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Whether it's used for reheating coffee or leftovers, defrosting frozen food for meal prep, or heating up a quick microwavable dinner, the microwave oven has become one of the most essential kitchen appliances home cooks rely on today. Not only that, but microwaves are now capable of such things as convection cooking, grilling, and steaming.
Microwaves also come in a range of forms and sizes: from small, countertop models to large, built-in ones. Maybe you're ready to buy your first microwave or perhaps your old one's on the fritz—and with all these options available, it can be hard to know where to start. Here, we've come up with our top picks to help you find the best microwave for your needs.
Buzzer can be muted
Some presets aren't very accurate
The Toshiba EM131A5C-BS handles all your basic tasks and balances counter space with a roomy capacity. Available in either black or silver stainless steel, this countertop microwave has an interior capacity of 1.2 cubic feet while measuring just over 20 inches wide and 17 inches long. Its 1,100 watts of power can be adjusted with 10 power settings, and customers agree that it cooks food evenly and quickly.
The unit also is equipped with sensor cooking and two defrost settings, though some people found that not all of the pre-set cook modes worked as expected and the microwave defrosted too aggressively for some meats. Our reviewer found that "the soften/melt presets aren’t exact, either, and I had to take my butter out early." Still, this Toshiba countertop microwave has a solid reputation for being easy to use and reliable.
"Throughout the testing process, I kept my power setting at 10 and was pleased with the results." — Rachel Ellison, Product Tester
Easy to install and use
The Panasonic NN-SN966S offers 2.2 cubic feet of interior space and 1,250 watts of power to heat food in less time than much of the competition. “It offers power levels from 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest,” explained one of our testers, “and I found that even using level 5, the microwave is able to heat the food very quickly and evenly.”
Other pluses include the sleek stainless steel appearance and 14 auto cook options. If you frequently use your microwave to cook, steam, or defrost, you’ll appreciate the built-in inverter, which delivers consistent heating power that won’t leave food rubbery or unevenly heated.
People find the display and controls to be easy enough to use, but a few online reviewers said they experienced button failure for the door after several years. The microwave is also quite large, so it's not a good choice for small homes.
"Thanks to its sizable footprint, it’s also an ideal option for large families and those who lean heavily on their microwave." — Linnea Covington, Product Tester
Stainless steel interior
Easy to use
Convection oven heats slowly
A microwave with a convection function, like the Toshiba EC042A5C, offers multiple ways to cook your meals with one appliance. This 1,000-watt microwave has enough power to reheat food in microwave mode or cook, roast, and bake using the convection function between 170 and 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
Featuring 1.5 cubic feet of space, it's large enough to microwave full-size dinner plates or accommodate a small chicken or pizza. A grill rack (for convection mode cooking) makes it easy to get a crispy exterior. People love this unit for its versatility, but others mention that it’s bigger and heavier than expected. It also may tack a few minutes onto recipe cook times when using convection mode.
Standard dinner plates won't fit
This affordable microwave offers 700 watts of power in a small footprint that's perfect for a small home or apartment.
The black exterior and control panel gives this microwave a standard look that doesn't reveal just how affordable it is. The microwave has your typical pre-set cooking functions for foods like pizza and beverages and has an LED display that features a clock and a timer. It even has a child lock to keep curious kids out of trouble.
The best part of this microwave might be its Alexa integration. Use your Echo device to ask Alexa to heat your tea and the microwave will choose the appropriate time and power settings.
Convenient cooking rack
Instructions aren't very thorough
Over-the-range microwaves give you the convenience of quick reheating without sacrificing counter space. This 1.9-cubic-foot model from Whirlpool is available in multiple colors and finishes, including fingerprint-resistant stainless steel.
Featuring 1,000 watts of power, it's also equipped with a 300 CFM ventilation system to keep odors and smoke from your cooktop under control. Customers particularly love the inclusion of the three-speed fan. Reviewers found installation to be fairly straightforward, but some noted that the instructions for all the settings aren't very clear.
Fits into corners
Good interior room
Basic, easy-to-use functions
No numeric keypad for entering time
Easily mistaken for a small television, this Whirlpool microwave is perfect for small spaces and can be tucked away into a cramped cabinet, thanks to its curved back. Measuring only 0.5 cubic feet, this countertop microwave is one of the smallest and mightiest we’ve found. Many customers were pleasantly surprised to find that it has a turntable that's still large enough for full-size dinner plates.
At 700 watts, this model matches substantial power with a small footprint—but keep in mind it's not going to compete with larger models that feature 1,000 watts or more. Reviewers love how it performs all the basic functions you need, although some wished for a full numeric keypad to enter the time rather than pressing the plus button.
Efficient, consistent heat
Release button can be finicky
Control panel buttons can be difficult
This microwave boasts 1200 watts and offers a capacity of 2.2 cubic feet. At 16 inches, the turntable is extra-large (big enough for casseroles, reviewers note), making it a great choice for families.
Reviewers rave that it's a workhorse, lasting longer than a decade for most. And when it was finally time to replace, many purchased the very same model. This customer loyalty speaks to the appliance's efficiency and durability.
Features such as inverter defrost technology and a warming oven deliver and maintain consistent heat, and time and power automatically adjust thanks to sensor cooking controls. The simple stainless steel design works with a variety of kitchen styles and easily matches other appliances.
Some reviewers gripe that the release button can be finicky and that the control panel buttons aren't the easiest to use, but most were able to overlook those flaws thanks to its other attributes.
Easy to clean
If you want a smaller microwave that still offers plenty of power, then this 1.1-cubic-feet, 1000-watt option from Samsung is a great pick. Customers love the modern black color scheme and the brushed stainless steel handle. The design of the control panel is also unique because it combines digital controls with a metal dial.
The ceramic enamel interior is designed to wipe clean easily and resist grease, oil, and scratches. Online reviewers appreciate the unique LED display and say that one of the microwave's highlights is Eco mode, which allows you to turn the digital display off to conserve energy. One downside is that the microwave can be quite loud, according to current owners.
Our top pick is the Toshiba EM131A5C-BS Microwave Oven because of its substantial power, one-touch functionality, and smudge-resistant exterior. For more capacity, we recommend the Panasonic Countertop/Built-In Microwave. It has 12 preset modes, automatic sensors, and can be installed as a built-in or countertop option.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
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 Sharon Lehman, a home cook who happens to be a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. She happily makes space for any gadget that make cooking faster and easier and specializes in small kitchen appliance testing and reviews for The Spruce Eats.
What does more wattage mean?
A microwave’s wattage tells you how much power it has, and more wattage means your food will cook faster and more evenly. You’ll typically see microwaves between 500 and 1,200 watts. Be aware that microwaves with fewer than 700 watts are generally underpowered and add time to the cooking process. These models are a good option for people limited by a budget, 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 1,000 watts or more.
Why consider a convection microwave?
Convection microwaves circulate hot air to cook the food more evenly—and usually faster—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 clean up spills or splatters here and there. 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 to 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 either wash it by hand or in the dishwasher. Use an all-purpose cleaner for the exterior, but spray onto a paper towel or sponge first—not directly onto the microwave—to avoid it getting into the venting system. You should also avoid using bleach in your microwave.
The Ultimate Microwave Buying Guide
For most people, microwaves are a must-have kitchen appliance for meal prep. Whether you want to popcorn or a warm bowl of soup, a microwave will get the job done in mere minutes. Plus, there's nothing to preheat, which helps you conserve energy in your home. Their convenience and ease of use are what make microwaves a staple for most modern households.
Ever wondered how microwaves heat up food so quickly and efficiently? These appliances contain a part called a magnetron, which uses electricity to create high-powered radio waves. The waves are pushed into the microwave’s interior, where they bounce off the metal walls and penetrate whatever food you’re cooking. The turntable spins to help the waves hit the food from all angles, and this process makes the molecules in the food vibrate, warming them up. However, one of the downsides of microwave cooking is that radio waves can only travel a few centimeters into your food, so larger items don’t always cook evenly.
All microwaves use this same core technology, but today, there are many models available that come with a variety of additional features. For instance, many products have pre-programmed settings to cook common foods, as well as various cooking methods, such as steaming and grilling. Depending on what size and features you want, you can spend anywhere from $20 to $2,000 on a new microwave.
There are three main styles of microwaves, and they’re distinguished predominantly by where and how they’re installed. First, there are your standard countertop microwaves, which simply sit on the kitchen counter and are plugged into an electrical outlet. This style is often the least expensive and works best for anyone who lives in a rented home, as they can be moved easily. Countertop microwaves are also a good option if you don’t want to remodel your kitchen to accommodate a built-in style.
Over-the-range (OTR) microwaves are popular in many homes, and as the name suggests, this style is designed to be mounted over your oven. OTR microwaves don’t take up any room on your counter and can create a seamless look in your kitchen, but they’re also more expensive and more complicated to install.
Finally, there are built-in microwaves, which are designed to be installed into a recessed wall cavity. Again, you retain your counter space, but these models are typically more expensive with a trickier installation.
Consider both a microwave's dimensions and capacity as you shop. 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. Also, make sure to check that 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.
Don’t forget to consider the capacity of the appliance, too. If you want to cook larger dishes, you’ll need a more spacious interior cavity.
A microwave’s power is measured in watts—the higher the wattage, the quicker and more evenly the appliance will cook your food. Today, you will generally see microwaves with between 500 and 1,000 watts of power, and the best option for you depends on how you plan to use the appliance.
For instance, you’ll have a hard time cooking food in a 500-watt microwave. Instead, these low-power machines are often used for dehydrating foods. Most people prefer a microwave with 700 watts (or more), as these 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 1,000 watts of power. You can cook just about anything in this type of powerful microwave, like meat, vegetables, and even dessert. However, these models are typically on the higher end of the price range.
In addition to standard timed cooking, many modern microwaves come with a host of other cooking options. Many have quick keys, which allow you to start the machine for 30 seconds or 1 minute by pressing a button.
Pre-programmed cooking options are also popular, as they allow you to cook popcorn, potatoes, frozen foods, and more with one touch. Additionally, some microwaves come with grill, steam, browning, and even convection features.
Some models have more cooking options, and some have just a few. Consider whether you actually use these features or if you tend to just punch in the time manually—there’s no point in paying for features you don’t use.
Over-the-range microwaves often come with a venting feature that can take the place of a traditional oven hood. This 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 to remove impurities, 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 vents it outside. These systems do a better job 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 models, essentially all microwaves come with a turntable, which rotates your food for more even cooking. As you shop, consider whether the turntable is removable for easy cleaning and if it’s large enough to fit your favorite microwavable foods.
If you’re planning to put large dishes in the microwave, you may want to look for a rectangular turntable that moves side-to-side to make it easier to cook things like casseroles.
Consider whether you would benefit from a microwave with a rack. Typically, these removable shelves are made from wire—similar to the racks in your oven—and allow you to cook multiple things at the same time. However, they do limit you from putting tall items in the microwave.
Types of Microwaves
These are several styles of microwaves available. Consider the pros and cons of each, as well as the average price range, to inform your decision.
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. The main downside of countertop microwaves is that they take up valuable counter space, which can be frustrating if you have a small kitchen.
Countertop microwaves 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.
There are two main benefits of choosing an over-the-range microwave. First, they free up counter space in your kitchen, and second, they can stand in for a range hood or exhaust fan, helping to remove odors from your kitchen while you cook.
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. And, unfortunately, OTR microwaves are more complicated to install, especially if you haven’t had one before. In these instances, you may need to hire an electrician, which can drive up the overall cost of your new microwave.
In general, OTR microwaves can cost anywhere from $150 to several hundred dollars.
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 with a wall or cabinet so you don't have to give up counter space. However, these microwaves are significantly more expensive than other options, starting at around $300. It’s worth noting that some countertop microwaves have optional kits that allow them to be installed as a built-in, so this may be a way to save some money. Additionally, it’s often complicated to install a built-in microwave, especially if you didn’t have one previously.
One special type of built-in microwave is a drawer microwave, which is designed to be installed under your counter and pulls out like a standard drawer instead of having a swinging door.
Drawer microwaves save valuable counter space, and many people love that these models don’t have a turntable, making them a cinch to clean. Plus, some people with mobility issues find drawer microwaves easier to reach than OTR options. And, thankfully, most drawer microwaves have child locks.
The downsides of drawer microwaves are that they’re complicated to install and significantly more expensive than other styles. Low-end models cost $800 or $900, and prices can reach up into the thousands for fancier options.
You’ve probably heard of a convection oven, but did you know that there are convection microwaves, too? These specialty appliances use the same technology as their oven counterparts: A fan blows and circulates hot air into the microwave, helping to cook food faster and more evenly. Convection microwaves can also brown or crisp food, similar to a traditional oven.
This feature is available on countertop, OTR, and built-in models, and it generally increases the price of the appliance. Convection microwaves start at around $400 and can reach up into the thousands.
As you shop for a new microwave, you’ll likely come across a few popular brands.
Frigidaire is a well-known kitchen appliance brand, so it should come as no surprise they make microwaves. You can find countertop, OTR, and built-in models from this brand, costing between $80 and $300.
Another common household brand, GE sells a variety of countertop and OTR microwaves, with the most popular models costing $300 or $400.
LG Electronics offers countertop and OTR microwaves, ranging in price from around $150 to $800. The brand has a new line of LG NeoChef Microwaves, which have smart inverter technology that helps heat food more evenly and defrost items faster.
Whirlpool boasts some of the top user ratings among microwaves, thanks to its multi-feature countertop and OTR models. Most models cost between $200 and $500, but many consider them a worthwhile investment.
Another top-rated brand, KitchenAid offers countertop, OTR, built-in, and drawer microwaves. However, many of their products are on the more expensive side.
Panasonic is a trusted name associated with electronics of all types, and you'll find their microwaves in countertop, built-in, and over-the-range models. Depending on whether you're looking for a basic model or one with all the bells and whistles, prices start at just over $100 and go up to close to $1,000.
Toshiba is a reputable name when it comes to appliances, offering several countertop microwave models at fairly midrange price points. You'll find more basic models as well as ones with convection capabilities.
If you’re looking for a drawer microwave, you’ll likely encounter many models by Sharp. This brand offers several sleek drawer microwaves that get top marks from reviewers, but they don’t come cheap, starting at around $1,200.
There are a few different accessories you can purchase along with your new microwave. It’s always a good idea to purchase a few extra filters, especially if your microwave has a recirculating ventilation system. Most manufacturers recommend changing these filters every six months, and it’s easier to do if you already have extras on hand.
You may also 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 to the inside of your microwave.