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The best microwaves for 2024

Panasonic Home Chef 4-in-1 microwave and air fryer
The Panasonic HomeChef 4-in-1 microwave has an air fryer mode that crisps and browns french fries. Panasonic

Over the past seven decades, microwave ovens have evolved -- from  mega-gadgets with one or two cooking options to countertop-size small kitchen appliances with loads of features.

In addition to cooking and defrosting food quickly, the microwaves of 2024 double as convection ovens, air fryers and broilers. Some of them offer smart technology, controllable by voice ("Alexa, cook popcorn!") or an app. Others, powered by inverters instead of magnetic coils or transformers, promise more even and faster cooking with the same amount of wattage. 

Looking to replace your home's old microwave, or just get more out of your cooking appliances? CBS Essentials has rounded up some of the latest microwaves with surprising features. And if you're not sure if a new microwave is right for you right now, we're also answering some of your most frequent questions about how the gadgets work.

Panasonic Home Chef 4-in-1 microwave: Save $50


Panasonic Home Chef may be the most multi-tasking, space-saving small appliance on the market. In addition to serving as an inverter microwave, this 1.2 cubic foot cooking tool works as a convection oven (up to 425 degrees), air fryer (it comes with its own basket) and even a broiler. 

The bake function goes up to 450 degrees, which is more than enough for most recipes. A quick-defrost option helps get dinner on the table faster.

What's more, it's currently on sale for $50 off on Amazon. 

Panasonic also sells a stainless steel trim kit for those who want the built-in look. 

Toshiba microwave and air fryer or convection combo


Toshiba offers more affordable multi-tasking microwaves: A microwave/air-fryer/convection model, or microwave/convection oven. 

Sleek looking but rather large, the 1000-watt and 1.5 cubic foot kitchen appliances offer lots of preset cooking options. Yep, there's a popcorn button. And here's something interesting: If you want to mute the buzzer of the microwave, you can press a certain button, and the noise is automatically switched off after one long beep.

Each option available in black stainless steel and traditional stainless steel finish, with the air fryer version model actually coming in a few dollars cheaper.  

Breville Combi Wave 3 in 1 


Breville introduced an all-new line of microwaves a few years ago. The most innovative one, the Combi Wave, performs as a hybrid convection oven, air fryer and microwave. 

It features a soft-close door -- which busy households with kids might appreciate. Another cool feature: A cook-from-frozen preset.

For those who just want an attractive, easy-to-use microwave, another model, the Smooth Wave, a brushed stainless steel appliance with 15 built-in presets, smart inverter technology and LCD display, is a good option. 

Breville Smooth Wave, $400

Whirlpool mini-microwave: Save $71


The tiniest microwave on the market, this small but mighty Whirlpool appliance, designed to tuck away in a corner, offers 750 watts of cooking and defrosting power. Despite its compact size, it does fit a full dinner plate inside.

Features include "quick touch" buttons -- yes, there's popcorn -- and the ability to add an extra 20 seconds of cooking or up to 10 levels of power. A child-safe lock adds peace of mind.

For a limited time, the Whirlpool mini-microwave is on sale for 27% off, saving you $71.

How do microwaves work?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration offers a clear, easy explanation on how microwaves work: An electron tube produces tiny waves (aka microwaves). These are absorbed by the food. Water molecules in food vibrate, producing heat that cooks the food. (This explains why foods higher in water content -- including vegetables -- cook more rapidly than others.) 

While the energy changes into heat once absorbed, it doesn't make food "radioactive," which is a common misconception. Additionally, microwaving does not cook food from the inside out. The outer layers are heated and cooked primarily by microwaves while the inside is cooked mainly by the conduction of heat from the hot outer layers. 

Are microwaves bad for you?

Radiation-related injuries as a result of microwave use are a big concern but extremely rare, per the FDA. The majority of microwave oven-related injuries result from heat-related burns via hot containers, overheated foods, or exploding liquids. 

Rare radiation injuries can happen when large amounts of microwave radiation leak through openings, such as gaps in the microwave oven seals, most commonly due to improper servicing, as the FDA heavily regulates microwave design to prevent these types of leaks. 

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