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Countertop microwaves are necessary kitchen appliances, but they’re something you don’t often think about on a deeper level. This can make it especially hard to purchase a new microwave when your old one goes out. What features do you look for? What features even matter? Do microwaves come in different sizes? To make this buying process easier for you, we decided to buy the top 20 models and test them out so you don’t have to spend hours on end researching and exchanging microwaves. A major part of testing any microwave is how well it reheats food, of course, but we went even deeper than that. We measured features like size, door type, programmable buttons, and easy clean interior finishes.
After our testing, we narrowed our list down to the top 6 countertop microwaves for 2019 and awarded a single model the #1 spot. After all our testing, we’ve identified the Toshiba EM131A5C-BS Countertop Microwave as the best all-around model for the average kitchen.
Jump To: Compare the top-rated countertop microwave ovens at a glance.
With 1.2 cubic feet of space, you should be able to fit your dishes inside easily, and the 1100-watt rating means that even thick or weighty foods will still be able to cook quickly and evenly throughout. Plus, the moisture sensors excel at picking the right temperature for a range of foods if you aren’t sure where to start!
Countertop microwave ovens are very versatile machines, so we took a look at the size, power, and features. While we did provide an option for the top small microwave countertop model, we drew the line at anything less than 1000 watts, at which point you start running into slower cooking times. We also didn’t go below one cubic foot of internal space, which is generally where the limit hits for the size of most dinner plates and cups that you can use. Our first two picks from Kenmore and Panasonic have even larger cooking spaces, 1.2 cubic feet, that can deal with anything in the average home. If you prefer larger microwaves, check out our guide to the best over-the-range microwave.
When it came to extra features, we focused on sensors and button options that made it easier to quickly heat foods or perform more complex tasks, depending on your idea of the perfect microwave. For example, our first pick includes moisture sensors to automatically choose cooking times, while our third pick, the Cuisinart CMW-100, has 25 different button combinations for refining your cooking strategy.
Modern microwaves excel at what they do in ways that older models couldn’t even imagine. Newly-minted sensors, for example, can measure the moisture content of many foods, and will automatically pick the right timeframe to properly heat the food without drying it out or causing other problems like burning or scorching on the bottom. Newer styles of internal coatings combine durable enamels with proprietary, Teflon-like surfaces designed to make microwaves easier to clean without the need to use chemical cleaners.
Meanwhile, today’s smart touch buttons make it simple to dial in exactly the type of food you’re cooking, with options for customizing multi-stage cooking or a variety of “food” buttons far beyond the usual popcorn setting, ideal for heating leftovers. Inverter technology, meanwhile, actually changes heat levels instead of just cycling heat on and off like older “power levels” used to. Other options, like child-proof locks, are ideal for families. Isn’t it time for an upgrade?
Read More: Samsung Slim Fry Microwave Designed for Healthy Eaters
Award: Top Pick
Watts: 1100 | Capacity: 1.2 cubic feet | One Touch: 30 Seconds, 6 One Touch Start buttons, Defrost Options| Power Levels: 10
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Toshiba’s model has the ideal size and power – at a remarkable price.
Toshiba’s EM131A5C-BS model wins the top spot for two big reasons: first, it comes with excellent mainstream features that fit well in any kitchen, including a healthy 1.2 cubit feet cooking space and 1100 watts – enough power and size to deal with nearly any type of food or platter. Second, this countertop microwave oven has one of the best price ranges we’ve seen in microwaves this good, right around $100, which fits easily into most budgets and makes it the best overall countertop oven.
Related: See also the best small microwave.
Of course, Toshiba’s other features impressed us too. While the programmable one-touch buttons can save time, they also use useful sensor functions that detect moisture in food, which means they can be more accurate than just a casual guess. Also, the Easy Clean interior adds a slick coating to the inside of the microwave that makes it easy to clean up spills – as long as you act quickly.
The microwave also features an ECO Mode so you don’t use as much power each time you microwave something, as well as the option to turn the sound on or off. This can be super helpful for anyone who needs to keep their kitchen quiet (napping children, anyone?) during their microwave sessions. I wish all of the best microwaves had this feature.
Award: Most Powerful Model for Its Size
Watts: 1200 | Capacity: 1.2 cubic feet | One Touch: 60 Seconds, Popcorn, Sensor Cook, Reheat | Power Levels: 10
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Inverter technology and the extra power make this model a great choice for microwave lovers.
This popular Panasonic microwave with inverter technology is lighter on features but heavier on power: with 1200 watts, the microwave can speedily heat foods and tackle large amounts of food more easily – especially with that 13.5-inch turntable, which is particularly large for this size of a microwave. Combined with the 10 power levels, these features give you a lot of control over microwave times – but there are sensor buttons that will take one look at your food and automatically choose what looks right if you’re still not sure. Actual food buttons aren’t present (except for popcorn), but everything else is here, including “delayed start” and “keep warm” options.
This model also made a big deal out of inverter technology, which deserves a moment of explanation. Basically, this means that the microwave energy is more tightly controlled in realistic ways – level 5, for example, is really half the power of level 10. Other microwaves use power levels to cycle on and off at 100% power, which isn’t quite as reliable. That inverter tech gives this model an extra push into our list. If you want inverter technology, the best microwave brand to look at is either Panasonic or GE countertop microwave options, which specialize in this feature over the rest. This best countertop and best built-in microwave with an inverter are truly one of the best models. Great for baked potatoes.
Award: Best Small Countertop Microwave
Watts: 1000 | Capacity: 1 cubic foot | One Touch: 30 Seconds, 8 Food Presets, 2 Defrost | Power Levels: 10
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Save on size while getting a wide range of food presets to meet every need.
If you are looking for the best small microwave countertop model, Cuisinart has a great model for you. It’s a little smaller with one cubic foot of space, and a little less powerful with only 1000 watts, but it still offers everything you need to quickly cook your foods – even if they are a little more complicated than usual. The presets on this model are truly impressive, including 8 different food presets that also allows you to control serving size. This gives you a total of 25 different cooking options for foods like rice, frozen vegetables, baked potatoes, and bacon.
There’s also two-stage cooking for longer cooking times that require a defrost period or other on-the-fly changes. These options, plus the 10 power levels, allow for a lot of fun tinkering with the controls if you enjoy finding a setting for every meal you want to nuke. The small size also makes the model a good fit for smaller kitchens where every bit of space counts.
Award: Easiest To Use Countertop Microwave
Watts: 700 | Capacity: 0.7 cubic feet | One Touch: 30 Seconds, Defrost | Power Levels: 10
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: This microwave from Amazon has the power and is connected to Alexa. Plus there are child locks and a price that can’t be beaten.
If you’re looking for a countertop microwave that is compact and feature-rich, you don’t have to look further than Amazon Basics Microwave. Not only does it connect to Alexa allowing you to start and stop microwaving with your voice (e.g. Alexa heat up 1-cup of coffee), but it includes 24 presets (and growing). There is also a child lock, kitchen timer, and a 700-watt power capacity.
Included is a turntable but you’ll need an Alexa smart speaker to use the voice features. But who doesn’t have one of those? This microwave measures 17.3 in. x 10.1 in. x 14.1 in.
Award: Best Sensor Cooking
Watts: 1100 | Capacity: 1.3 cubic feet | One Touch: 30 Seconds, Defrost | Power Levels: 10
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: This microwave from Panasonic cooks food in half the time compared to many of its competitors and it comes with lots of features, some of them unique.
This Panasonic microwave delivers 1100 watts of power in a 1. 3-Cubic-foot capacity. It also has 10 power settings. One of the highlights here is the Turbo Defrost, which generates a seamless stream of power for consistent, evenly prepared food without overcooking. The advanced Turbo Defrost speeds up defrosting time and works very well. You’ll love that fast time defrost. The built-in automatic genius sensor adjusts power and times based on different foods. Other features include 7 preset menu items, a quick-minute timer, a delayed start, and the all-important child safety lock.
The Genius sensor measures the amount of steam produced during cooking and signals the oven’s microprocessor to calculate the remaining cooking time, no matter the power level. This is a great way to get those potatoes reheated. At 1100 watts of power, this is a great Panasonic microwave oven with some great cook functions.
Award: Quietest Countertop Microwave
Watts: 900 | Capacity: 0.9 cubic feet | One Touch: Six Pre-programed functions, Defrost | Power Levels: 10
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: This microwave was the quietest that we tested and is very capable of cooking your food besides.
The Toshiba EM925A5A-BS compact microwave delivers only 900 watts of cooking power, but it makes up for that by being a very quiet microwave, having 10 power settings, and a digital control panel. It also packs in a kitchen timer and can defrost your food by time or weight. It also offers a one-touch start for six pre-programmed functions like popcorn, potato, pizza, frozen vegetable, beverage, and dinner plate.
We also liked the power saving mode and of course the sound on/off option. Rounding it all out is the child safety lock. It only has a 0.9 cubic foot capacity, but the noise level and other features make up for that. If your kitchen is already noisy enough, this model is perfect.
Read More: How Can You Clean A Microwave
Don’t Go Too Large: While a 2.2 cubic foot (Or cu ft) countertop microwave may sound impressive, that’s a huge model, and you may not have enough space or need for it overall. Don’t go for the biggest microwave you can find without thinking about what you actually need first. Smaller countertop microwaves exist for a reason! Your microwave’s power should be only what your family needs, not something made for a restaurant. That said, if you want to find one with the right power, compare models like the LG MC2846BG vs LG MC2846SL or the Panasonic NN SE785S vs NN SD775S, before you buy.
Forgetting How You Already Use a Microwave: Those presets and customization options may look fun on the surface, but are you really the type of person who’s going to use them? If your approach to using a microwave is more focused on pressing the 30-second button a few times and forgetting about it, then you probably don’t need much customization – just look for automatic sensors instead.
Related: Microwave+Styrofoam = Bad
Not Measuring for the Cord and Shape: Countertop microwaves have cord length and space specs that you should take special note of before you buy. How far does the cord need to reach an outlet in your kitchen? Is that corner really big enough? Find the answer before you make a purchase – especially online when you can’t eyeball it on your own. For more details, try comparing the differences between over-the-range vs countertop microwaves.
Not Capping the Base: Countertop microwaves come with a variety of short legs, some friendly to countertops and some…less so. If you have a valuable or vulnerable countertop, don’t hesitate to cap the legs with extra protection when you buy.
Sometimes the best countertop microwave is only the start of your plans. If you have higher aims in mind like convection cooking, it’s alright to consider over-the-range microwaves or a countertop microwave/convection oven combo, which comes with plenty of extra sensors and automatic features. Convection ovens, like the toaster oven, are a great kitchen accessory, much larger than countertop microwaves, and can fit and cook a frozen pizza. Just make sure you know how many watts are in the microwave you’re getting.
If you prefer countertop convection, you might as well have another gadget built-in. If you’re outfitting a whole kitchen, make sure to check the best blender reviews and the latest news about oven tech too. If you want something to coach you in cooking, consider the high-tech MAID oven. If you’re worried a microwave will lead to overeating, think about getting a kSafe as well! Lastly, consult our buying guide to get the latest news and reviews on kitchen appliances so that you can buy the best microwave and enjoy your microwave’s cooking.
Many microwaves today come with special features like a grill function for instance. Don’t be overwhelmed and mainly pay attention to how well it cooks your food. They also come in many colors and styles, as well as modern stainless steel exterior designs. Some are black stainless steel, or brushed stainless steel microwaves. There is something for every kitchen that will go with your stand mixer, air fryer, food processor, bread makers, coffee makers, and other appliances. There are even retro countertop models and models that are smart and compatible with your smart home. No worries though as our buyer’s guide will help you choose the right one whether you buy on Amazon or at a retail store.
Some common microwave brands include Danby Designer, GE Profile, Hamilton Beach, Panasonic, and Toshiba.
These brands make some of the most popular models like the Panasonic nnsd681s, Panasonic nnsd945s countertop built-in microwave, the GE jes2051snss, Panasonic nnsn966s, Toshiba em131a5cbs microwave oven, to name just a few solid countertop microwave ovens.