Microwave Ovens: Quick Picks (cont.)

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The app also lets users save favorite recipes. For example, if you want to make your pizza a little crispier next time, you can customize the Scan-to-Cook settings, and it will remember specific preferences. The company plans to launch the microwave in fall 2017. Whirlpool tells us that it’s seeking to expand its offerings in regard to “automated cooking.”

“Connected appliances are a growing trend,” says Mike Brown of GE Appliances. The clock that’s on one GE over-the-range microwave syncs with the clock that’s on a compatible GE oven and range, and the microwave’s light or vent hood will activate when the range is turned on, if they choose that option. “Smart technologies we are working on are all about assisted cooking, meaning finding ways to make the microwave better at helping consumers with total meal preparation,” Brown says.

COUNTERPOINT. More countertop microwaves are available in black stainless steel than was the case 2 years ago. We found 21 models in that color, compared with just six in 2015. However, the average black stainless steel model costs an additional $50–$100 compared with a stainless steel model.

In May 2017, Sharp introduced a line of countertop microwaves that have a popcorn-settings button that’s tuned to specific package sizes of Orville Redenbacher microwave popcorn. Sharp says it worked closely with the popcorn company to create an algorithm that would achieve the popping quality that Orville Redenbacher targets. This popcorn-settings button also can be used when you cook other brands of popcorn, although Sandusky recommends that you follow the instructions on the popcorn package, which often discourages consumers from using the popcorn button in favor of manual timing. These models are priced from $119 to $140.

However, Hood is dubious about this feature and pins the collaboration on clever marketing. “It’s about staying ahead of the competition,” she says. “At the end of the day, all people really want is for options to work. Most microwaves do that without fancy labeling.”

More significant is LG’s addition of inverter technology, which creates more-even cooking by modulating the amount of energy that’s used during the cooking process. Previously, just GE and Panasonic microwaves that started at about $155 had that technology. In May 2017, LG introduced its inverter technology in its NeoChef line of countertop microwaves, which are priced from $129 to $219. LG’s inverter technology delivers variable power control that’s between 300 and 1,200 watts.

The line also uses humidity-sensing technology that helps it to determine when food is cooked appropriately and automatically turns off the microwave, according to LG spokesperson Taryn Brucia. The technology measures water vapor and controls the microwave throughout the cooking process.

STEAMY SCENE. We found that more microwaves than ever before have steam cleaning or easy-clean interior coatings that inhibit staining and make cleaning them easier. “Everyone knows how stuck-on food can get, so I think it’s great that manufacturers are following the oven and dryer industries, which have had steam cleaning for several years,” Hood says.

In 2015, we noted only one over-the-range combination oven that had steam-cleaning technology. That number has increased to nine, and experts agree that more will be launched in the next 2 years, which makes for steamier prospects for the future.

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