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November/December 2017

Microwave Egg Cookers

We hatched a plan to find the best microwave egg cooker. But first we had to lower our expectations.

How We Tested

Microwave egg cookers offer the allure of quickly cooked eggs without the need to stand over the stove or clean a pan. Given our experience with microwave ovens’ uneven radiation—they’re fickle when it comes to precision cooking—we were skeptical that these containers would consistently produce properly cooked eggs. To determine if they were worth buying, we bought and tested seven microwave egg cookers priced from $5.12 to $14.90: two omelet makers and five poachers. Each was made of either silicone or plastic, with a lid, latch, or folding mechanism. We didn’t expect them to replicate perfect stovetop eggs, so we primarily evaluated the microwave egg cookers on how easy they were to use and clean and whether they produced eggs that were fully cooked without being drastically over- or undercooked.

Most manufacturer instructions did not specify microwave wattage, so we tested products in both 800-watt and 1,200-watt microwave ovens. We also tested the egg cookers at different power levels, experimenting to find the optimal power setting and amount of time for each model.

However, no amount of tinkering could compensate for the microwave oven’s unevenly distributed electromagnetic waves (aka “microwaves”). The egg poachers simultaneously overcooked and undercooked the eggs, giving us runny whites and too-firm yolks. In addition, the models designed to poach multiple eggs cooked each egg to a different degree of doneness. On the odd occasion that an egg poacher produced favorable results, we weren’t able to replicate the results in later tests. On a whim, we tried poaching eggs in the microwave in a bowl of water: We nuked the water until it was boiling and then added the egg and cooked it for 30 seconds. This gave us poached eggs that were superior to what came out of the gadgets but still far short of what you can make on the stovetop.

Why were the microwaved eggs inferior to stovetop eggs? Egg yolks contain less water and more fat than egg whites, so the two parts of the egg absorb energy at different rates, making it challenging to get nicely cooked eggs in a microwave oven.

The two omelet cookers in our lineup fared marginally better, producing eggs that were not quite an omelet and not quite scrambled eggs but something in between. But the microwave oven again took its toll; uneven radiation distribution sometimes caused overcooked gray spots in our omelets even though other parts of the omelet were properly cooked. The cause of these ashy spots? When eggs are overcooked, sulfur released in the egg white reacts with iron in the egg yolk, forming ferrous sulfide—and an accompanying grayish-green hue. (You may be familiar with ferrous sulfide if you’ve ever overcooked hard-cooked eggs and noticed gray rings around the yolks.)

Microwave egg cookers are ultimately thwarted by the fact that microwave ovens just don’t heat evenly enough for precision cooking. However, if a microwave is your primary means of cooking or if you’re in a hurry and simply need a cooked egg fast, one egg cooker gave us just that. We recommend the Nordic Ware Microwave Omelet Pan ($5.12) with reservations, as it cooked eggs in a mostly consistent manner with minor issues when we included raw add-ins such as cheese, asparagus, and zucchini. The add-ins were nicely cooked, but the egg was slightly mushy in the center of the cooker. Eggs also occasionally stuck to the pan, but they released easily when nudged, and cleanup was a breeze. For a perfect poached egg or a delicately folded omelet, though, we suggest skipping the microwave and using the stove.

Methodology

We tested seven microwave egg cookers, including five egg poachers and two omelet makers, priced from $5.12 to $14.90. We tested the products in 800-watt and 1,200-watt microwaves and at power levels ranging from 20 to 100 percent. We tested omelet makers both with and without zucchini, asparagus, and cheese. We washed each egg cooker by hand at least once and washed each one in the dishwasher 10 times. Cookers were evaluated on ease of use, egg quality, and cleanup. All models were purchased online, and they appear in order of preference.

Ease of Use: We prepared and cooked eggs according to manufacturer instructions, giving higher ratings to cookers that were easy and intuitive to use.

Egg Quality: We gave the highest ratings to egg cookers that consistently produced eggs that were fairly evenly cooked, with no drastically over- or undercooked parts.

Cleanup: We noted any necessary microwave cleanup, washed each egg cooker by hand at least once, and ran each one through the dishwasher 10 times, giving top marks to products that were easily cleaned by hand, looked like new, had no off smells, and did not require us to clean the microwave after use.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

$33.31*

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.