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Updated January 2023
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
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.Read more 
Bottom line
Pros
Cons
Best of the Best
Panasonic Microwave Oven
Panasonic
NN-SN686S Stainless Steel Countertop/Built-In Microwave Oven
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Feature-packed
Bottom Line

The power, size, and advanced features of this Panasonic unit make it a top pick in countertop microwaves.

Pros

Packs 1200 watts of power to quickly heat foods. 1.2-cubic foot capacity can hold a 12-inch pizza. Inverter technology heats food more evenly for juicier, more flavorful results. Sensor cooking auto-adjusts settings for various foods. Useful keep-warm feature.

Cons

Controls can be a little complicated for some tasks.

Best Bang for the Buck
Farberware Classic Countertop Microwave
Farberware
FMO11AHTBKB Countertop Microwave
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Light and Solid
Bottom Line

We liked the customizability of this sleek, lightweight Farberware microwave in our user testing.

Pros

1000 watts heats foods quickly and evenly. Compact 1.1 cubic foot capacity can still fit a standard dinner plate. We liked the light weight and customizable settings in our testing. Simple pull handle door.

Cons

The interior was a bit dim in our testing, and the multiple options took time to master.

Black + Decker Microwave with Turntable
BLACK+DECKER
EM925AB9 Digital Microwave Oven
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Compact & Capable
Bottom Line

This versatile Black + Decker is a must-have for effortlessly and perfectly heating a variety of foods at the push of a button.

Pros

Compact size and 0.9 cubic foot capacity can still fit a 10-inch dinner plate. Up to 900 watts of cooking power with 10 power levels for precise cooking. Includes 6 preprogrammed food buttons. Bright LED display. Has a timer, clock, and interior light. Easy to clean.

Cons

Only available in stainless steel.

Panasonic NN-SN766S Countertop Microwave Oven
Panasonic
NN-SN766S Countertop Microwave Oven
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Most Comprehensive
Bottom Line

For bigger meals and more powerful cooking, consider this inverter model from Panasonic.

Pros

Provides 1250 watts of power. Roomy 1.6 cubic feet capacity with 15-inch turntable to fit bigger dishes. Heats food consistently with inverter tech and auto-sensor programs. Turbo defrost option. Can keep food warm.

Cons

Takes up about 3 square feet of counter space.

Toshiba ML2-EM12EA(BS) Countertop Microwave Oven
Toshiba
ML2-EM12EA(BS) Countertop Microwave Oven
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Most Stylish
Bottom Line

This Toshiba microwave impressed us with its features, performance, quiet, and design in our user testing.

Pros

Good 1.2 cubic foot capacity with 12.4-inch turntable can fit a standard dinner plate. Attractive black metal finish. 1100-watt power thoroughly popped popcorn and evenly defrosted meals in our testing. Quiet operation. Beeps can be muted.

Cons

Lacks inverter technology. Breads and pastries can still overheat.

HOW WE TESTED

After going through an intensive research process to narrow down our short list of top products in this space, we tested Farberware Stainless Steel Countertop Microwave Oven to be sure that it’s worthy of our recommendation. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter and test to verify manufacturer claims.

33
Models
Considered
85
Consumers
Consulted
8
Hours
Researched
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Buying guide for Best microwaves

Whether it's thawing meat, cooking food, heating up leftovers, or even doing crafts, a microwave can do it all—often in a matter of minutes or even seconds. Its versatility, speed, and ease of use have made this appliance a kitchen essential. And, because of its popularity, you have seemingly endless options when it comes to purchasing one.

If your primary concern is cooking speed, you need a microwave with higher wattage. The unit has to be large enough for your family's needs but not too large to fit in your kitchen. It is desirable to have quick keys, multi-stage cooking, and true variable power. Easy cleaning is a must because, at some point, you will need to wipe up after a cooking job.

microwave
Stainless steel microwaves look great, but remember that you may have to spend a little time and effort keeping the finish fingerprint-free.

Do you need a microwave?

If it's your first microwave, the logical question to start with is, "Do I need a microwave?"

They are ridiculously handy as far as kitchen appliances go. Most people find them useful.

Here are just a few reasons why you might benefit from having a microwave in your kitchen:

  • A microwave can speed up cooking tasks that take hours in a conventional oven. For example, you can bake a potato in a microwave in about five minutes.
  • If you bake often, microwaves are great for “stovetop” tasks like melting chocolate or butter. These jobs require a lot more time and attention when done on the stovetop; a microwave is a definite timesaver.
  • It's possible to toast nuts and fresh bread crumbs in a microwave.
  • Do you love Taco Tuesday? A microwave is perfect for warming tortillas.
  • It's possible to steam vegetables and other foods in a microwave.
  • You can use a microwave to kill bacteria on kitchen sponges.
  • Microwaves are great for preparing TV dinners and other frozen convenience foods.
  • If you live somewhere without a full kitchen, a microwave is a great alternative cooking appliance.
  • You can even make small "mug cakes" and other desserts in a microwave.

An over-the-range microwave is built to fit inside pre-existing cabinetry. Some people prefer the look of this type of microwave.

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Watts of power

When you're looking at microwaves, you'll probably see a lot of references to wattage.

The majority of home microwaves fall in the range of about 600 to 1,200 watts.

More wattage equals more power. Your food will cook faster in a microwave with more watts.

While models with lower wattage are still effective, they typically require additional time when it comes to certain cooking tasks, such as reheating leftovers, thawing frozen meals, and cooking raw veggies.

microwave
DID YOU KNOW?
If you choose a microwave with a lot of bells and whistles, there will likely be a learning curve to mastering the controls. Spend some time reading the owner's manual to help you get accustomed to your new appliance.
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The most important microwave features

Here are some important features you may wish to consider before buying a new microwave.

Size

Size matters when it comes to microwaves. When considering a specific product, ask yourself the following questions before you make your choice:

  • How much counter space will this model require?
  • How much cooking space does this microwave offer?

If you have little counter space, you'll need a compact microwave. The tradeoff is that you won't be able to cook a large amount of food at any one time. However, that shouldn't be a problem if you're only cooking for one or two people. Additionally, compact models are ideal for dorm rooms that have minimal space.

If your goal is to free up your countertop entirely but you still want a spacious option, you may wish to consider an over-the-range microwave instead of a countertop model. Also referred to as built-in models, the interior measurements of microwaves in this category typically range between 1.7 and 2.0 cubic feet. However, the best over-the-range microwave for your kitchen must fit the dimensions of the area where you plan to mount it.

Quick keys

Quick keys, also referred to as "shortcut buttons" or "preset cooking times," are handy buttons that you’ll see on some microwaves. The buttons are pre-programmed with the cooking times for certain popular items.

For instance, if there's a button marked "Baked Potato," you press it when you want to prepare a baked potato. The microwave automatically runs itself at the right power level for the appropriate amount of time.

Different microwaves have quick keys for different items. And some people like a microwave with as many quick keys as possible. Others never use them. Really, it comes down to your personal preference.

Variable power controls

Having variable power controls means you can set your microwave to a number of different power settings; it's not just “all or nothing.”

The problem is that most microwaves with variable power controls simply alternate between full power and no power when you set them to cook at a lower setting. While this method works to an extent, the results can be less than perfect.

Only microwaves with inverter technology are able to genuinely lower the power at which they cook to render more even and reliable results.

Multi-stage cooking

Some items require cooking on multiple settings. For instance, a dish might need one minute on defrost followed by three minutes at half power and two minutes at full power.

Microwaves with multi-stage cooking capability let you program in each stage. So, when you hit start, the microwave will cook your food however you've programmed it, with each new stage starting automatically as soon as the previous one has ended.

This means you don't have to hover around the microwave, changing the setting every few minutes. You can just press “Start” and relax until your food is done.

Sensor cooking

Although microwave cooking is quick and convenient, the end results aren’t always as good as if the food had been cooked on the stovetop or in a conventional oven.

Sensor cooking, however, is here to change that. Microwaves with sensor cooking technology can read the levels of humidity inside the microwave. They then automatically adjust the cooking time and the power levels to produce the best results. Gone are the days when you pull a frozen dinner out of the microwave to find the middle boiling hot and the edges still chilly.

Finish options

The color of a small or major appliance is important to many home cooks. Fortunately, microwaves come in a choice of several finishes, just like ranges, refrigerators, and dishwashers. Black, white and off-white are classic options, but microwaves are also available in contemporary finishes like stainless steel and black stainless steel.

How much does a microwave cost?

How much should you spend on a new microwave? That depends on how big it is, how often you plan to use it, and what you plan to use it for.

Inexpensive

If you just want a small, basic model for occasional use—or for doing things like melting chocolate and toasting nuts rather than full-on cooking—you can get away with spending about $50 to $60.

Mid-range

For those users who want something in the middle for semi-regular use, you can get a decent mid-range microwave for around $100. Most of the microwaves huddle around this price mark.

High-end

If you'll be using your microwave daily as your main cooking appliance, you'll want something that gives better results when cooking more complex dishes. In this case, you'll be looking at spending at least $150 to $200.

One of the best ways to reheat leftovers is to spread the food evenly across a microwave plate. If you choose, you can reduce the amount of power used to reheat food to avoid overheating it.

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Tips for choosing the best microwave

  • When shopping for a new microwave, consider the color of the appliances in your kitchen. Although there are no steadfast rules that indicate a microwave must match major appliances, many homeowners prefer a uniform look. For example, a stainless steel microwave looks fantastic in a kitchen with other stainless steel appliances.
  • If you are choosing a countertop microwave, measure your counter before you buy. This will help you find the perfect model for the designated space.
  • If you like the idea of a microwave with numerous cooking options, consider a model with multiple presets functions. These settings help take the guesswork out of microwave meal and snack prep. You may also want to consider a combo model that works as both a microwave and an air fryer, toaster oven or convection oven.
  • Some microwaves have built-in smart technology. A model like the AmazonBasics Smart Microwave works with Echo devices so you can control them by voice command.
microwave
It's not unheard of for kids to put the wrong thing in the microwave and start a fire. If you're concerned about safety, look for a microwave with a lock.

FAQ

Q. Do microwaves have safety features that prevent small children from using them?

A. Some, but not all, microwaves have safety features that protect small children. If you're worried about kids getting their mitts on the microwave and doing some damage—to themselves or to the oven—consider a microwave with a child safety lock function.

Q. Are some microwaves easier to clean than others?

A. If you've ever had an exploding incident in your microwave, you know how tough it can be to get it sparkling clean again. Thankfully, some modern microwaves are made from special non-porous materials that wipe clean with little effort.

Q. How can I maximize the internal capacity of my microwave?

A. Most of the time, the food you're cooking is on the bottom of the microwave with a whole lot of unused space above it. If you want to cook more than you can fit on the turntable, look for a microwave with racks.

You may also be able to buy these racks separately, but if you do, make sure that they're the right size and that they're microwave-safe.

Need a quick meal or side dish in less than five minutes? Microwavable mug macaroni and cheese is a great option.
Start your day with a delicious and protein-packed quiche.
Satisfy your sweet tooth with a warm chocolate chip cooking (we recommend topping it off with ice cream).
And if all other options fail, there is always instant ramen!
There are countless options for microwavable mug meals, and there's nothing easier to whip up when you're strapped for time.
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