Your microwave is one of the most essential pieces of your kitchen, but it’s not one that you typically think about. In fact, some people prefer the best air fryer these days. As such, we’ve examined and tested 20 of the best microwave models to find the best options for your kitchen.
We put each model through extensive cook and feature tests to measure things like capacity, premium features and ease of use. And the results of this buying guide are in: the Panasonic NN-SN966S Microwave exceeded the pack with its high-tech features and size to be named the best microwave on the market in 2020.
The 1,250-watt rating is enough to nuke even thick foods easily, the 2.2 cubic capacity is large enough for most dishes, and the slick screen interface makes it easy to choose from 10 power levels and sensors that detect moisture and more. Unless you absolutely need an over-the-range microwave, this Panasonic model will bring you into the new age quick cooking. Keep reading to learn more about the Panasonic and the other 9 microwaves that made the list.
- 1 Top 5 Best Microwaves Compared
- 1.1 #1 Panasonic NN-SN966S Microwave – Top Pick/Best Features
- 1.2 #2 Toshiba EM925A5A-SS Microwave – Best Countertop Microwave
- 1.3 #3 GE JNM3163RJSS Over-the-Range Microwave – Best Over The Range Microwave
- 1.4 #4 AmazonBasics Microwave – Best Small Microwave
- 1.5 #5 Cuisinart CMW-200 – Best Small Microwave
- 1.6 Why You Should Buy A New Microwave
- 1.7 Microwave Features to Look For
- 1.8 What Else You Should Know
- 1.9 Mistakes to Avoid
- 1.10 How We Choose the Best Microwave
Top 5 Best Microwaves Compared
#1 Panasonic NN-SN966S Microwave – Top Pick/Best Features
Watts: 1250 | Capacity: 2.2 cubic feet | One Touch: 30 Seconds, 14 auto-cook options | Power Levels: Automatic
WHY WE LIKE IT:The Panasonic NN-SN966S does everything well. That’s why it is our best microwave overall. It is top rated, with over 1,250 watts and 2.2 cubic feet of space to work with, you won’t have to worry about it being underpowered or wearing out too quickly.
But the model gets really impressive when you start looking at the programming options. Best Features- Panasonic’s handy, high-tech microwave can handle anything.
There’s a Genius Sensor ability to reheat or cook, which senses the steam coming off the food and programs accordingly, and it adds extra time based on what you are cooking in case the Genius Sensor doesn’t get it quite right.
The included turntable is easy to remove for cleaning, and the large programming screen allows you to specify power levels, cooking times, and menu options for shortcuts and more complex cooking tasks. If you aren’t a fan of all those automatic options, then there are an amazing 14 auto-cook options for menu buttons that can cook a specific kind of food. Even the start button stands out and is easy to use.
When you add in the competent wattage and the internal space, which is large enough for the bigger plates in your home, it’s tough to see what this Panasonic model doesn’t do right. This 2.2 cu ft microwave is a winner. Even the design is pleasantly modern and easy to clean in case of grease or stains. This microwave really does impress on every level…but it’s not an over the range model, which may limit your options.
#2 Toshiba EM925A5A-SS Microwave – Best Countertop Microwave
Watts: 900 | One Touch: 30 Seconds, 6 Menu Buttons | Power Levels: 10
WHY WE LIKE IT:Toshiba’s solid countertop model is especially affordable. The Toshiba EM925A5A-SS is a simple, powerful microwave that’s ideal if you want an effective countertop model that doesn’t try to confuse you with too many features.
It still offers excellent capabilities like nine different menu buttons for specific foods, but the design makes things easy without the need to learn any new controls. The model also sports an interior, Teflon-like finish called EasyClean, which is designed to allow you to wipe down spills easily (although if you are wondering how to clean a microwave that’s truly dirty, we’ve got some more detailed information for you). The model also comes in both standard and black stainless steel, although the black stainless version is a little more expensive, so you may lose out on the excellent cost savings that come with this Kenmore if you go for that option instead. It has 10 power settings.
Since this model is particularly affordable, this is a good time to mention that prices can fluctuate based on inventory and other factors. We can’t necessarily guarantee that our listed prices are the rule of law. The good news here is that they may drop and save you even more money! But this Toshiba model still remains one of the most affordable picks we found of the bunch.
#3 GE JNM3163RJSS Over-the-Range Microwave – Best Over The Range Microwave
Watts: 1,000 | Capacity: 1.6 cubic feet | One Touch: 30 Seconds, 2 Food Buttons, 6 Express Cook Options, Defrost, Beverage | Power Levels: 10
WHY WE LIKE IT: GE’s powerful over the range microwave has extra space. Extra options are plentiful here, including the ability to switch the turntable off, the ability to automatically choose power levels for foods, and detailed defrosting options.
There aren’t many one touch buttons, but you do get one for popcorn and one for potatoes, which are useful for nearly any type of microwave.
Over the range microwaves are a different sort of beast – they typically have extra features like air flow fans underneath their base (used to clear smoke off stoves, which can add to the cost) and tend to be larger than other options. With 300 CFM of air flow and two speed fan controls, this GE model can handle over the range tasks as necessary. That spacious 1.6 cubic ft countertop microwave is also great for larger dishes.
#4 AmazonBasics Microwave – Best Small Microwave
Watts: 700 | Capacity: 0.7 cubic feet | One Touch: 30 Seconds, 5 Menu Buttons | Power Levels: 10
WHY WE LIKE IT: This compact model gives up very little while saving on space. The specs for this Amazon model are decidedly lower than our other top picks – which is a necessity for the best compact microwave options.
While you only get 700 watts and 0.7 cubic feet of cooking space, you also get a smaller model that fits well in tiny spaces and corners (although you may have to adjust cooking times for a lower wattage depending on your past experience).
It’s a rare compact model that comes equipped with 10 power levels, but this AmazonBasics model offers them. It also has Alexa voice control, which feels almost too futuristic for a microwave. You save on space without giving up much of anything with this model, which we call a solid win! This 0.7 cubic ft microwave is awesome and worth the counter space. The control panel is easy to use and laid out well.
#5 Cuisinart CMW-200 – Best Small Microwave
Watts: 1,000 | Capacity: 1.2 cubic feet | One Touch: 30 Seconds, 3 Convection Roast Options, 6 Microwave Food Options, Express Food Options | Power Levels: N/A
WHY WE LIKE IT: If you’re interested in a classier microwave that goes above and beyond traditional features, this Cuisinart model is for more professional kitchens that require serious heating/reheating capabilities. Rich features, large space, and convection oven capabilities set this model apart.
The convection fans on this 1,000 watt microwave allow you to heat or cook foods in more traditional way, essentially turning the microwave into a convection oven on demand. There’s also a reversible grill rack and a 12-inch turntable crammed inside the unit’s 1.2 cubic ft microwave oven, depending on how you prefer to cook your meals.
The defrost options (varying by type or weight) are ideal if you want to warm something up with the microwave before cooking with the convection setting. If you have a busy kitchen and want multiple ways to cook foods (instead of just nuking the occasional popcorn bag), Cuisinart delivers. About the only thing that it’s missing is the ability to set power levels, but with all these other features, that’s a minor quibble to be had.
Why You Should Buy A New Microwave
What is a microwave ovens role in your home? Do you need the best compact microwave to fit on a tiny counter and travel with you when you switch apartments? Do you need the best built in microwave that works with your oven range? No matter your kitchen appliance situation, if you’re stuck with a clunky, ugly microwave, it’s time to improve your cooking situation.
A new microwave can provide extra options that you may not have not – including sensors for more accurate cooking times, inverter technology that creates more accurate power levels, and customized cooking menus for the food you love. If you do a lot of cooking, a modern microwave can also serve as an able assistance, with programmable defrosting, butter melting, and warm-up functions that make your cooking projects that much easier. One of these new models may also provide faster cooking times, child locks for great safety, and more consistent cooking/thawing for a variety of foods.
And let’s not forget about design! Today’s microwaves come in sleek, stainless steel frames that will look great in your kitchen and match your other appliances well. Microwave doors are easier to open, too. And if your current microwave is a little too small on the inside for your plates or cups, you can always upgrade to more cubic feet of space so you can use the dish of your choice! These microwaves cook your food better than ever.
Microwave Features to Look For
The devil is in the details folks.
- A Large Enough Capacity for Your Dishes
Capacity is a measurement of the inside cooking space in your microwave, and it can vary drastically from model to model. In other words, the dishes that fit into your old microwave may not fit into a new one…which is why capacity is an important feature for the best microwave brand. It needs to at least hold a dinner plate. Microwaves below 1 cu ft may not be large enough for all plates, platters, or tall mugs. Saving space is great, but don’t do it at the expense of the dishes you prefer to microwave.
Many microwaves, particularly larger versions, come with turntables, which turn your food as it is cooked. The feature isn’t particularly necessary except when microwaving large amounts of food, so it’s either going to come in very handy or be an unnecessary annoyance.Find out which! Some questions to ask include: what size of turntable to I want? Do I want a turntable that can be locked when necessary? Is the turntable easy to take out and clean?
- Sensors and Smart Features
In our experience, sensors and other smart features make microwaves more useful than they’ve been in the past. Technology that can detect the moisture in your food or note the size of what you’re cooking – and making cooking decisions for you based on that data – is almost always worthwhile. Just remember to give those sensor cooking features a try instead of ignoring them! It might make your baked potatoes perfect.A sensor reheat feature is good for reheating leftovers to perfection for instance, but might not be best for frozen vegetables. This cook setting is useless if you don’t use it. There are even specialized microwaves like the grill microwave and voice controlled models.
- Over the Range Features
If you need a new oven range microwave, then it needs to have the right features for your oven setup. Not only does it need to fit in the same space, but it also needs to handle the same (if any) venting capabilities. Our GE pick is a great option because it can fit in many different types of kitchens, but you need to match features to your requirements.Also when possible, always try to stick with the same brand as your oven for both aesthetics and compatibility. If you’re looking for the best wall oven/microwave combo, make sure features like gas lines and electricity are compatible before your purchase.
- The Right Kind of Door
Microwave doors generally come with either push-to-open buttons or handles, and they open either to the right or to the left. We’re fans of the door handle version, which allows you greater control and is easier on the long-term fate of the door. However, when it comes to direction make sure you note if you need a right-opening microwave to fit your kitchen’s layout.
- Easy-to-Clean Buttons
An under-appreciated feature of modern microwave is the button layout. If you’re wondering the best way to clean microwave surfaces, look for glass touch panels with no crevices that could hide dirt and grime for months without you knowing about it.
What Else You Should Know
Microwave brands like Toshiba microwave, the Homelabs countertop microwave oven, Hamilton Beach, Magic Chef, Sharp microwaves, and Panasonic microwave all put the latest technology into their appliances.
These brands make some of the best selling models on the market like the Toshiba em925a5abs, Toshiba em131a5cbs, Panasonic nnsn651b, the Toshiba em925a5abs microwave oven, the Amazonbasics microwave, Panasonic nnsd945s, GE Profile, the Panasonic nnsn966s, and the Cuisinart cmw200.
Microwave ovens come in a variety of styles to fit all your home decor needs. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about otr microwaves or countertop microwaves. Some are black stainless steel, others are shiny stainless steel finish for the modern kitchen. If you have retro decor, there is also a retro microwave for you. Many people prefer a stainless steel exterior. It is easy to find the right model that blends right into your kitchen and matches your, espresso machines, food processors, coffee makers, air fryers and other appliances. Many of today’s models can even work with other smart home devices if your home is a smart home.
In addition to our #1 Pick, you may want to take a look at similar devices to see what can complement your kitchen. Interested in the difference between toaster oven vs. microwave models? Take a look at the latest toaster oven news to find out how these units differ and which foods cook better in one vs. the other.
Of course, once you buy your favorite microwave model, you need to start thinking about what to put inside it! Fortunately, we can help there, too. We’ve also got answers if you’re wondering if styrofoam is microwave safe – or are trying to find the best microwave popcorn for movie night (even low-calorie options). You can also keep up with latest microwave inventions out there, like Samsung’s healthy frying microwave!
Our microwave buying guide has everything you need to make the right choice for your kitchen, but if you buy on Amazon, check out every Amazon reviewer for your favorite models and see what they had to say. After all, they have already purchased it. To see it in person, go to a store like Home Depot and get a first-hand look at all of their microwave ovens, overtherange microwave
or convection microwaves.
Mistakes to Avoid
- Not Measuring Before You Buy: We can not reiterate this enough: always measure and compare your space with the dimensions of the microwave you plan to buy beforehand. This is absolutely necessary if you have a cabinet or space specifically for a microwave, but it’s also important if you are buying a counter microwave. The best cheap microwave in the world isn’t going to you much good if it doesn’t fit in that corner when you’re short of kitchen space.
- Ignoring How Power Levels Work
If you really want microwave power levels that function accurately, look for a microwave with an inverter. What is an inverter microwave? Essentially, it uses a different type of microwave production that actually does change the power levels and heating. Set power to 5, and the inverter will make sure heating is at 50%. Other types of microwaves will use a cycling method, where the power is always set to 100% but at level 5 it cycles half as much as at level 10. Inverter technology tends to make power levels much more effective and sensible, but either way it’s important to know what you’re getting into.
- Not Adjusting for Wattage
Wattage is not only about size, but also about how powerful the microwave is. If your microwave has 1,000 watts of power or more, it’s going to be very effective at heating. If it has a lower wattage, you may need to temper your expectations: the best way to microwave a potato, for example, may vary based on wattage, especially if you’re making a big change from your old model to the new one.
- Ignoring Airflow and Additional Features
For an over the range microwave, you need the right kind of airflow for your setup, and you may need additional features like the ability to control oven range lights. Over the range units are specifically designed for these tasks, but they vary from model to model, so don’t get complacent when buying. Know what you need to keep your stove clear of smoke first!
- Buying Based on New Features and Not the Buttons You Use
This mistake can happen when buyers get a little too excited. When all you’re focused on is, “When did the microwave come out?” and “Does it have the latest features?”, then you’re ignoring how you currently use microwaves, which is just as important. If you don’t use any of those menu buttons or defrost features now, you probably won’t use them on a new microwave, either. Buy microwaves based on how you like to use them, not on the latest flashy features.
- Worrying About Radiation
“What is microwave radiation? Is it dangerous? Are microwaves safe?” We see these questions a lot, so let’s clear it up once and for all: this type of electromagnetic radiation can be dangerous at high levels, but we’ve been using microwaves for decades, and it’s never been a problem. This is because, from the mesh door to the locking mechanism, microwaves are specifically sealed to prevent radiation from escaping, and the design works really, really well. However, if your oven door is damaged or if you think something is wrong, call a contractor and have them test radiation levels. It only takes a few seconds, and then you’ll know for sure.
How We Choose the Best Microwave
To find the best microwave brand choices and ultimately find out what is the best microwave, we looked at several important specifications. Let’s talk about them a little to give you a frame of reference:
SIZE AND CAPACITY
We took into account both the best compact microwaves for people with less space and more temporary setups, as well as extra-large models for huge oven ranges. But the inside space matters even more, and for the average microwave we preferred to see capacity at least over 1 cubic foot, if not closer to 1.5. For smaller models we went down to 0.7 cubic feet (although there are impressive models out there that are even smaller).
ONE TOUCH OPTIONS
One touch buttons take care of all the work for you. We particularly like the buttons that combine sensors with a preprogrammed cooking time to automatically adjust based on the food you put inside the microwave. One touch buttons for common foods like popcorn, potatoes, hot dogs and more are also a plus – as are time-saving buttons for immediate reheating, melting, defrosting, and so on.
Menu buttons offer more complex options than one-touch buttons. We gave a microwave credit if it allowed you to program multi-stage cooking projects or combine express buttons with food buttons to create your own cooking plan. However, things can get too confusing, so it’s important that these menu buttons stay easy to read.
Larger microwaves tend to have 10 power levels to choose from. This is a good indication of a high-quality, customizable microwave (especially with inverter technology), but less necessary for compact models. Power levels are also closely related to wattage, which should be over 1,000 watts if possible.
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