Handle is a welcome alternative to button
Offers substantial power and multiple settings
Easy-to-clean interior and exterior
Too big for small kitchens
Preset heat times are too aggressive
We all aspire to cook dinner each night and bring in leftovers for lunch. In reality, though, a microwavable dinner is sometimes all we can muster after a draining nine-to-five and a taxing commute home. In these scenarios, we need our microwave to really do the trick. We’ve owned microwaves so powerless we were forced to double our cook times, and others? Total stain magnets. This time around, we were on the lookout for something that was powerful, easy to use, and relatively simple to clean. Read on to see how the Toshiba EM131A5C-BS Microwave Oven performed in our home.
Design: Sleek but large
The first thing we noticed about the Toshiba Microwave Oven was its size. This thing is quite big. We live in a Brooklyn apartment with a separate kitchen; in other words—an anomaly. The Toshiba Microwave, however, still took up more counter space than we liked.
When placed on one of our two countertops, it spanned nearly the entire depth of the counter; the microwave measures 17.1 inches and our counter just 24 inches. We are quick problem solvers, though, and moved the machine to the top of our refrigerator instead. It’s the perfect size to sit snuggly and it’s heavy enough to stay put despite the constant opening and closing of the fridge.
It must be said, however, that a larger scale can often work in a microwave’s favor. If you’re looking to thaw a whole chicken or pop a family-sized bag of corn, you’ve come to the right place. The Toshiba’s roomy interior allows you to heat and eat almost everything.
Aside from the size, we loved the sleek, stainless steel body of this particular Toshiba model. We also couldn’t get enough of the door handle! For one reason or another, opening a microwave with a handle—as opposed to a button—feels more satisfying and practical.
Functionality: Simple and straight-forward
When we first got our fingers on the touchpad of the Toshiba Microwave Oven, we weren’t sure what to think. Attempting to heat up a quesadilla, we pressed four and proceeded to hover over the five, obviously going for the ideal cheese-melting length of 45 seconds. No sooner did we press four, however, than the microwave began its four-minute countdown.
We’ve never owned a microwave with this one-touch functionality, but we quickly grew accustomed to it. There is a 30-second button as well as quick-touch buttons for everything from one to six minutes. We seamlessly adapted to rounding our cook times to the nearest 30 seconds. If presets aren’t your thing, you can manually input the cook time by pressing the button that reads Custom Cook, and then entering in the number of seconds of minutes you’d like.
Other functionalities include a clock, a kitchen timer, and various presets based on food type. Lastly, you can adjust the power level of the device, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
Presets: Not as precise as manual
There are several preset buttons in addition to the one-touch functionality—you will find buttons for Frozen Pizza, Frozen Entrée, Potato, Rice, Veggie, as well as Custom Cook, Soften/Melt, Popcorn, along with some defrosting options.
Most of the presets seemed to work relatively well. When we popped an Amy’s Frozen Mexican Casserole into the microwave and tested the Frozen Entrée button, it emerged cooked to perfection. But it’s easy enough most often to simply cook or heat food for the suggested time.
Throughout our testing process, we kept our power setting at 10, and were pleased with the results.
As far as the Frozen Pizza preset goes, we refuse to cook a pizza in a microwave as opposed to an oven, so we may never know if it works. We did defrost bananas, which took a little finagling. We pressed Defrost, and entered in 1 pound when prompted for the weight. The microwave timer suddenly jumped to seven minutes, as it attempted to defrost just three bananas. We stopped it about halfway through the process, and the fruit seemed soft enough. The soften/melt presets aren’t exact, either, and we had to take our butter out early. Though, to be fair, we simply wanted it to soften, not melt.
Power Level: DON’T follow the directions
When we picked up this microwave we were fresh off a $50 model that left a lot to be desired. So when we placed our Annie’s meal into this bad boy and saw our dinner heat up in the anticipated four and a half minutes, we couldn’t have been more pleased. Most microwaves range in power, from 600 watts to 1200 watts, so this microwave actually falls on the higher end of the spectrum at 1100 watts. There are ten power settings in total, with the default power level set to 10. Throughout our testing process, we kept our power setting at 10, and were pleased with the results.
Something that must be addressed in this review, however, is the slightly misleading direction with regard to changing the power level. The manual reads: "Prior to cooking, press Power Level and 'PL10' will display. Then press number pads to select a different power level”. If you attempt this, however, you will find that the power level will not change. What you need to do instead is press “Time Cook,” then enter the time, and then press the Power Level button to change the level.
Ease of Cleaning: The best feature of this model
One of the immeasurable upsides to this particular device is the ease of cleaning. First of all, the stainless steel on the exterior is relatively smudge resistant, so you don’t have to worry about unwieldy fingerprints or food stains. And while some stainless steels claim to eschew oil and grime, this iteration actually lives up to its claim.
Splatters of food are inevitable, but the slick surface allowed our sponge to glide seamlessly, and all spots disappeared within seconds.
Obviously, as with all microwaves, the glass turntable can be removed to be cleaned, either by hand or in the dishwasher. Luckily, the interior is just as easy to clean. Splatters of food are inevitable, but the slick surface allowed our sponge to glide seamlessly, and all spots disappeared within seconds.
Price: Definitely a Hot Commodity
Retailing for $120—but often on sale for $100 or less—this microwave is a modest investment. If your needs are relatively basic—heating up leftovers and perhaps making the occasional nacho plate—then the Toshiba Microwave Oven is perfect. Comparing it to some cheaper alternatives with lower wattage, the extra $50 or so you’re spending is certainly worth it. Also, keep in mind that this microwave comes with a 1-year warranty as long as you keep the original packaging.
Competition: Best in class
Amongst microwaves in the $100 range, the Toshiba Microwave Oven is definitely a top-performer. We particularly loved the easy-clean interior and stainless steel exterior.
If you’re looking into options at a higher price point, however, there are two things that more high-end machines offer: better temperature control and a “keep warm” feature. While the Toshiba Microwave Oven can heat food from frozen to piping hot, there are occasional hot/cold patches in the finished product. The appeal of a pricier microwave is that these patches give way to an even temperature throughout your meal.
Secondly, we noticed when shopping for microwaves that some models, such as the Panasonic Microwave Oven (view on Amazon), offer a feature that keeps food warm. Though this does seem like a luxury, we don’t consider it a necessity.
- Product Name EM131A5C-BS Microwave Oven
- Product Brand Toshiba
- MPN EM131A5C-BS
- Price $119.99
- Weight 34.6 lbs.
- Product Dimensions 2.5 x 17.1 x 12.8 in.
- Power 1100 W
- Capacity 1.2 cu ft
- Warranty 1-year with original packaging