However, there are so many microwave ovens on the marketplace that it can be difficult to choose a model or to know which one is right for your needs.
They have different sizes, power, pre-sets, and features, and a variety of different installation methods that may or may not be right for you.
Today we are looking at the best, most popular microwave ovens available and evaluating them for the features and considerations that will help you make the right choice for your kitchen and your cooking habits.
As always, we recommend you to read our buyer’s guide to have a more in-depth understanding of what you should be looking for before you dive into our list of the best microwave oven.
Best Microwave Oven in 2018
|Microwave Ovens||Best For||Capacity||Price|
|Panasonic NE-1025F Silver Microwave Oven (Editor’s Pick)||Best for Overall Usage||0.8 cubic foot||Price|
|Westinghouse Counter Top Rotary Microwave (Editor’s Pick)||Best for Small Kitchen||0.6 cubic foot||Price|
|Sharp ZSMC0912BS Countertop Microwave Oven (Editor’s Pick)||Best Value for Money||0.9 cubic foot||Price|
|Panasonic NN-SN966S Microwave Oven||Best for Large Capacity||2.2 cubic foot||Price|
|Sharp R-1211 Over-the-Counter Microwave||Best Over-the-Counter Microwave Oven||1.5 cubic foot||Price|
|Toshiba EC042A5C-SS Microwave Oven||Most Versatile Microwave Oven||1.5 cubic foot||Price|
|Farberware Profeissla Microwave Oven||Most Convenient Microwave Oven||2.2 cubic foot||Price|
|Nostalgia Retro Microwave Oven||Most Stylish Microwave Oven||0.9 cubic foot||Price|
|Toshiba EM925A5A-BS Microwave Oven||Best for Quiet Operation||0.9 cubic foot||Price|
|Amana RMS10DS Light Duty Microwave Oven||Most Durable Microwave Oven||0.8 cubic foot||Price|
1. Panasonic NE-1025F Silver Commercial Microwave Oven — Best Overall Microwave Oven
A good microwave needs to be durable, reliable, attractive, easy to clean, and powerful. Commercial microwaves are often made with this kind of simplicity and durability that consumer models lack.
The Panasonic NE-1025F has an attractive and easy-to-clean stainless steel exterior, with a smooth, easy-to-clean interior. It has a good wattage and power ratings, and functional capacity, suitable for the broadest range of needs and uses in the kitchen.
Heating from below produces food that is more evenly cooked and heated than heating from the side, obviating the need for a turntable and creating more usable space.
The dial control and pull-to-open door handle make operation as fast and straightforward as possible, in keeping with its commercial design. It is rated for medium duty, which, in a commercial kitchen, means that it is designed to be used up to 150 times a day.
Panasonic makes the best, most highly rated microwaves in the industry, and experts and consumers alike love their reliability. The Panasonic NE-1025F commercial microwave is an excellent overall microwave oven.
While it may lack many of the small, convenient features of consumer-level microwaves, it has been specially designed to be quiet, durable, easy to use, and easy to clean. The interior doesn’t have a turntable, increasing the amount of usable space inside the microwave to a full 0.8 cubic feet.
The interior is smooth and sealed, making it exceptionally easy to clean up after spills and drips. The dial timer and “grab and go” handle are designed for speed and simplicity, limiting button-pushing, finger-print messes, and the possibility of overcooking and burning food. The Panasonic NE-1025F has 1000 watts of power, and cooks food quickly and evenly, while the stainless steel body and UL listing are designed for the durability and high-volume use of a commercial kitchen.
The Panasonic NE-1025F cooks food quickly and evenly, with a streamlined design that makes it easy to clean and maintain. Excellent power and interior space make it useful and versatile, and simple controls deliver everything you need without a lot of fuss. It’s a quiet, powerful, durable, easy-to-live-with microwave that will last for years to come.
- Streamlined surfaces inside and out make it easy to clean
- Knob timer simplifies operation
- Grab and go handle is fast and ergonomic
- Quiet in operation, minimal beeping
- UL-listed quality parts
- Attractive, stainless steel exterior
- Panasonic often won’t honor the warranty when commercial units are purchased for residential use
- No user-adjustable power settings
2. Westinghouse Counter Top Rotary Microwave WCM660B — Best Microwave Oven for Small Kitchens
If counter space is an issue, you need a compact microwave that won’t take up too much room. Unfortunately, “small” in a microwave oven often also means “low powered,” meaning that it takes longer to heat foods and beverages and may slow you down in the kitchen. If you have a small space, you need a small microwave that still has enough room on the inside to be useful and versatile, and has enough power to quickly and effectively cook and heat food.
The Westinghouse WCM660B is an excellent microwave oven with a small footprint. At just 17.75” wide, 12.5” deep, and 10.25” high, it still has 0.6 cubic feet interior volume, with enough room on the inside turntable for 9.5” dishes and frozen pizzas. It has 600 watts of power, with a dial selector for six power levels, and another dial for cooking times up to 30 minutes.
Dial controls and an ergonomic handle keep the dishwasher straightforward and ergonomic to operate and minimize noisy beeping. When cooking is completed, the Westinghouse WCM660B notifies you with a gentle “ding” instead. It is low maintenance, easy to operate, and easy to clean, ideal for small spaces like dorm rooms, RVs, and studio apartments.
The fact that this microwave doesn’t have a digital display makes it even easier for studio apartments; it doesn’t continuously consume electricity to power a screen and doesn’t emit unwanted light in small, shared spaces. Mechanical, dial operation not only reduces power consumption in this microwave oven, but it also reduces the number of ways that the microwave can break or fail, making it more durable and giving it a longer functional life.
The compact Westinghouse WCM660B microwave has a small footprint on a countertop, with ample cooking space on the inside. Simple dial controls keep it easy to operate and easy to clean. Without unwanted lights, beeps, or power consumption, it’s an excellent solution for small spaces, shared spaces, and mobile homes and RVs where power consumption needs to be monitored.
- Dial controls are easy to use
- Pull handle is ergonomic
- Doesn’t beep
- Easy to clean
- Compact size
- Uses less electricity than many microwaves, reducing the overall cost of ownership and protecting the environment
- Slower cooking speed
- Lightweight means that it can shift on the countertop when the door is pulled open
3. Sharp ZSMC0912BS Countertop Microwave Oven — Best Buy Microwave Oven
So many microwave ovens seem very similar in size, appearance, and features so it can be challenging to figure out why some of them are so expensive. If you want a good microwave with all the expected features and power, without spending a fortune, the Sharp ZSMC0912BS is an excellent choice.
Sharp microwaves are well known and have an excellent reputation for quality. The Sharp ZSMC0912BS offers good power at 900 watts and 0.9 cubic feet of volume, with a host of convenient features and handsome design at a very attractive price.
The interior turntable holds plates and dishes up to 10.6 inches, providing plenty of space to cook for two, and 900 watts offer excellent speed and power for a variety of cooking tasks. The LED display has a clock, and the Sharp ZSMC0912BS has a variety of one-touch functions, including popcorn, potato, pizza, 6-minute express cooking, and a fast +30 seconds.
The stainless steel finish on the Sharp ZSMC0912BS microwave is attractive and easy to clean, and the ergonomic handle opens and closes easily. The door is scratch-resistant and durable.
The Sharp ZSMC0912BS microwave delivers a lot of fast, convenient functions in the right size and attractive design with a stylish, brushed-steel finish. It has a lot of interior space considering the compact size, with a generous 10.6-inch turntable. It has 11 different levels of cooking power, timed and auto defrost settings, pre-programming for popcorn and beverages, and quick +30 and 6-minute express cooking functions. It’s simple, compact, and powerful, making it a great value in a microwave oven.
- Variety of one-button settings and options
- Quiet cooking
- Good interior space
- Easy to clean
- Nice finish and attractive design
- Wobbles when pulling on the handle to open the door
- Not very reliable
4. Panasonic NN-SN966S Microwave Oven — Best Large Capacity Microwave Oven
Many people use their microwaves for heating frozen dinners, warming coffee, and cooking a potato, in which case the interior space isn’t much of a concern. But some people need a microwave that will feed a crowd, whether they have a large family, busy holidays, or just use their microwave for a broader range of cooking tasks. If you need a microwave oven with space and power for big cooking jobs, the Panasonic NN-SN966S is our recommendation.
The 1205 watts of power on this microwave can provide high cooking power at high speed, and the 2.2 cubic feet of interior space make it one of the biggest microwave ovens on the market. Importantly, Panasonic has achieved this generous interior space by reducing the size of the electronics, meaning that you get a lot of volumes inside without taking up a lot of extra room on your kitchen counter.
The Panasonic NN-SN966S has a host of cooking functions and features that make it easy to use for nearly any job, with 12 auto cook presets, and cooking time, standing time, and delayed starts all up to 99 minutes and 99 seconds. It also has a variety of intelligent features that make your cooking jobs simpler and your foods more delicious.
Microwave Inverter Technology delivers a continuous stream of even cooking power for more consistent heating. Advanced Inverter Defrost speeds defrosting times on all frozen foods. An automatic “genius” sensor adjusts power and cooking times for a variety of foods, preventing kitchen disasters and mishaps. And with a single button, you can auto reheat foods, or keep foods warm for up to 30 minutes.
The 12-hour clock on the Panasonic NN-SN966S also doubles as a convenient kitchen timer, for more uses in the kitchen. And this microwave oven can also be built into your kitchen wall or cabinets, with the optional trim kit, saving even more counter space.
Finally, the child safety lock is an essential precaution in family-friendly kitchens.
The Panasonic NN-SN966S is a big, powerful, top-of-the-line microwave. It has the interior space and the wattage to cook a lot of food, fast. A number of intelligent functions and features, as well as 12 auto-presets, make this a microwave oven suitable for a variety of cooking tasks, saving time when you need to prepare food for a family. The optional trim kit allows it to be a built-in unit or a countertop microwave oven, giving you more versatility in placement. It’s a great microwave oven from a great brand.
- Big 2.2 cubic feet interior
- Powerful 1250 watts
- Microwave Inverter technology delivers even, continuous heating
- Turbo Defrost speeds defrosting time
- 12 preset menu items
- Genius Sensor adjusts power and cook times for different foods
- Can be built-in with an optional trim kit
- Has a lot of convenient features like timer, keep warm, delayed start, etc.
- UL listed for safety
- Keep warm feature
5. Sharp R-1211 Over-the-Counter Microwave — Best Over-the-Counter Microwave Oven
If you want a microwave, but don’t want to give up any counter space, you may want an over-the-counter model that will install with your cabinets, giving you the convenience of a microwave oven without reducing your available kitchen working space. Remember over-the-counter (or built-in) microwaves aren’t the same thing as over-the-range microwaves, which generally have included ventilation systems. Depending on your kitchen, it’s often a good idea to have over-the-counter or over-the-range microwaves professionally installed, which can increase the cost of ownership of these microwave ovens. However, for many homeowners, it’s an excellent trade-off for the gains in space and convenience.
Our recommended over-the-counter microwave oven is the Sharp R-1211. It has a robust 1100 watts of cooking power and 1.5 cubic feet of interior space, with a turntable over 14 inches in diameter. With 11 pre-programmed sensor cook settings, 4 defrost options, and a quick minute plus key, it has a lot of fast and simple ways to prepare your most popular microwave foods.
It has features ideal in an over-the-counter microwave, including a size that is compatible with most standard cabinets, that doesn’t require a built-in kit or shelf. It has built-in lighting beneath the microwave, for task lighting on the counter.
Parents will love the child safety lock, and the ability to silence any beeping from the Sharp R-1211 microwave oven, keeping it quiet and safe for your family.
The Sharp R-1211 is an excellent over-the-counter microwave, with task lighting beneath the microwave to illuminate your countertops. It’s a big microwave with high power, sizeable interior cooking space, and a large turntable, allowing you to cook food for the whole family at once. A wide variety of convenient, pre-programmed cook settings and auto sensor settings make it simple to prepare foods perfectly, and the fact that it can be silenced and has a child lock makes it even more friendly for a family kitchen. It’s a great way to have a big, powerful microwave and save counter space at the same time.
- Easy installation doesn’t require a kit
- Under-microwave task lighting
- 11 popular presets, auto defrost setting and other cooking features
- Generous interior size for large meals and foods
- Powerful 1100 watts cooks quickly
- 1-year warranty
- Should be professionally installed due to the weight of the microwave
6. Toshiba EC042A5C-SS Microwave Oven — Most Versatile Microwave Oven
It may sound silly, but sometimes you need a microwave that can do more than just microwave. While microwave ovens are exceptional at steaming, defrosting, reheating, and warming foods, they tend to produce foods that are soggy. Microwave technology can’t deliver crisping as roasting does, and it can’t provide browning like baking does. For that, you need a combination microwave.
The Toshiba EC042A5C-SS is just that, combining a fully featured microwave oven with a convection oven so you can defrost, reheat, bake, and roast all in a single countertop oven. As a microwave, the 1000 watts of power cooks and heats quickly and evenly, and the interior 1.5 cubic foot of space and generous 13.6-inch turntable can handle large meals and multiple dishes.
As a convection oven, it cooks from 175°F to 425°F, without heating up the whole house. The included grill rack makes it easy to prepare dishes that are crispier than you would ever expect from a microwave, so you don’t have to deal with soggy French fries or pizza crusts. It’s large enough to roast a whole chicken or turkey breast beautifully.
The auto bake, auto roast, and auto defrost options make cooking fast and comfortable, and the sensor mode provides optimum heating of a variety of foods. You can even set up to three favorites of your own frequently used time and temperature settings for one-touch convenience.
The stainless steel exterior is easy to clean, and the built-in clock doubles as a kitchen timer.
A combination of a microwave and a convection oven creates so many possibilities in a single countertop appliance. It is more energy efficient, space efficient, and faster than traditional ovens. The Toshiba EC042A5C-SS heats, defrosts, roasts, and even bakes, with a powerful 1000 watts, a generous interior, and a range of fast, easy controls to speed cooking time and turn out perfectly prepared dishes. The smart sensor and auto settings take the guesswork out of cooking, and this versatile device will be useful every day.
- Convection cooking as well as microwave heating
- Generous interior capacity and turntable size
- Powerful 1000 watts
- Prepares crispy foods
- Easy to clean
- Comes with grill rack
- It sometimes ships without the manual, which is necessary when learning how to use this unconventional appliance. It’s sometimes necessary to contact Toshiba to get an electronic version of the manual.
7. Farberware Professional FMO22ABTBKA 1200 Watt Microwave Oven — Most Convenient Microwave Oven
If you are in the habit of using your microwave for nearly every task in the kitchen and want a microwave oven that can practically replace your other kitchen appliances, the Farberware FMO22ABTBKA is an excellent fit for you. It comes loaded with presets for a vast variety of kitchen tasks, making nearly everything faster, more comfortable, and more convenient. It has 7 1-touch cooking features, including automatic sensor reheat, frozen pizza, frozen entree, potato, rice, vegetables, and popcorn.
It has five auto-cook pre-programmed settings for bacon, frozen bread, beverage, chicken, and oatmeal. It has three auto-defrost settings for meat, poultry, and fish. And it has seven pre-programmed options for melting and softening, including butter, chocolate, cheese, marshmallows, ice cream, and cream cheese. It also has an express cooking function, +30 second control button, and a memory function that allows you to save your own favorite settings.
With all those presets, you’ll be able to melt, soften, defrost, heat, cook, steam, and prepare whole menus of foods. And the Faberware FMO22ABTBKA has an enormous 2.2 cubic feet of cooking capacity that will easily accommodate nearly anything you want to cook, heating quickly and evenly with 1200 watts of power. The huge 16.5-inch turntable is large enough for whole chickens, casserole dishes, and more.
The smart sensor technology helps to avoid overcooking by sensing temperature and humidity inside the microwave, while energy saving mode reduces energy consumption, saving you money and helping the environment. It has a blue LED display light with a kitchen timer and a child safety lock.
The Faberware FMO22ABTBKA is a big, professional microwave oven, with dozens of one-touch cooking features and options that will make every cooking task faster and easier, every day. It’s generous capacity, significant power, and versatility make it convenient for nearly every kitchen task and saves time and energy in a busy kitchen.
- Big capacity
- Versatile functions
- Massive variety of convenient features to assist in cooking, baking, and dozens of everyday heating tasks
- Large footprint plus the need for surrounding clearance takes up a lot of counter space
8. Nostalgia RMO400RED Retro Microwave Oven — Most Stylish Microwave Oven
Let’s face it, a microwave takes up a lot of space on your countertop, and is visible all the time. And the kitchen is the heart of your home, where friends and family gather to create and share memories that last a lifetime. Kitchen décor is increasingly essential, and, since a microwave is such a visible appliance, it’s fantastic to find one that looks as good as it works. The Nostalgia RMO400RED has a totally unique look and style in microwave ovens. It is reminiscent of big old American luxury cars, 24-hour diners, and the jukeboxes of a bygone era.
The fun chrome accents, detailed medallion, funky font, simple controls, and rounded shapes look great in a kitchen and add so much to the style of the room. If red isn’t your color, it’s also available in a retro shade of aqua blue. But all that fun retro style doesn’t mean much if it doesn’t also work as well as it should. Fortunately, the Nostalgia RMO400RED works as good as it looks.
With 800 watts of power and a 0.9 cubic foot capacity, it’s just as powerful and useful as standard microwaves that aren’t as cute. It has 12 pre-programmed cooking settings and a delayed start feature that saves time and energy in the kitchen. It has a bright display, and a reasonably compact footprint on the countertop, considering the interior capacity.
The retro design relies on a dial and little round buttons to operate, which are in keeping with the overall aesthetic, but a bit different to operate than standard microwave ovens. It is simple to learn and to use but does take a little getting used to if you have become accustomed to a push-button operation on a microwave oven. Incidentally, the Nostalgia brand produces a whole range of kitchen appliances with this fun, retro style, if you want to make over the look and feel of your kitchen.
This microwave oven is stylish and functional and will look adorable in a variety of kitchens. The Nostalgia RMO400RED has 12 preset cooking functions, good power, good interior capacity, and a fun style. The dial and button interface can take a little getting used to, but it’s worth it for how beautiful this microwave oven is.
- Great style
- Two retro colors
- Good capacity
- Good power
- Nice variety of presets
- Beeps even after you open the door
- Not very durable
9. Toshiba EM925A5A-BS Microwave Oven — Quietest Microwave Oven
For some people, the most important thing a microwave does is what it doesn’t do: make noise. Whether you are using your microwave in an office or work environment, have a baby at home, or just don’t like excessive noise, some microwaves are undeniably loud. And loud microwave ovens can be loud two ways; they can have a loud motor and fan noise when they are on, and a loud beeping when they are finished. Even further, some microwaves continue to beep periodically after the cooking cycle is completed. For many people, this is annoying, and they need a microwave that will operate quietly with a minimum of beeping. The Toshiba EM925A5A-BS was made for those people.
The compact Toshiba EM925A5A-BS has a spacious 0.9 cubic feet internal capacity, and a good 900 watts of power. 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. The turntable is a good 10.6-inch diameter, with plenty of room for standard size plates and pizzas.
The Toshiba EM925A5A-BS is mutable, and muting it not only silences beeping at the end of a cooking cycle, but it also turns off the response beeps when you push the buttons. And this microwave is also quiet during operation, making it an excellent choice when sound is an issue. Power saving mode automatically reduces power consumption when the microwave oven is idle, and the child safety lock makes it, even more, family friendly, as well as environmentally friendly.
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. The mutable beeps and quiet fan and motor will allow you to microwave without unnecessary noise or sounds, and the 6 pre-programmed settings cook your most popular foods quickly and easily.
- Good capacity
- Good power
- Compact footprint
- Mutable beeps
- Quiet operation
- Child safety lock
- Power saving mode
- Stainless steel is easy to clean
- The microwave is light enough that it often takes two hands to open the door, or else opening the door causes the microwave to slide forward
10. Amana RMS10DS 1000-Watt Light Duty Microwave Oven — Most Durable Microwave Oven
If you’re wondering why a microwave oven called “light duty” is our most durable of the year, that’s because this is a commercial microwave oven. It’s designed to be used in commercial kitchens – all day, every day – and for the home user is incredibly rugged and durable. In a commercial context, “light duty” means it’s designed to be used up to 50 times a day, which is more than adequate for almost any home or small office.
The Amana RMS10DS has a powerful 1000 watts, and the 0.8 cubic foot capacity feels more substantial because it doesn’t have a turntable. The smooth design inside and out is easy to clean, and the dial control and pull handle are streamlined, easy to clean, and easy to use.
Because it’s a commercial microwave oven, the Amana RMS10DS does not have the pre-set cooking options of home units. The dial can be set from 15 seconds to 6 minutes, and it heats evenly and powerfully.
The see-through door with interior light allows you to see your food heating, and stainless steel inside and out provides easy-to-clean, good looking durability.
If you need a robust, simple, reliable microwave that will withstand hard use for years to come, and don’t miss a lot of presets and fancy features, the Amana RMS10DS is an excellent choice. As a commercial microwave oven, it’s intended for much harder use than most home kitchens would ever achieve. However, purchasing a commercial microwave oven for residential use does invalidate the manufacturer’s 1-year warranty.
- UL listed
- Stainless steel
- Simple operation
- Powerful, even heating
- Rugged and durable
- No presets
- Purchasing this microwave oven for residential use invalidates the warranty
Microwave Oven Buyer’s Guide
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 really worth the money? What features really 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.
What Do You Need in a 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 out 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 which 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 for 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 to 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 in 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 obviously 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 own 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 another 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 are able to 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 of 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 tends to be more difficult 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.
- Non-slip feet
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 times 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.