- How to Choose the Best Microwave Oven
- Reviews of the Best Microwave Ovens 2021
- 1. Toshiba EM131A5C-BS – Best to Buy in 2021
- 2. Panasonic NN-SN651WAZ – Best Value Microwave Oven
- 3. Cuisinart CMW-200 – Best Convection Microwave
- 4. hOmeLabs 1050 – Best Microwave Popcorn
- 5. AmazonBasics – Best Compact Microwave
- 6. Commercial Chef CHM660B – Best Small Microwave Oven
- Top-Rated Countertop Microwave Ovens Comparison Chart
- The Best Microwave Oven Brands
- How a Microwave Oven Works
- Do Microwaves Kill Coronavirus?
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
Our standard for cooking performance is based on the microwave’s most common use: reheating leftovers. We consider how well a microwave oven handles other cooking tasks, such as baking, grilling and defrosting. And we look at the unit’s size, type, and feature set to ensure that the oven will fit both your space and needs.
1. Types of Microwaves
There are three types of microwave oven to choose from: solo, grill, and convection. No matter which one you’d like to buy, be aware that overheated foods, exploding liquids, or even serious burns could potentially occur when your oven is used or maintained improperly. So, if you’re new to microwaving, it’s advisable that you should know some tips for using a microwave safely.
Solo microwaves are good for simple tasks like reheating, cooking, and defrosting. They cannot grill or bake. They have the fewest features and are the cheapest of the three types, but still fulfil all the 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. They 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, grill microwaves 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.
Grill microwaves’ prices range from $85 to $600, depending on their size, capacity, and feature set.
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. Some models can even cook rice as well as a solely-dedicated rice cooker.
Convection microwaves have 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.
Convection microwaves are the most expensive models of all, with prices starting at around $300. But, with the benefits offered, they’re definitely worth your consideration.
2. 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.
Ideally, you should find a mid-size microwave oven, which will provide you with the best balance of price, capacity, and performance.
Mid-size microwaves are usually comparable in size to a six-slice toaster oven. Measuring about 24 inches wide, 18 inches deep, and 10 inches tall on the exterior, they fit nicely on most countertops. With a capacity of between 1.1 and 1.4 cubic feet, they’re big enough to accomodate 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.
Some mid-size models are formulated to fit into a cabinet to save your counter space or provide you with the impression of a more high-end finish. You can easily find the best built-in microwaves at an affordable price, but since they are usually installed in a permanent position, they could be a barrier when it comes to remodel your kitchen.
Large-size 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 capacity ranging between 2.0 and 2.2 cubic feet of space. Because of its 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 higher wattage, it performs almost identically to a cheaper mid-size model.
Small-size microwaves 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. Unlike large models, which usually take up valuable countertop space, small ovens are easy to tuck away in a cabinet or drawer. While their physical footprint is about 25% smaller than that of mid-size models, with a capacity of 0.5 to 1.0 cubic feet, they’re designed to fit most dinner plates.
Be advised that even the best small microwave ovens will be less powerful than their larger counterpart, 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.
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.
3. Features and Functions
For many users, a must-have feature of any microwave is an Add 30 seconds button. Other users appreciate preset cooking cycles (from 1 to 6 minutes), which can be started with the press of a button. 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 child lock, smart sensor, and mute functions.
If you have young children, you should consider buying an oven with a child lock function for safety. This feature is now available in many affordable models.
High-end models often come with 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 function and steam cooking function. We wouldn’t recommend buying a microwave solely on its preset functions. They are certainly convenient but they’re not always accurate and you can manually set your desired time and power with little fuss.
If you have a tendency to overcook food, you might consider a model with automatic sensors. With these, your oven will automatically turn off as soon as the food is ready, saving you from another meal of overcooked food.
Though microwave ovens must go through rigorous safety tests, microwave radiation leakage can sometimes occur. In general, the escaping radiation will leak through the oven’s door. Thus, users should 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.
For anyone who feels annoyed with the constant beeping sounds at the end of every cooking cycle, find an oven with a built-in mute function. While most modern models may have this add-on, it’s best to double check before purchasing.
Reviews of the Best Microwave Ovens 2021
With the provided in-depth information below, buyers should quickly learn everything they need to know about the right way to make better buying decisions.
- Toshiba EM131A5C-BS – Best to Buy 2021
- Panasonic NN-SN651WAZ – Best Value Microwave Oven
- Cuisinart CMW-200 – Best Convection Microwave
- hOmeLabs 1050 – Best Microwave Popcorn
- AmazonBasics – Best Compact Microwave Oven
- Commercial Chef CHM660B – Best Small Microwave Oven
Here are our picks of the Best Microwave Ovens.
1. Toshiba EM131A5C-BS – 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. 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.
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.
In other words, the Sensor function ensures that your food will get the right amount of power at the right time. Not only does it help simplify the cooking process, but it also reduces energy use.
For quick “shortcut” cooking, the oven is equipped with 6 express cooking options, allowing you to cook food for a certain period of time by pressing the corresponding number (buttons 1 to 6).
During the cooking cycle, you can increase the cooking time by pressing the Start/Add 30 seconds button. Each touch adds 30 seconds to the cook time. Be advised that this can be used during microwave cooking, time defrost, and multistage cooking. It cannot be added during weight defrost and kitchen timer functions.
The Child Lock function allows you to lock the keypads while the machine is operating so that the settings cannot be modified. It is a safety feature that protects your kids from accidentally getting burns or running the microwave for extended periods of time. The premise of this lock is also to prevent the oven’s door from accidentally opening, even when the power is disconnected.
The Custom Defrost function allows you to defrost some kinds of frozen food. The defrost time and temperature are scheduled automatically. You simply input the weight of your food and the oven will do the rest. Or if you want to defrost 1 pound of food, there is a One Pound Defrost function for added convenience.
The Soft/Melt function features up to seven presets designed for different types of food, including chocolate, butter, ice cream, cheese, and marshmallow.
If you often cook the same types of dishes and don’t want to reset the cooking time and power levels at every go, take advantage of the Favorite function. Use it to program, store, and recall the top three most commonly used manual cook programs. Keep in mind that your saved favorites will have to be reprogrammed if there is a power failure.
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 performing.
2. Panasonic NN-SN651WAZ – Best Value Microwave Oven
This 1200-watt microwave oven has all the same features as the Toshiba EM131A5C-BS but costs about $50 more. It’s the cost and the higher rated motor that differentiate this mid-size microwave from our top pick. 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.
Power and Capacity
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 exceptionally powerful motor might make it one of the most all-around excellent microwave ovens available. But if you’re after a decent model for all the basic cooking tasks, you’ll find the Toshiba EM131A5C-SC is still strong enough to meet your expectations, while looking better and being more economical.
This 1.2 cubic foot microwave oven 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 make your machine look more built-in and substantial.
Features and Functions
Like the main pick, the Panasonic also has a cooking sensor that recognizes the different types of food placed in it. It uses this information to adjust the time and power needed to cook or reheat food. Consequently, you should never have overcooked or burnt food.
This microwave also comes with Inverter Technology. This 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. 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.
The Panasonic NN-SN651WAZ offers a selection of 14 auto cook options, which let you quickly prepare some common foods like pizza, popcorn, pasta, soup, oatmeal and more. While food is cooking, you can add to the time in 30-second increments by pressing the Quick 30 keypad. You can also set the keep warm mode to keep food warm for up to 30 minutes after cooking. If you prefer to start cooking at a later time, the start time can be delayed thanks to the delay function. As a nice bonus, the delay time can be set up to 99 minutes, 99 seconds.
The microwave’s door doesn’t have a handle. Instead, you have to use the push button underneath the control panel to open the oven. The problem is that the button is a bit hard to press, especially for those with delicate fingers. We also found that because the timer alert only beeps once it could be easily missed if you’re not in the same room.
3. Cuisinart CMW-200 – Best Convection Microwave
We recommend this microwave for anyone willing to spend a bit more to get the home-cooked taste of oven-cooked food. The microwave comes at a pretty high price, costing twice as much as conventional models. However, given its unique convection functions, the Cuisinart totally knocks out most of its rivals, leading the way when it comes to quality microwave ovens.
As mentioned, a convection microwave oven is the combination of both a microwave oven and a convection oven. This flexibility means that the Cuisinart CMW-200 can play the role of the common microwave oven and heat up or cook food in a really short period of time, or achieve the baking, browning, or crisping that a convection oven can deliver, or both!
If you buy this convection microwave, it will give you the ability to cook a larger variety of food in a variety of ways. You can defrost, reheat, grill, or even roast, and always attain the desired result. And because it cooks more like an oven or toaster, food will be more crisp, insead of being cooked soggy.
Be advised that this oven may take a little more time to finish browning tasks, compared with convection ovens. However, it still works well enough to efficiently cook food and leave you with time to spare.
Power, Features, and Functions
The Cuisinart CMW-200 has a 1000-watt power and provides you with up to eight cooking functions so you can handle a variety of recipes and cooking needs. These functions include Microwave, Convection, Convection Roast, Convection Bake, Grill/Combo, Keep Warm, Defrost, and Memory. The machine’s control panel is intuitive, with nine preset options. These one-touch operations enable you to start cooking quickly with less manual effort on your part. While the oven’s door doesn’t have a handle, it’s easy to release with the push of a button. The microwave even includes a reversible grill rack, allowing you to cook more than one dish at the same time.
The 1.2 cubic foot Cuisinart CMW-200 microwave also stands out from the rest with its multi-stage cooking function (maximum 3 stages). This advanced feature allows users to program the oven to automatically shift functions, removing the need to reset the oven after each stage.
Style and Design
This microwave/convection combo is nicely made and it’ll match pretty well with any kitchen décor. It’s roughly the same size as the top pick so it might take up no more room than a regular oven, and it should have no problem finding its home in your modest kitchen. Nevertheless, those with kitchen space constraints might find it difficult to place the oven, especially since it needs clearance to circulate heat properly.
The oven’s exterior, especially the left hand side, gets very hot when you’re using the 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.
4. hOmeLabs 1050 – Best Microwave Popcorn
Microwave popcorn may not be the healthiest snack, but it’s popular for a reason. For movie nights, the HOmeLabs Countertop Microwave Oven 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.
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.
Maxing out at about 1050 watts of power, the hOmeLabs microwave is strong enough to ensure the fast burst of heat that a kernel of corn needs to expand.
In addition to heating up quickly, the microwave distributes heat around the food evenly so that the kernels will pop before burning on one side and the results are always nice popcorn puffs.
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. Don’t try to repop these stubborn kernels if you haven’t separated all the popped kernels otherwise they will burn.
To make a bag of popcorn without thought for 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.
Features and Functions
Apart from the popcorn button, there are another 11 auto functions, including settings for potato, frozen pizza, frozen entree, and several more. All of them will prove handy when you lack the energy to cook a five-course meal.
The hOmeLabs Countertop Microwave Oven also has the other basic functions that most microwaves have, including the Add 30 Seconds, Keep Warm, Sensor Reheat, Auto Defrost, Child Lock, Memory, and one-touch express controls from 1 to 6 minutes. 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 Toshiba EM131A5C-BS. This spacious capacity makes it easier for you to 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 them really hard to get anything registered.
5. AmazonBasics – 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 apartments. Though this mini oven is not as powerful as its larger counterparts, it comes with many useful features that you’ll find on a decent model, including ten power levels, a child lock, quick-cook presets, and a turnable.
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, the microwave 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 detachable glass tray, helps to evenly heat up most meals and is dishwasher-safe for maximum ease of cleaning.
The microwave has the capacity of 0.7 cubic feet. This is enough to accommodate 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, allowing you to easily keep track of the progress. There’ll be no more guessing or wondering, as when your food is ready to serve, the oven will let you know.
AmazonBasics is a voice-controlled microwave oven. 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 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 can possibly pose fire hazards. Amazon hasn’t made any announcement about whether improvements will be made to the microwave after the accusation, but said it prides on the safety of its products because they’re all manufactured to meet the safety standards.
6. Commercial Chef CHM660B – Best Small Microwave Oven
The Commercial Chef CHM660B is a pretty basic microwave oven. At 0.6 cubic feet, it fits perfectly in 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.
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. Since as a 600-watt motor microwave oven, it might work significantly slower than its higher-wattage alternatives. Despite this, the oven still provides you with enough customization to simplify your microwaving needs.
The Commercial Chef CHM660B doesn’t have an LED display, sensor reheat modes, express cook controls, or an Add 30 seconds button, which you can easily find on many of today’s microwaves.
Another problem with this microwave oven 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.
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.
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.
Although microwave ovens generate heat and energy that kill germs, there are no studies to confirm the effectiveness of microwaves against the Coronavirus.
This means it’s not a good idea to microwave your masks, or even your mail, in the same way you would your food!
Paper masks, cloth masks, and mail are made of dry materials and can char, or even worse, start a fire in your microwave. Most masks also contain metal wires, which cause mild explosions and can damage the oven.
The CDC recommends washing your reusable masks in a washing machine or by hand using bleach, then drying thoroughly afterward. As for your mail and other objects, you can disinfect these by spraying a solution of at least 70% alcohol.
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.