Best microwave

Cabinet-mounted microwave
(Image credit: JOSBRA design on Unsplash)

The best microwaves make cooking food a breeze with presets and multiple power settings. A compact model is ideal if you’re short on counter space. But just because it’s small doesn’t mean you can’t expect decent power. Don’t discount large-capacity microwaves if you have the need, and the space, for one. Here is our list of the best countertop microwaves.

Best overall

Toshiba EM131A5C-SS microwave

(Image credit: Amazon)

Toshiba EM131A5C-SS (opens in new tab)

Great for multiple cooking tasks

The Toshiba EM131A5C-SS microwave has 1100 watts and has ten different power levels. It doesn’t have a bulky back as some models do, meaning it won’t take up too much room.

The pre-programmed sensor menu means you can simply press a button, and it will automatically cook certain foods using the right settings. Preset options include Sensor Reheat, Sensor Pizza, Potato, Rice, Frozen Veggies, and Frozen Entrée. Another feature we like is the ‘sound off’ option that lets you silence the buzzer. This Toshiba microwave provides a decent wattage, however, some users did mention they were a little disappointed with the power.

Pros:

  • Sensor cooking
  • Spacious
  • Easy to clean

Cons:

  • Not as powerful as other models
Best value

Black & Decker compact microwave

(Image credit: Amazon)

Black + Decker EM720CB7 (opens in new tab)

Safe and secure

Lightweight and compact, this Black+Decker microwave has ten power levels, an Express Cook mode, and an auto menu option. 

This microwave sports a digital control panel so that you can easily select which setting you need. Handy basics such as a child safety lock are also included. This microwave doesn’t take up too much space on your countertop and is a great option for carrying out simple functions, such as defrosting and heating up food. Some users noted that while this is a great microwave, it does work slowly. Also, it only have 700 watts of power, so it's not the most powerful.

Pros:

  • Multiple cooking levels
  • Digital controls
  • Compact

Cons:

  • Small capacity
  • Only 700 watts
Best compact

Farberware FMO11AHTBKB

(Image credit: Amazon)

Farberware FMO11AHTBKB (opens in new tab)

Power and decent capacity

The Farberware FMO11AHTBKB has over 1 cubic foot capacity but is compact, so it doesn't take up too much space. This countertop style has a pull handle rather than a push-button, and its digital display makes it easy to use.

In terms of functions, you’ll get ten power levels, an Express Cook mode, and a memory function. What’s more, you can expect six preset cooking settings, including popcorn, pizza, potato, beverage, dinner plate, or frozen vegetables. This microwave is stylish with great features, but it is quite loud when you're using it.

Pros:

  • Powerful
  • Big capacity 

Cons:

  • Noisy 
  • Only six cooking programs 
Best large capacity

Panasonic NN-SN65KB counter top microwave

(Image credit: Panasonic)

Panasonic NN-SN65KB (opens in new tab)

Plenty of space

The Panasonic NN-SN65KB has over 1 cubic foot of space and an impressive 1200 wattage. It has 15 auto-cook options, spanning from quinoa and oatmeal to soup, omelets, and vegetables. 

There are 11 power settings and a three-level popcorn button. To make everyday tasks that bit easier, the Panasonic NN-SN67KS compact microwave provides sensor cooking which automatically adjusts the power and cooking time for different foods to ensure it’s thoroughly cooked. 

Pros:

  • Powerful
  • Large capacity

Cons:

  • Not a very bright internal light
Best over-the-range

Frigidaire FFMV1846VS over-the-range microwave

(Image credit: Frigidaire)

Frigidaire FFMV1846VS (opens in new tab)

Space-saver

This microwave from Frigidaire fits right above your range, so you get the convenience without sacrificing valuable counter space. 

This microwave features 1.8 cubic feet of cooking space and a turntable to ensure every part of your food is evenly cooked, but you can opt to switch it off if you're cooking items that would bump into the side of the microwave. The digital control panel has several preset cooking controls, a quick stop, and a 30-second add function. The bottom of this microwave has a vent fan and a light to help while cooking on a stovetop below it. It also has a child lock to keep curious little ones from playing with it. One drawback is this microwave doesn't stop beeping once it has finished cooking unless you open the door, which can be irritating.

Pros:

  • Sensor cooking
  • Even cooking

Cons:

  • Beeps until you cancel it

What to look for in a microwave

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The most important feature of any microwave is how well it cooks. We fired up each microwave and tested them on commonly-prepared items like popcorn, pizza rolls, and potatoes. Microwaves that cooked food evenly got higher scores than those that left cold spots or burned spots. 

We also looked for units that have food-specific settings and a wide selection of power levels. Here's what to look for when choosing from the best compact microwaves...

Convenience features in a microwave
Most microwaves come with a Quick Cook function, making microwaving food faster. The 30-second key is also a time-saver because you can simply add 30 seconds to the cook time as your food is cooking.

Sensor cooking is a newer feature only available on a few microwaves. With this, you press the reheat button and sensors measure the steam that emits from your food to determine when it's done. So it cooks for the right amount of time.

Preset buttons can also be time-savers. The most common are popcorn, potato, and pizza. Other preset buttons include ones for a beverage, fresh and frozen vegetables, soup, and bread.

Dimensions and power
The right balance between a small footprint and adequate cubic footage inside can be tough to work out. We were pleasantly surprised by how much the smaller microwaves could fit so we generally recommend getting the smallest one that makes sense for your household. 

However, the smaller units tend to have less overall power. That said, we were pleasantly surprised by how much power didn't really speed up cooking. So you can still get a smaller unit with less power and expect to be satisfied.

Vent

Over-the-range microwaves stand apart from your average microwave thanks to their ability to extract smoke, steam, and cooking odors on top of their cooking capabilities. This makes them a practical, space-saving choice as they combine two functions in one device. We focused on high-powered models that could extract air quickly as well as considering bonus features like night lights and automatic venting.

Design

Looks aren’t everything, but they are important in a device that will feature prominently in your kitchen. We focused on options offering practicality without compromising on style. Look out for devices with a range of color options to suit your kitchen and functional design features like shelving configurations, child locks, and more.

What size microwave do you need?

The size of a microwave is measured in cubic feet. In our guide, we’ve included compact microwaves that range from 0.7 cubic feet to 1.2. But generally speaking, a compact microwave can range from 0.5 cubic feet to 1.3 cubic feet. 

Anything above that, so from 1.4 to 2.0 cubic feet, is considered family-sized or full-sized. A compact microwave is perfect for those living alone or as a couple. But also consider the size of the dishes you will be using inside of your compact microwave. 

The smallest microwave size (0.5 cubic feet) is made to fit most 10-inch dinner plates – but that’s all. So you won’t be able to reheat leftover foods in large casserole dishes without decanting them to a smaller plate or dish.

Why trust us?

At Top Ten Reviews we recommend the best products to enhance your life. As expert curators, we handpick products based on quality and usefulness to positively impact your day-to-day, from cart to doorstep. We take our responsibility seriously — testing products, reading reviews, and sourcing knowledgeable outlets to ensure our selections are worthy of your time and money. We deliver detailed product overviews, balancing objective information with subjective opinions, so making the best choice for your home and lifestyle is as easy as possible.

Katie is a journalist who covers everything from hobbies to luxury travel and wellness. Also an editor for a luxury travel magazine, she is fascinated with the digital sphere and how it helps to inform and inspire people to get the most out of their lives.