Being one of the essential kitchen appliances, the convenience that a microwave can bring is undeniable.
And because of this high demand, there were way too many options in the market.
It makes choosing the right microwave oven often become a long exhausting task.
After all, we just want to have something that just works, is reliable, and convenient.
- Best for Countertop: Toshiba EM925A5A
- Best Compact High-End Model: Toshiba EM131A5C
- Best Over the Range: Sharp R-1214
- Best In-Cabinet Microwave: Panasonic NN-SN686S
Best Microwave for Countertop
This is an excellent microwave if you want something that just works for your home. It is also our top pick as the best overall countertop microwave oven.
The 0.9 cubic feet capacity feels just right for most home usage and it comes with a good 10.6-inch diameter glass turntable that will rotate for even heating.
The microwave also comes with LED light for the interior; which means you don't have to stop the microwave and open the door to see inside.
If you're like many who dislike a noisy microwave oven, this one comes with a silent feature. Not only does it mutes the beeping at the end of the heating cycle and it also mutes the response beeps when you push those buttons.
There's also an ECO mode that will save you a lot of money on utility bills.
The One-Touch Start feature allows you to reheat foods real quick and conveniently.
It has 6 pre-programmed settings for popcorn, pizza, potato, frozen vegetables, beverages, and dinner entree, along with the ability to defrost by time or by weight.
Another thing worth noting is how quiet this machine is during operation, making it an excellent choice when sound is an issue.
There is also a child safety lock, which makes it even more family-friendly.
Overall, this is an excellent microwave if you don't need a lot more capacity than most standard-size plates or pizzas.
It has 6 pre-programmed settings, ECO mode for power savings, child safety lock and it comes with two color variants; Stainless Steel and Black Stainless Steel.
If the sound is a concern, and you want a microwave that will keep the peace, while still delivering even, consistent heat and a variety of easy-to-use functions, the Toshiba EM925A5A-BS is an excellent choice.
Best High-End Compact Model
This is a premium microwave machine from Toshiba. If you’re looking for a slightly larger, more powerful high-end compact microwave oven, this one here is an excellent choice.
It has more power (1100 Watt) and a larger capacity (1.2 cubic feet) comparing to the EM925A5A above. And it also comes with two color variants: Black Stainless Steel and Stainless Steel.
This unit operates quietly and has the 'silent' feature that mutes the button feedback and heating cycle ending beeps.
The preprogrammed sensor menu comes in handy when you're cooking or warming foods such as vegetables, potatoes, and pizzas.
Additionally, there's a sensor function that attempts to sense the type of food you're heating in the microwave and adjusts the machine accordingly for optimal results.
The LED Light in this microwave remains on even when the door is open.
We also find the buzzer on this microwave mildly audible as compared to other machines which are much noisy.
This is an excellent choice for people who seeks a slightly larger, more powerful microwave oven. It does the reheating job well and quickly.
The downside is that the high power (1100 Watt) begins to cook foods instead of defrosting and we would suggest setting the timer to only half of the recommended time. It probably won't be a deal-breaker if you don't rely on a microwave to defrost foods.
Do note that this microwave also comes at 12.8 inches in height, you may want to measure your kitchen space to see if it fits well and have enough space above.
Best Over the Range Microwave
This is one of the best-selling over-the-range microwave ovens. With its decades-long record, you will not be disappointed by its performance.
The microwave comes with a horizontal control panel and exterior looks that are elegantly pleasing and modern.
Being a medium-sized microwave oven, this machine can be easily installed over your cooking range. Yet, it still has enough capacity (1.5 cubic feet) for cooking larger meals.
Performance-wise, this is an 1100 Watt machine. It prepares food evenly, reheats, and defrosts without a problem. There are also 11 power levels and an incredibly large number of presets and sensor cooking options.
Worth noting though, the door window is covered with dotted white spots and it's not very transparent. This does make it slightly harder to see the food inside.
The sensor reheat feature also tends to overheat foods a little bit. This is the only issue with this microwave's performance though not a deal-breaker.
If you need to install an over-the-range microwave oven, this one comes with a very concise and easy-to-follow user manual. The design is modern and pleasing to match most of the kitchens.
Overall, I think this microwave performs well and has a great capacity for larger households despite the size. You can easily heat meals for five.
If you're looking for an over-the-range microwave that can fit well in your kitchen, this machine is an excellent choice. The price is acceptable and probably cheaper than most of the models you can find.
Best In-Cabinet Microwave
This machine is a great choice for those who want a built-in microwave for cabinet; while it can also be used as a countertop microwave oven thanks to its sleek exterior.
This is also one of the best microwave ovens for the money you can find in the market.
The microwave comes with 1.2 Cu. Ft capacity and 1200 Watt cooking power.
The inverter technology not only helps to save power; but also delivers more consistent heat to prepare your food.
There is also a Sensor Cook feature that will select an appropriate heat and time automatically for the types of food you're cooking.
Worth mentioning is again the Inverter technology that comes with Turbo Defrost, a Patented Inverter Technology that delivers consistent heat that speeds up and evenly defrosts your frozen food without pre-cooking or overcooking them.
We like how compact the design of this microwave oven is and its huge 13.4-inch turntable. It means less devoted space on our countertop and more interior capacity for cooking.
There are also 14 cooking presets, a quick-minute timer, a delayed start, and a child safety lock. And when it comes the time you need to keep your food warm before serving, there's a button for it!
Overall, the Panasonic NN-SN686S is a great microwave oven in multiple situations. Thanks to modern technology, the Inverter also brings more features into the kitchen.
Being Panasonic's top-selling model, I would say it is the best bang for the buck kind of microwave oven you want to have in your kitchen.
Put it on your kitchen top, install it into your kitchen cabinet; whichever way, you will know this machine is going to save you a lot of time and putting out great dishes for your family.
There are hundreds of microwave ovens on the market today, with a massive range of features, options, and opinions. They range in price from $50 to $500, but is a costlier microwave worth the money? What features matter?
Today we're taking a closer look at microwave ovens, how they work, and what their features are, to help you make the right choice for your needs.
But first, let's take a moment to dispel the most persistent microwave myth and the constant dilemma of the microwave oven era:
Why does my plate get so hot while the food stays cold?
Why is one part of my food hot and the next bite is cold? This is also known as the Hot Pocket Conundrum.
The fact is, this kind of uneven heating has nothing to do with the quality or properties of the microwave oven. It's as likely to happen in a top-of-the-line, expensive microwave as it is in a small, inexpensive model, due to the way that microwaves heat food.
For the hot plate/cold food situation, it's because the molecules in your dishware are reacting to the radio waves when they should be inert and let the waves pass through them to the food.
Use high-quality glass or ceramic microwave-safe dishes, and always discard them when they are cracked or chipped. This allows the microwaves to pass through the plate and be concentrated in the food.
For the one bite hot/one bite cold situation, it's because liquids react more strongly to microwaves than solids, so the radio waves are likely to penetrate, say, the baked crust of a Hot Pocket without affecting it much, while the liquids inside get more excited and very hot.
This is best solved by placing foods, particularly when they have a variety of ingredients and textures, in a ring around the outside of the plate, leaving the inside of the plate/turntable empty.
This allows the short radio waves to penetrate the foods more evenly, without leaving cold spots in the middle of your food or allowing the waves to concentrate too much in one area.
Try to distribute a shallow ring of the foods to be heated, rather than a heap that is piled in the center, to promote more even heating and cooking in your microwave.
While there are hundreds of options and features, it's best to begin by clarifying what your needs are, so you can eliminate the microwave ovens that won't work for you.
Here are the two primary considerations you need to establish before you shop for a microwave oven.
What kind of cooking do you do?
Whether you already have a microwave oven you are looking to replace or upgrade, or you are just starting and getting your first one, it's good to start with planning for what you intend to use it for.
Even the least expensive, smallest, weakest microwave can reliably heat cold beverages, prepare frozen meals, bake a potato, or pop popcorn. If that's all you need, then look for a small microwave that is easy to use and easy to clean.
If you want to prepare a more extensive range of foods; or want a microwave that can handle tougher tasks like evenly melting chocolate, defrosting meat or poultry without cooking it, or make crisp bacon or French fries, then you should go for a larger microwave oven with more capacity, more even temperatures, and a wider variety of cooking settings.
Are there models that are best for families?
Absolutely. Search for a microwave that has programmed settings that are easy to read. These settings come in handy when preparing snacks like soup or popcorn. Just make sure that each member of the family knows how to use the settings on the microwave and that children should not use it unsupervised.
How much space do you have?
When most people think "microwave oven," they think of a traditional countertop model, and they come in a range of different sizes. But remember that microwaves can also be installed above a counter, inside a wall or cabinet space, or even over a range or cooktop.
Installing a microwave in these ways can be an excellent solution for space concerns, because you can have a larger microwave with more significant capacity, without sacrificing precious counter space.
Remember that, whatever the exterior dimensions of your microwave oven, they also require space around the microwave vents for air to circulate freely, and that the plug will not sit flush against the wall.
When planning on how to use your counter space, plan for the microwave and the necessary clearance around it, and remember that it needs to be near an electrical outlet.
A built-in microwave oven is installed recessed in a wall or flush with cabinets, presenting a flat door surface. Stainless steel built-in microwaves are incredibly stylish and can add to the resale value of your home. Many manufacturers supply kits with facing for these installations.
As with a countertop model, you need to consider placement and power supply. Most under-the-counter microwaves also come with lighting beneath the microwave, to cast light down onto your countertop.
This task lighting can be convenient, but may not be necessary depending on your installation. Many under-the-counter microwave ovens are designed to be the width of standard cabinets, but they are often deeper or need additional reinforcement or ventilation.
As with a countertop unit, consider not just how much room the microwave oven will require, but also any surrounding space it needs for clearance. Because microwaves can be cumbersome, professional installation of under-counter microwave ovens is generally recommended.
When you are planning to install a microwave oven over a range or cooktop, you also need to consider getting a microwave with ventilation, so that it can double as a range hood. Generally speaking, the higher the CFM, the better in over-the-counter microwave ovens, so they can effectively circulate air and moisture away from your stove.
These microwaves can be more challenging to install because they require an installation of the venting and air exhaust feature as well as the microwave oven itself, but they can be very convenient space-savers in a busy kitchen, and keep your home smelling fresh.
Ultimately, the person who needs a microwave for an RV or dorm room is looking for a whole different appliance than the person cooking Thanksgiving dinner for extended family. Measure your space, account for the length of the power cord, and remember to add in space for clearance.
If you are looking for a non-countertop microwave oven, remember that it's best to have non-countertop microwaves professionally installed, particularly if the power supply is an issue.
Microwave ovens can be heavy and need additional reinforcement during installation, but having them installed also alleviates the common problem of microwave ovens moving or sliding when you open the door.
While the right microwave oven for you depends on your needs and cooking habits, there are a few features that experts agree are the best and most important in choosing a microwave.
Here are the essential elements to take into consideration.
The number of watts a microwave oven has is not an indication of cooking ability. A 600-watt microwave will get as hot as a 1200 watt microwave. In microwave ovens, watts are a measure of speed. The more watts a microwave has, the faster and more evenly it will heat food.
While most people won't notice much of a speed difference between 1000 watts and 1200 watts, a lower wattage microwave will be noticeably slower than a high-wattage one. If speed is an issue (you need your morning coffee fast), then choose a microwave with higher watts.
The amount of interior space you need in a microwave oven depends a lot on your cooking and eating habits. However, a small size microwave is also typically a low-powered microwave. If you only use your microwave to heat cups of coffee and water for instant noodles, then the small size and weak power of a compact microwave may be adequate for your needs.
However, for most people, the smallest, weakest microwaves also don't work very well for even heating and defrosting, reducing the range of things you can reliably prepare in it.
If you will be preparing a variety of foods in your microwave, or food for two or more people, it's best to get a microwave with 0.8 cubic feet of interior capacity or more.
If you hadn't noticed, microwave ovens designed for residential use have turntables, and microwaves designed for commercial kitchens do not. There are two reasons for this:
Turntables take up space in a microwave, reducing the overall square inches of the bottom interior space into the circumference of a turntable. The same size cubic volume of microwave has less usable space with a turntable in it than without.
Commercial microwaves heat from below, directing microwaves at the food from beneath, so it is heated more evenly.
Residential microwaves usually heat from one or two sides, directing microwaves from sides of food, so the turntable is necessary to cook the food evenly by rotating it into the heating microwaves.
Generally speaking, the best-engineered microwaves don't have turntables because they don't need them and they just take up additional space that could be used for food. However, most microwave ovens designed for residential use do have them.
Microwave ovens have dozens of options and features, and these are primarily a matter of personal habits and preferences. Here are some microwave features that may be important to you.
Handle and door operation
It may seem like the simplest thing, but how a microwave opens and closes makes a huge difference in quality and your happiness with the appliance.
Some have a harder slam shut that creates an unpleasant noise. Some have a push-button open that is too hard. Many microwaves are lighter weight than the door, so pulling it open or pushing the door button moves the whole machine.
Commercial units tend to use a handle to pull the microwave open, while many residential units have a door button that opens it. These buttons are a common point of failure in microwave ovens.
There is no right answer in the noise/effort/movement it takes to open and close a microwave, but it's worthwhile to try out microwave ovens and find one that has a good "feel" when opening and closing.
Many people find microwave ovens unnecessarily loud and beepy.
It's particularly annoying when a beep continues even after you have opened the door when no more beeping is required. Some high-end microwaves can silence or mute beeps, and those microwaves often also run with a quieter fan noise during cooking operations.
Some people have found ways to "hack" their microwaves to disable the beep, and you can find instructions online if necessary. And the beep is another common point of failure; some just give out early and stop beeping.
If excess noise is going to be a problem for the place and way you intend to use your microwave, look for one that operates quietly and can mute beeps. Or go online and find out if there is a way to silence a non-cooperating model.
Some microwave ovens have crowded, complex control panels that can be difficult to read and understand, particularly for children or the elderly.
Professional microwaves use dials instead of buttons, for simplicity and speed, and many home microwaves use dials instead of buttons as well. Keypads can be needlessly complex, difficult to clean, and offer more functions and features than you will regularly use.
Dial controls are strongly preferred for the elderly and people with poor eyesight or muscle control.
Modern microwaves generally come with both power and time settings, but they also offer a host of one-button cooking options for the most popular foods and functions.
While these buttons aren't always necessary, it can be convenient and time-saving to cook popcorn, pizza, or potatoes with the push of a button, particularly if you live with a family.
Having a variety of pre-programmed cooking settings is a great way to get the most out of your microwave, and it's even better when a microwave allows you to save and store your custom settings in memory, so you can have your most-cooked foods precisely the way you like them.
Microwave ovens are becoming more and more sophisticated and intelligent.
Many high-end microwaves can automatically detect the state of your food and adjust time and power settings accordingly. Intelligent microwaves can automatically heat, defrost, or cook foods with minimal oversight or programming.
Automatic sensors and built-in intelligence are other great features to have in a microwave, particularly if you are living with a family.
Child safety lock
A child safety lock feature on a microwave doesn't prevent the microwave door from opening. It prevents accidental operation of the microwave oven through the control panel, locking the control panel from the child or unintentional input.
It's a useful feature to have in a modern microwave oven, which often has many single-button control options that will start the microwave oven.
For microwaves that require the input of time and power settings before it will start, a child lock is less necessary, but when a microwave has a single-button operation, it is useful.
Typically a child safety lock works by pressing one or more key combinations on the control panel until it locks and then pressing the same key combination to unlock it.
Many modern electronic devices continue to consume electricity even when they are not in use, through the powering of display lights and clocks and other internal elements in standby mode.
Typically, this power consumption is minimal, and yet it often doesn't make sense to continue to supply power to an appliance when it isn't in use.
A power-saving feature reduces the overall electricity consumed by a microwave oven, thereby reducing your electric bill, and helping to protect the environment. A microwave power-saving feature turns off the lighted display, often including the clock when the microwave oven is idle.
A few minutes after it is no longer being used, the screen will be dimmed, and electricity consumption reduces, and then the display lights up again when you interact with the microwave oven.
Some high-end microwave ovens have combination cooking features, where they can prepare foods in multiple ways. A traditional microwave oven heats food by aiming short radio waves at the molecules inside the food, agitating them, and producing heat through the friction of these vibrating molecules.
It's an incredibly efficient way to generate heat, and a fast way to heat, steam, and defrost foods. However, this method of heating and cooking food will not have the same cooking effects as an oven, and can't produce foods that are brown or crispy.
In other words, a microwave can cook, but it can't bake or roast.
Combination microwave ovens address this shortcoming by incorporating convection cooking into the microwave oven. Convection cooking heats the air inside the microwave, and a fan circulates the heat evenly.
This heated air cooks food like a traditional oven, where heat slowly penetrates the food from the outside in, in addition to the radio waves that produce heat from the inside out. In this way, food can be cooked quickly, with the features of a microwave, but can still be baked or roasted for browning and crisping, like a traditional oven.
Combination microwave ovens are capable of cooking a wider range of foods than a traditional microwave, with more delicious results, but are faster and more energy-efficient than a conventional full-size oven.
While they are more expensive than a regular microwave oven, they add more speed and versatility to a kitchen, and they often come with accessories that facilitate grilling, baking, and roasting in the microwave.
They are also a great alternative for small kitchens where combining two appliances into one is a better use of limited space.
Ease of cleaning
Whether it's from drips and spills inside, or messy fingerprints on the buttons and handle outside, microwaves tend to get dirty quickly and show it easily. Ease of cleaning can be an important feature if your microwave will be used by the whole family, particularly kids and young people.
Look for smooth surfaces without a lot of detail. For example, free-standing, raised buttons are harder to wipe down and clean around than flat control panels with pressure-sensitive keypads.
Microwave ovens with internal turntables have an indentation where the turntable fits, unlike the smooth floor of non-turntable ovens.
Handles that curve away from the door in an arc have a tight little gap where the handle meets the door, and it can be difficult to clean in that tight gap, unlike handles that extend outward at right angles. Check the design and materials of surfaces to see if your microwave is easy to clean.
The brand can be important in a microwave oven because better brands make higher-quality, more reliable microwaves, and have a better reputation for honoring the warranty. Brand name matters more if you want to get regular use out of a microwave oven for years to come, rather than making a short-term investment.
Microwave ovens are relatively low-maintenance appliances that don't require a lot of accessories, but they do have some special considerations that warrant dedicated accessories.
Here are some of the most popular ones to consider, that will help make your microwave more useful and versatile.
A very common complaint about countertop microwave ovens is that the oven itself moves when the door is opened.
A common solution is to put something heavy on top of the oven to add weight, but that is not a recommended solution; items stored on top of a microwave can impede the necessary clearance it needs to ventilate and work properly and may expose those items to excess heat.
The better solution is to buy non-skip feet or a skid-resistant pad to place beneath the microwave, to better anchor it in place.
Microwave oven plate stacker
If you have a small microwave but occasionally need it to do double- and triple-duty, a plate stacker is a great way to increase the cooking capacity of a microwave oven quickly.
A plate stacker allows you to put two, three, or even four plates of food in a microwave for heating and cooking at the same time, using the vertical space inside the microwave more efficiently.
It's the perfect accessory if you often prepare or reheat two meals and want them both done at once, or during parties and special occasions when you need your microwave to multi-task and save you time.
A microwave food steamer
Steaming is a delicious, simple, healthy way to prepare foods, and microwave technology, which more effectively heats liquids than solids, is a fantastic way to steam foods.
Steamed vegetables retain more of their essential vitamins and minerals than when prepared any other way.
A good steamer will take advantage of the unique properties of microwave technology to quickly and efficiently steam foods better than on a stovetop, in less time, with less energy consumption, and with more retained nutritional value.
High-quality cookware Often uneven cooking is blamed on the microwave, when, in fact, it's due to the cookware.
For the best food from a microwave oven, it's a good idea to invest in microwave-safe dishes and cookware that will help your food heat evenly and more quickly.
Cookware makes more of an impact than you think, and it's a great add-on to your microwave oven.
Now that you know how microwaves work, and the differences between what chefs and professionals expect in a microwave oven and what features are available to home cooks, and the key features, differentiators, and accessories that can make all the difference in your experience of a microwave.
You have all the information you need to choose a microwave that will meet your needs, in your price range, with durability and quality.
A microwave oven has become an essential kitchen appliance, no matter what size kitchen you have, or what kind of foods you prepare.
Microwave ovens are a fast, precise, energy-efficient, easy-to-use kitchen appliance that just makes sense. From feeding a crowd huge holiday meals, to heating ramen in a dorm room, a microwave makes all your cooking tasks more efficient.
When you have the right microwave for your needs, you can spend less time in the kitchen and more time doing what matters. And installing a high-quality microwave oven in the kitchen is essential for homeowners since it's a must-have appliance for most home buyers.
This list of the top microwave ovens and our buying guide will give you all the information you need to choose the best microwave oven that is perfect for your space and your needs and will be a part of your cooking routine for years to come.
The right microwave oven will become part of your everyday life in your kitchen, from coffee and oatmeal in the morning to heating leftovers for lunch, to preparing gourmet meals for dinner.
This incredible appliance can do all those things, and become an integral part of a healthy, happy lifestyle. Get the right microwave oven for you, and you and your family will enjoy it for years to come.