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? 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 exchanges 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!
- 1 Top Countertop Microwaves Compared
- 2 How We Choose the Best Countertop Microwave
- 3 Why You Should Buy a New Countertop Microwave
- 4 #1 Pick Toshiba EM131A5C-BS – Editor’s Choice/Best Mainstream Model
- 5 #2 Pick Panasonic NN-SN651BAZ – Most Powerful Model for Its Size
- 6 #3 Pick Cuisinart CMW-100 – Best Small Countertop Microwave
- 7 #4 Pick Amazon Basics Smart Microwave with Alexa – Easiest To Use Countertop Microwave
- 8 #5 Pick Panasonic Microwave With Genius Sensor
- 9 #6 Pick Toshiba EM925A5A-BS – The Quietest Countertop Microwave.
- 10 Countertop Microwave Features to Look For
- 11 Mistakes to Avoid
- 12 What Else You Should Know
Top Countertop Microwaves Compared
|Toshiba EM131A5C-BS||Panasonic NN-SN651BAZ||Cuisinart CMW-100|
|Rank||#1 - Editor's Choice/Best Mainstream Model||#2 - Most Powerful Model for Its Size||#3 - Best Small Countertop Microwave|
|Capacity||1.2 cubic feet||1.2 cubic feet||1 cubic feet|
|One Touch Buttons||30 Seconds, 6 One Touch Start buttons, Defrost Options||60 Seconds, Popcorn, Sensor Cook, Reheat||30 Seconds, Popcorn|
|Buy Now||Buy Now||Buy Now|
How We Choose the Best Countertop Microwave
Countertop microwave ovens are very versatile machines, so we took a look at 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.
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.
Why You Should Buy a New Countertop Microwave
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 up 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?
#1 Pick Toshiba EM131A5C-BS – Editor’s Choice/Best Mainstream Model
Price: $105 | 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 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 counter top 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.
Of course, the 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.
#2 Pick Panasonic NN-SN651BAZ – Most Powerful Model for Its Size
Price: $120.00 | 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 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 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 countertopbuiltin microwave with inverter is truly one of the best. Great for baked potatoes.
#3 Pick Cuisinart CMW-100 – Best Small Countertop Microwave
Price: $161.28 | Watts: 1000 | Capacity: 1 cubic feet | 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, then 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 allow you to control for 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.
#4 Pick Amazon Basics Smart Microwave with Alexa – Easiest To Use Countertop Microwave
Price: $59.99 | 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 beat.
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.
#5 Pick Panasonic Microwave With Genius Sensor
Price: 149.99 | 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, delay 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.
#6 Pick Toshiba EM925A5A-BS – The Quietest Countertop Microwave.
Price: 90.90 | 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 at 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 and having 10 power settings. 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.
Countertop Microwave Features to Look For
- The Right Kind of Door: The microwave door is particularly important if you have a countertop model and a place picked out for it to sit. Some doors pop open with a push of a button, others pull open with a handle, while some open left and others open right. If there’s a chance of your door banging into anything, you want as much control as you can get. Personally we’re fans of pull open doors which are a bit more durable in the long run, but it’s important you pick the door the matches your kitchen layout best.
- Easy-to-Clean Buttons: The best built-in microwave is generally above the action, but countertop models are right there in the mess…which means they are probably going to get quite a bit dirtier. It’s a lot easier to keep a white countertop microwave clean if you have a set of easy to clean touch controls that you can quickly wipe down.
- Inverter Technology: Only one of our models in this particular list uses inverter tech, but we’ve found that it’s excellent if you like a lot of control of your heating power and speed. If you’re the type of person to set the power at 10 and forget about it, inverters don’t really matter. Otherwise, think about them!
- Reheating, Defrosting, and Other Prep Functions: Countertop microwaves often play an active role in kitchens if you like to prepare big meals. They’re generally always reheating, defrosting, working a multi-stage cooking jobs, or more. If this sounds like your microwave, then make sure it has options for these tasks, especially with sensors that can adapt to the food you’re planning to cook.
Read More: How Can You Clean A Microwave
Mistakes to Avoid
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 microwaves power should be only what your family needs, not something made for a restaurant.
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.
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 to 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.
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.
What Else You Should Know
Sometimes the best countertop microwave is only the start of your plans. If you have higher aims in mind, it’s alright to consider overtherange 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. 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 microwaves 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. Some are black stainless steel, or brushed stainless steel microwave. There is something for every kitchen that will go with your stand mixer, air fryer, food processors, 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 buyers 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 countertopbuiltin microwave, the GE jes2051snss, Panasonic nnsn966s, Toshiba em131a5cbs microwave oven, to name just a few solid countertop microwave ovens.