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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.
Our home tester declared the Panasonic NN-SN966S Microwave Oven a winner due to its outstanding power, 14 auto cook options, and built-in inverter. If you're looking for a budget option, a good choice is the Hamilton Beach 0.9-Cubic Foot Stainless Steel Microwave Oven which, while smaller in size, performs exceptionally well.
Modern microwaves are now capable of more features 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.
We researched and tested the top options on the market, screening for setup, performance, features, and more. Here are our top picks, complete with categories to fit your space and cooking needs.
Best Overall: Panasonic NN-SN966S Countertop/Built-In Microwave with Inverter Technology
Automatic sensors adjust cooking time and power
Can defrost without cooking
14 preset modes
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,” says 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. Our tester reported back that there were no cold spots in any of her food.
The tester also found the display and controls to be easy to use and loved how simple it was to customize the settings for what she was cooking. The microwave is quite large though, so it's not a good choice for small kitchens.
Capacity: 2.2 cubic feet | Power Rating: 1250 watts | Dimensions: 14 x 23.9 x 19.4 inches | Turntable Size: 16.5 inches | Weight: 37 pounds
"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
Best Budget: Hamilton Beach P90D23AL-WR 0.9 Cu. Ft. Stainless Steel Microwave Oven
Express cook buttons
Smaller than average
Some limits to one-touch cooking
This affordable model is a great option for small spaces like dorms and offices, or anyone who doesn't use a microwave often enough to justify investing in a pricier model. It's a countertop microwave with 900 watts of power, a sleek stainless steel design, LED display panel, and one-touch cooking settings for making a baked potato, popcorn, pizza, a beverage, a frozen dinner, or reheating. There are also express cook settings for setting the cooking time for 1-6 minutes with the touch of just a button.
It measures 11 inches tall, which should easily fit beneath kitchen cabinets with room to spare, and 0.9 cubic feet. Although it's on the smaller end, our tester was able to easily fit her full-size dinner plates inside. It also performed on par with more expensive models. Other than a few plates with a cooler middle, it successfully warmed up a number of test dishes, without significant overcooking. One downside was the popcorn preset: It consistently went too long, though our tester was able to stop cooking before smelling burnt popcorn for days.
Capacity: 0.9 cubic feet | Power Rating: 900 watts | Dimensions: 19 x 12 x 11.5 inches | Turntable Size: 10 inches
"Overall, despite being a smaller model, the Hamilton Beach Microwave was able to handle every dish we tried to put in it." — Camryn Rabideau, Product Tester
Best for Small Spaces: BLACK+DECKER EM720CB7 0.7 Cu. Ft. Digital Microwave Oven
Powerful for its size
Custom memory function
Can't fit full-size dinner plates
Tough to open door
This countertop model from Black+Decker is available in four different sizes, including a 0.7-cubic foot microwave that's an ideal option for small spaces. This microwave is one of the smallest out there, measuring about 17 inches wide by 11.5 inches deep and 10 inches tall. Although our product tester's 11-inch dinner plates didn't fit inside this microwave, she was surprised the small size didn't take away from its power.
This microwave has 700-watts of power, which proved plenty for reheating leftovers, making a bag of microwave popcorn, melting butter, and more—all in just a couple of minutes. Our tester especially liked using the Express Heat buttons, which allow you to select a cook time of 1-6 minutes by simply pressing the corresponding number on the keypad.
There are also express cook settings for popcorn, potato, pizza, frozen vegetables, beverages, and dinner plates, plus a memory setting where you can program your most-used cooking settings.
Capacity: 0.7 cubic feet | Power Rating: 700 watts | Dimensions: 17.3 x 13 x 10.2 inches | Turntable Size: 10 inches | Weight: 22.5 pounds
"It easily fit underneath our upper kitchen cabinets, and there was even room to place items on top of it, which could be handy in small kitchens where space is tight." — Camryn Rabideau, Product Tester
Best Basic: Toshiba EM131A5C-BS Microwave Oven
Substantial power and multiple settings
Easy-to-clean interior and exterior
Too big for small kitchens
Preset heat times are too aggressive
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 our tester found that it cooks food evenly and quickly.
The unit is also equipped with sensor cooking and two defrost settings. Some people found that not all of the preset 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." But it cooked frozen meals perfectly, much better than her previous budget model.
Still, this Toshiba countertop microwave has a solid reputation for being easy to use and reliable, which is what our reviewer found. It was also exceptionally easy to clean.
Capacity: 1.2 cubic feet | Power Rating: 1,100 watts | Dimensions: 23.3 x 18.4 x 15 inches | Turntable Size: 12.4 inches | Weight: 34.6 pounds
"Throughout the testing process, I kept my power setting at 10 and was pleased with the results." — Rachel Ellison, Product Tester
Best Convection: Toshiba EC042A5C-SS 1.5 Cu. Ft. Convection Microwave Oven
Stainless steel interior
Easy to use
Convection oven heats slowly
A microwave with a convection function offers multiple ways to cook your meals with one appliance. This 1,000-watt microwave has enough power to cook food in microwave mode or 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 add a few minutes onto recipe cook times when using convection mode.
Capacity: 1.5 cubic feet | Power Rating: 1000 watts | Dimensions: 21.77 x 21.5 x 12.99 inches | Turntable Size: 13.6 inches | Weight: 44.8 pounds
Best Smart: AmazonBasics 0.7 Cu. Ft. Small Microwave
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 budget-friendly it is.
This model 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.
Capacity: 0.7 cubic feet | Power Rating: 700 watts | Dimensions: 17.3 x 10.1 x 14.1 inches | Turntable Size: 10 inches | Weight: 21.9 pounds
Best Mountable: Whirlpool WMH32519HZ 1.9 Cu. Ft. Over the Range Microwave
Convenient cooking rack
Instructions aren't very thorough
Over-the-range microwaves give you the convenience of reheating leftovers or melting butter 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 3-speed fan. Reviewers found installation to be fairly straightforward, but some noted that the instructions for all the settings aren't very clear.
Capacity: 1.9 cubic feet | Power Rating: 1000 watts | Dimensions: 17.13 x 29.88 x 13.56 inches | Turntable Size: 10 inches | Weight: 56 pounds
Since food can quickly become scalding hot in the microwave, reheat leftovers in intervals of 30 to 45 seconds at a time. Stir or rotate your food between intervals for even heating. The exact timing will depend on your microwave's wattage, but most leftovers are warm enough to serve after 1 to 3 minutes in the microwave.
Best Design: Samsung MS14K6000AS 1.4 Cu. Ft. Countertop Microwave with Sensor Cook
Easy to clean
If you want a smaller microwave that still offers plenty of power, then this 1.4-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. 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.
The ceramic enamel interior is designed to wipe clean easily and resist grease, oil, and scratches. One downside is that the microwave can be quite loud, according to current owners.
Capacity: 1.4 cubic feet | Power Rating: 1000 watts | Dimensions: 21.9 x 12.3 x 18.6 inches | Turntable Size: 14.2 inches | Weight: 37.5 pounds
Best for Families: GE Profile JES2251SJ 2.2 Cu. Ft. 1200-Watt Countertop Microwave
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 casserole recipes, 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.
Capacity: 2.2 cubic feet | Power Rating: 1200 watts | Dimensions: 24 x 13.75 x 19.5 inches | Turntable Size: 16 inches | Weight: 34 pounds
Our top pick is the Panasonic Countertop/Built-In Microwave. It has 14 preset modes, automatic sensors, and can be installed as a built-in or countertop option. For a more basic option, we recommend the Toshiba EM131A5C-BS Microwave Oven because of its substantial power, one-touch functionality, and smudge-resistant exterior.
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. 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.
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 quicker and more evenly the appliance will cook your food. Most microwaves available today are equipped with between 500 and 1,000 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 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. 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 if 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 these features.
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 faster and more evenly. Convection microwaves can also brown or crisp food, similar to a traditional 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. 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, 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 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-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 removable racks that create shelf storage in the microwave 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 the size, style, and features. While you can find small, basic microwaves for under $50, most models are priced in the $100-$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 1-year limited warranty, with some having extended coverage for the magnetron parts. Although a solid microwave should last well beyond the 1-year warranty period, it's a good idea to check the fine print before buying to 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. 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.
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, 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. In these instances, 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 a built-in, 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.
Another common household brand, GE sells a variety of countertop and OTR microwaves, with the most popular models costing $300 or $400.
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 reliable and worthwhile to invest in.
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 mid-range price points. You'll find more basic models as well as ones with convection capabilities.
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 build-up 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, 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 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 either 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 onto a paper towel or sponge first—not directly onto the microwave—to avoid it getting into the venting system.
You should not use bleach to clean your microwave.
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. It was also updated by Katya Weiss-Andersson, who has eight years of experience cooking as a professional chef in small spaces.