Microwave Ovens with Inverter Technology Really Cook

Microwave Ovens with Inverter Technology Really Cook

Updated 3/3/2024 with improved chart, market information, and recommended models.

If you’re like most consumers, your microwave oven serves two main duties: boiling water and reheating leftovers. But wouldn’t it be great if rather than just taking up a chunk of space in your kitchen, you could actually rely on your microwave for cooking meals?

Cooking food successfully in a microwave is challenging because the magnetron, the element that cooks the food in most microwaves, can only deliver full power. Even when set to “50% power”, the microwave oven is going through cycles of delivering 100% power, followed by a period of no power.

Imagine if your regular oven worked this way. Instead of cooking a roast at 350 degrees, you’d cook it at 700 degrees for ten minutes, then take it out for ten minutes, and repeat over and over again until the meat is cooked. Good luck with that!

The microwave inverter solution

Originally developed by Panasonic, there are now multiple brands on the market offering “inverter” technology, which aims to solve this problem. The inverter modulates the level of energy being transmitted by the oven to achieve a consistent level. So when you set 50% power, for example, you get a steady stream of 50% power for the entire cooking time. The result is more evenly cooked food, defrosting without cooked edges, and even the ability to keep foods warm until mealtime.

Chart showing conventional microwaves cooking at full power with gaps for medium and low vs inverter microwave cooking continuously at the set power.

I spent weeks testing Panasonic inverter microwave ovens. Using recipes from Panasonic, including some produced by the prestigious Culinary Institute of America specifically for inverter microwaves, I made hollandaise sauce, fruit crisp, corn chowder, barbecued pulled pork, and other fun dishes.

What I found was that the microwave inverter performed surprisingly well for dishes that required slow cooking in moist environments, such as the hollandaise sauce (which can be tricky to do on the stovetop) and pulled pork. Corn chowder worked fine as well, though it would have been just as easy on the stovetop and we didn’t like moving large bowls of boiling liquid in and out of the oven. Perhaps not surprisingly, the fruit crisp was a flop, with a soggy, raw-tasting topping and overcooked fruit underneath. However, this could be fixed by finishing it in your oven or air fryer.

Final take on inverter technology 

Based on my experiences, I could easily see using an inverter microwave in addition to my standard cooktop and range, especially during busy holiday times when I am trying to cook many dishes at once, while also keeping everything warm until serving time. It is a fast and clean way to steam vegetables, melt chocolate, braise meats, or do any one of a number of occasional kitchen tasks that involve steady cooking and do not require browning.

Recommend models

If you are purchasing a microwave, I strongly recommend considering an inverter model. Various options are offered by Breville, Cuisinart, LG, Panasonic, Sharp, and Toshiba, among others. As the originator of inverter technology, Panasonic has been in the game for decades. They offer models to fit pretty much every space and budget. However, you’ll get a little more bang for your buck with Toshiba.

Panasonic NN-936B with editors choice award

Panasonic NN-SN936B: Best full-size inverter microwave

The Panasonic NN-SN936B excels in even cooking, user-friendliness, and power. With 1250W of power and a sizeable 2.2 cubic foot capacity, it’s perfect for families. Turbo Defrost and the Genius Sensor help to heat quickly, while avoiding overcooking. And 14 one-touch cooking options for popular items like popcorn, potatoes, and more, keep operation simple.

While I haven’t tested this model directly, it has the exact same inverter technology and features as the discontinued models I reviewed previously.


  • Capacity: 2.2 cubic feet
  • Wattage: 1250 watts
  • Turntable: 16.5 inches
  • Dimensions: 23⅞” W x 14″ H x 19 7/16″ D
  • Finish: Black or White

Check Panasonic NN-936B price on amazon button


Panasonic NN-SN686S with editors choice award

Panasonic NN-SN686S: Best compact inverter microwave

The Panasonic NN-SN686S is an excellent choice for those seeking a reliable, mid-sized microwave featuring the precision of Inverter Technology.  If you have limited counter space or don’t typically cook for larger groups, this model offers all the key benefits of the NN-SN936B in a more compact package.


  • Capacity: 1.2 cubic feet
  • Wattage: 1200 watts
  • Turntable: 13.4 inches
  • Dimensions: 20.7″ W x 12.2″ H x 15.8″ D
  • Finish: Stainless Steel

Check Panasonic NN-SN686S price on amazon button


Toshiba ML-EM456PIT with editors choice award

Toshiba ML-EM45PIT(BS): Best value inverter microwave

The Toshiba ML-EM45PIT(BS) is an excellent choice if you’re looking for maximum bang for your buck. It offers a larger capacity (1.6 cubic feet) and slightly more power (1250 watts) compared to the Panasonic NN-SN686, while maintaining a very similar price point. A Smart Sensor adjusts power levels and cooking times automatically based on the food’s moisture (similar to Panasonic’s Genius Sensor), while 6 preset auto cook options cover the basics.


  • Capacity: 1.6 cubic feet
  • Wattage: 1250 watts
  • Turntable: 13.6 inches
  • Dimensions: 21.8″ W x 13″ H x 19.2″ D
  • Finish: Black Stainless Steel

Check Toshiba ML-EM456PIT price on amazon button

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