Where would we be without microwaves? Standing over a searingly hot pan of oil and unpopped kernels or squinting through the range door to see if the pizza puffs are burning, that’s where. In this day and age, it’s hard to imagine a kitchen cook who doesn’t use this appliance – but the best microwaves offer more than just quick cooking time.
Today’s microwaves range from simple to cutting edge, and the latest models might even best stovetops or ovens, giving excellent results. We dug deep into the technology and features of microwaves – countertop and beyond. Whether you’re looking for a small countertop model or a microwave oven with the room and capabilities to justify a bigger space in the kitchen, this list will kickstart your shopping.
View The Best Microwave Below
1. BLACK+DECKER EM720CB7 Digital Microwave Oven
A microwave under one cubic foot is considered small, but for most tasks, the 0.7 cubic foot version of this line is the one we’d count on. Even large dinner plates roost nicely on the turntable, and the smaller profile makes it easy to find a spot in kitchens that are counter-space challenged. (It’s also available in larger sizes up to 1.4 cubic feet.)
You’ll find one-button presets for the most common items (popcorn, frozen veg, beverages, dinner plate, pizza, and potato), and it also offers simple defrosting. The controls are easy to use, the LED display is large, and we liked the sleek, stainless steel exterior, which blends in with modern kitchens, along with the push-button door release, as it’s easier to keep clean than a handle.
+Choose the size that works for your kitchen
+10 power levels within the 700-watt range
+Stainless steel good looks
+Black and Decker quality at a reasonable price
+Easy-to-navigate control panel
Why We Like It – Versatile, reliable, and good-looking, this microwave offers the best value for its size and quality. Use it for basic warming and more involved cooking – it’ll serve you well, and the stainless steel will look great, too.
2. Panasonic Microwave Oven
Don’t let the small footprint fool you – Panasonic has moved the needle on microwave technology, so this little oven has a larger interior than you’d think. It’s got a 13.4-inch turntable, thanks to the Inverter Technology that takes up less wall space. This feature also gives even heat: no more overcooked edges and raw centers.
A “Genius Sensor” adjusts cooking time (also power levels) so you can multitask. You’re paying not just for the Panasonic name, but for the best bells and whistles microwave ovens have to offer. This one may earn its keep faster than any of the others on our list.
+Advanced technology cooks evenly
+Large interior and small footprint
+14 quick-cook buttons
+1200 watts in a compact 1.2 cubic feet size
+Trim kits available for built-in option
Why We Like It – This oven is powerful and also offers smart features that bypass all the cons of microwave cooking. We also appreciated the roomy interior that came with the relatively small footprint of this microwave.
3. Magic Chef MCD770CR Retro Counter Top Microwave Oven
If the Jetsons had countertop microwaves (and we’re pretty sure they did), they’d probably look a lot like this. The vintage Space-Age design of this 0.7 cubic feet microwave oven is straight out of the 1950s postmodern vision of the future (check out the rotary dials!).
But we looked beyond the exterior and found that this compact model also offers seven power levels, so you’ve got some variables to work with when reheating or cooking. Perfect for tiny kitchens, these microwave ovens will make a statement, but not break the bank.
+Unique, retro design
+Emits a soft “ding” when the cycle is finished
+This oven doesn’t eat up counter space
+Comes in Mint Green, Red, or White
Why We Like It – It’s stylish, functional, and affordable. The towel-bar door handle and rotary dials of the microwave aren’t just cute; they’re sturdy and easy to use. These countertop microwaves are the best budget models on our list; the price is right, and the appeal is undeniable.
4. COMFEE’ EM720CPL-PMB Countertop Microwave Oven
Late-night snackers know the pain of a microwave oven’s relentless beeping. This 700-watt microwave features a sound on/off button so that you can sneak snacks to your heart’s content. It’s also got a safety lock, so counter-height little ones can’t get in. With one-touch buttons for a half-dozen common foods, two defrost settings (weight/time), this compact oven also features Eco Mode, which turns the LED display off during standby to save electricity, lowering your bill and benefitting the environment.
+The oven’s silent mode is super convenient
+One-touch express cooking and preset buttons
+Energy-saving option for LED display
+Comes in black or stainless steel finishes
+11 power levels give you control
Why We Like It – This microwave oven is ideal for parents, with the safety lock and mute mode. (Dorm dwellers and stealth chefs will use the latter. too.) We also loved the compact size and simple operability.
5. Kenmore 70923 Countertop Microwave
Small (0.9 cubic feet) but powerful (900 watts), this is one of the best microwaves we found – it lives up to the Kenmore brand. It’s ADA compliant, so you’re getting an easy and straightforward operation – the recessed turntable is one of the thoughtful touches here, as it helps you insert and remove food safely. With six preset buttons and express heating up to six minutes, we found this oven handy to use for everyday cooking and reheating. Note: the stainless steel finish is on the front only; the sides are black.
+Kenmore is a stalwart brand
+ADA compliance equals simple, accessible operation
+Great size for use in dorms or RVs
+Stainless steel face
+Small footprint, but 900 watts
Why We Like It – For its size and power, this microwave comes with a great price tag, mainly because it’s a Kenmore. The fact that it’s ADA compliant may earn it the easiest and safest model award on this list. Little touches like the recessed turntable add up to a big difference.
6. Toshiba EM925A5A-SS Microwave Oven
Another of the countertop models at 0.9 cubic feet and 900 watts that we reviewed, this Toshiba microwave, has been improved with a larger interior space. Still, it remains compact enough for cooks with limited counter space. The interior is illuminated with an LED light, so you have a perfect view while you cook.
The easy-to-read control panel features convenient one-button options, and we liked the slightly retro look of the stainless steel face. Some reviewers noted that this Toshiba model runs fairly quietly, and it also has a mute option for alerts.
+Larger interior than some other 0.9 cubic feet models
+Toshiba offers an interior LED light for a clear view of food
+Quiet operation and on/off sound option\
+LED display can be turned off between uses
+Features a safety lock to make sure kids are safe
Why We Like It – Three features stood out to us on this Toshiba model: the larger-than-usual interior space and the interior LED light. Too, this model is sturdy without being bulky; you can pull the handle without feeling like this little microwave is going to slide on the countertop.
7. AmazonBasics Microwave
Those of us with an Echo device loved this oven the best – the voice presets allow Alexa to become your sous-chef. Press the button and give a time- or food-specific command, and you’re set. It also will reorder popcorn (and garner you a discount, too!). Smart-house benefits aside, these microwave ovens are functional, save space, and offer features like a kitchen time and childproof lock.
+Simple to integrate with your Echo device
+Alexa skills are continually being added
+Convenient popcorn reorder option
+All the basic features of other ovens in its size range
Why We Like It – Some reviewers noted that they were initially skeptical that using Alexa as an intermediary would be efficient. Still, it turns out that it’s both fun and convenient to use this technology. This microwave works just as well as its competitors, too – that’s a win-win, as far as we’re concerned.
8. Farberware FMO11AHTBKB Countertop Microwave Oven
It remembers your preferred cooking time and also has pre-programmed functions, so this microwave will save valuable time and brain space, without making you sit down and study a user guide. Simple, sleek, and roomy (it’s 1.1 cubic feet of space is appreciated), this is one of the 1000-watt countertop microwaves that made our list. Use it for defrosting bulky items or for making sure your tea is heated to the perfect temperature, this one’s versatile and efficient.
+LED display highlights each cooking setting
+One year warranty
+Can reset power level without interrupting cooking cycle
+1000 watts with ten power level settings
Why We Like It – Roomy enough to accommodate big items, spacious microwave ovens like this are great if you find yourself defrosting a lot. The ability to change power levels mid-cook cycle also was a bonus, as was the memory function.
9. Daewoo KOR07R3ZEL Retro Countertop Microwave Oven
Coming it at a compact-but-cute 17.6 inches wide, 12/7 inches deep, and 10.6 inches high, these microwaves from Daewoo are perfect for apartments, dorm rooms, and RVs. Retro design, including the controls, had us thinking old-school, but features like Zero On power saver and the Concave Reflex cooking system are as state of the art as microwave ovens get. Five auto cook options and two-way defrost round out the functionality of this microwave; best consider this if style, price, and function are tied on your must-have list.
+Little, but packed with features
+Concave Reflex system cooks evenly, every time
+Automatic sleep mode saves energy
+Retro style, but modern capabilities
+Recessed turntable makes the most of small interior
Why We Like It – Microwaves can either blend in or be noticed, and this one’s a conversation piece for sure. Color options and unique control panel it’ll earn its countertop space for its even cooking and power-saving features.
10. Sharp SMD2470AS Microwave Drawer Oven
Ready to get serious? Then this is the one to consider. Sharp isn’t just a brand name; it’s a way to describe this drawer oven. Streamlined to the extreme, it’s a built-in that offers 1.2 cubic feet of space, clears the counter for other appliances, and eliminates the game of “oven Tetris” we play on major holidays (it’ll fit a four-quart baking dish). The tilt-out control panel is inside the drawer, so your eye is drawn only to the stainless steel finish. Sleek, high-quality, and easy to operate, this is the best drawer-style oven we found for the price.
+Roomy without taking up valuable counter real estate
+Tilt-out control panel keeps the design sleek
+Automatic drawer open and hands-free close
+Built-in ready for simple installation
Why We Like It – Many “wish list” items are more about luxury than utility, but Sharp’s drawer oven is more than meets the eye. Inserting and removing even heavy casseroles is easy, with the automatic drawer functions, and this model has every feature we could wish for on its hidden control panel. It’s all in the details here.
Microwave Buyer’s Guide
What to look for when searching for the best microwave oven
Because you’ll likely use it every day, it’s best to have a plan when you’re shopping for a microwave oven. The price will, of course, be a major consideration, but you also want to make sure you’re getting the best option no matter what your budget. The cheapest microwave won’t save you any money in the long run – it may have limited capabilities or a short life span. Know your budget, and be prepared to do some comparison shopping for the best microwave in your price range.
It’s better to spend a little more on a trusted brand or model that has a ton of five-star reviews than grab the least-expensive microwave from a brand you’ve never heard of. After all, this is an electrical appliance – peace of mind is always a good deal. The typical life span of microwave ovens is about ten years, so bear that in mind when you’re setting your budget.
And microwave shopping is a numbers game in more ways than one: not just dollars, but inches and cubic feet. Consider your countertop space – unlike toasters and blenders; microwaves tend to land in one spot and stay there, so get an idea of the footprint your space will allow for. Measure for the assigned spot for depth and height as well (and while it may sound like a no-brainer, double-check that there’s an outlet within easy reach!).
Once you have the space measured, check against model specifications. Be aware that some microwaves will be tied for exterior measurements, but offer a little more interior room due to technological differences in heating methods. (Interior capacity will be measured in cubic feet, so look for that in the specs.) A little judicious compare-and-contrast could net you enough interior space to accommodate bulkier items, which is especially useful for people who use microwaves to defrost, not just cook and reheat.
(Pro tip: while you’re researching the interior, give bonus points to models that offer recessed turntables, as those add a bit more elbow room.) Countertop models tend to be smaller than a drawer or over-range microwaves, so if you’re willing to pay a little more, you can gain both counter space and interior capacity by choosing one of the latter types. However, you can find countertop options with up to 2 cubic feet of space for considerably less than over-the-range and drawer-style. If you can spare the space on your counter, and truly need a bigger interior, you’ll find a larger microwave best for your pocketbook.
Another number to consider is wattage. The emphasis you’ll place on this depends on your cooking needs: are you looking for a microwave best for popcorn and hot cocoa, or will you be using it for cooking meal components or even entire recipes? More watts means faster (and usually more efficient) cooking. Most microwaves top out at 1000 watts, a number which is sufficient for home use.
Models with fewer watts – 700 is a typical lower number – will cook a little slower, but also may cost a little less. If you’re on a tight budget, forgo the higher-wattage models and settle for a lower: the difference in cooking duration will be negligible. Trading high wattage for lower will also allow you to select models that have bonus features that will sweeten the deal.
What are those sweet bonuses? A model that makes the best microwave list will offer standard conveniences: usually, they’ll have five or six one-touch cooking options, including popcorn, beverage, potato, and dinner plate. A typical microwave will also feature defrosting options: by time or by weight.
Beyond that are extras, whether they add functionality, safety, or appeal. You’ll be utilizing the control panel and display with every use, of course, so make sure that the numbers and other information are easy to read. Some models now offer power-saver mode – the display will go dark between uses, and that’ll cut down on your power bill.
(“Vampire” devices – appliances and the like that continue to draw electricity even when not in use, can contribute significantly to your utility costs, and every bit helps.) LED-lit interiors are worth the power they use, though – some models offer a perfect view of what’s cooking using these bulbs, and they’ve saved many a meal from being overcooked.
Other extras include childproof locks and memory capabilities, but one of the most useful features we found in our research was the sound on/off option, especially for smaller households. The beeping of some microwave models is enough to wake a sleeping baby (or housemate), and it’s great to have a silent mode. (See our Toshiba review above for an example.)
Beyond the basic countertop microwaves, you can explore over-the-range, drawer, and convection combinations. (The latter are microwaves that double as convection ovens, which will brown food in a way that conventional microwaves cannot; check Toshiba’s line for good examples.) You’ll indeed pay more for these upscale versions, but you’ll get more use from the convection microwave than a standard model.
There are so many models. How can I find the best microwave for my price range?
The best microwave for you may not be the most expensive, or the ones with the most bells and whistles. Consider space, price, and what you’ll be using it for. A built-in microwave convection oven with tons of features might be a tempting splurge. Still, if your lifestyle is more about heating leftovers and making popcorn, a microwave with oven could be a waste of money.
Most microwaves look the same, and I want something different – can I trust the more “fun” microwave models out there?
You don’t have to sacrifice the microwave style for functionality. Manufacturers understand that looks matter for an appliance that will be prominently displayed on the counter. Whether it’s sleek stainless steel or quirky retro appeal, you can find microwaves on the market that look and perform great.
Do brand names like Toshiba matter when I’m looking for a new microwave?
Toshiba, Sharp, Black and Decker, and a host of other manufacturers that you know and trust make microwaves. Finding a model from a trusted brand will give you peace of mind, and typically, excellent customer service, so it’s a good idea to limit your search for microwaves to lines with a history.