The 8 Best Microwaves of 2021

Quickly reheat, defrost, and cook a variety of foods

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Our Top Picks
"Handles all your basic tasks and offers plenty of capacity in a more compact design that saves on countertop space."
"A sleek stainless model that offers plenty of capacity, 14 preset cooking functions, and consistently even heating results."
"Reheat food in traditional microwave mode or cook, roast, and bake using with convection that can heat 170 to 425 degrees Fahrenheit."
"An affordable countertop option with 700 watts of power, a small footprint to save space, and built-in integration for pairing with Alexa."
"A high-end model designed for installation over the cooking range in attractive and easy-to-clean fingerprint resistant stainless steel."
"Compact with a unique curved design that allows this microwave to fit nicely into countertop corners."
"With a capacity of 2.2 cubic feet, an extra-large turntable, and plenty of power, this model is a great choice for families."
"Easy-to-clean with a ceramic enamel interior that resists build up of grease and oil and is scratch-resistant."

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. You can even find recipes for some surprising dishes you might not think of cooking in a microwave, like chocolate fudge, spaghetti, and seafood.

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-in to a wall or cabinetry.

If you're in the market to buy your first microwave or perhaps your old one is on its last legs, it can be hard to know where to start with all the options available today. Here, we've come up with our top picks to help you find the best microwave for your space and cooking needs.

Best Basic: Toshiba EM131A5C-BS Microwave Oven

What We Like
  • Good power

  • Buzzer can be muted

  • User-friendly controls

What We Don't Like
  • 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.

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

Best Countertop: Panasonic Microwave Oven NN-SN966S Countertop/Built-In with Inverter Technology

What We Like
  • Easy to install and use

  • Sleek design

  • Super powerful

What We Don't Like
  • Very large

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

Best Convection: Toshiba EC042A5C-BS 1.5 Cu. Ft. Convection Microwave Oven

What We Like
  • Super versatile

  • Stainless steel interior

  • Easy to use

What We Don't Like
  • Convection oven heats slowly

  • Bulky

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 add a few minutes onto recipe cook times when using convection mode.

Best Budget: AmazonBasics Microwave

What We Like
  • Compact

  • Alexa integration

  • Inexpensive

What We Don't Like
  • 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.

Best Mountable: Whirlpool Over the Range Microwave

Whirlpool 1.9 cu. ft. Over the Range Microwave
What We Like
  • High-end design

  • Convenient cooking rack

  • Quiet

What We Don't Like
  • 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 three-speed fan.

Reviewers found installation to be fairly straightforward, but some noted that the instructions for all the settings aren't very clear.

Best for Small Spaces: Whirlpool Countertop Microwave

Whirlpool 0.5 Cu. Ft. Countertop Microwave in Black
What We Like
  • Fits into corners

  • Good interior room

  • Basic, easy-to-use functions

What We Don't Like
  • 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.

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.

Many customers were pleasantly surprised to find that it has a turntable that's still large enough for full-size dinner plates. Reviewers also 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.

Best for Families: GE Profile 2.2-cu ft 1200-Watt Countertop Microwave

GE profile 2.2 cu microwave
What We Like
  • Large capacity

  • Long lifespan

  • Efficient, consistent heat

  • Sleek design

What We Don't Like
  • 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.

Good to Know

Since food can quickly become scalding hot in the microwave, reheat leftovers in intervals of 30-45 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 1-3 minutes in the microwave.

Best Design: Samsung MS14K6000AS 1.4 cu. ft. Countertop Microwave with Sensor Cook

Samsung MS11K3000AS 1.1 cu. ft. Countertop Microwave Oven with Sensor and Ceramic Enamel Interior, Silver Sand
What We Like
  • Easy to clean

  • Energy-saving mode

  • Modern design

What We Don't Like
  • Loud

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. 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.

Final Verdict

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.

FAQs

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 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

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For most people, microwaves are a must-have kitchen appliance for meal prep. Whether you want to make popcorn or a warm a bowl of soup, a microwave can get the job done in mere minutes. They're convenient, easy to use, and, unlike a standard oven, microwaves don't need to be preheated, which helps you conserve energy.

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 onto whatever you're cooking, causing the molecules in the food vibrate, which warms them up. The microwave turntable spins or slides back and forth to help the waves hit the food evenly from all angles.

Although microwave cooking works well for many foods, larger items don’t always cook evenly because the radio waves can only penetrate a few centimeters into your food.

There are many microwaves available today loaded with a variety of additional features, like pre-programmed settings to cook common foods and various cooking methods, such as steaming and grilling. Depending on what size and features you want, a new microwave can cost you anywhere from $20 to $2,000. Here's what you need to know to select the best one for your kitchen.

Panasonic Microwave
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Key Considerations

Style

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, 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.

Size

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.

Capacity

Microwave capacity is measured in cubic feet. In general, the more cubic feet, the bigger the microwave. You'll find microwave 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.

Power

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 one button. You'll even find settings for melting butter and chocolate, defrosting frozen items, and reheating pizza. 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. 

Cooking Functions

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.

Sensors

Some microwaves are equipped with sensors that automatically customizes 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 you won't end up with rubbery overdone or undercooked meat or dishes with cold spots.

Venting

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 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. 

Turntables

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 and 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.

Racks

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 taller items in the microwave.

best microwaves
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Price

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.

Warranty

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

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

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. 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. 

Built-In

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, so that may be a way to save some money.

Drawer

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. 

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Brands

Frigidaire

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.

GE

Another common household brand, GE sells a variety of countertop and OTR microwaves, with the most popular models costing $300 or $400.

LG

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

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.

KitchenAid

Another top-rated brand, KitchenAid offers countertop, OTR, built-in, and drawer style microwaves. Many of their products tend to be on the more expensive side. 

Panasonic

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

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.

Sharp

Sharp offers several sleek drawer-style microwaves that get top marks from reviewers, but they don’t come cheap, starting at around $1,200.

Maintenance

Only use microwave-safe containers for microwave cooking. Always check labels to make sure your plastic or glass 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. The exterior if the microwave, including door, handle, and control panel should also be regularly wiped down to remove fingerprints, everyday grime, and cooking residue.

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 and aren't able to properly ventilate when they become too dirty. It's recommended to change the filter about twice a year.

Accessories

You'll want to check your dinnerware, food storage containers, and cookware to make sure you have a few reliable microwave-safe pieces. Not all plastic can be safely microwaved, since toxins can leach out of the plastic and into the food.

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.

It’s always a good idea to purchase a few extra filters 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 keep extras on hand.

Conclusion

The most important factor in choosing a new microwave is what style of microwave best fits in your kitchen. If you already have an OTR or built-in microwave, it should be fairly easy to replace it with the same style as long as you take precise measurements. If your kitchen doesn't have a dedicated space for a mounted or recessed microwave, a countertop option is probably your best bet—unless you're willing to remodel the space.

You'll also want to consider your budget, the cooking features and presets you use most often, and the overall capacity of the microwave. If you live alone, a smaller microwave should be adequate, but larger households will likely benefit from larger models that can fit several dishes at once or larger items, like casseroles.

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