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After extensive Lab and home testing, we named the Toshiba EM131A5C-BS Microwave Oven the best overall option, because it offers all of the functions most home cooks are looking for and performs its primary functions extremely well. If you're looking for a budget option, the Magic Chef Countertop Microwave provides solid interior capacity and performance for a moderate price.
Whether it's used for warming up coffee that's turned cold, reheating a plate of leftovers, defrosting frozen food for meal prep, or heating up a quick microwavable meal, the microwave oven has become one of the most essential and convenient kitchen appliances relied on by home cooks today.
Modern microwaves are now capable of more than ever, featuring settings for convection cooking, grilling, steaming, and more. They also come in a range of forms and sizes, from small models designed to sit on a countertop to larger ones that can be mounted over the cooking range or built into walls or cabinetry.
To help you decide which models are truly the best, we sent top-rated microwaves to our Lab to test side by side and evaluated their size, features, heating and effectiveness, and overall value. We also sent some models to our at-home product testers for insights on how they function with everyday kitchen tasks.
Here are our top picks for the best microwaves, complete with categories to fit your space and cooking needs.
Best Overall: Toshiba EM131A5C-BS Microwave Oven
Substantial power and multiple settings
Easy-to-clean interior and exterior
Presets can be inconsistent
Who else recommends it? This Old House and Wirecutter both picked the Toshiba EM131A5C-BS Microwave Oven.
What do buyers say? 90% of more than 6,600 Amazon reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.
This microwave excelled at what we feel is a microwave's most basic function: heating food up quickly and evenly. Combining high performance with a roomy interior that's well-suited for family-size portions, a sleek exterior with smudge-proof, one-touch buttons, and a middle-of-the-road price tag, the Toshiba EM131A5C-BS earned the top spot on our list.
Its 1100 watts of power can be adjusted with 10 power settings, and the unit is also equipped with sensor cooking, two defrost settings, and five presets (frozen pizza, frozen entreé, potato, rice, veggie). In the Lab, we heated room temperature water to 205 degrees in two minutes on its default power setting (which is 10, the highest). We also tested the evenness of its heating by microwaving miniature marshmallows for two minutes. The test produced zero cold spots, although the centers were the hottest, and marshmallows on one side of the plate showed more dark spots than those on the other.
When it came to heating frozen macaroni and popping popcorn, the Toshiba outperformed most of the competition. The macaroni was very evenly cooked according to package instructions, and the popcorn came out perfect using the preset—with only 1/8 ounce of kernels left in the bag! Our at-home tester tried the frozen entrée button with an Amy’s Frozen Mexican Casserole, and "it emerged cooked to perfection."
Our at-home tester felt that not all of the preset cook modes worked as expected and that the microwave defrosted too aggressively for some meats, but we don't feel that's a dealbreaker. Cooking and heating food according to suggested times is easy enough.
This Toshiba countertop microwave has a solid reputation for being easy to use (proven true with all of our testers), even for kids, and it's exceptionally easy to clean. Take note of the size if you have a small apartment kitchen, because it's not the most compact. However, if you want to defrost a whole chicken, you're totally set with this model.
Capacity: 1.2 cubic feet | Power Rating: 1100 watts | Dimensions: 23.3 x 18.4 x 15 inches | Turntable Size: 12.4 inches | Weight: 34.6 pounds
“It was able to cook popcorn and frozen foods extremely well because of its sensor heating.”
Runner-Up, Best Overall: Panasonic Oven with Cyclonic Wave Inverter Technology
Heats leftovers and frozen items evenly
Sensor can help determine cook time
This Panasonic microwave would have been our Best Overall pick if it weren't so pricey; our Lab testers noted that it cooked "ridiculously evenly" and that it was spacious enough that it could probably fit a turkey. It does particularly well with reheating leftovers and heating frozen foods, so if that's what you predominantly use your microwave for, this may be your top choice.
With 1250 watts, it's definitely powerful. It completely scorched our marshmallows in testing, and room temperature water reached 210 degrees after two minutes. This model boasts "Cyclonic Inverter Technology," which, according to Panasonic, means that it circulates heat in 3D waves that lead to quick, even cooking. Based on what we saw in the Lab, we agree. It won the frozen macaroni test in terms of evenness.
This unit offers a variety of presets (including a keep-warm setting, a delayed start, and a setting for reheating beverages) as well as a child lock, inverter turbo defrost, and a sensor, which our testers found particularly accurate when it came to frozen foods. This microwave is quite large, though, so it's not a good fit for dorms or small spaces.
Capacity: 2.2 cubic feet | Power Rating: 1250 watts | Dimensions: 23.88 x 19.44 x 14 inches | Turntable Size: 16.5 inches | Weight: 36.8 pounds
“It outperformed all previous mac and cheese tests done on other machines, which makes us believe the sensor does very well with frozen foods. It cooked ridiculously evenly.”
Best Budget: Magic Chef 1.1 Cu. Ft. Countertop Microwave HMM1110
Doesn't leave fingerprints easily
Performs well for the price
Popcorn preset not super accurate
Despite being a very affordable option, this microwave by Magic Chef is still a decent size and has plenty of features and power to be a solid option for any kitchen. Its design is straightforward and functional, with all the necessary features you'd want—10 power levels, one-touch controls, and presets for items like popcorn, potatoes, beverages, and veggies. It doesn't smudge or collect fingerprints easily, so it's simple to keep clean.
When our Lab testers cooked marshmallows in this microwave, they came out with even caramelization all over. It heated room temperature water to 210 degrees in two minutes. When using the popcorn setting, there were a fair number of kernels left unpopped, but it heated leftovers and frozen foods well.
Our testers really liked the size of this model, not too big and not too small. It won't fit a 13-by-9-inch casserole dish, but it also won't take up as much counter space as a lot of other options on this list.
Capacity: 1.1 cubic feet | Power Rating: 1000 watts | Dimensions: 15.7 x 20.2 x 12.1 inches | Turntable Size: 12.4 inches | Weight: 30.1 pounds
“I would recommend this to a friend or family member who is looking for a great value. This model was priced very fairly and offered a large number of functions for the price.”
Best for Small Spaces: Farberware FMO11AHTBKB Stainless Steel Countertop Microwave Oven
Great for popcorn and frozen meals
Size is compact but sufficient
Child lock and programmable features
Another more affordable option, this Farberware microwave is a basic model that is big enough for just about anything you'd need, but it still takes up minimal counter space. There are a child lock, multistage cooking, express cooking, a popcorn button, and a programmable feature, but it's simple and straightforward.
Our Lab testers noted that this microwave performed particularly well with popcorn (only 1/8 ounce unpopped kernels) and frozen meals. It heated room temperature water to 203 degrees after two minutes. The marshmallow test showed some uneven heating, but we don't consider that a deal-breaker, since it did well with the macaroni.
The downsides of this microwave are that it's somewhat noisy (both in cooking and in the door opening and closing) and that it smudges easily. That being said, if you need a basic microwave and space is a concern, we think this one is a good value with performance that won't disappoint.
Capacity: 1.1 cubic feet | Power Rating: 1000 watts | Dimensions: 20.2 x 16.54 x 12 inches | Turntable Size: 12.5 inches | Weight: 25.75 pounds
“Not too big or too small, it took up only half of the counter we tested on.”
Best Convection: Cuisinart CMW-200 Convection Microwave
Offers grilling, convection roasting, and baking
Great for adventurous cooking
Large internal capacity
Some temperature-uniformity issues
The Cuisinart Convection Microwave's functions include microwave, convection, convection fast bake, convection roast, grill combo, defrost, and keep warm, so it's a very versatile appliance that can do the job of many others. It's somewhat bulky, but we love the multistage cooking and the ability to program favorite settings. The touchpad numbers have degrees on them for the bake function, which makes for an easier learning curve.
In terms of how it stacked up to the competition in our basic Lab tests, there were some issues with temperature uniformity when heating the marshmallows, but it worked well for the macaroni and popped the popcorn with few kernels remaining (1/8 ounce). If all you want is a basic microwave, this one is overkill—and expensive—with performance about average for heating and reheating. However, if you want a microwave that can replace multiple appliances in your kitchen, this is a great option. It is a bit bulky, but it has a solid interior capacity.
We plan to do further testing on its more advanced features and will update the roundup with those results.
Capacity: 1.2 cubic feet | Power Rating: 1000 watts | Dimensions: 21.2 x 19 x 12.2 inches | Turntable Size: 12 inches | Weight: 41.3 pounds
“This microwave is best suited for the adventurous cook who wants a multifunctional appliance.”
Best High-End: Breville Combi Wave Microwave 3-in-1
Air fryer, convection oven, and microwave in one
Easy to use
This microwave has all the bells and whistles—our Lab testers remarked that it's very high-tech and futuristic. It's also exceptionally quiet, and it allows you to change the beeping noises that let you know your food is ready. Even the door closes smoothly and quietly. Even better, this model offers an air fryer function (which eliminates the need for a whole separate appliance and gets your food much crispier than a regular microwave could), a convection bake function, and a Fast Combi function (which combines convection baking, grilling, and microwaving to cook your food faster). These are just a few of the 19 presets.
Our Lab testers noted some temperature inconsistency with the microwave function, but this machine's versatility means it can do the job of several appliances in one, which could make it worth the high price tag for some.
We plan to do further testing on its more advanced features and will update the roundup with those results.
Capacity: 1.1 cubic feet | Power Rating: 1400 watts | Dimensions: 21 x 20.4 x 21 inches | Turntable Size: 12.4 inches | Weight: 34 pounds
“It's a very quiet machine, and the door is so smooth to close.”
Our top pick is the Toshiba EM131A5C-BS Microwave Oven due to its consistent performance, ease of use, and ease of cleaning. Another option that performed exceptionally well for our Lab testers was the Panasonic Oven with Cyclonic Wave Inverter Technology. It's got a higher price tag, but it cooks incredibly evenly and is very easy to use.
How We Tested the Microwaves
After researching the top-rated microwaves, we sent 23 models to our dedicated Lab to test side by side. For this test, we only looked at countertop models and did not include over-the-range, built-in, or drawer options. We included a variety of price points and sizes in our selection and ran them through several basic tests. We started by heating water for two minutes and measuring the final temperature. We then heated miniature marshmallows to assess the microwave's handling of more delicate items and determine how evenly they were warmed. We also cooked a frozen macaroni meal, melted chocolate, and popped a bag of popcorn. Each microwave was rated on size, features, heating/effectiveness, and overall value.
We also sent several microwaves to our experienced at-home testers to be evaluated in their own kitchens.
Other Options We Tested
- SMETA Microwave 1000 Watt Countertop/1.1 cu ft Microwave: Our Lab testers found this microwave to have weak power and heating, and they felt it was not worth the price. When making popcorn in our Lab, this microwave left a lot of kernels unpopped, and the exterior picked up fingerprints and smudges easily. It has a nice interior capacity but lacks the aesthetics, performance, and features to be a worthwhile over-$100 model.
- Proctor Silex 1.1 Microwave: Our Lab testers didn't hate this model, but they found it to be pretty average. Its design, functions, and capacity were nothing to write home about, and our testers noted that there were some issues with the evenness of cooking. They also noted that it didn't pop popcorn very well, leaving a lot of unpopped kernels.
- Galanz GT 4-in-1 Toast Wave: The selling point of this microwave is that it also includes an air frying function, which we did not test in our Lab. It performed well as a microwave, but its bulky design will give you pause. It has good interior capacity, but it is a large piece of equipment to have on your counter. The fan on the back protrudes too much and keeps it from pressing against the wall. It doesn't even look like a microwave, and based on its design and price, we decided to leave it off our list. We do plan to do further testing on its more advanced features and will update the roundup with those results.
What to Look for When Buying a Microwave
There are four main styles of microwaves, and they’re distinguished by where and how they’re installed. There are microwaves designed to sit on the countertop, those installed over the range (OTR), built-ins that are recessed in a cabinet or wall, or drawer-style microwaves that are placed into the cabinetry beneath countertops.
If you’re looking for an OTR or built-in model, it’s important to choose the proper size for the space, especially if you’re replacing an existing microwave. Make sure to check whether the door has clearance to open. You have more leeway if you’re buying a countertop model, but it’s still important to measure that area in your kitchen.
Microwave capacity is measured in cubic feet. In general, the more cubic feet, the bigger the microwave. You'll find microwaves as small as 0.5 cubic feet to the largest models measuring in at 2 cubic feet or more. Most microwaves are in the 1-to-2-cubic-feet range.
It may be hard to determine if a microwave will meet your needs based on cubic feet alone. A better measurement to pay attention to may be the size of the interior and the turntable. Ensuring the door opening is high and wide enough to fit the items you microwave most and that the shape and size of the turntable can accommodate your plates will help you pick the right size microwave.
A microwave’s power is measured in watts—the higher the wattage, the more power a microwave has, and the more quickly and evenly the appliance will cook your food. Most microwaves available today are equipped with between 500 and 1000 watts of power. The best option for you depends on how you plan to use the appliance.
Most people prefer a microwave with 700 watts (or more), as those models are still affordable and work great on microwave meals, popcorn, and other small items. If you’re planning to do heavy-duty cooking in your microwave, you’ll want a model with around 1000 watts of power. More powerful microwaves can cook just about anything, from meat mains like meatloaf to vegetable side dishes and even desserts.
Preset cooking modes
In addition to the standard keys for manually entering time and starting and stopping the microwave, most models are also equipped with controls for preset cooking times. These pre-programmed cooking options automatically select power level and cooking time based on what you're cooking.
You'll find settings that let you cook items like popcorn, potatoes, frozen vegetables, and more with the touch of a button. You'll even find settings for melting butter and chocolate, defrosting frozen items, and reheating pizza. Consider whether you'll actually use these features or whether you tend to just punch in the time manually—there’s no point in paying for features you don’t use.
Some microwaves have grilling, steaming, and convection cooking capabilities. Microwaves with these additional cooking functions generally cost more than those without them.
While not as powerful as a standard propane grill, the grill function on a microwave is designed to sear the outside of food to replicate grilled results. Convection microwaves use the same technology as their oven counterparts: A fan blows and circulates hot air into the microwave, helping to cook food more quickly and evenly. Convection microwaves can also brown or crisp food, similar to a conventional oven.
Some microwaves are equipped with sensors that automatically customize cooking time and power level based on how much moisture they detect in the food you're cooking. The sensors are designed to help prevent overcooking and uneven cooking so that you won't end up with rubbery, overdone, or undercooked meat—or dishes with cold spots.
Over-the-range microwaves often come with a venting feature that can take the place of a traditional oven hood. It is beneficial when you’re cooking on the stovetop and want to remove odors or smoke from your kitchen.
There are two types of microwave vent systems: recirculating and external. Recirculating vents simply pull the air up into the appliance, run it through a filter, and then push it back out into your kitchen. This type of ventilation system is ductless and easier to install, but it doesn’t perform as efficiently as external ventilation.
External vents are connected to ductwork that sucks in air from your kitchen and redirects it to the outdoors. These systems do a better job of removing heat and odors from your kitchen, but they can be quite pricey to install if your home doesn’t already have ductwork.
With the exception of drawer-style models, essentially all microwaves come with a turntable. Turntables may be round and rotate in a circle, or rectangular and move side-to-side. They're designed to keep food moving for more even cooking.
Most turntables are removable for easy cleaning, and many can be popped into the dishwasher to remove any dried-on food stains. As you shop, consider whether the turntable is large enough to fit your go-to microwave dishes, dinner plates, and favorite microwavable foods. Large dishes like casseroles will likely fit better on a rectangular turntable.
Some microwaves come with a removable rack that create shelf storage inside so you can cook multiple things at the same time. Depending on how much microwave cooking you do, or how many people are heating leftovers up at the same time, you might benefit from a model with a rack.
The racks are usually made from wire, similar to the racks in your oven. Just remember that having a rack in the microwave will decrease how much clearance you have for fitting in taller items.
Microwaves vary greatly in price. The cost of a new microwave is determined by size, style, and features. While you can find small, basic microwaves for under $50, most models are priced in the $100 to $500 range.
Specialty microwaves, like built-in and drawer styles and those with convection cooking capabilities, can cost even more. In general, the more power (i.e., wattage) and features a microwave has, the more it will cost.
Most microwaves are covered by a one-year limited warranty, and some have extended coverage for the magnetron parts. Although a solid microwave should last well beyond the one-year warranty period, it's a good idea to check the fine print before buying so you know exactly what's covered and for how long. Most retailers offer extended warranty plans on appliances, including microwaves.
Types of Microwaves
Countertop microwaves are some of the most popular models, and there are many options to choose from. They are quick and easy to install—just plug them in—and you can move them around as needed, making them a top choice for renters. Countertop microwaves are also a good option if your kitchen isn't designed to accommodate a mounted or built-in microwave.
The main downside of countertop microwaves is that they take up valuable counter space, which can be frustrating if you have a small kitchen. They come in a variety of sizes, and their prices can range from $20 for a cheap model to $600 or more for a large, high-tech version.
Over-the-range (OTR) microwaves are popular in many homes, and as the name suggests, this style is designed to be mounted over your stove. OTR microwaves don’t take up any room on your counter, can create a seamless look in your kitchen, and stand in for a range hood or exhaust fan, helping to remove odors from your kitchen while you cook. In general, OTR microwaves can cost anywhere from $150 to several hundred dollars.
You may be a bit limited in your choice of OTR microwaves, because you’ll need a model that fits snugly above your stove. Most people also want an appliance that matches their range. Unfortunately, OTR microwaves are more complicated to install, especially if you haven’t had one before. You may need to hire an electrician, which can drive up the overall cost of your new microwave.
If you’re a fan of wall ovens, you may also like the look of built-in microwaves, which are designed to be installed flush within a recessed wall cavity or cabinet. They help save on counter space, but they're more complicated to install, especially if you didn't have one previously.
Built-in microwaves are significantly more expensive than other options, with prices usually starting at around $300. Some countertop microwaves have optional kits that allow them to be installed as built-ins, which can be a way to save some money.
Drawer microwaves are designed to be installed under your counter. Instead of having a swinging door, they pull out from the cabinetry like a standard drawer. This style also saves valuable counter space, and many people love that these models don’t have a turntable, making them a cinch to clean. Individuals with mobility issues often find drawer microwaves easier to reach than OTR options. Most drawer models have child locks, so they're safe to use in homes with small children.
Drawer microwaves are the most complicated to install and are significantly more expensive than other styles. Low-end models cost $800 or $900, and prices can reach up into the thousands for fancier options.
Only use microwave-safe food storage containers, cookware, and dinnerware for microwave cooking. Always check labels to make sure your containers are acceptable for microwave use. Metal should never be placed in the microwave, since it can spark, creating a fire hazard and damage to the microwave.
Microwaves need to be cleaned regularly, since food tends to splatter and create buildup on the microwave walls and tray. Keeping your microwave clean will prevent unwanted odors in your kitchen.
If your microwave has a built-in air-ventilation system, it also has a filter that needs to be changed regularly. These filters accumulate dust and cooking grease, so it's recommended to change the filter about twice a year.
You may want to purchase some type of microwave splatter cover to save you some cleanup time. These inexpensive covers prevent flying food particles from ending up baked onto the inside of your microwave.
What does more wattage mean?
A microwave’s wattage tells you how much power it has. More wattage means your food will cook more quickly and evenly. You’ll typically see microwaves between 500 and 1200 watts.
Be aware that microwaves with fewer than 700 watts are generally underpowered and add time to the cooking process. These models are good options for people with limited budgets and those who are looking to save space or willing to wait a few extra minutes. If you want a fully functional microwave to cook meat and vegetables, look for models with 1000 watts or more.
Why consider a convection microwave?
Convection microwaves circulate hot air to cook the food more evenly—and usually more quickly—than traditional microwaves. You can also use this special convection feature to brown or crisp foods in ways that a typical microwave can’t.
How do you clean a microwave?
It’s a good idea to clean your microwave regularly, even if you take care of spills or splatters as they happen. To clean the inside, heat a microwave-safe bowl filled with water and a tablespoon of vinegar (white or apple cider will work) for several minutes. You want the inside to get steamy without the bowl of water boiling over. Let the mixture cool for a few minutes before opening the door. Then, wipe the inside clean with a paper towel, or use an abrasive sponge for any stuck-on food. Remove the turntable and wash it by hand or in the dishwasher.
The exterior of the microwave, including the door, handle, and control panel should also be regularly wiped down to remove fingerprints, everyday grime, and cooking residue. Use an all-purpose cleaner for the exterior, but spray it onto a paper towel or sponge first—not directly onto the microwave—to avoid it getting into the venting system.
You should never use bleach to clean your microwave.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
The original author of this roundup, Erica Puisis is a writer and interior design expert who has been writing about all things home and lifestyle for The Spruce since 2017. In addition to the best microwaves of the year, Erica has written similar roundups on other kitchen products, including the best over-the-range microwaves.
This roundup was updated by Katya Weiss-Andersson, who has eight years of experience cooking as a professional chef in small spaces. She doesn't have a microwave in her studio apartment due to lack of space, but if she ever tells you that her air fryer can completely take a microwave's place, please know that she is lying.