We compare the costs of a home-cooked Thanksgiving meal versus takeout or eating out at a restaurant.
Best Cheap Microwave Ovens
Microwave ovens have evolved since the days when their primary task was heating frozen dinners. Today's busy consumers demand speed and convenience in the kitchen, and these little appliances are now expected to function more like stoves and ovens. While there's no shortage of high-priced models boasting a dazzling array of options, budget-minded consumers can find good cheap microwave ovens for less than $150 with the features and performance that can stave off hunger. Most especially, if you use the microwave merely to defrost and reheat foods and pop the occasional bag of corn, an inexpensive microwave oven is all you'll ever need.
Cheap Microwave Ovens Buying Guide
The inexpensive microwave ovens arena is dominated by companies such as GE, Panasonic, Sanyo, Sharp, and Kenmore, which also manufacture upscale models. What distinguishes a cheap microwave oven from its expensive counterpart is a combination of size, power, design, and array of functions.
The cheapest microwave ovens are compact (interior capacity of less than one cubic foot) and just right for dorm rooms and kitchens with limited counter space.
On the other hand, all but the cheapest microwave ovens feature a variety of functions that add spice to food-prep adventures. Features you'll definitely want on a budget microwave oven include automatic or quick-touch settings for edibles such as rice, baked potatoes, and frozen vegetables; a defrost setting; pre-programmed power levels; and a rotating turntable. A few of the best cheap microwaves also incorporate sensors that account for the humidity level inside the oven. A time-extender button is a handy convenience. Not surprisingly, the higher the price of a microwave, the more functions you get. Sharp, for example, makes a countertop model with a starting price of $828 that steams, browns (with convection heat), and microwaves. In the mid- to lower-price range, Kenmore combines a pizza oven with a microwave oven a model that sells for $200 and Daewoo has added a toaster to its KOG-867T9 model (shopper alert: this one is hard to find).
After checking prices and specs and poring through scores of reviews, we found four cheap microwave ovens that meet the important criteria for features and performance (thorough cooking or heating, ease of use, and durability). Heading the list is the Panasonic NN-H765 (starting at $141), a full-sized cheap microwave oven with high-end features and user-friendly controls. Sitting alongside is the mid-sized Oster OGG61403 (starting at $100) with its simple functionality and a handle, rather than a button, on the door. Our runner-up picks include the mid-sized Kenmore 6633 (starting at $140) with its easy-to-clean rounded interior and even heating, and the GE JES1142SJ (starting at $99) for its value and ease of use.
We also uncovered two cheap microwave ovens that don't provide enough value for the money. The Haier MWM12001SCG (starting at $149) combines a microwave with a convection oven and grill, but users say these extra functions don't work well. The LG LMA1180ST (starting at $100) is relatively barebones and cheap enough, but consumers gripe about noise and a short life span.Back to top »
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