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Whether you’re in a rush to eat or like to meal prep and reheat, a microwave can be an incredibly helpful appliance. It's also a great way to make dessert in a mug or warm-up hot beverages, like when your morning coffee goes cold. Microwaves can help you shave minutes off recipe prep too. You can heat up ingredients or melt butter quickly and efficiently.
But it’s important to choose the right microwave. The first thing to look for the proper size for your kitchen, whether it's a countertop, drawer, or over-the-range model. The second thing to consider is features, which can vary greatly from model to model.
To help you narrow your choices down, here are the best microwaves to consider.
Best Overall: Toshiba ML-EM34P(SS) Smart Countertop Microwave Oven
The Toshiba Smart Countertop Microwaves Oven checks all the boxes in terms of features, price, and style. Best of all, this voice-activated smart device is compatible with both Alexa and Echo systems. This microwave is even controllable by an app, so it can stay cleaner on the outside and fingerprint-free.
With 23 different settings to heat various foods along with an automatic mode, it takes the guesswork out of reheating. Available in both stainless steel and black stainless steel, it comes in three sizes: 1-, 1.2-, and 1.3-cubic feet. There’s a built-in humidity sensor for cooking, and you can turn the sound off so you don’t wake anyone during your midnight snack.
Toshiba designed this microwave with energy-saving features, like an LED light, to help you save money, and it also has a child lock to avoid mishaps.
Best Budget: Insignia Compact Stainless Steel Microwave
Ideal for college dorms and apartments, the Insignia 0.9-cubic feet compact microwave proves you can buy a new microwave without breaking the bank.
The 900-watt microwave comes with a stainless steel finish, a removable turntable, and a push-button opening. Measuring 19.1 x 14.8 x 11.5 inches, it’s small enough to fit atop a mini-fridge or in an open cabinet. One drawback to consider that the features are pretty basic, and there aren’t too many extras, like a heat sensor or convention.
Best Countertop: Breville Smooth Wave Microwave
The Breville Smooth Wave Microwave is the best choice if you are looking for a microwave with all the bells and whistles. The stainless steel finish, knobs, and LCD panel give it a somewhat more sophisticated look and the kind of quality you’d expect from Breville.
At 20.5 x 19 x 12.5 inches and 1.2 cubic feet of interior space, this countertop model is generously sized, yet not overly bulky. It’s loaded with features, which include automatic sensors that determine the ideal time and power settings. There are also presets for different foods, as well as a convenient button to instantly add 30 seconds to the cooking time. Rounding it out is a patented soft-close door and child-lock function, making it a great choice for a family.
Related: The Best Countertop Microwaves
Best Over-the-Range: Whirlpool Over-the-Range Microwave with Electronic Touch Controls
Over-the-range microwaves are best for anyone who wants a larger capacity microwave without taking up any counter space. This Whirlpool 1.7-cubic feet model even has a light that shines down on the stove to make it easier to see when you’re cooking a large meal.
Whirlpool packed in plenty of other helpful features to this 1000-watt microwave, including a button to add 30 seconds to the cooking time, fingerprint resistance, and a child safety lock. It also offers two speeds for ventilation and a filter to avoid picking up scents. Reviewers say it’s easy to install with the included mounts.
Best Built-In: Panasonic Genius Sensor 1200W Built-In Microwave Oven
The Panasonic Genius Sensor microwave is not only a great built-in, but it can also function as a countertop model. At 1.2 cubic feet and 1200 watts, this versatile microwave has a capacity large enough for most families.
With 10 power levels, Panasonic engineered this to not just reheat, but to cook food as well. It can braise, poach, and steam far faster than traditional methods. The Genius Sensor button automatically determines the best time for both cooking and defrosting. And if you must defrost quickly, you’ll really appreciate the Turbo Defrost button. It’s done with Inverter technology, which heats food evenly (no cold spots!).
Best Drawer: Sharp Microwave Drawer with Concealed Controls
Drawer microwaves are ideal for anyone who wants appliances built into their kitchen cabinetry. The Sharp Microwave Drawer with Concealed Controls is a sleek and stylish option with lots of features.
What sets this microwave apart is the hidden controls, which pop out with just a tap of the finger. The angled control pad gives you access to all the presets, including sensor cook, auto-defrost, melt, soften, and warm. The interior space measures 1.2 cubic feet with enough room for 4 quart-sized casserole dishes. It’s perfect for anyone who must reheat large quantities of food.
The interior surfaces were designed to make cleanup easy, and the automatic door shut with a gentle nudge. It does come with a childproof lock.
Best Compact: Whirlpool Countertop Microwave
At 0.5 cubic feet, the Whirlpool Countertop Microwave is one of the smallest countertop models on the market. Its rounded back allows it to fit into tight corners maximizing your counter space.
The 750-watt microwave has 10 presets for popcorn, defrosting, reheating, and canceling, so the basics are more than covered. It even has a glass turntable inside that's large enough to fit a dinner plate and still rotate. It comes in black, white, and universal silver, and is backed by a one-year limited warranty.
Best Design: Costway Retro Countertop Microwave Oven
If you want to step away from stainless steel or black for a microwave with a unique aesthetic, opt for the 900-watt Costway Retro Countertop Microwave. Available in aqua and white, both with a large silver knob and handle, this microwave would fit perfectly into mid-century model decor.
Easy to operate, there are eight cooking options including ones for meat, beverages, pizza, fish, and vegetables. The removable turntable assures your food cooks evenly and makes the appliance easier to clean. With five different heat levels, as well as a child lock—since this microwave does look a little bit like a toy—it has many of the features you’d expect on an appliance designed for the kitchens of today.
What to Look for When Buying a Microwave
The capacity of a microwave is measured in cubic feet. Compact microwaves measure less than one cubic foot and are ideal for dorm rooms, studio apartments, and smaller kitchens. Models between 1 and 1.5 cubic feet are considered midsize. This should be adequate for most people without taking up too much counter space.
A full-size microwave is between 1.5 and 2 cubic feet, which is good for anyone with a larger set of dishes. A microwave that's more than 2 cubic feet is extra large. This is best for larger families or anyone that uses a microwave at least daily.
The external size of a microwave varies with internal capacity. For the most part, extra buttons and functions will make the external size of the microwave larger. A smaller microwave will measure approximately 18 x 14 inches, while larger models are approximately 24 x 20 inches. Keep in mind that it is particularly important to choose the right size microwave if you are buying a built-in or drawer model.
Wattage refers to how much power a microwave has. The higher the wattage, the faster the cooking time. About 1000 watts is average, with more compact models having less. You shouldn’t buy a microwave with less than 700 watts because food can cook slowly and unevenly.
Other than timed cooking, every microwave is different. Choose features based on your needs. For example, if you defrost foods frequently, choose a model with auto defrost. Do you reheat in your microwave? Look for pre-programmed settings and automatic sensor cooking. Want to control your microwave from an app? Go for a smart microwave. Families with young children should definitely consider microwaves with a child lock.
Why Trust Simply Recipes?
Amanda Lauren is a freelance writer who has written hundreds of articles about home and lifestyle. She’s personally used a variety of microwave brands over the years.
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