave must be able to do. The simple heating of food and drinks. We have already explained how this works. This function is represented as a wavy symbol on the microwave.
Grill The grill allows food that would otherwise lose its consistency, such as French fries, to be heated to a crisp. Symbolically, the function is represented as a line of three downward-pointing triangles.
Hot and circulating air Familiar from the classic oven, but with slightly less power up to approx. 200 degrees Celsius. The air circulates in the cooking chamber, so even cooking and browning is achieved. The function is visually represented as a small fan.

What volume do I need in a microwave?

The size of a microwave is determined by its internal volume. The volume can be 12 litres for very small appliances. For large microwaves, which are suitable for use by large families or in restaurants, for example, the cooking chamber capacity is up to 42 litres.

The standard size of a microwave oven is about 25 litres. Manufacturers specify the volume of the microwave. If you want to "play it safe", you can compare the dimensions of the turntable with the manufacturer's volume specification.

The size of a microwave usually also affects the interior, which is also called the cooking chamber. Many manufacturers often specify the total volume of the microwave, but it is important to know the volume of the usable area as well.

The usable area, i.e. the cooking chamber of a microwave, includes the heating elements of the microwave. What is important for you is the space that the microwave offers for preparing food. When choosing your microwave, take into account the type of food you want to prepare. Not every appliance will fit your favourite pizza, for example.

Did you know that garlic should never be heated in the microwave? The antioxidants in garlic are lost after less than a minute, while they can withstand the heat in the oven for about 45 minutes.

What power is important in a microwave?

With most models, you can choose a wattage of 700 to 1000 watts. A power of less than 800 watts may require a little patience for some dishes until the food has reached a suitable temperature for consumption. "Cold spots" are unheated areas that remain cold or even frozen. Stirring spreads the food evenly to maintain a constant temperature.

To make sure your food is also heated evenly, stirring in between is a must. (Image source: pexels.com / Jessica Lewis)

Appliances such as combination microwaves or microwaves with a hot air function often have a higher wattage because they have different functions and, unlike a simple microwave oven, can bake, grill or steam cook food.

When choosing your microwave, also consider the type of food and drink you want to defrost, cook or heat, as the wattage required can vary depending on the volume of the interior.

The larger the microwave, the more watts it should deliver. Only then will the food inside be cooked thoroughly and evenly.

It is particularly important that your chosen microwave model has an interior light so that you can observe the cooking process. This way you can see immediately if it is time to stir your favourite dish or if, for example, the milk is about to boil over.

For which people is a microwave oven suitable?

In principle, microwaves are suitable for everyone. A microwave offers a quick and time-saving way to heat meals. Therefore, microwaves are particularly suitable for those who do not have much time. This may be the case, for example, because of their job or because of their family.

In addition, the operation of the appliance is very simple, meals can be heated at the touch of a button and without much effort or cooking knowledge. This means that microwaves are also suitable for those who do not want to or cannot cook. Therefore, it is particularly suitable for seniors, children and cooking beginners, for example.

Which are the best-known manufacturers of microwaves?

There are many well-known manufacturers who offer high-quality microwaves. Here we present a small selection in various price segments.

We start with Severin. This manufacturer of electrical household appliances has been in business for over 100 years and is based in Sundern in the Sauerland region of Germany. Production takes place both in Germany and China and covers a wide range of products. In addition to microwaves, the company also produces kettles, toasters and hoovers, for example. The company can therefore boast a great deal of experience in the household sector.

Bomann is another very experienced company. The family business was founded 130 years ago in Hamburg and produces small and large electrical appliances. These are mainly manufactured in Asia. Due to the favourable production costs, Bomann can offer high quality at favourable prices. Their microwaves are primarily known for robustness and many years of functionality and are available to consumers in numerous designs.

Another microwave manufacturer based in Stuttgart is Bauknecht. The company, whose production takes place abroad, has been able to establish itself as one of the leading manufacturers of household appliances. The first microwave was developed in the 1970s. Today, Bauknecht appliances are characterised in particular by state-of-the-art technology and excellent design.

Samsung also joins the ranks of microwave manufacturers. The South Korean company is active in many business fields, but most people probably know it for its high-quality appliances in the field of consumer electronics.

In the kitchen appliance sector, Samsung produces microwaves as well as refrigerators and hobs. Their products have repeatedly received various awards, including, for example, awards from Stiftung Warentest or Ökotest.

Last but not least: Panasonic. This world-famous company has been in existence for 100 years and is based in Kadoma, Japan. It is similarly broadly positioned as the other manufacturers mentioned.

The high-quality electronics and household appliances include, for example, copiers and fax machines, laptops or video surveillance systems. The company produced its first microwaves in the 1960s.

Free-standing microwave vs. built-in microwave - which is better for me?

A freestanding microwave is the classic among microwaves. It can be flexibly placed anywhere in the kitchen, for example on the worktop or on a table. A built-in microwave, on the other hand, is permanently installed in a cabinet.

For this purpose, it is usually planned and purchased directly as part of the kitchen unit. So unlike a free-standing microwave, it cannot be moved around at will.

A built-in microwave fits seamlessly into your kitchen, but is also nowhere near as easy to move around as a freestanding one. (Image source: pexels.com / Milly Eaton)

So which microwave suits you better? In principle, this is a matter of taste. The purchase costs of a freestanding microwave are usually somewhat lower and the choice is somewhat greater than with built-in microwaves.

In addition, no complicated installation by a specialist is necessary. Built-in microwaves, on the other hand, usually provide a high-quality and neat appearance.

If flexibility is important to you, you should opt for a freestanding microwave. If looks are more important to you, a built-in microwave is probably the better model for you.

What useful accessories are available?

Microwave manufacturers offer a number of products that simplify or improve the use of microwaves. We present a few selected products in more detail below.

Accessories Use
Microwave cover A lid that is put over the food. Protects the interior of the microwave from unwanted splashes when heating food and keeps it clean.
Steamer container A container for preparing dishes using steam. The application is simple: place the food in the container, fill it up to the mark with water and heat it in the microwave. For example, vegetables, fish and meat can be prepared quickly and fresh.
Crisp plate A plate that helps to prepare meals such as pizza, apple pie or quiche. It result is similarly crispy as from the oven, but only takes about ⅓ of the time and is therefore much more energy efficient.
Microwave bracket A bracket that can be used to attach the microwave to the wall. This product is perfect for small kitchens as it creates extra countertop space. Pay attention to the weight for which the bracket is designed (usually 35-50kg).

What are the alternatives to microwaves?

As already mentioned, the main functions of microwaves can also be performed by other kitchen appliances. We present the most important ones here.

Oven

An oven can be found in almost every kitchen. It is powered by electricity or gas and is suitable for baking, roasting, heating and grilling food. Heating coils inside the oven heat the food completely and do not just make the water in them vibrate. Therefore, the food stays warm longer than when it is prepared in the microwave.

Hob

A hob is mostly found in conjunction with ovens. Modern induction hobs in particular are very energy-efficient because they heat meals very quickly using magnetic currents. Although they are somewhat more expensive to buy, they also offer an easy-to-clean glass ceramic surface and a refined look.

Halogen oven in

Halogen oven is the portable version of an oven. It is a small appliance with a halogen lamp. Meals are steamed, roasted, baked, grilled and cooked very energy-efficiently using only halogen light.

Depending on the appliance, a halogen oven has a volume of 6-7 litres and heats the meal up to 250 degrees Celsius on up to 1400 watts. Depending on the model, various additional functions are also available, such as a timer.

Steamer

An electric steamer prepares food using steam, similar to the steamer for the microwave described above, but is also somewhat more expensive than the latter. On the other hand, it is particularly gentle on very nutritious food, such as vegetables. These retain more flavour and consistency in the steamer.

Kettles

Kettles do just that: boil water. They are therefore ideal for brewing water for hot water bottles or morning tea. They consume little electricity, reach boiling point much faster than a hob or microwave and are equipped with various functions, such as an automatic switch-off.

Decision: What types of microwaves are there and which one is right for you?

We offer you an overview of this broad segment in your search for a suitable microwave that fits your needs and ideas exactly. There are many different features, functions and types of microwaves. To give you an overview of the different microwave models, the different and most important main types of microwave are listed below.

  • Microwave oven (simple microwave)
  • Microwave with hot air (also convection microwave)
  • Combi microwaves (also 3-in-1 microwave)

Each of these types of microwaves is suitable for different preparations and meets different needs. Each microwave is different, which brings individual advantages and disadvantages. In the following section, we will help you find the right microwave.

How does a microwave oven work and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

A microwave oven, or simply put, the microwave is a device for quickly heating, cooking and boiling food, liquids and other things. By converting electromagnetic field energy into heat energy, your food, for example, heats up.

The microwaves use radiation to cause the water molecules inside the food to vibrate, and after a few minutes your food comes out of the microwave steaming and ready to eat.

Advantages
  • Easy to use
  • Suitable for heating and defrosting
  • Simple to use
  • Affordable
Disadvantages
  • No grill function
  • No baking function
  • No crispy food

The simple microwave is perfect for defrosting or heating food. For other desired functions and features, such as grilling or baking, we recommend the models below.

How does a microwave with hot air work and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

The microwave with hot air (sometimes also called microwave with convection) is perfect for heating fresh food and drinks. It can also be used to defrost frozen food. This type of microwave has the advantage that it not only heats the food but also browns and crisps it. Because unlike a simple microwave oven, the microwave with convection combines the features of a normal microwave with the functions of an oven.

Advantages
  • Oven function
  • Energy-saving
  • Crispy food
Disadvantages
  • No grill function
  • Higher purchase price

When using a convection or hot-air microwave, not only the food being cooked is heated, but also the cooking chamber. This is because microwaves with a hot-air function have an additional heating element and a fan built in.

This feature heats up the cooking chamber and, by distributing the hot air inside the microwave, the food to be prepared becomes crispy and brown. The hot air function constantly blows air into the cooking chamber so that the heat radiating from the heating elements circulates. For this reason, there is a similarly constant temperature throughout the cooking chamber.

How does a combi microwave work and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

The combi microwave combines many important functions within the kitchen. It can bake, grill and heat. Some appliances also have a steam cooking function. Combination microwaves or 3-in-1 microwaves can often even replace the oven and are also very space-saving.

By buying this type of microwave, you have the perfect combination of microwave, oven and grill. In addition to the features mentioned above, combi microwaves are a real space and power saver in the kitchen.

Advantages
  • Space-saving
  • Power-saving
  • 3-in-1
Disadvantages
  • Expensive to buy
  • Complex to operate

Despite their small size, combi microwaves can do an amazing amount. They can heat food in no time, defrost frozen food, bake pizzas and cakes, cook side dishes and even grill food.

Buying criteria: These are the factors you can use to compare and rate microwaves

In the following, we will show you which criteria you can use to compare and rate microwaves. This will make it easier for you to get an overview and decide on a suitable and effective appliance.

  • Type of cooking
  • Dimensions and weight
  • Material and design
  • Capacity
  • Power
  • Automatic programmes
  • Control panel
  • Power consumption
  • Special and additional functions
  • Undermountable

In the following paragraphs you can read about the individual purchase criteria and how you can classify them.

Type of preparation

As already described at the beginning of this page, there are different types of microwaves. When choosing a microwave, consider which functions are important to you and which features you need for everyday use.

For example, if you only use your microwave to defrost or cook food, then a simple microwave oven may be enough for you. If, on the other hand, you also want to be able to bake your favourite pizza in the microwave, we recommend a microwave with hot air and grill function.

If you also want to be able to bake your favourite pizza in the microwave, for example, we recommend a microwave with hot air and grill functions. Do you prefer to steam-cook vegetables? Then we recommend a microwave with steam function, which is suitable for steam cooking.

Dimensions and weight

Dimensions

The dimensions of a microwave depend entirely on your individual needs. If you have a small kitchen, we recommend a microwave with small dimensions. If, on the other hand, you have a large kitchen and space for a larger model, you can opt for a microwave with a slightly larger capacity.

In addition, large models often combine more functions than smaller appliances. Large models often combine more functions than smaller appliances. This means that smaller appliances are more suitable if you want to use standard functions.

Weight

The weight of a microwave varies greatly depending on the manufacturer and function. Commercially available appliances weigh about 15 kilograms on average. Microwaves that have a larger cooking chamber and more functions are often considerably heavier. Their heavy weight is due to a high number of functions.

They heat food, can bake, grill and even have a steam function. If you are interested in a model that is very heavy, pay attention to where you want to place your appliance and what weight comes into question.

Material and design

The housing of the microwave can be made of different materials. The most common options are plastic and stainless steel.

The microwaves most commonly found in German kitchens are made of stainless steel. (Image source: pixabay.com / Structuro)

Plastic is very common as a material for the microwave housing. The production costs are low, so the corresponding microwaves are also relatively cheap. As a rule, plastic housings are cream-coloured, but there are also some versions in various trendy colours, such as red.

Stainless steel microwaves are a somewhat more modern variant. The design is high-quality and elegant. Because of their visual neutrality, this type of microwave often blends in better with the kitchen landscape than the coloured plastic version. Stainless steel microwaves are a little more expensive to buy, but they are also rustproof and often have a non-stick coating.

Capacity

Depending on how you live, you have individual needs. Do you often heat small portions and don't need additional functions such as a microwave with grill or steamer? A rather small cooking chamber (the interior of your microwave) will also serve its purpose. A small capacity is around 15-20 litres.

Do you love to quickly bake your favourite XXL pizza in the microwave and also use your microwave for grilling or steam cooking? Then you are well advised to use a microwave with a capacity of 25 litres or more. Most microwaves have a capacity of around 20-25 litres.

Power

The power and features of microwaves also vary greatly from model to model. This is measured in watts. We do not recommend microwaves with less than 700 watts, as they often take too long to heat your food.

Microwaves with additional functions need more wattage than simple microwave ovens. Wattage ratings range from 700 watts for small microwave ovens, to 1400 watts for large combination ovens. It is important to consider the power of your microwave in relation to the size of the cooking space.

The following rule applies: The larger the cooking chamber, the higher the microwave power. Higher power means that the microwave oven takes less time to heat the food, but it also consumes more electricity. Higher wattages are required for combination microwaves because the various functions consume a lot of power.

Automatic programmes

Most microwaves have automatic programmes. These programmes are preset and are easy to use. So you get your steaming, ready-to-eat meal in your hands quickly and without much effort.

The automatic programmes are easy to use and enable safe handling of the appliance.

A look at the operating instructions for the appliance will give you a good overview of which automatic programmes your microwave has. All you have to do is place the food you want to cook in the microwave cavity, select the programme you want and the microwave will do the rest automatically.

Control panel

There are two main types of control panel on microwaves. These are mechanical and digital.

Mechanical control panels

Mechanical control panels are very quick and easy to operate. They usually have two rotary controls on the outside of the microwave. You use one control to set the cooking time, and the other to set the power.

Depending on the model, you can set the cooking time in 10-second or minute increments. This type of control panel is usually found on very simple models that only have the main function of a microwave oven, namely heating food.

Digital control panels

Digital control panels, on the other hand, do not have rotary dials but sensor buttons. These allow very precise settings. For example, the cooking time can be set to the second. Consumers often find digital control panels somewhat more complicated than the mechanical version.

Therefore, using them may take a little time to get used to. This type of control panel is more commonly found on microwaves that, in addition to simple heating, also have a grill, convection or hot-air function, for example.

Power consumption

Manufacturers are obliged to label the power consumption of their appliances. The EU energy label for electrical appliances is used uniformly for this purpose. The previous classification consisting of letters and plus signs was difficult to understand.

This is because the previous system was introduced in 1990 and was therefore comparatively old. Since 2017, there has been a new regulation that must be fully implemented in trade by 2020 at the latest.

This involves a scale from A to G. The A label stands for the highest energy efficiency and gradually decreases to G.

For better visualisation, signal colours are assigned to the individual classes. For example, the A label is dark green, while G is shown in deep red.

Note: Classes A and B are currently assigned rather rarely. This is to leave "room for improvement" so that plus signs do not have to be used again as soon as possible. So good microwaves should at least be marked with a C.

Special and additional functions

You can also compare microwaves on the basis of their special or additional functions, i.e. the functions that go beyond actual heating. Here we present some of the most useful ones.

Function Benefits
Automatic weight control Microwaves with automatic weight control adjust the programmes based on the weight of your meal. Some models have a built-in scale that measures the weight automatically, other models require you to enter the weight yourself.
Moisture sensor A sensor in the microwave measures the moisture in your food and adjusts the programme accordingly. This ensures that your meals stay nice and juicy.
Memory buttons Practical for your favourite dishes: With the help of the memory buttons, you can save certain settings for dishes that you prepare again and again. This saves you time, as you don't have to enter them every time.
Automatic timer This function is particularly useful if you want to prepare your meal even though you are not at home at the time. The microwave then switches itself on and off again at a desired time.
Self-cleaning We gave you the tip above about using the water bowl to clean the microwave. Some manufacturers already have this built into their microwaves at the factory. All you have to do is fill water into a built-in water tank, switch on the microwave and the interior is cleaned with steam.

Undermountable

You don't have much storage space in your kitchen and therefore want to install your microwave under the kitchen cabinet? Does it bother you that the microwave takes up space on your worktop?

Then the under-counter function is important for you. Some appliances can be installed underneath, for example underneath a kitchen cabinet. But beware: the microwave's ventilation slots are often on the top, so it is not possible to install it underneath. Before installing the microwave, please consider the weight of the microwave you have chosen.

The cabinet should have sufficient load-bearing capacity and a power socket should be close to the chosen location. With microwaves that can be installed underneath, the ventilation system is not located above the appliance but, for example, on the sides. This reduces the risk of overheating.

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