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Expert Shopper Kitchen

The best microwave

Which microwave is the best?

Microwaves can make your life easier, whether you want to cook a full meal, melt some chocolate for a recipe or simply reheat your gone-cold cup of coffee. A quality microwave could last you a decade or more, so it makes sense to take some time to decide on a model that's right for you.

Consider whether you want a countertop model or one that's built into your kitchen and whether you want any special features. The Toshiba Smart Countertop Microwave Oven is the top choice as it blends quality and affordability.

What to know before you buy a microwave

Countertop vs. built-in

Countertop microwaves are completely freestanding. You just position them anywhere on your countertop, plug them into a power outlet and they're ready to use. This makes them the logical choice for the majority of buyers. However, if you're redoing your kitchen or already have a spot for a built-in microwave to slot into, then a built-in option will save precious counter space and leave your kitchen looking neater. Neither has any particular advantage over the other in terms of performance, so choose whichever option makes sense for you and your kitchen layout.

Combination microwaves

A standard microwave can heat food but can't make it crispy or crunchy, so it isn't suitable for all cooking tasks. For instance, if you tried to bake a pie in a standard microwave, the pastry would turn into a soggy mess. Combination microwaves can act as convection ovens, broilers or toaster ovens. This makes for a more versatile kitchen appliance that can bake, roast, toast and broil foods when you don't have the oven space or don't want to switch on your oven to cook for one or two. 


You can find compact microwaves with capacities less than 1 cubic foot all the way up to large models with capacities over 2 cubic feet. When deciding what capacity you need, think not only about the size of your household but how you tend to use your microwave. For example, if you only use it for small tasks like melting chocolate, steaming vegetables or popping microwave popcorn, you won't need a huge capacity even if you live in a large household. On the other hand, a household of two might choose an extra-large microwave if they tend to cook full meals in it.

What to look for in a quality microwave

Inverter technology

Most microwaves only have one level of cooking power so when you turn them down to a lower setting, they alternate between blasts of cooking at full power and periods of not cooking at all, which can lead to uneven results. Microwaves with inverter technology, however, can cook at a genuinely lower setting for more even cooking.

Sensor cooking

Microwaves with a sensor cooking option have sensors inside the microwave to monitor levels of heat and steam so it "knows" when the food you're heating or cooking is perfectly done. 

Preset programs

The vast majority of microwaves have at least a handful of preset programs to take the guesswork out of microwave cooking. Common options are for popcorn, baked potatoes and reheating beverages. 

How much you can expect to spend on a microwave

Microwaves can cost anywhere from approximately $50-$300, depending on factors such as their size and features.

Microwave FAQ

Is microwave cooking healthy? 

A. Some people are skeptical about microwaves, even though they've been in millions of homes for decades. There's nothing inherently unhealthy about microwave cooking, it's just that most people are more likely to heat up a TV dinner or microwave pizza in a microwave oven than cook a full, balanced meal. When cooking vegetables in a microwave, they actually retain more of their nutrients than vegetables that are boiled or pan-fried due to their quick cooking time and minimal water requirements. 

When should I replace an old microwave?

A. Considering replacing your old microwave but not sure if it's time? If your microwave sparks or smokes, or you smell burning when you use it, this is a sign there's a serious problem and you should replace it right away. Otherwise, you might want to replace your microwave when you notice signs of wear and tear, if the door is no longer sealing correctly, if the controls don't work as they should, if it makes strange noises or if food takes much longer to cook than it used to.

What’s the best microwave to buy?

Top microwave

Toshiba Smart Countertop Microwave Oven

What you need to know: An excellent choice for small to medium households, especially those who love smart technology.

What you’ll love: Alexa compatible. Access to over 20 preset programs with new updates available sporadically. Option to toggle sound off. Power saving mode.

What you should consider: Some buyers aren't fond of the handle compared to a push-button door.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top microwave for the money

Farberware Stainless Steel Countertop Microwave Oven

What you need to know: This compact 1.1 cubic foot microwave is great for small households and buyers on a budget.

What you’ll love: Simple to use with six auto-cook programs. Features a child safety lock. Offers 10 power levels. 

What you should consider: Noisy.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Panasonic Microwave Oven with Cyclonic Wave Inverter Technology

What you need to know: An advanced microwave with loads of great features for anyone who doesn't mind splashing out on all the bells and whistles.

What you’ll love: 10 power levels with inverter technology for more even heating. Sensor cooking option. Keep warm function. Large 2.2 cubic foot capacity.

What you should consider: Expensive and likely to be overkill for anyone who just wants a basic microwave.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Lauren Corona writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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