Sharp Microwave Review: Model R551ZS
Product Description: The Sharp Microwave Model R551ZS: “Roomy, family-sized 1.8 cu. ft. microwave has a bigger capacity to cook and reheat larger portions of food. Can be built-in and also fits nicely on a countertop. 1100 watts of power give you rapid reheating and fast cooking. Modern, brushed stainless steel finish with scratch-resistant glass door complements your style.” 15-inch glass turntable; 10 cooking power levels; +30 seconds key; keys 1 through 6 are Express Cook buttons (press “3” once for a quick 3-minute cycle, etc.), Precise Cook Sensor Technology; Popcorn and Beverage Settings; Auto Defrost; new Softening feature (see below), which blew us away – in a good way! Also available in black or white.
Test Kitchen Overview: The first thing we noticed upon using this Sharp Microwave is how quiet it is. A big plus for us as we are surrounded by buzzing and whirring appliances all day. As with every Sharp microwave we have owned before (at least 3) we found the control pad to be very intuitive to use. So much so that we started heating our tea with the Beverage function before we had completely read the manual…upon which we discovered the new-to-us Softening feature. This feature has its own area on the Touch Pad and lists Butter, Chocolate, Ice Cream and Cream Cheese as the items it can soften properly. If this was to be true, it was going to be a huge boon to us and any home bakers.
We immediately ran out and bought ingredients and started experimenting. You simply press the Softening feature once to soften 1/2 cup (4 ounces; 1 stick) of butter. We took our unsalted butter straight out of the fridge and followed the directions. Looking at the image above you can see that the butter softened to the perfect consistency for creaming or spreading on delicate breads. Soft, but not too soft, melted or oily. We were very impressed and will be using this feature all the time.
Next up, chocolate. We put 8 ounces of semisweet Ghiradelli in a bowl. We didn’t even chop it; we just broke it into pieces. We pressed the Softening feature twice as directed and the chocolate was partially melted, as you can see above, which is how we like it.
A mere minute later and the residual heat had almost completely melted the chocolate as seen below. A quick, gently stir and it was completely melted. The chocolate softening was a huge success.
Soften Ice Cream for Perfect Scooping
Then we tried 1/2 gallon of ice cream. We pressed the Softening feature three times and as you can see above and below the ice cream softened perfectly for us to very easily form into luxuriously smooth scoops, ready to eat.
Soften Cream Cheese for Perfect Spreading & Creaming
Lastly we tried 8 ounces of cream cheese. After pressing the Softening feature four times we got cream cheese softened very similarly to the butter as seen below – ready to be made into Cream Cheese Brownies or Cheesecake, or to spread even on delicate bread and pastries.
Pros: Sleek look that will blend in with many kitchen decors. Quiet operation and intuitive to use. All the bells and whistles we expect from a standard microwave plus the new Softening feature, which we really like, especially for butter and chocolate. Also, this is the first microwave we have had that defrosts really well. Prior units were okay, but we often ended up with some cooked food. We defrosted both ground beef and chicken thighs following the manufacturer’s instructions (in the enclosed manual) and were very impressed with the gentle approach this machine’s technology took with our food. Whereas before we never used this feature due to some less than great results, we look forward to using it with the R551Zs model.
Cons: We prefer a large microwave, because we like to use it for casseroles and other larger items, not just heating beverages or making popcorn. This one, at 1.8 cu feet, might command too much counter space in smaller kitchens (note that it can be built in as well, if you have that option in your kitchen design). Check out Sharp.com for other models, including smaller ones. Also, we were temporarily flummoxed when we went to set the oven for a 10-second burst. We couldn’t figure out how to set the oven for less than 30 seconds (which is very easy to do with one touch).We called the Customer Service number (800) 237-4277 and got a very prompt answer. You have to press the Power button once for Full/High power, then 1 and 0 for 10 seconds (1 and 5 for 15 seconds, etc.). This requires more button pressing than we would like and we do need small increments of time when making Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Mug Cake (below) for example. One more caveat: with the ice cream softening feature: it is best if you use the whole half-gallon of ice cream at once so that you aren’t putting softened ice cream back in the freezer, which can lead to ice crystal formation.
Suggested Use: Reheating might still be the #1 use of the microwave in your kitchen, but models like this Sharp Microwave Model R551ZS offer so much more and will change your routine. (Read our companion article.) The Softening feature will be used everyday by us and any frequent baker will appreciate it as well. Our best advice? Use it often. The more you use it and become familiar with its abilities, the more you will put it into regular use in your kitchen, saving you time and energy.
Where to Buy: Sharpusa.com or most small appliance dealers.
Price at Time of Review: $169.99
Have you tried this product? Let us know what you think in the comments below!
Bakepedia received this product as a gift for review. All opinions are the reviewer’s own.