Most microwaves are fairly well made and work well enough; they mostly differ in terms of how long it takes to heat your food and how much space the oven takes up on your counter or in your cabinetry. There are also some important differences in style and design. As such, the best microwaves ovens depend on your particular set of needs: How much food do you need to cook at any given time? How closely do you need the oven to match the decor and size requirements of your kitchen? And how easy to use is the oven?
In this guide, we hope to help you answer each of these questions, and to offer up a few contenders for your consideration.
How to Choose the Best Microwave Oven
Here is a list of the most important features to consider when choosing a microwave:
Types of Microwaves
There are three types of microwave oven to choose from: solo, grill, and convection.
Solo microwaves are good for simple tasks like reheating and defrosting. They cannot grill or bake. They have the fewest features and are the cheapest of the three types, but will still fulfil all your basic heating and reheating needs.
Solo microwaves range in price from $50 to $200, depending on their size, capacity, and feature set.
Simply speaking, grill microwaves are standard microwaves that include a grill function. Their prices range from $85 to $600, depending on their size, capacity, and feature set.
Grill microwaves come in handy for grilling meat and barbecuing veggies. For those who are addicted to a barbecue-grill-smoky flavor but live in a spot where a gas or charcoal grill is not practical, these units are a good solution. They’re also the perfect middle ground for those wanting to do more than just reheat leftovers but find the extra features (baking or roasting) redundant.
Convection microwaves combine all the functions of a microwave and a convection oven. They can cook almost everything in a variety of ways, from grilling to baking and roasting. This versatility, however, makes them the most expensive models of all, with prices starting at around $300.
Regarding the oven’s structure, there is a fan with a heating element around it. The fan circulates the air inside the oven so that the heat is more evenly distributed around the food. This brings about a significant reduction in cooking time and helps the food cook more evenly. Food baked in a convection microwave should have a browned or crisped surface.
Here’s a table to help you understand the primary differences between the three types of microwaves.
|Price||$50 to $200||$85 to $600||$300 - $2000|
|Capacity||0.5 - 2.5 cubic feet||1.0 - 2.5 cubic feet||1.0 - 2.5 cubic feet|
|Power||550 - 1500 watts||900 - 1700 watts||800 - 1700 watts|
Size and Capacity
The size of a microwave oven usually determines its cost, power rating, and capacity. Prior to buying, it makes sense to think about how much food you’d like to reheat at a time, how much counter space you have, and how much money you’re willing to spend.
These units are comparable in size to a four-slice toaster oven, measuring less than 18 inches wide, 12 inches deep, and 10 inches tall on the exterior. With a capacity of 0.5 to 1.0 cubic feet, they can accommodate most dinner plates while being easy to tuck away in a cabinet or drawer.
Typically, small-size microwave ovens are less powerful than their larger counterparts, with only 550 to 700 watts of cooking power. That’s why they typically take about 25-30% longer to heat food than models with a higher wattage.
Most people prefer to buy mid-size microwave ovens as these models often provide the best balance of price, capacity, and performance.
A mid-sized microwave’s physical footprint is about 25% larger than that of a small-sized model (around 24 inches wide, 18 inches deep, and 10 inches tall on the exterior). They’re usually comparable in size to a six-slice toaster oven, fitting nicely on most countertops.
Their cooking capacity is between 1.1 and 1.4 cubic feet, which is big enough for a common 12-inch dinner plate or 9-inch square casserole dish with handles. Their power is usually around 1000 watts, which is conveniently the same power microwavable food instructions are timed for.
Large-sized microwaves are quite tall and heavy, with a footprint of at least 24 inches wide by 16 inches tall. They are comparable in size to a nine-slice toaster oven, with a capacity ranging between 2.0 and 2.2 cubic feet of space. Because of the heavy weight and big footprint, your large countertop oven is likely to sit permanently on the counter.
Even the largest microwave oven cannot accommodate a whole frozen turkey, but they can comfortably fit a full-size chicken or a 13-by-9-inch casserole dish with handles. From our experience, while a large-size oven is advertised to have a higher wattage, it performs almost identically to a cheaper mid-size model.
Note: Some microwaves’ capacity is measured in liters (L), varying from 15L to 40L. The volume of 15 liters is approximately 0.5 cubic feet.
For many users, a must-have feature of any microwave is a Start/Add 30 seconds button. Other users appreciate preset cooking cycles (from 1 to 6 minutes), which allow you to cook food for a certain period of time by pressing the corresponding number (buttons 1 to 6). As these features are so popular, we favored models that included both of them.
Some other convenient features you’ll need to take into account include the smart sensor, mute option, nonstick cavity, and door design.
Smart sensor: With the automatic sensor, your oven can detect the amount of moisture generated from the food to automatically adjust the cooking time and temperature accordingly. In other words, the sensor function ensures that your food will get the right amount of power at the right time. Besides simplifying the cooking process, this will also reduce energy use and save you from another meal of overcooked food.
Mute option: This function is particularly handy for anyone who feels annoyed with the constant beeping sounds at the end of every cooking cycle. While most modern models may have this add-on, it’s best to double check before purchasing.
Nonstick cavity: The nonstick-coated interior featuring hardwearing material will promote hassle-free cleaning. It also makes the oven scratch and stain resistant, giving you years of cooking enjoyment.
Door design: Your oven’s door can be opened using either a handle or a push-button mechanism, which is more convenient but can jam with use. Whatever the case, check that the door is designed to close firmly when the oven is working. It’s also recommended that you avoid ovens that appear to have damaged door seals, hinges, or latches. Otherwise, the emitting radiation could leak out, causing serious heat-related burns.
High-end models often come with multiple racks that allow users to cook two or more different dishes at the same time. They also come with many innovative features and functions, such as an auto defrost, steam cooking, and quick-touch presets.
We wouldn’t recommend buying a microwave solely on its preset functions, though. They are certainly convenient but they’re not always accurate and you can manually set your desired time and power with little fuss.
Reviews of the Best Microwave Ovens 2021
With the in-depth information provided below, buyers should be able to quickly learn everything they need to know to make better buying decisions.
Here’s our picks of the Best Microwave Ovens.
- Toshiba EM131A5C-BS Microwave Oven – Best to Buy 2021
- Panasonic NN-SN651WAZ Countertop Microwave Oven – Best Value Microwave Oven
- Cuisinart CMW-200 Convection Microwave Oven – Best Convection Microwave
- hOmeLabs Countertop Microwave Oven – Best Microwave Popcorn
- Amazon Basics Microwave – Best Compact Microwave Oven
- Commercial Chef Countertop Microwave Oven – Best Small Microwave Oven
1. Toshiba EM131A5C-BS Microwave Oven – Best to Buy in 2021
This microwave oven performs almost identically to its mid-size competitors, but it feels more solid and comes with a few more handy features, including a mute button, child lock, and automatic sensor. It even has the same great build quality as microwaves that cost twice as much.
- Sturdy stainless steel exterior
- Additional sound on/off option
- Affordable price
- Large capacity
- A wide range of pre-programed functions
- Inconvenient control buttons
Power and Capacity
Powering the whole oven is an 1100-watt motor, which allows you to switch between ten power settings. Different power levels enable you to control the intensity of the heat applied to your food, resolving the common issue of uneven outcomes.
With a capacity of 1.2 cubic feet, the oven has a decent amount of space for a 9-inch square baking dish or 11-inch dinner plate. Despite its large capacity, it is compact enough to fit nicely on your counter without taking up too much space.
Features and Functions
The Toshiba EM131A5C-BS microwave oven has a rigid black stainless steel body with a large and sturdy handle—a stylish design that will fit well with the decor of almost any kitchen. It also has a large digital display that shows the cooking time, cooking power, and time remaining in the cooking cycle. When your oven is on the Energy-saving Eco Mode, the display will go off to reduce 50% standby power.
The machine includes a Smart Sensor with six pre-programed menus. This function allows you obtain the best possible results without having to rely on guesswork to find the optimal settings. With the built-in sensor, the oven can constantly detect the humidity level of some of the most common meals (pizza, entrées, potatoes, rice, and veggies), and automatically adjust the cook time and temperature accordingly.
Not only that, the Toshiba EM131A5C-BS also comes with a child lock function — a safety feature that protects your kids from getting accidentally burnt or using the microwave unsupervised. The premise of this lock is also to prevent the oven’s door from accidentally opening, even when the power is disconnected.
If you often cook the same types of dishes and don’t want to reset the cooking time and power levels every time, you may love the ’favorite’ function. Use it to program, store, and recall the top three most commonly used manual cook programs.
There are 2 main problems with this product: (1) The oven’s unilluminated buttons contain small prints that are very hard to read, and (2) the mute mode can soften but does not completely eliminate the buzzing noise while the generator is running.
Offering the most value in its price range, the Toshiba EM131A5C-BS is an investment that will prove its worth every time you use it. Cooking has become simplified thanks to the help of its advanced features. And certainly, those are also things that will change the way we cook.
2. Panasonic NN-SN651WAZ Countertop Microwave Oven – Best Value Microwave Oven
If you’re willing to pay more for the extra cooking power, the Panasonic NN-SN651WAZ is worth the investment. Its large capacity, innovative features, and powerful motor might make it one of the best all-around microwaves available.
But if you’re after a decent model for all the basic cooking tasks, you’ll find the top pick is still strong enough to meet your expectations, while looking better and being more economical.
- Very powerful and efficient
- Easy to use and setup
- Large capacity
- Diverse functionality
- Express cooking
- A bit noisy
- Hard-to-press push release button
Power and Capacity
This 1200-watt microwave oven has all the same features as the top picks but it comes with a stronger motor and costs about $50 more. As we said, ovens with higher rated motors will generate more power than ones with lower ratings, and as a result deliver faster cooking time with less energy used.
With a capacity of 1.2 cubic feet, the machine is best left permanently on the countertop. If you’re short on counter space, Panasonic offers optional stainless-steel trim kits as a space-saving solution. Particularly designed to enhance the look and fit of your microwave, the trim kits will also make your machine look more ‘built-in’ and substantial.
Features and Functions
The Panasonic has a cooking sensor that can recognize different types of food. It also includes Inverter Technology, which is designed to consistently provide low power, as opposed to competing models that quickly switch power on and off so as to use less power.
Note: A more consistent power draw allows the food to cook or defrost evenly and avoids the irritating but familiar scenario of food being overdone on the outside and cold on the inside.
We especially appreciated the oven’s selection of 14 auto cook options, which let you quickly cook some common foods like pizza, popcorn, pasta, soup, oatmeal and more. While your food is cooking, you can easily add to the time in 30-second increments by pressing ‘Quick 30’ on the keypad.
A nice feature is the ‘keep warm’ mode that will keep the heated food warm for up to 30 minutes after cooking. And if you prefer to start cooking at a later time, the start time can be delayed thanks to the ‘delay’ function which can be set for up to 99 minutes, 99 seconds ahead.
The microwave’s push release button can be quite difficult to press, especially for those with delicate fingers.
Another drawback is the timer’s alert which only beeps once and could be easily missed if you’re not in the same room.
Featuring up to 14 cooking presets and a special mode for keeping food warm, there would be more convenient options at your fingertips with the Panasonic NN-SN651WAZ. However, the price is quite high for what is essentially a pretty basic oven. So, beyond your specific needs, it could be your budget that makes your final decision.
3. Cuisinart CMW-200 1.2-Cubic-Foot Convection Microwave Oven – Best Convection Microwave
The Cuisinart CMW-200 stands out from the rest with its ability to cook a larger variety of food in a variety of ways. It can defrost, reheat, grill, or even roast, and all with perfect results every time.. And because it cooks more like an oven or toaster, the food will be nicely crisp, rather than ending up soggy and lifeless.
That said, it may take a little more time to finish browning, compared with regular convection ovens.
- High-quality materials
- More extra features
- Light and compact for a combo unit
- Easy-to-understand user menu
- Exterior easily gets hot
Power, Features, and Functions
The Cuisinart CMW-200 packs 1000-watts of power and provides you with up to eight cooking functions. We found its control panel to be intuitive, allowing us to choose between nine preset options.
While the oven’s door doesn’t have a handle, it’s easy to release with the push of a button. It even includes a reversible grill rack so you can cook more than one dish at the same time.
Another feature that makes this 1.2 cubic foot microwave/convection combo stand out as exceptional is its multi-stage cooking function (maximum 3 stages). This advanced feature allows users to program the oven to automatically shift between functions, removing the need to reset the oven after each stage.
Style and Design
The Cuisinart CMW-200 has an attractive finish and will match pretty well with any kitchen décor. As it’s similar in size to the top pick, it won’t take up much more room than a regular oven. Just keep in mind that your oven needs clearance to circulate heat properly.
The oven’s exterior, especially the left hand side, gets very hot when you’re cooking in convection mode. The high temperature means that it’s risky to touch or place objects close to the machine. In contrast, the right side and the front of the door somehow stays cool.
We recommend this microwave for anyone willing to splurge a little to get the home-cooked taste of oven-cooked food. It comes at a pretty high price, costing twice as much as conventional models. However, given its unique convection functions, the Cuisinart knocks out most of its rivals, leading the way when it comes to quality microwave ovens.
4. hOmeLabs Countertop Microwave Oven – Best Microwave Popcorn
The hOmeLabs is a great popcorn-friendly microwave that excels at cooking the perfect amount of popcorn, ensuring you don’t suffer the awful smell of burnt kernels.
Note: Not all microwaves can make popcorn. It’s only the models packing at least 500 watts of power that can turn corn kernels into a fluffy treat. Keep in mind that the higher wattage the microwave has, the less time the kernels might take to heat up to popping temperature.
- High power
- Compact capacity
- Efficient cooking functions
- Child safe functions
- Fairly heavy
- Quite noisy
- Hard-to-press buttons
Maxing out at about 1050 watts of power, this microwave is strong enough to ensure it delivers the fast burst of heat that a kernel of corn needs to expand.
In addition to heating up quickly, it distributes heat around the food evenly so your kernels will pop before burning on one side and the result is delicious, puffy popcorn treats every time.
To make a bag of popcorn without having to think about timing, simply press the popcorn button on the user-friendly control panel. The microwave will then do the work according to the preset time and power, letting you enjoy microwave popcorn within 2-4 minutes, depending on the quantity.
You’ll find that in every batch of popcorn, there are still unpopped kernels at the bottom of the bag, but this is normal and to be expected.
Features and Functions
As with the popcorn button, the settings for potato, frozen pizza, and frozen entree also work very nicely. All of them will prove very handy when you lack the energy to cook a five-course meal.
Aside from these special features, the hOmeLabs also includes all the other basic functions that most microwaves have, including ‘add 30 seconds’, ‘keep warm’, ‘sensor reheat’, ‘auto defrost’, ‘child lock’, ’memory’, and ‘one-touch express controls’. We think the price tag is acceptable for the provided features.
With a capacity of 1.3 cubic feet, the oven’s interior is slightly roomier than that of the top pick. With this spacious capacity, you can prepare large meals or 6 cups of popped popcorn.
The buttons take a little getting used to, but once you know where to push, they are fine. The only complaint is that you have to push with some force to get anything registered.
The capacity of the hOmeLabs does not stop at reheating leftovers, but also extends to defrosting frozen foods and preparing popcorn in no time at all. Of course, its assets are not without downsides, but overall they still work well enough to turn this oven into one of the most versatile household appliances you could have in your kitchen.
5. Amazon Basics Microwave – Best Compact Microwave
We’re really keen on the size of this small microwave, which allows for hassle-free clean up and storage—a bonus for tight spaces like dorm rooms, cramped kitchens, or single room apartments. However, this mini oven will not be as powerful as its larger counterparts.
- Autor popcorn replenishment
- Compact size
- Alexa compatible microwave
- Poorly-constructed plate
Power and Capacity
The AmazonBasics is one of the most inexpensive microwave ovens that come with a door handle instead of a push-button release. With a 700-watt motor, it takes longer to heat up than the ones that have 1000 watts or more, but functionally, it’s fine.
While the oven lacks the sensor-reheat modes, it still has a useful keypad offering many cooking options to let you easily defrost vegetables, make popcorn, cook potatoes, and reheat leftovers.
We like that the turntable, with its detachable glass tray, helps to evenly heat up the food and is dishwasher-safe for maximum ease of cleaning.
The microwave has the capacity of 0.7 cubic feet, which is only enough for a standard dinner plate or a small square casserole pan with a handle. Popcorn bag sizes of more than 3 oz may get stuck while rotating, once the kernels have expanded and begin touching the inner walls.
Features and Functions
Like most microwave ovens, the AmazonBasics features an LED display furnished with both clock and timer options. What makes it special is its voice-controlled operating system. If you buy an optional Alexa smart speaker, you can simply tell your oven to start microwaving with a straightforward voice command.
Enabled by Amazon Dash Replenishment technology, this microwave is also unique in its ability to automatically order popcorn to be shipped to your door before you even know you’re running low.
To register for this service, you need to sign up for Auto Popcorn Replenishment using the Alexa App. As a great bonus, you’ll get a 10% discount on an order that was placed through the Auto Popcorn Replenishment service.
Many customers dislike the oven’s round plate, which has a tendency to slip off. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it could get annoying.
As noted by CNN, there is a design flaw in the AmazonBasics microwave that could possibly pose a fire hazard. Amazon hasn’t made any announcement about whether improvements will be made to the microwave after the accusation, but said it prides itself on the safety of its products because they’re all manufactured to meet current safety standards.
The AmazonBasics is an Alexa compatible device preferable for its low price, compact footprint, and ease of use. Though its design flaw is still wrapped in controversy, one thing is sure that the machine’s high-technology will not disappoint you.
6. Commercial Chef Countertop Microwave Oven – Best Small Microwave Oven
The Commercial Chef CHM660B provides basic, simple operation. At 0.6 cubic feet, it fits perfectly into small spaces (RVs or cramped apartments) and has plenty of capacity for a standard dish or medium family-sized meal. If you’re looking for a microwave oven that can quickly reheat foods and defrost veggies while taking up less space on a counter, this is it.
- Small footprint
- Extra option of weight or speed defrost
- Quick cook settings
- Additional safety feature
- Hard-to-open door
Style and Design
The microwave makes use of knobs instead of pads, which is pretty convenient for people who have difficulty reading the tiny print on the keypad. All you need to do is turn the knob and let it run. With the mechanical dial controls, users can choose from 6 power levels, which aid in providing more control over your cooking.
While the oven is able to handle heavy-duty tasks, like preparing a frozen dinner, the process may take longer than you’d expect.
Plus, it doesn’t have an LED display, sensor reheat modes, express cook controls, or an ‘add 30 seconds’ button, which are standard features on many of today’s microwaves.
Despite all of that, however, the oven still provides you with enough customization to simplify your microwaving needs.
The main problem with this microwave is the force that it takes to open the oven door. Plus, since the oven itself is not very heavy, you may have to hold the microwave with one hand and then open the door with the other so as to prevent the whole unit from sliding forward when you open the door.
But here’s a tip: place a thin anti-slip rubber pad under the unit to deal with this issue.
Reduced cooking time and less energy consumption are advantages when cooking with the Commercial Chef CHM660B. Though the machine isn’t as fast as its larger counterparts, it’s efficient enough to make short work of preparing food.
Top-Rated Countertop Microwave Ovens Comparison Chart
|900||0.9 Cu. Ft.||1 year|
|Panasonic NN-SN651WAZ||1200||1.2 Cu. Ft.||1 year|
|Cuisinart CMW-200||100||1.2 Cu. Ft.||3 years|
|hOmeLabs 1050||1050||1.3 Cu. Ft.||2 years|
|AmazonBasics||700||0.7 Cu. Ft.||1 year|
|Commercial Chef CHM770SS||700||0.7 Cu. Ft.||2 years|
The Best Microwave Oven Brands
While a significant number of new brands have appeared in recent years, there are only three that top the list as iconic and successful. Reliable products, market-driven innovation and excellent customer service make these brands successful in both sales and in building customer loyalty.
Here is our list of the top three brands.
Headquartered in Minato, Tokyo, Toshiba Corporation is a Japanese multinational conglomerate, producing home electronics, kitchen appliances, and medical equipment. Besides microwave ovens, you’ll also find Toshiba laptops, tablets, smart TVs, DVD & Blu-rays, and many other items.
Whether you want to cook large portions of food or just get your leftovers reheated, Toshiba microwave ovens might fully satisfy your expectations. Equipped with large capacity, advanced features, and strong wattage, they’re perfect household appliances for on-the-go families or busy professionals.
Founded in 1918, Panasonic Corporation is one of the global leaders in manufacturing consumer electronics. In 2012, this Japanese organization had around 580 subsidiary companies, with total revenues of ¥7,846,216 million. And we’re pretty sure that these numbers are increasing by the day.
Panasonic microwave ovens come with plenty of notable features, including a user-friendly control panel, bright digital display, and useful pre-set menus. They’re an excellent combination of size, style, and performance. If you are a fan of cooking ahead and do not want to wait too long for the heating up process, then you can’t go wrong with Panasonic models.
Cuisinart offers a wide range of products, including kitchen appliances, cookware, bakeware, cutlery, and outdoor grilling. While Cuisinart microwave ovens allow you to heat up and cook food very quickly, they are quite more expensive than the competitors. But for many people, these stainless steel microwaves are still worth the investment considering the number of useful features they provide, especially, our favorite, the sensor reheat feature.
Cuisinart convection microwave ovens are very popular among kitchen enthusiasts who are looking for an appliance that combines the function of a convection microwave and that of a standard one. Built from high-quality materials, these new models may take your cookery to a whole new level with their impressive performance.
Related post: Toaster Oven vs Microwave Oven: How They Are Different?
How a Microwave Oven Works
Microwave ovens work by using high-powered radio waves at a specifically set frequency to make the water molecules inside the food vibrate. As a result, food is cooked much faster and more evenly than in a traditional oven.
With a microwave, you can start your cooking tasks immediately without waiting for the oven to get hot first. Despite the fact that it requires a huge amount of energy to operate, a microwave oven is definitely an effective way to save on utility costs. Cooking or reheating single portions of food with a microwave may consume from 30% to 80% less energy than a regular stove.
Of course microwaves are not without flaws. After years of use, some users report that, even when clean, their microwave oven had started to smell, imparting an unpleasant flavor to the food.
Microwaves are also believed to damage living cells and tissues, and can, thus, harm our health. When regulations are strictly followed, however, they are generally safe. You should just make sure they are certified and labeled for safety, and don’t neglect even the smallest signs of malfunction.
Related post: How to Clean a Microwave
Cooking is definitely easier with the help of a good microwave oven. Through its versatility, ease of use, and consistent performance, this gadget offers an efficient way for you to reheat leftovers, defrost meats, toast breads, and roast veggies. If you want to buy a reliable one, our list of the best microwave ovens has some great options for you. Whether you’re after a basic oven or want an array of options with a convection model, we’re always here to help and inform.