The microwave oven in your kitchen is great for cooking, heating and reheating food. Whether that’s popping popcorn, steaming veggies, or simply nuking day-old, leftover pizza. But one of its most useful features is defrosting frozen leftovers or thawing ice-cold meat. The latest tech in warming up and unfreezing chilled food is pretty interesting to read about, more below.
Best Overall Microwave: Panasonic Microwave Oven NN-SN766S
Best Medium-Price Microwave: Toshiba EM131A5C-BS Microwave Oven
Best Budget Microwave: BLACK+DECKER EM720CB7 Digital Microwave Oven
We’ve spent hours reviewing and testing the best microwave for defrosting so you don’t have to. We looked at a range of factors that are important to consumers including ease of use, reliability, extra features, wattage level and of course how well their defrosting capabilities worked. You can read extensive reviews in the round up of our top-rated microwaves below.
1 Panasonic Microwave Oven NN-SN766S
Unique, patented “inverter technology” designed for defrosting and other low power modes makes this a no-brainer for best overall microwave for defrosting.
High 1250W power means all cooking, reheating and defrosting is super quick.
Tons more useful features, the timesaving “sensor reheat” being a standout example.
What We Liked
- The ultra modern “inverter technology” makes defrosting a dream
- Few reports of breakdowns and other issues
- Outstanding selection of features
What We Didn’t Like
- No options for cheaper, low power microwaves
My pick for the best microwave for defrosting is this model by Panasonic. The beauty of this oven is its inverter technology, which is a fancy way of saying the defrosting is done at a constant rate.
Cheap microwaves that aren’t suited for defrosting simply turn the power on and off again for low power and defrost modes.
For example, defrosting at 30% power means 3 seconds on full power then 7 seconds on no power. Not ideal.
With the Panasonic range of microwaves, you know you’re getting a quality low power function that’ll defrost all types of food evenly. No burnt edges and no cold clumps in the middle.
This tech is unique to Panasonic who has patented it and is what makes this microwave undisputed king for defrosting.
Throw in sensor and weight detection so you can easily “set it and go” and it’s an absolute no brainer for the best microwave for defrosting.
Here’s the link to its 1200W and 1.2 cubic feet model. There are larger and more powerful versions available. Click the link to browse.
The microwave is kitted out with a whole load of goodies on top of the defrosting. Its “genius sensor” takes the guesswork out of cooking and reheating. Choose the food and it will automatically work out the time needed based on weight and humidity.
You also have a “keep warm” feature for gravies, sauces or soups, ten different power options and a super convenient “+30 seconds” button.
Best of all, Panasonic has a strong reputation for reliability in the microwave arena. Reports of breakdowns or technical issues are reassuringly few and far between.
2 Toshiba EM131A5C-BS Microwave Oven
Impressive power of 1100W can deliver fast heating and defrosting times.
Solid reliability is standard from this company.
Excellent range of features at this price point.
What We Liked
- Excellent power output of 1100W, particularly for the price
- Useful “custom defrost” menu
- Great additional features
What We Didn’t Like
- Stop/start low power mode
If you’re not ready to splash the cash on the top dog but still want a solid microwave for defrosting, then look no further than the Toshiba range of budget microwaves.
Toshiba offers great value for money. Its microwaves are equipped with plenty of features and do a rock solid job on defrosting for a fraction of the price of Panasonic, albeit without the “inverter technology”.
The model I’ve linked to is a medium-sized oven at 1.2 cu. ft and a turntable diameter of 12.4″. Despite this, the impressive power of 1100W will get your food cooked in no time.
Other Toshiba microwaves offer smaller or larger sizes along with commensurate power outputs.
Heating food up is a breeze with its sensor menu which is labeled “custom defrost” for its defrosting options. Simply put your food in and the microwave can work out how long to cook it. Its ten different power levels give you lots of control over defrosting and reheating, too.
The Toshiba comes with an eco mode that reduces power usage during standby mode, a “sound on/off option” to eliminate annoying beeps and boops, and you can even use “soften” and “melt” functions to easily soften butter or melt chocolate.
This lovely looking set of microwaves comes with the option of black or stainless steel finishes to boot.
3 BLACK+DECKER EM720CB7 Digital Microwave Oven
Black & Decker
All features necessary for solid defrosting and other modes.
Range of power settings to choose from.
Excellent value for money.
What We Liked
- Solid defrost without breaking the bank
- Lots of options for microwave at different price points
- Plenty of features
What We Didn’t Like
- Not the most powerful
- Falls a little behind on defrosting compared to top options
The Black and Decker is the most affordable option in this list, and gives a passable defrost without breaking the bank.
You have four options with staggered price points. The sizes range from 0.7 cu. ft with 10″ diameter turntable to 1.4 cu. ft with 12.4″ turntable and each size has a different wattage.
The smallest microwave offers just 700W where even full power cooking will be slow albeit more than enough for defrosting needs. The largest size comes in at a beefy 1000W that cooks food much more quickly.
Choose from ten different power settings. This is great for defrosting as you have a lot of options to heat your food rather than the simple “30%” that some microwaves will give you.
The Black And Decker has a keypad input along with an LED display and a clock. The door of the microwave is a push button to release with an optional child safety lock, although this is absent on the smallest 700W model.
While customer reviews of this microwave are very good (follow the link for more), there are complaints about the loudness of the microwave during operation and some users find the buttons, which are grey on black, to be difficult to read in low light conditions.
How Does Defrosting Work?
Defrosting is the microwave industry’s dirty little secret. Put some frozen chicken in the microwave on “defrost” and you expect it to run at low power.
The truth is the magnetron (that produces the microwaves) simply switches on and off to simulate low power.
The smart Alecs at Panasonic found a way around all this with their patented “inverter technology” which produces a steady stream of lower power.
When it comes to defrosting itself, Panasonic likes to use a term called “turbo defrost”. This still uses the same steady stream of heat (inverter technology) but “an advanced microwave sequencing system using the inverter continuous-power delivery feature.”
The idea is low heat is applied evenly through the food to simulate leaving it to thaw naturally. This avoids the concentration build-up of microwaves which causes burnt outsides with icy cold middles.
Can you defrost without inverter technology?
Yes, you definitely can. The “stop/start” method of heating and defrosting does work but largely due to heat spreading by convection, which takes longer and is less thorough.
Buyer’s Guide For Best Microwave For Defrosting
Your first and most important decision when choosing a microwave is to decide what amount of watts is necessary. The wattage of a microwave is a measure of its power, or more simply, how fast it cooks.
Generally speaking, the more the better. A higher wattage cooks things more quickly, a huge advantage whether you’re preparing a meal for ten people or just reheating yesterday’s leftovers.
The upper end of microwaves at around 1300W are almost twice as fast as the 700W or 800W microwaves you might be used to.
One caveat is that instructions and cooking times on packaged meals are for microwaves in the 700-900W range. However, you can simply reduce the power for most microwaves or just work out the time difference.
For example, a cooking time of 3 minutes (180 seconds) at 900W can be converted into 1200W using the following equation.
You might wonder why anyone would get a low wattage microwave. The technology used in microwaves gets exponentially more expensive to produce those higher wattages. You’ll have to decide for yourself whether the extra power is worth the cost.
Dial or keypad
Microwaves use either a rotating dial or a keypad for input.
The keypad is the modern option. You have an LED display showing the remaining time and a plethora of buttons that offer different features or preset options.
A dial-based microwave is more simple and provides less information. You spin the dial to the amount of time you want. It’s tricky when doing smaller cooking times and doing increments of 30 seconds is often a guessing game!
Although nowadays you see some modern microwaves offer a dial input and LED display.
This option is useful for those who might have issues with a button-based input such as the disabled or elderly.
Size / Capacity
The standard measurement for size of microwaves in the USA is using cubic feet. Personally, I find this clunky and unhelpful. Here’s a rule of thumb to make sense of this measurement.
0.7 cubic feet – small microwave
1-1.5 cubic feet – normal-sized microwave
1.7+ cubic feet – larger microwave
It’s easier to judge size based on the diameter of the turntable on which you place your food. All microwaves I have reviewed have this diameter in the listing for your convenience.
To work out if a microwave will fit in your kitchen, it is best to use the dimensions of length, width, and height. These are available on any Amazon listing you can find by clicking on the links in the article.
The materials that make up the inner components of the microwave oven are standardized across the industry. For example. the inner panels of the microwave are made from stainless steel which reflects the radio waves (or microwaves) and prevents them from leaving the oven. They are the same in all microwave ovens.
Typically, the outside body of the microwave is made of aluminum which is strong and cheap. In terms of buying a microwave, you don’t need to think too deeply about the material it is made from.
You won’t always want to use your microwave at full power. For example, one neat trick you can do with the microwave is to run it at 10% power to make beautiful and warm melted chocolate. Some microwaves give you more control over power settings than others.
The standard in modern microwaves is to have ten “power levels” where a five corresponds to 50% and a nine to 90% and so on. This gives you a lot of control.
On the other hand, you also come across microwaves that simply offer “medium” and “medium-low” heat, sometimes without even telling you the percentage of the full power that it’s using.
Older and cheaper microwaves have a peculiar quirk when using low power modes. For example, when using a 50% power they will not run at 50% power but will alternate between 100% power and then 0% power. This shortcut is not ideal and can lead to unevenly cooked food.
The issue is that the magnetron, the “engine” of a microwave, can either be turned on or off. Creating a microwave that can produce a steady stream of lower power requires a touch of tech wizardry.
You need to decide if it’s worth the investment to have this “inverter technology” for low power modes like defrosting, softening, melting and so on.
Sensor heating is one of the highlights of modern microwave technology and takes the guesswork out of cooking and reheating.
Essentially, the microwave can detect moisture levels in the food and use this to calibrate precisely how much cooking time is needed. You select the type of food as different foods have different moisture profiles.
No need to put in an amount of time. In fact, some microwaves tell you how long is left before your food is ready.
Sensor technology can be used for reheating but also for cooking some foods from scratch. A valuable feature you may want to splash the cash for in your new microwave oven.
The “keep warm” feature can be a lifesaver for a busy cook trying to juggle cooking five different things at once. Put this setting on and the microwave will keep gravy, soup, desserts or anything else at a steady heat, giving you room to manage the finer points of the meal.
Power saving / eco mode
An “eco mode” offers a reduction of up to 50% of the power used in standby mode, helping you to take a little off your electric bill and do your bit for the environment.
What an “eco mode” cannot do is reduce the amount of power used to cook food. The magnetron uses power at the output of the wattage itself and cannot be made more efficient.
Child safety lock
A microwave with a child safety lock will allow you to “lock” the microwave from being turned on when not in use. This can stop children from fiddling with a potentially dangerous appliance.
Sound on/off option
A “sound on/off” button will turn electric sounds off when selecting options or time and also when the food is finished. Handy for those who share living arrangements to mute the constant buzz of sounds.
A “soften” or “melt” button on a microwave allows you to soften butter or melt chocolate with a single touch. All microwaves have this capability with their low power modes, but a standalone button takes the guesswork out of it.
A microwave with an in-built convection oven offers a great all-in-one appliance for those in dorms or with small kitchens where a separate oven is not an option. It can fulfill almost all the functions of a traditional oven but will rarely be as powerful. The cost is bumped up a fair bit, too.