Cheap cookware usually comes with a small Dutch oven, so we sought out five larger, better options under $80, from enameled cast iron to a stainless stockpot.
Microwave Ovens Performance
The microwave oven reviews we found indicate that many of the best microwaves on our list are replacements for models that provided users with 15 to 20 years of service. Although consumers are delighted with the advances in microwave functionality, they're not so thrilled with the decrease in durability that seems to plague inexpensive microwaves.
Microwaves Heating/Cooking.Despite all the many features bundled into the newer and the best microwaves, they still must perform the fundamental function of heating food, be it refrigerated leftovers or a frozen dinner. If the microwave accomplishes these tasks thoroughly and quickly, consumers are satisfied with their purchases.
The Panasonic NN-H765 meets this standard with ease. Microwave reviews on sites like Amazon assert this feature-rich model is a big-time convenience and particularly rave about its sensor heat and turbo defrost functions. The latter eliminates the trial-and-error, note users, and the sensors produce perfectly cooked foods, including a mac-and-cheese casserole devoid of cold spots. Reviewers also like the consistent and speedy results with the Panasonic NN-H765, noting that its 1250 watts get the job done faster than the older units it replaced.
Sensor cooking and hefty wattage are also big attractions of the Kenmore 6633. A number of users comment on Sears that the power exceeds that of older models and as a result, they've had to revise cooking times downward. One consumer, obviously familiar with the delights of burnt bacon, notes that once his wife starting using the sensor function, breakfast has been far more enjoyable. Speed and power are hallmarks of the Kenmore 6633, according to user reviews, and its gentle touch on delicate ingredients such as chocolate and butter is worth noting.
Power is a big draw for our other best microwave picks, as well. Users of the Oster OGG61403 also report that cooking times needed with their older microwaves no longer apply. Microwave reviews posted on Walmart talk up the convenience of the preset buttons that are often, but not always, fool-proof. A few reviewers say results aren't perfect -- some foods are too hot and others too cold. The simplicity of the GE JES1142S appeals to consumers, who assert it more than adequately fulfills its primary function; that is, reheat foods and beverages. We read consumer reviews on several sites extolling its virtues in office settings, where lots of people use it throughout the day to warm lunches, snacks, and liquid refreshments. Reviewers posting on Best Buy deem it efficient, noting that it makes foods very hot in short order.
The LG LMA1180ST also passes the proficiency test. According to microwave oven reviews on Best Buy, its 1000 watts seem sufficient and food is heated through relatively quickly and evenly. The reviewer at Cooking Connect, however, says this model could use more than three options for defrosting meat.
Power, or lack thereof, is an issue for the microwave-convection combo Haier MWM12001SCG. Some consumers like the Haier MWM12001SCG because it's an opportunity to reduce appliance clutter while providing an alternative to the oven when baking a small casserole. Others counter that it's no substitute for a real oven and even the microwave function is less than impressive. Indeed, quite a number of Amazon customers gripe about inadequate heat in convection mode ; the highest temperature setting is 425 degrees, writes one consumer, but the oven doesn't get hotter than 360 and takes forever to heat up.
Microwaves Ease of Use.For the most part, the best microwaves in the budget segment score highly for ease of use. Microwave reviews often comment approvingly on the variety of pre-programmed settings (choose one and forget about it until the beep goes off), the intuitive control panels, and the quick swipe clean-up. The Panasonic NN-H765 is also praised for a turntable capable of holding two dinners (although a few report it slips out of alignment) and a spacious interior that can accommodate (just barely, according to a review) an ham weighing more than 11 pounds. One minor gripe concerns the absence of a quick 30-second button. The Oster OGG61403 earns loud applause for the handle on the door rather than the usual push-button. One review says you must pull the handle hard and fast and another says the unit walks a bit when opening the door. Still, there's no chance that a broken button can keep dinner trapped inside, a predicament that befell one reviewer who owned a different model before purchasing the Oster OGG61403.
Consumers seem happiest with their budget microwaves when the function buttons are self-explanatory. Users say the Oster OGG61403 boasts lots of features and buttons, and mercifully, there 's no programming involved. Microwave reviews say the control panel on the GE JES1142S is user-friendly, with plenty of function-specific settings -- so many perhaps, that some users commenting about this top microwave on Abt say the range of options is more than they need. The auto-cook buttons on the Kenmore 6633 appeal to several reviewers who say food is done to perfection with no assistance from the chef and the controls are easy to figure out, which makes the manual superfluous.
The shortcut keys (e.g., auto defrost and EZ-on) are favorably noted in microwave reviews of the LG LMA1180ST at Best Buy, but users grouse about not being able to add 30 seconds mid-cycle. One consumer carps about the low interior height and another says the unit moves when you hit the button to open the door. The disappointing functionality of the convection-oven on the Haier MWM12001SCG puts off some consumers, according to reviews, as do the requirements for so much open space around the unit that some kitchens are just too small to accommodate it.
Microwaves Noise Level.Noise is a common but low-grade complaint about discount microwave ovens. Even the top microwaves we researched are targets of at least some grumbling about noisy operation, be it buzzing, popping, or humming. One consumer writes that the Haier MWM12001SCG sounds like an X-ray machine and another considers the noise of the LG LMA1180ST so loud that ear plugs are recommended. The beep emitted at the end of the cook cycle on the Oster OGG 61403 keeps on beeping until the door is opened, and some users' microwave reviews find this particularly irritating. On the other hand, several consumers like the beep in the midst of the defrost cycle on the Kenmore 6633, which is a signal to change-up the food by stirring, rotating, or breaking apart.
Microwaves Durability.After reading through scores of microwave reviews, we noted that glowing comments about even the top budget microwaves are often tempered by a few reports of life spans shortened for one reason or another. Such failures are particularly irksome to consumers who report having gotten a decade or more of service from a unit bought years ago. Indeed, it seems that a long and productive life is one of the sacrifices you make when buying a budget microwave. The top cheap microwaves occasionally get dinged for problems such as error codes on the display, a heating function that suddenly cuts out, turntables that stop rotating, and electrical circuits (in the house) that trip.
Most of the negative reports we came across, however, concern the Haier MWM12001SCG and the LG LMA1180ST. The bulk of the grievances for the latter refer to limited durability (i.e., well under two years). The Haier MWM12001SCG is criticized for a faulty door mechanism and a convection oven that doesn't get hot enough.
All the discount microwave ovens that we researched come with a one-year warranty.Back to top »
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