Microwaves can help you eat healthier, speed up defrosting times and grill the side-dishes while the main is in the oven – or even cook the whole meal for you.
Yet with a large number of microwaves on the market and a wide price range to match, it’s hard to know which model to invest your money in. Read on as we share our recommendations for the best microwave Australia based consumers can get their hands on in 2020.
To give you extra peace of mind, we’ve also shared tips on understanding Australian warranties, as well as the WHO-approved best practices for safe microwave cooking.
The Best Microwaves in Australia in 2020
Our reviews are below, but if you want to skip the details and head straight to the shops, here are our favourites:
- Panasonic NN-DS596B
- LG NeoChef Smart Inverter
- Panasonic NN-CF874BQPQ
- Samsung ME6104ST1
- Sharp R995DST/R995DW
How we picked
From heating up last night’s soup to melting honey and steaming vegetables, our microwaves see daily use. Our personal experiences, good and bad, have influenced this list. These recommendations aren’t just based on our opinions, however: we’ve also compiled and evaluated third-party data.
We turned to sources such as Canstar Blue, ProductReview.com.au, Amazon reviews and a wide range of blogs and official guidelines (which we’ve linked to, where relevant) to spot potential issues with these microwaves. After all, there’s no better way to test a product than using it day-in and day-out in the kitchen.
Some microwaves didn’t make the cut. We haven’t recommended any that lack what we consider essential features or that have received significant numbers of negative reviews – no matter how attractive the model looked on paper.
What to look for
Most microwaves sit on the kitchen counter, but some are designed to go in a cabinet or over the stove. These will typically come with a trim kit to help it sit nicely. Make sure you know where you want to install the microwave oven before you purchase it, since some are only suitable for countertop placement.
Size and Capacity
Size refers to the microwave’s external dimensions, which will determine where you can put it. This is particularly important if you’re planning an in-cabinet or over-the-range placement, or if you’ve got a small kitchen.
The capacity, measured in litres, is how much you can fit inside the microwave. Don’t be fooled by the outside appearance: depending on the design, the capacity can be surprisingly large or small.
Generally speaking, the bigger the capacity, the more expensive the microwave. Some higher-end models even have two levels, which like your oven, allow you to cook a main and a side or dessert at the same time.
When choosing a microwave, you’ll want to think about how much kitchen space you have versus what you want to cook. If you’re just warming up food and steaming vegetables, you can probably get away with a smaller capacity model than if you want to bake cakes and roast joints of meat.
If you like the sound of a microwave, don’t discount it just because it’s bigger or smaller than you would like. Most brands offer models in multiple sizes, or at least similar ones with different capacities.
We’ve allotted extra points to microwaves with a high capacity for their size, but other than that, we haven’t adjusted the ranking. It’s too subjective.
Functions and Pre-sets
This is where certain microwaves really stand out.
While some microwaves just microwave, others are also a convection oven, grill, steamer, fryer, yoghurt-maker and more. We’ve given additional points to microwaves with greater functions, especially those that are widely useful (e.g. a grill is worth more points than a yoghurt-maker).
Not everyone uses pre-sets, but if you do, you’ll find that microwave ovens can vary greatly. Some just cover the most basic foods, some will provide a wide range and others will even allow you to input and save your own settings. We’ve factored their ease of use into our recommendations.
Most microwaves run at 600W to 1,200W. The higher the wattage, the more powerful the microwave will be, which in turn increases the speed at which it cooks or reheats your food.
Speed is subjective, but most people are satisfied when their microwave’s output is 1,000W or more. At 800W or 700W, it can feel painfully slow. In fact, it takes roughly twice as long to boil water at 700W as at 1,200W.
For this reason, we’ve prioritised high-wattage microwaves.
Inverter technology means that your food is cooked at a stable temperature, no matter the heat settings. At medium- and low-heat settings, conventional microwaves will alternate between 100% and 0% power to create the desired average heat. Inverter technology, in contrast, will heat at the programmed level the whole time.
Inverter technology isn’t essential, but it does mean your food cooks better. It reduces the risk of overcooked edges and cold spots in the middle. This adds up to safer food with a better texture.
Our top five picks have inverter technology, but we have mentioned one or two that don’t have it. We clearly state it when reviewing a model without this feature.
Sensor control means the microwave detects how much steam the food is giving off and adjusts the cooking time accordingly. It reduces the risk of over- or under-cooking your food.
This is a premium setting that isn’t yet commonplace. For that reason, we haven’t deducted points for microwaves without sensor control. However, when choosing between two similar models, extra weight was given to the one with this feature.
With higher-end models priced at over $1,000, you’ll want to know that you’re covered if your microwave breaks. However, there are some striking variations in the warranties offered by manufacturers and retailers – and the ACL guidance is not as clear as many consumers would like. (Scroll down to our section on microwave ovens and warranties for more details.)
The cheaper the microwave, the less time you would expect the warranty to last. But we knocked points off models if they didn’t offer what we considered to be a good enough warranty for the price.
The Best Microwave Ovens You Can Buy in Australia 2020
Top Pick: Panasonic NN-DS596B
Looking for a microwave that can replace your oven? The 27L 1,000W Panasonic NN-DS596B is an attractive option. Retailing at $859.00, it steams, grills, turbo defrosts, bakes and roasts, offering convection microwave capabilities. And unlike competitors’ products, you can use these functions simultaneously to improve the taste and texture of your food.
Combining the oven and steam settings will make sure your roast chicken is succulent, rather than dry and tough. Alternatively, you can use the grill and microwave oven settings together to reduce cooking time and add crispiness.
It’s this flexibility that makes the Panasonic NN-DS596B our favourite choice for avid cooks, as well as busy people who want to cut down on the time spent in the kitchen without sacrificing food quality.
Using the steaming function should also help you reduce your oil and fat use. The high-efficiency boiler shoots powerful jets of steam over your food, preventing it from drying out. This means you won’t need to douse dishes with oil before putting them in the oven.
The crispy grill pan will let fat drain away from the food, as well as cooking it evenly, even without turning. That might not sound like much, but it’s one less thing to think about when your meal is cooking. If you usually whip up dressings or dessert while your main’s cooking, or simply want to unwind in this time, it could be a strong plus.
This isn’t the only feature designed to make your life easier. The Inverter Turbo Defrost sets the defrosting time based on the item’s weight. And since it uses inverter technology, the food thaws evenly. The result: you don’t need to stress about food poisoning due to poor defrosting.
It also has sensor control (which Panasonic calls the Genius Sensor). You can set the microwave oven to measure the amount of humidity being released by the food and then automatically adjust the cooking time.
Its Flatbed Design further sets it apart from other brands’ microwaves. This means it doesn’t have a turntable, freeing up 29% more space inside. As a result, it fits rectangular and otherwise awkwardly shaped dishes more easily.
And while the Panasonic NN-DS596B is already a quiet model, with three Quiet Mark stars, this also diminishes the risk of that annoying clunk that dishes can make as they hit the microwave’s walls.
It’s hard not to like this 4-in-1 convection microwave oven, which has received glowing reviews from users. In fact, the only thing we didn’t love was that the standard warranty is only 12 months long. While this is a standard warranty period, it seems short when you consider the price tag.
Unlike with competitors’ models, reviewers generally haven’t complained about the lifespan of the Panasonic NN-DS596B. However, it could be worth seeing if the retailer offers an extended warranty option. Overall, we’re confident that this Panasonic model is the best microwave Australia has on the market this year.
Runner Up: LG MS1536GIR NeoChef Smart Inverter
LG’s sleek and stylish NeoChef Smart Inverter operates as a microwave, fryer, yoghurt-maker, and grill all in one. And while it doesn’t have quite as many features as the Panasonic, or sensor control, it’s only a fraction of the price, making it a strong runner up pick for best microwave.
In fact, for those who are just looking for a good microwave rather than a tool that will revolutionise your cooking, the LG NeoChef Smart Inverter is a strong contender. On sale at $169–379 (depending on the size and finish), it is an affordable option that still possesses some impressive features.
It comes in 23L, 25L, 39L and 42L versions. According to LG, their design means that these microwaves all have an additional 2L capacity than you might expect for their size.
At 1,200W, it’s the most powerful microwave on this list, which adds up to faster cooking and reheating. LG’s tests show that it cooks chicken 1.6 times faster than their conventional microwaves, while Intertek tests found it heated milk and made popcorn 1.6 and 1.5 times faster respectively.
Don’t worry about checking your power supply, though. As long as you have a minimum of 300W, the microwave will adapt (which could make it a good choice if you’re also looking for something to install in a campervan or rural holiday home).
LG is proud of its inverter technology, which results in more even heating and defrosting. This reduces the risks of food poisoning, burnt tongues and disappointing cold spots in the middle of your reheated pasta. While convection microwave capabilities (mixing microwaves and conventional heat) are a relatively normal feature for higher-end microwaves, you won’t always get it at this low price point.
The Fry and Roast Healthy feature means you can reduce fat in fried food by up to 72%. LG also claims that it can reduce fat in roasted potato wedges by 72g, but without more context, it’s hard to judge just how impressed (or not) we should be by that. Nonetheless, it’s clear that this will help you cook healthier.
Sometimes, it’s the small things that count. You can increase the cooking time while the microwave is already running; with six support points, the turntable is stabler than average; and the melt function has three different settings.
The interior light is also three times brighter and more energy-efficient than other LG microwaves, meaning you can see how your grilled vegetables are doing without opening the door. Dark windows are a common complaint about microwave ovens, and can be annoying if you want to bake or roast food.
Another small but time-saving feature is the Anti-Bacterial EasyClean interior coating, which prevents the inside surface of the microwave from absorbing 99.9% of bacteria. It’s a win-win: cleaning is easier and cleanliness is increased.
However, there are a few small things that can bug users: first, some people find the chime irritating. To turn this off, you need to press and hold the “clear” and “keep warm” buttons for a few seconds. An on-off menu will then appear.
Secondly, in the interest of a more minimalist design, some of the controls sit behind the door. For certain functions, you need to open the door, insert your food, set the programme and then close the door – rather than inserting your food, closing the door and then programming it. It’s not intuitive and you might forget it the first few times.
Still, if you can get over (or even adore) these two points, we believe there’s little to actively dislike about this microwave oven.
LG’s customer service is another strong point. In fact, one of our favourite things about the NeoChef Smart Inverter is that it comes with a two-year parts and labour warranty, which is double the industry standard. And on the Magnetron parts, you get an 8-year warranty.
For those who just want a microwave to be a microwave, with perhaps a few extra features, we have no hesitation in recommending the LG NeoChef Smart Inverter.
Yes, that’s right: it’s another Panasonic microwave. It’s hard not to love the Panasonic range, which outshines other brands according to Canstar Blue’s research into consumer opinions.
The 32L Panasonic NN-CF874BQPQ is bigger than the NN-DS596B, and you can install it either in a cabinet or on your kitchen worktop. We love the fact that it has two levels, meaning that this could feasibly replace your regular oven. You could use it to cook a Sunday roast for a family of four without any issues.
Panasonic’s higher-end features, such as inverter technology, Inverter Turbo Defrost and sensor control, are all present. You can also programme the grill, microwave and convection settings to run simultaneously. This model doesn’t have an in-built steaming option, however (you may want to check out our list of best pressure cookers for more).
Unlike a normal oven, it shouldn’t take you long to clean the NN-CF874BQPQ: the top and back surfaces are self-cleaning, while the side panels have an easy-to-wipe coating. (Although condensation buildup might mean you need to clean the door more frequently than usual.)
So what’s the catch? It retails at $1,119. And other than the two levels and trim kit, we’re not convinced that it has much more to offer than the NN-DS596B. If you’re keen on avoiding a countertop microwave, this may be the option for you. Otherwise, we recommend sticking to one of our top picks.
The 28L stainless steel Samsung ME6104ST1 retails at just $199, but it outshines many competitors’ low-budget microwaves. And it comes with a two-year warranty, which is higher than the 12-month industry standard.
The microwave has sensor control, which Samsung refers to as Humidity Sensor, as well as power defrost and a soften and melt function. This last feature is one of our favourites, as the ability to melt chocolate and butter is invaluable for baking.
Meanwhile, its ceramic enamel interior is easy to clean and hard to scratch, meaning your microwave will not only look better for longer but is also less likely to harbour germs.
Despite this, the lack of additional functions and inverter technology left us disappointed. We feel that the LG NeoChef has more to offer at a similar price point.
At $1,249 for the stainless steel version and $1,149 for the white one, the 1,000W Sharp R995DST/R995DW is a premium product with a long list of functions.
Oddly, it doesn’t state the capacity – but with a 36.2cm turntable size, it should be pretty large.
It comes with all the standard features for high-end microwave ovens: grill, convection, inverter technology, sensor technology and weight defrost, along with 21 auto menus.
Our favourite of all the settings is the four-stage sequence cook, which means you can programme it to automatically change the heat settings at various points during cooking. If you like baking items such as cakes and quiches, this could make it much easier for you.
However, users complained that it overheats during convection cooking, normally due to a poorly thought-out preheating design. We consider this a fairly basic issue for such an expensive microwave oven. On top of that, we weren’t convinced by the 12-month warranty, given that it has a recommended retail price of over $1,000.
BMO700BSS Breville Quick Touch Crisp
Users adore the 34L Breville Quick Touch Crisp, retailing at $469.95, for the ease of use and its many features. With few buttons and intuitive smart screen programming, it’s probably the most user-friendly higher-end microwave we’ve seen.
It has both inverter technology and sensor control, which Breville refers to as SensorIQ. It also comes with an integrated crisper pan for “oven-like reheating”, preventing pastry from going soggy, in addition to a grill function.
One of the Breville Quick Touch Crisp’s most-loved features is the range of user-friendly shortcut settings, suitable for everything from popping popcorn to melting butter. The A Bit More button is also a handy time-saver for when you realise that your food isn’t quite done but don’t want to have to reprogramme the microwave.
We were concerned, however, about the number of users reporting that it broke under two years – especially when it has a relatively short one-year warranty. On top of this, at 900W, the performance is disappointingly slow.
Kogan 32L Stainless Steel Convection Microwave Oven with Grill
The 1,000W Kogan 32L, retailing at $169.99, has won over users for its performance, reliability and affordability.
It has convection and grill modes, as well as a respectable 10 cooking pre-sets for most common food groups, including pizza, soup and cake. However, it doesn’t have inverter technology, and some reviewers struggled to control the oven and grill modes.
The stainless steel body, along with the lack of dials and buttons on the interface, makes the exterior easy to clean. Yet some users found the model started to look worse for wear relatively quickly. In particular, the pads soon showed signs of damage.
Ultimately, this is a low-end model, despite that high-end stainless steel finish. Yet even when we compare it to microwaves in the same price bracket, it doesn’t impress us. We don’t feel that it outshines the Samsung ME6104ST1 – and compared to the LG NeoChef Smart Inverter range, it seems basic.
The one thing we did like was that you can purchase Kogan’s 3-Year Extended Care including Mishap Protection, on top of the 12-month warranty. But equally, 18 months in, you might find yourself not wanting to repair a microwave that’s already looking worn.
Budget microwaves under $100
You’ll find a host of cheaper microwaves retailing for under $100. However, users tend to find that they quickly break down, are hard to clean or just cook really slowly. We don’t recommend microwaves with anything less than 900W, while hard-to-eradicate splashes of food can cause long-term damage to the inner coating and become breeding-grounds for bacteria. If you’re looking for the best microwave Australia has to offer for long-term, reliable and safe use, we’d stick with one of the options above.
Microwave Ovens and Food Safety
Microwave cooking is safe and can be healthier than traditional methods. It requires less oil than frying and, compared to boiling, fewer nutrients are lost. Yet there are some food safety considerations, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Uneven cooking can be a risk, as WHO states that “microwave energy does not penetrate well in thicker pieces of food”. It recommends leaving all food to stand for “several minutes” after cooking to ensure the heat is evenly dispersed.
It also cautions that metallic materials will reflect microwaves, which can lead to food wrapped in tin foil not cooking at all.
Not all microwaves can sterilise items, such as baby’s milk bottles and jars for preserves. It’s important to check the manufacturer’s guides before attempting to use your microwave for this purpose. If you know you’ll want to sterilise bottles, you should confirm before purchasing if the model is capable of this.
If the door seal breaks, you should repair it immediately. A damaged seal can cause microwave leakage.
Microwave Ovens and Warranties
The Australian Consumer Law (ACL) protects consumers’ rights and enforces automatic guarantees. However, many customers have tried to return their electrical item only to be told that it is not covered under warranty or guarantee.
One common myth is that ACL gives consumers an automatic guarantee for up to two years. However, this is specific to mobile phones bought under a two-year contract. The amount of time in which you can get a refund, exchange or repair will depend on the type of product purchased.
Unfortunately, there is no specific mention of microwave ovens in the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s guide to electricals and white goods under the ACL. In our experience, most microwave warranties last for one or perhaps two years. However, sometimes they only cover repairs, not replacements.
It can be worth checking both the manufacturer’s and retailer’s warranty: the retailer’s one may be longer or include replacements. Some companies also offer extended warranties for an additional fee.
While the manufacturer cannot charge for repairs (unless it’s a user-created fault), some may have fees for transportation and/or home collection costs under certain conditions, e.g. if the customer cannot return it to a store.
Additionally, should the manufacturer or retailer decide the fault was caused by the user, or exacerbated in some way by incorrect use or a lack of appropriate maintenance (e.g. not cleaning the microwave or letting condensation accumulate until rust develops), the manufacturer and/or retailer may argue that they do not have to repair or replace the microwave oven for free.
The Bottom Line: Which is the Best Microwave in Australia?
We’re confident that our top pick (the Panasonic NN-DS596B) will suit the majority of users, enabling you to prepare high-quality, well-cooked food – in our view, it’s the best microwave in Australia in 2020.
Best microwave for keen cooks: Panasonic NN-DS596B
Best microwave for more basic use: LG NeoChef Smart Inverter