Warming, defrosting and cooking food is easier with the best compact microwaves. It doesn’t matter whether you’re short on counter space or live in an apartment, because these portable microwaves do everything that a regular microwave can, just in a smaller version. So, whether you like to fall back on the microwave to produce super-quick ready meals, heat leftovers or defrost your prime cuts of meat, the best compact microwaves have you covered.
Compared to the best over-the-range microwaves and regular microwave models, the best compact microwaves can cost as little as $70. What they lack in size, however, they don’t necessarily lack in power. If you’re willing to fork out a little extra money, say $150, your portable microwave could pack as much as 1000W in power.
After power, comes capacity. While countertop microwaves may be smaller than a regular microwave, there’s still a lot of variety when it comes to capacity. So if you’re cooking for more than one or using bigger plates and pasta dishes, you may need at least one cubic feet of space.
As for the features of the best compact microwaves, some standouts include preset cooking modes, sensor cooking and an antibacterial coating to prevent grime buildup over time. Some models may also have smart features, letting you start warming your dinner on your commute home. The top pick in our lineup, Panasonic’s NN-SN67KS, has plenty to like about it, including a roomy interior, sleek appearance and plenty of power to produce warm, tasty food.
1. Panasonic NN-SN67KS Compact Microwave: Best compact microwave overall
If you’re looking for space and power, the Panasonic NN-SN67KS Compact Microwave is the ideal option for you. This compact microwave offers 1.2 cubic feet of space and its wattage is 1200 - the highest in our entire round up.
You can also expect 15 auto cook options with this microwave, spanning everything from quinoa and oatmeal to soup, omelets, and vegetables. There are 11 power settings and even a three-level popcorn button to get tasty treats just right.
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. The inverter turbo defrost function means you won’t be waiting as long for foods to thaw out either. What’s more, inverter technology heats the food that you place in your microwave thoroughly.
Available in black, white, and stainless steel, it’s worth noting that this microwave is the most expensive in our round up. While some reviews criticize the internal light, suggesting it’s not bright enough, other reviews praise how it’s very simple to use and to clean - read our guide on how to clean a microwave for some top tips.
2. Toshiba EM131A5C-SS microwave: Best compact microwave for versatility
The Toshiba EM131A5C-SS microwave is one of the best countertop microwaves around. It offers 1100 watts and has 10 different power levels. It’s available in both black stainless steel and stainless steel, and you can expect 1.2 cubic feet of space to cook your meals.
This compact microwave doesn’t have a bulky back on it 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 liked was the ‘sound off’ option, and you can also silence the buzzer on this microwave too if you find the noises irritating.
For its price, this Toshiba microwave provides a decent wattage, however, some users did mention they were a little disappointed with the power. Overall, for the price and amount of features you get with this compact microwave, not to mention its sleek finish, the Toshiba EM131A5C-SS is a really solid choice.
3. Black+Decker EM720CFO-PMB: Best cheap compact microwave
The Black+Decker EM720CFO-PMB is a great cheap microwave as it’s available for under $70. Offering 0.7 cubic feet of internal space, the Black+Decker EM720CFO-PMB isn’t the largest but it also is the cheapest in our round up. For the money you get 10 power levels, an Express Cook mode, and an auto menu option.
Lightweight and compact, the Black+Decker EM720CFO-PMB is available in black and sports a digital control panel so that you can easily select which setting you need. Handy basics such as a safety lock are also included with this microwave.
The Black+Decker EM720CFO-PMB is a great compact microwave but it does only offer 700 watts of power. Some users noted that while this is a great microwave, it does work slowly as it’s not the most powerful. Other users stated that this microwave didn’t take up too much space on their countertop and that it was great at carrying out simple functions such as defrosting and heating up food.
4. Faberware FMO11AHTBKB Countertop Microwave: Best large capacity microwave
As compact microwaves go, the Faberware FMO11AHTBKB offers plenty of space for cooking and reheating food. Its capacity is 1.1 cubic feet but it won’t take up too much space on your countertop.
Available for under $100, you’re getting a good amount of space for your money and you can also take your pick from a stainless steel or black finish. This countertop microwave 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 10 power levels with the Faberware FMO11AHTBKB, an Express Cook mode, and a Memory Function which will get to know your cooking preferences. What’s more, you can expect six preset cooking settings including popcorn, pizza, potato, beverage, dinner plate, or frozen vegetables.
Users rate the Faberware FMO11AHTBKB microwave highly saying it has ‘great features’ and many commented on how ‘stylish’ it looks in their kitchen. Other users also mentioned that for the price, this microwave offered them all they needed. A few reviewers did state that this microwave is quite loud when you’re using it.
5. LG NeoChef LMC0975ST Countertop Microwave: Best easy-to-clean compact microwave
The LG NeoChef LMC0975ST isn’t the biggest microwave in our round up with 0.9 cubic feet of space, but it has some great features that make it easy to maintain and keep clean. Aside from its handy features, the LG NeoChef LMC0975ST is a very sleek and stylish microwave that looks premium even though it’s not as expensive as some other models.
Complete with LG’s smart inverter, this microwave heats more evenly using precise power, rather than blasting your whole dish. Internally the LG NeoChef LMC0975ST is designed with easy use in mind. The controls are made with smooth glass and there aren’t any old fashioned dials to navigate.
The complete smooth outer shell of this microwave makes it easy to clean and wipe down but inside the LG NeoChef LMC0975ST there is an anti-bacterial coating that is stain-resistant and aims to prevent build-up inside your microwave. The EasyClean coating means you don’t need to use harsh cleaning products to maintain this microwave, instead, you can just wipe it down with a damp cloth.
Another simple but clever feature that we like about the LG NeoChef LMC0975ST is its hexagonal stabilizer. This makes the microwave turntable much more solid and less likely to tip - most microwaves just have a three-point stabilizer.
Users rate the LG NeoChef LMC0975ST highly on aspects including style and performance. Other users commented on how easy to use this microwave is and that it’s ‘super quiet’. A few criticisms come in the form of this microwave being fairly expensive and a few reviews mention how this microwave is prone to showing fingerprints and marks on the outside.
How long do compact microwaves last?
The average lifespan of a microwave is only about nine years, according to the National Association of Home Builders' Study of Life Expectancy of Home Components. That means lots of folks are in the market about once a decade. Not everyone is ready to throw a broken one out right away, though, of course.
Compact microwaves cost much less than over-the-range microwaves. The most popular compact microwaves on Amazon, Home Depot, and Lowe's had an average price of about $140. Over-range units on the same sites cost around $300, and you may have to pay installation costs too.
Richard Spencer owns Utah-based Mark-A-Newt Appliance Specialists and has been repairing appliances since the 1960s. He said that if he were looking for a new microwave he would look for one with accessible replacement parts, a brand that repair shops are willing to work on, and a good warranty. Price is not an indicator of quality necessarily, in this type of appliance. He's seen $2,000 microwaves that need major repairs in their first few weeks.
What to look for in a compact microwave oven
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 countertop microwaves come with a Quick Cook function, which makes microwaving food even 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 countertop 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.
Warranty and support
One of the most overlooked pieces of information in your user manual is the warranty, and some microwave manufacturers offer a longer warranty specifically for the magnetron. Many manufacturers give you an all-encompassing warranty that covers all parts for the same amount of time.
Dimensions and power
The right balance between a small countertop 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.
Are small microwaves powerful enough to cook food properly?
You can rely on compact microwaves to cook your food properly thanks to their wattages, which range between 650W to 1950W. Obviously, the higher the wattage, the quicker this will be done.
These appliances are powerful enough to help with serving up a range of foods, as well as usually having defrost settings too. Many models also have adjustable cooking temperatures, so that you have a little more control depending on what you’re cooking.
What is the average small microwave size?
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 a couple. But also consider that 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.
What is the smallest size microwave?
If you’re wondering how little a compact microwave can really be, then you’ll find that some models truly live up to their name. Generally speaking, most small microwaves will fall somewhere between 0.7 and 1.2 cubic feet, but most major retailers also stock compact microwaves that are especially light-sized, around 0.5 cubic feet, for kitchens that are a particularly tight squeeze.
While this might be a lifeline for anyone who lives in a super petite apartment or those cooking small quantities, bigger households will struggle to fit dishes wider than 10 inches into their microwave. If that sounds like you, and you don’t want the bother of messing around transferring your goods into a smaller-sized dish, then you may want to opt for a regular-sized microwave or at least a compact microwave on the slightly larger side.
Are compact microwaves suitable for RVs?
If you spend a lot of time vacationing in your RV, or if you live in one full time, having access to a microwave will be pretty high on your agenda. After all, these appliances are excellent for putting together a quick and easy meal, especially if you’ve just had a long day of driving.
When it comes to installing one of these in your van, you’ll probably want to go as small as possible, as space can be sparse at the best of times. Beyond that, you also might want to opt for a lower voltage, to avoid tripping out your power supply.
This might involve a longer microwaving period, and more frequent stirring to ensure cooking is thorough but will save you from power outs.
How to choose a small microwave for campervans
Whether you live in your RV full-time or if it only comes into play when it’s vacation time, a compact microwave is one of the handiest appliances you can have around to scrape together a meal or snack pretty much on demand. As an RV is a particularly snug space, sizing is particularly important here, and you’ll want to invest in a super-small microwave that will slide into your available slot.
You shouldn’t just opt for any old space-saving microwave though, as your new device needs to be versatile enough to earn its small spot in a cramped caravan. Of course, you’ll need a microwave that covers the basic presets such as potato, pizza, or soup, but as it’s unlikely you’ll have a wide selection of kitchen appliances on hand, you may also want to invest in a microwave that can handle a little more complexity, such as frozen food and bread too.
When you start thinking about convenience too, other features such as sensor cooking come into play. When you’re pressed on time, say during a quick stopover, speedy features such as Quick Cook functions will come in handy.