Best Compact Microwaves

Updated May 2019
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

18 Models Considered
6 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
121 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Shopping guide for best compact microwaves

Last Updated May 2019

When you want convenience in the kitchen, it’s hard to beat a microwave oven. In mere minutes – and with the simple push of a button – you can be hugging a mug of cocoa, enjoying a slice of hot pizza, or watching a movie with a bowl of warm popcorn. Microwaves have become an indispensable element of the modern kitchen, but what do you do when your modern kitchen is starved for space? You look for a compact microwave.

Compact microwaves embrace many of the elements found in regular microwaves only in a smaller size. These appliances tend to be less expensive than their larger counterparts, lighter, and better suited to a kitchen in which counter space is at a premium. These microwaves are a great option not only for small spaces but also for singles, couples, or anyone who uses a microwave infrequently.

When shopping for a compact microwave, it helps to know about their specific features. This guide can help you determine what is important to look for in a compact microwave and give you a clear idea of what you can expect to pay. We also offer some of our own recommendations of quality microwaves for you to consider.

Fans of pizza, popcorn, and other common foods will want a microwave that includes these favorites as pre-programmed buttons.

Key considerations

Design

Search online for “compact microwave” and you’ll quickly find yourself wading through dozens of different options, but what primarily differentiates one from another is appearance. That said, one primary question that you should answer when comparing microwaves is, does it work in your space? Do you have a specific color in mind or will stainless steel do? Are you searching for a space-age design or something more traditional? Some models offer design elements that may work better in your space, such as a rounded or angled back to fit into a particular place like a corner.

Size

Compact microwaves range in size from about 0.5 to 1.3 cubic feet (cu. ft.), but note that this is the inside dimension of the microwave. The outer dimensions are important if you have a specific or limited space that you’re trying to fill.

While the capacity of the microwave is important to know, be sure you also know that your microwave-safe cookware will fit into it – or you’ll have to buy new cookware to go with your new microwave. A dimension such as “0.7 cu.ft.” will give you a rough idea of a microwave’s capacity, but it won’t give you a clear picture of the turntable size (how large a plate will fit) or interior height (how tall a bowl will fit).

Installation

One way to free up precious counter space in a small kitchen is to mount the microwave under an existing cabinet. If this is important to you, be sure the compact microwave you’re considering can be installed this way. Theoretically, all microwaves can be mounted under a cabinet, but buying one that is specifically designed for this (and includes all the necessary hardware to do it) can save you considerable time and aggravation.

Cleaning

For ease of cleaning, verify that the inner turntable can be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher. Any exterior control buttons should be flush with the front so that dust and grime don’t build up around them. Some microwaves also have an easy-clean coating on the inside that makes it easier to remove spills and splatters.

Power

One simple rule of microwaves is the higher the wattage, the faster it cooks. In general, compact microwaves are lower wattage – and as such less powerful – than regular-size microwaves. Compact microwaves generally range from 600 to 1050 watts, although 700 watts is about average for this type of product. Most compact microwaves also incorporate a variety of power levels to choose from when cooking.

Controls

While some compact microwaves use rotary dials, most them have buttons or a keypad to control the microwave’s cooking elements. There will be some variation in what is offered on these keypads from one microwave to another, but some of the more common controls include the following:

  • Food presets: These buttons enable you cook popcorn, pizza, potatoes, and other common items at the press of one button. Other presets can include frozen entrees or vegetables, soup, bread, beverages, and steamed vegetables.

  • Quick Cook functions: Also known as Express Cook, you can quickly begin cooking or reheating something for one to six minutes at the press of one button. A similar option is the 30-second button (and the less common 60-second button), that adds time during the cooking cycle.

  • Defrost: Usually included is a low-power Defrost button. This can be set by time, weight of the food, or both.

  • Reheat: The microwave uses digital sensors to bring leftovers up to the right temperature.

  • Timer: The microwave’s timer counts down the cooking time and can also be used as a kitchen timer if you’re cooking something on the stove, for example.
     

Safety features

If you have children, consider a microwave with built-in safety features such as a door lock. Some models have this feature built into the handle itself, while others employ a lockout feature controlled by the keypad, which requires you to input a code before the door will open.

EXPERT TIP

Turntables, standard in most microwaves, are an effective way to cook foods evenly and avoid both hot and cold spots.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

If your kitchen has a corner that would work perfectly for a microwave, look at specially shaped microwaves that are designed to fit into corners.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

Having a built-in LED clock feature may appeal to some, but for light sleepers in dorm rooms the light may be too much.


Staff  | BestReviews

Compact microwave prices

Compact microwaves usually cost less than their larger counterparts, but even in compact versions you’ll find a fairly wide range of prices. These start at around $60 to $70 for a simple microwave with few features and go up to $200 or more. At the higher price, you can expect to find a richer feature set, more power, and other advanced features, such as convection cooking.

Tips

  • Opt for digital controls. Rotary dial controls are a valid choice if you seek simplicity, but you will lose out on a variety of convenient advanced features that digital keypads offer, such as one-button presets.

  • Keep your microwave clean. Keeping it clean will not only prolong the life of the appliance but also help it to operate more effectively.

  • Read the manual so you know what all the microwave’s features do. Every button on your microwave taps into specific sensors, temperatures, and timers. Learning how to use all these features can greatly improve your microwaving skills.

  • Opt for two appliances in one. While not typical, some compact microwaves have a convection oven feature. This essentially gives you a second – albeit very compact – oven for your kitchen.

  • Try multistage cooking. With multistage cooking, you can enter a sequence of cooking instructions, which allows you to cook foods at different power levels over the course of their preparation.

  • Never run a microwave empty. Microwaves produce energy, and when there is nothing inside it to absorb the energy, the microwave components do it, and this can damage the appliance.

Other products we considered

While we included our overall favorites above, we wanted to point out several other compact microwaves that caught our attention. Amazon’s AmazonBasics Microwave is a best-selling, rock-bottom-priced standard compact that works with Alexa. Also a best seller is the Toshiba 1100W Microwave Oven that combines size, power, and an attractive stainless steel design with a variety of advanced options. And if your kitchen has a 1950s theme (or you just like retro), check out the Magic Chef Retro Microwave Oven. It combines rotary dials with a mint green finish for a unique design statement. This compact microwave is also available in white or red.

The lifespan of a microwave is generally around ten years, although it can be used beyond this point so long as it’s still functioning properly.

FAQ

Q. Why do compact microwaves have various power levels?

A. A range of power levels provides you with some cooking versatility. This allows you to cook some foods quickly, while taking your time with other foods that benefit from slower cooking. The number of power levels varies depending on the microwave, but ten is standard for compacts.

Q. What is the proper way to clean a microwave?

A. The best way to clean it is to use an all-purpose cleaner sprayed into a cloth and then wiped on the surface. Don’t spray the cleaner directly into the microwave because this can damage the vent holes. To loosen cooked-on foods, try heating a bowl of water to boiling inside the microwave.

Q. What kind of cookware can I use in a microwave?

A. Your absolute best bet is to use cookware that says “microwave safe” on it. In general terms, cookware made from glass, ceramic, or plastic should be OK, so long as it doesn’t heat up excessively when used in the microwave. Never put anything made of metal or containing metallic elements in the microwave.

The team that worked on this review
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Daniel
    Daniel
    Writer
  • Devangana
    Devangana
    Web Producer
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Enid
    Enid
    Editor
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Rich
    Rich
    Writer

BestReviews wants to be better. Please take our 3-minute survey,
and give us feedback about your visit today.

Take Survey