Delivers 1250 watts of power into a 1.2-cubic-foot capacity to cook and heat generous plates. Sensor-based reheating function detects steam coming from foods and adjusts settings accordingly. One-push extra time button. Soft-close door and discreet sounds, plus mute button for quieter operation.
Expensive. Display is not backlit.
Sleek, solid styling looks pleasing. Offers 1.1 cubic feet of capacity and 1,000 watts of power. Simple plus-30 button for adjusting heating times while in operation. Defrost by time or by food weight. Simple pull-handle door. Can be locked for child safety.
Some reports of inconsistent quality from unit to unit. Noisy.
Offers 1,100 watts of power in a 1.2-cubic-foot capacity. Sensor-based heating modes streamline food prep. Large, easy-to-read control panel. Offers power-saving eco mode. Notably quiet operation with optional mute function. Sturdy pull-handle design is easier and more intuitive than button latches.
The power-level function can be tough to navigate.
Big, 2.2-cubic-foot capacity can heat whole poultry or casseroles. Keep-warm function keeps foods at serving temperature automatically. Sensor functions allow for customization of different foods. Space-efficient design despite its generous capacity.
Operations can be more complicated than expected for a microwave.
Compact, 0.9-cubic-foot size fits into smaller kitchens. Sleek modern design is aesthetically appealing. Offers 900 watts of power. Brightly lit display is easy to read. Supports both automatic and manual defrost and reheat settings. Offers mute function.
Stainless-steel face only.
After going through an intensive research process to narrow down our short list of top products in this space, we tested Farberware Stainless Steel Classic 1000W Microwave Oven, 1.1 cu. ft. 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.
Stainless steel microwaves look sleek and modern, but that’s not the whole story. There’s more to a stainless steel microwave than meets the eye when it comes to selecting this indispensable kitchen appliance. Though most countertop microwaves have a stainless front, there are also some that have a stainless steel interior.
Lower-cost microwaves tend to have powder-coated metal exterior and interior surfaces. Pricier microwave ovens have stainless steel exterior and interior surfaces. Some higher-end stainless microwaves have a ceramic-coated steel interior, which is also durable and scratch resistant, but it may develop cracks over time. As with virtually all kitchen appliances, your choice will be based not just on looks but also on preferred features and the size that fits your countertop.
Our shopping guide focuses on stainless steel countertop microwaves, but much of the information pertains to over-the-range and built-in stainless steel microwave models, too. If you’re ready to buy a new microwave, check out our top picks.
When shopping for a stainless steel microwave, the most important considerations are size, performance, and power.
Compact microwaves generally have 0.7 cubic feet of interior space, ideal for quickly reheating a drink or small dish of food.
Midsize countertop microwaves have about 1.5 cubic feet of room inside.
A microwave’s performance is judged on its wattage for heating speed, its ability to heat evenly, and how quickly it defrosts. For example, a microwave with a turntable assures that food is cooked evenly as it rotates the dish. A microwave with a defrost setting will help safely and effectively thaw food than microwaves that may not have a defrost button.
Microwave power is denoted in wattage. The average range is 600 to 1,200 watts: more watts means more cooking power. Higher the wattage typically results in food that cooks faster and more evenly.
It’s dizzying to try to compare the features of all the stainless steel countertop microwaves on the market. Keep an eye out for these features that will enhance your oven’s performance.
The more power levels your microwave has, the more flexible your cooking. For example, adjusting the power level prevents over- or undercooking. A high power level will nuke a cheesy topping something resembling plastic. There’s a reason you see optimal microwave power levels listed on food packaging.
A sensor does the work for you by adjusting the time and temperature automatically, eliminating the guessing game about how long an item should cook. A sensor may also alert you to when the food is done.
Add time: Some microwaves let you add time in increments, such as 30 seconds, at the press of a button. If your oven doesn’t have a sensor, this is the next best thing to making sure your food doesn’t overcook.
Convection: A microwave oven with a convection option cooks quickly. The convection setting uses a fan that circulates hot air around the food to heat it evenly. Some convection microwaves can even brown meat so it looks like it came out of a broiler.
Presets: Microwaves have buttons that are preset for cooking or defrosting popular foods. You may see preset buttons for cooking baked potatoes, popping popcorn, melting butter, or crisping a slice of pizza.
Express cook: Also known as “speed cook,” this option is a blend of convection and microwave functions for seriously fast cooking.
If you use a microwave for most of your cooking, you’ll appreciate the even and constant temperature of inverter technology that gives you perfectly cooked or defrosted food every time.
There are two types of microwave handles. Choosing one over the other is a matter of personal preference. A bar handle resembles the handle on a refrigerator door. This type is straightforward, simple, and easy to grab and pull. You may prefer a push-button release which pops the door open. At times, it’s easier to use your elbow to open a door with a push-button release when your hands are full.
The lettering should be bold and high contrast so the display is easy to read from a few feet away. An LED display screen is easy to wipe clean.
Sound Off mode: If the loud beeping of a microwave drives you crazy, opt for a model with a Sound Off mode. It mutes the beep when it’s convenient, such as when someone in the household is sleeping.
Steam cleaning: You can always manually steam clean the interior of your microwave by warming a bowl of water and vinegar to remove cooked-on gunk. For even easier cleaning, opt for a microwave that steam cleans the interior at the push of a button. Depending on the manufacturer, you’ll simply need to put a small bowl of water in the oven or spray the interior with water. Then just wipe down the interior when the cycle is finished.
Inexpensive: In the $80 to $110 range, you’ll find compact countertop stainless steel microwaves that average 0.7 to 0.9 cubic feet. Though small, these ovens have presets and other handy functions, and you’ll find a few models with inverter technology.
Mid-range: From $110 to $200, you’ll see larger microwaves of 1.1 to 2.2 cubic feet. With the added cost come a few more functions, such as grilling, sensors, and convection cooking.
Expensive: For $200 to about $350, you can have one of the top brand-name stainless steel microwaves that are every bit as handsome as models that cost hundreds of dollars more. This price range doesn’t always translate into more cubic feet, however. In fact, you may find top brands at this price with only 1.1 to 1.6 cubic feet but with higher-quality doors, handles, controls, and a few more features.
Premium: Spend over $500 and you’ll find commercial microwave ovens meant to stand up to rigorous restaurant environments, but you don’t have to pay that much for a high-quality appliance for your home.
Know when to repair or replace. Microwave ovens malfunction just like any other appliance. If the touchpad conks out, a technician can likely replace it for a small fee. A microwave that develops unusual sounds or loud humming may have a faulty magnetron, the component that produces the electromagnetic waves that generate heat. The magnetron is a costly replacement, and you might want to consider buying a new appliance instead of paying for a new component.
Understand the power levels. Here are some general guidelines: High at 100% browns, boils, and cooks fish and fatty meats. Medium at 50% to 70% bakes, sautés, and reheats. Low at 30% defrosts and simmers. Warm at 10% heats bread and softens butter, cheese, and chocolate.
If you’re looking for a truly compact stainless steel microwave, consider the Danby Designer Countertop Microwave. For a small 0.7-cubic-foot appliance, it has 700 watts of cooking power with six presets for popular foods. It’s one of the rare stainless steel microwaves in this size and price range. We also like the hOmeLabs Countertop Microwave Oven, another favorite midsize appliance that’s packed with features but comes at a budget price for stainless. It has surprisingly spacious interiors for its compact 1.3 cubic-foot size. Ten power levels, plus seven pre-set buttons for pizza, popcorn, and other popular foods makes this appliance quick and easy to use.
Q. What is “inverter” technology in a microwave?
A. A microwave with inverter technology offers a more efficient way of cooking because it uses less energy. The microwave’s power level adjusts to the oven’s “load” so your food isn’t under- or overcooked. In a traditional microwave, the microwaves are always at full power, resulting at times in imperfectly or unevenly cooked food.
Q. What exactly is black stainless steel?
A. Black stainless steel is stainless steel with a protective polymer coating that creates a black matte finish. This rich finish is only used for the exterior panels of a microwave oven. It was developed as a stylish, smudge-proof, and fingerprint-proof alternative to plain stainless steel. This black finish differs from the glossy black finish of lower-cost appliances, which attract fingerprints.
Q. Why can’t I put stainless steel in a stainless steel microwave?
A. Microwaving metal in a microwave oven, especially crinkled tin foil or formed metal like forks and containers, could cause a fire. When you put a metal shape in the middle of a stainless steel microwave oven, the metal is reflecting microwaves back and forth at a frenetic pace. All that amplified energy heats up and creates crackles and pops, which could ignite the contents of the microwave. Microwaves are meant to safely interact with liquids, fats, and sugars in food, not with other metals inside the oven. Microwaves have metal walls to confine the radiation to the inside of the oven.