With a stainless exterior, a design that allows the whole unit to be built into cabinetry, and an impressive ability to heat food quickly and evenly, it puts budget microwaves to shame.
That excellent performance is largely thanks to Panasonic's Inverter technology. Far from just a marketing buzzword, it's a unique way of providing variable cooking power, and it explains just why the NN-SN973S performed so well in our tests.
We have one word to describe the Panasonic NN-SN973S's popcorn performance: Wow! The cycle took just 2:53 and, once complete, we counted zero burnt kernels and only 25 unpopped kernels. Considering that each bag contains about 300, that's an amazing result.
The NN-SN973S also has really good sensor cooking performance. The microwave took 6:50 minutes to cook a potato. When we checked the temperatures across the potato we noticed very little variances. In fact, the largest discrepancy was only 4°F. The potato was slightly overheated at 191°F. We aim for 185°F, but still 6°F isn't going to impact your food too much.
Panasonic hasn't cut any corners.
There's a dirty little secret most of us aren't aware of when it comes to microwave cooking: There's no such thing as a defrost or high-power setting.
See, due to technical limitations, most microwaves are only capable of power output at a single level. Setting a microwave to a lower power setting does not, in fact, decrease power, but only causes the oven's magnetron (the source of the microwaves) to switch on and off. How long the magnetron is on determines the oven's power level.
So why are we telling you this? Well, the Panasonic NN-SN973S deviates from the norm. The microwave makes use of the company's Inverter technology that (yup, you guessed it!) offers genuine adjustable power levels.
In our tests, that translated to great results. The aptly-named Genius Sensor cooking mode was true to its name, and resulted in a perfect potato. Meanwhile, fans of snack food will be pleased to know that the Popcorn setting was one of the best we have seen.
Eating reheated microwave food is often a bit of a sensory minefield. For every perfectly cooked bite, you are just as likely to bite into a cold—or worse, blisteringly hot—section. Well, worry not with the NN-SN973S, which offered very even reheating performance.
The only disappointment was in our defrosting tests, the results of which were substandard at best. The Inverter Turbo Defrost was fast, but some large sections of our food remained frozen, while others were completely cooked.
The Panasonic NN-SN973S isn't the quietest kid in the library, but it isn't defening either. We recorded a sound level of 55.9 dB.
It's definitely a microwave!
Current microwave design is, for the most part, staid. Occasionally a manufacturers will try something a little different, but the NN-SN973S is your standard-looking countertop microwave.
Although the NN-SN973S is primarily a countertop microwave, it can be converted into a built-in, provided you purchase a separate trim kit.
Design-wise, the NN-SN973S does little to distance itself from other microwaves. The unit has a number keypad, 12 preset meal options, and a Sensor Reheat setting that measures steam levels to determine how much longer food has to cook.
As we have already mentioned, the NN-SN973S makes use of Panasonic's Inverter technology. The merits of this feature became apparent upon examination of the evenness results of our tests. We saw excellent evenness when heating a portion of macaronic and cheese using the default power levels. We found an 8°F difference between sections of the food.
The NN-SN973S also proved particularly adept at heating water. It took only 3 minutes to heat a cup of water to 207°F
Unfortunately, the NN-SN973S's defrosting performance was a big disappointment. The defrost setting only took 4:45 to defrost a pound of ground beef, but at the end of the cycle a quarter of the meat was still frozen, while the edge sections of the food were completely cooked. Our advice if you plan to do much defrosting is to remove sections of the food as they thaw.
The gold standard for affordable microwaves
As you have probably gathered, we're big fans of the large capacity Panasonic NN-SN973S. But what's not to like? Its appearance may not stir any emotions beyond indifference, but we're willing to let that slide considering its exemplary performance. Plus, it will blend in with your other stainless appliances.
While the defrost setting may have left us cold—literally and figuratively—this Panasonic had no problems with any other food we sent its way. When it came to cooking evenness, sensor accuracy, and popcorn popping, the NN-SN973S easily surpassed our expectations.
Meet the tester
Aside from reviewing ovens and cooktops, James moonlights as an educational theatre practitioner, amateur home chef, and weekend DIY warrior.
Checking our work.
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