Best Microwaves

Updated: Nov 14, 2023 9:50 PM
best microwaves featured image that shows the top three best microwave models

Your microwave is one of the most essential pieces of your kitchen appliances, 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 (OTR 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.

Top 5 Best Microwaves Compared

#1 Panasonic NN-SN966S Microwave

Award: 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.

Read Full Review: Panasonic NN-SN966S

  • High tech controls
  • Great sensor performance
  • Stylish stainless steel
  • May not be intuitive for all users
  • Some issues with defrosting accurately

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 food, 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. It also uses Inverter technology for constant cooking power and shorter cooking time.

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 or pre-programmed settings 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

Award: 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.

Read Full Review: Toshiba EM925A5A-SS Microwave Oven

  • Accurate sensor heating
  • Customization for multi-stage and favorite cooking times
  • A high failure rate within a year of use

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 cooking power settings. and 6 preprogrammed settings for pizza, popcorn, potato, frozen vegetable, beverage, and dinner plate.

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

Award: 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.

Read Full Review: GE JNM3163RJSS

  • Easy to use
  • Good venting system
  • Accurate cooking sensor
  • Bland design
  • Dark buttons

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

Award: 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.

Read Full Review: AmazonBasics Microwave

  • Has all features you may require
  • A Proven brand
  • Offers good value for money
  • Slightly more expensive
  • Buttons may require a little more force

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. The microwave can work manually without a voice command, but its features will be limited unlike with the presets and controls you get with Alexa. 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 Microwave

Award: 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.

Read Full Review: Cuisinart CMW-200

  • Easy to clean
  • It has grill capabilities
  • It makes the food warmer quickly
  • Noisy
  • Very hard button

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 9 x 12 inch 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.

Beginner’s Guide To Microwaves

The kitchen microwave has become an essential part of the modern kitchen in domestic and commercial settings. Of course, you’ve probably used a microwave before, but how much do you truly know about this quick-cooking appliance? In the microwave’s almost 80 year history, they have gone from a cumbersome curiosity to a feature-rich machine that has a place in nearly every home. But, as with many common devices, the list of microwaves on the market can seem overwhelming if you’re in the market for a new model. Don’t fret! We’ve put together an extensive guide to help you find and use your perfect microwave.

What Actually Is A Microwave?

You may have asked at some point: what exactly does a microwave do? A microwave oven is a kitchen appliance that uses a component called the magnetron to create heated electrons, relaying electromagnetic waves into the interior cavity. These ultra-hot particles work to quickly and efficiently cook ingredients.

Did You Know?

When Was the Microwave Oven Invented? Percy Spencer is the credited inventor of the microwave. Developed after WWII, Percy introduced the “Radarange” in 1946.

How Do Microwaves Function?

If you’ve ever wondered how it is that microwaves function, it’s through using something called a magnetron to create electromagnetic waves, sometimes called microwaves. A microwave magnetron is the primary component of the appliance. It is an oscillator that releases heated electrons that work to cook food. The energy from the electrons heats up the liquids found in all ingredients, resulting in efficient and quick cooking.

Did You Know?

When Did The Microwave Oven Become Commercially Available? Although the microwave was invented in 1946, it was only advertised to businesses. It became commercially available from Raytheon in 1967.

What Can You Use A Microwave For?

The most popular task for a microwave oven is to reheat leftovers or to cook frozen dinners. Other popular tasks include making popcorn, steaming food and cooking. Cooking in a microwave is extremely easy, though the process varies depending on the make and model. The different settings and power levels of different microwaves means that cooking in a microwave is slightly different for everyone.

Did You Know?

When Did Microwaves Become Popular? When microwaves were introduced to consumers in 1967, they were expensive and only adopted by about 1% of the US. However, by the mid to late 80s, over half of US households owned a microwave.

What Are Microwave Ovens Made Of?

Microwaves are generally made of the same materials across most brands. Most microwave oven manufacturers use a treated metal container to house the microwave’s vital components. In addition, the solid metals repel and contain the electromagnetic radiation from the magnetron. Outside the typical microwave oven, you can find exhaust ports and a keypad to control cooking time and power levels, as well as the cord and plug you use to power the appliance.

Did You Know?

How Long Does A Microwave Oven Last? Microwaves last, on average, around seven years with regular use. Ensure your microwave boasts a healthy lifespan by performing regular maintenance and cleaning procedures and by plugging it into a surge protector.

How To Choose A Microwave

Step 1. Where Are You Putting This Microwave?

Before you buy, think about where you can fit a microwave in your kitchen. There’s no sense in looking at large commercial-grade units if you have nowhere to put them. That said, you may have some space above your oven, on your refrigerator, or your kitchen island. Finding the perfect microwave often relies on the space you have for it. Essentially, there are three standard placements for microwaves. If you’re looking to avoid the setup that goes into built-in microwaves, compare them with countertop models, which are compact and fit on your counter. If you’re rather avoid taking up counter space, compare countertop models with over-the-range models, which usually go over your oven and work with your vent system.

STAT: The humble microwave is basically universal in the United States. Over 90% of US households have a microwave of some kind, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Step 2. Choosing The Right Sized Microwave

Now that you have a spot picked out for your microwave, you should have a better understanding of how big a microwave you can have. While most models will accommodate most standard dinner plates, you should investigate specialist models if you plan on using it for commercial cooking. So grab a tape measure and a notepad, and prepare to find the right size microwave for you. You’ll want to measure the microwave before you take it home, and check its internal volume. Remember, the size of your microwave can’t be “cut down”, so make sure it fits before you buy!

Step 3. Do You Need More Than Just A Microwave?

While microwaves are an obvious choice for a cooking appliance, there may be better options you haven’t considered. From toaster ovens to hot plates, you have many alternative choices. In addition, microwaves come with different options for convection, inverter, and conventional microwaves. Pay attention to the recipes you want to make, which may lead you to the right appliance. You may find that you need convection heating more than standard microwave heating. Alternatively, you may find that the results that inverter microwaves give you are better than convection models.

Step 4. How Much Wattage Does My Microwave Need?

You may be wondering how many watts your microwave is. Manufacturers rate microwave ovens by how many watts of power they generate at the maximum level. Most traditional microwaves fall between 600-1000 watts of power, but commercial models can offer almost 2000 watts of power. In general, higher wattages cook food faster. Still, the increased power comes at a higher price tag compared to affordable microwave ovens, and may put strain on your circuit breaker box, so keep that in mind!

Step 5. Do You Want Any Special Features?

A conventional microwave and basic preset functions may only get you so far, especially as you get more skilled in the kitchen. Just as some think you need special tools for fancy food, a suitable microwave should have an extensive feature set. Modern microwaves have customizable power levels and dynamic cooking sensors for the perfect meal, and the new wave of smart microwaves feature things like voice command options and other smart features. Your microwave power level controls how long your unit uses microwave energy on your food during a cooking session. If you see “sensor cooking” as a feature, it means the unit can monitor food as it cooks and adjust power and cook times dynamically. Finally, if you notice microwaves boasting ceramic or stainless steel interiors, know that a ceramic microwave offers an affordable and easy to clean interior, while stainless steel is easier to clean but more expensive.

Step 6. How Much Should You Expect To Pay?

There are countless makes and models of microwaves on the market. For starters, a basic home microwave can cost as little as $50, while a larger countertop unit might set you back up to $500 for a premium model and between $200-$300 for a more basic unit. Over-the-range microwaves (OTR microwave) will drive the expense up, but only slightly. For example, the price range for OTR microwaves is about $150 to $600, but you should spend at least $400 for a feature-rich and long-lasting model. Finally, if you run a commercial kitchen, an excellent commercial microwave will cost between $800 and $2000.

Types of Microwaves

Microwaves By Placement

Microwaves By Size

Microwaves By Features

Top Microwave Brands

Owning A Microwave

There’s more to owning a traditional microwave than sticking food in it and hitting the power button. While using a microwave is often that simple, there are times you’ll need to get a little more involved. For example, you should know how to perform simple fixes for issues like lingering smells, hot spots and cold spots, and worn door switches. In addition to repairs, you want to know the best practices of food preparation when using a microwave. It may sound overwhelming, but we can help. Read our guide and we’ll walk you through the basics of owning a microwave and getting the best results possible.

Cleaning Your Microwave

Every appliance eventually gets dirty, and microwaves are no exception. Since you’ll be warming up food with one, it’s inevitable that your microwave will get dirty, whether it be its interior or its exterior. For that reason, we’ve detailed multiple ways to make cleaning your microwave easier, from what to use to scrub it down to what you should be cleaning.

Insider Tip

Try not to put anything made of metal into your microwave. Large amounts of solid metal can damage the microwave itself as the waves bounce off the metal surface and back into delicate equipment. Very small amounts, like a spoon, is less likely to cause problems, but can become super-hot. Information courtesy of MIT.

Microwave Accessories

There are plenty of neat and useful microwave oven cooking accessories out there. There are rice cookers, pasta cookers, steam cookers, microwave plate covers, bacon crispers, and more. Accessories for the humble microwave are usually aimed at helping you handle food more safely, help avoid uneven cooking, and keep your microwave’s interior cleaner for longer.

STAT: Cooking equipment contributes to 49% of the fires in the home. That includes microwave fires! Don’t leave microwaves running unattended for long periods of time, and don’t put things you shouldn’t in one! Remember that most microwaves have a handy feature: child locks. Use them! Information courtesy of the NFPA.

Common Microwave Repairs

While you may think a broken microwave requires a trip to the appliance repair shop, there are multiple common microwave repairs you can do at home. For example, you may need to replace the center plate or the components underneath it to keep it spinning. You might also need to pick up a basic tool kit for some jobs.

  • In time, a microwave’s door may break. It’s the most used part of the microwave other than the internal electronics, so knowing how to replace a broken microwave door is important.
  • You can replace a broken microwave oven door switch with a screwdriver and a replacement interlock switch. After removing the fractured switch from the assembly and installing the new one, simply reconstruct the microwave to fix the issue.
  • Before disassembling a microwave, exercise caution to ensure that it is not plugged in. Additionally, make sure all of your tools are insulated and that you are wearing insulated work gloves.
  • The magnetron is a vital component for a microwave. If it breaks, then repairing the magnetron becomes your number one priority, because the microwave won’t work without it.

Insider Tip

Running A Microwave While It’s Empty: More than likely, nothing will happen from running a microwave empty. That said, there is a chance you’ll damage the magnetron which lets your microwave heat food.

Common Troubleshooting Tips For Microwaves

While microwave ovens are generally straightforward to operate, sometimes the unexpected happens, and your microwave won’t work. For example, your microwave might start when you close the door, or the push button might not work. Another common issue is the vent fan kicking on at unexpected times. So even if your microwave is currently operational, it’s still a good idea to familiarize yourself with common fixes.

Microwave Installation

Installing a countertop microwave is an extremely simple process. Just make sure you have the space and that there is a viable outlet nearby to plug into. A range microwave, cabinet microwave or microwave drawer, however, will require more work.

  • Installing Microwaves Into A Cabinet: Installing a built-in microwave right into a cabinet is a complicated process that requires specialized tools and know-how. Read the instructions thoroughly or hire a professional. Uninstalling a built-in microwave is just a matter of working backwards.
  • Removing A Microwave From Wherever It Is Installed: Removing a microwave can be simple, in the case of countertop models, or complicated, such as with over-the-range models. Follow the instructions and take your time with it.

STAT: Microwaving radiation is what’s destroying the nutrients in your food? No, microwaves destroy nutrients the same way ovens or pan frying something does: when food gets too hot, the nutritional content of food can suffer. Information courtesy of Harvard.

Cooking Using A Convection Microwave

You can use two different cooking modes in a convection microwave oven. Place your food inside the unit, set your cook time, and press start to begin the cooking process for the microwave setting. Preheat the unit to your desired temperature for convection cooking and place your food inside, removing it when your cooking timer goes off.

  • Cooking Bacon In A Microwave: Preparing slices of bacon in your microwave takes only minutes of cook time, and is just as flavorful as using traditional methods.
  • Using A Microwave To Make Pizza Mugs: To make a pizza mug, you need a microwavable mug or small bowl and five minutes. Gather your ingredients prior to starting for a quicker process.
  • Making The Perfect Popcorn: There are several ways to make perfect popcorn in a microwave, including following the instructions with bagged popcorn, using loose kernels and a dedicated accessory, or going the convection heating route. We have several great recommendations for popcorn to make at home.
  • Using A Microwave To Bake: Baking with the convection oven mode allows you to create the same beloved dishes that you once had to put in the oven. Through a few simple settings found on your control panel and proper usage of the rack, you can manage to bake quality meals with greater efficiency.

Insider Tip

Arrange anything you want to reheat so that the thick parts face towards the walls of the microwave. Make sure to flip and stir food frequently, too. Doing this makes sure everything reheats evenly, and keeps you from biting into something that’s burning hot on one end and ice cold in the middle.

Making Your Microwave Kosher

If you are looking to make your microwave Kosher, start by cleaning it thoroughly and letting it sit idle for 24 hours. After that, fill a cup with water and heat it for ten minutes, allowing the steam to sit inside the microwave. Repeat this step as necessary until the interior is completely clean.

Disposing Of Your Microwave

Are you trying to toss out your microwave? If your microwave is still working, try to sell it online or to a thrift store. If it is broken, you can head to a dedicated e-waste recycling center, an electronics store, or contact the original manufacturer for suggestions.

Donating An Old Microwave

You can donate an old but functioning microwave at thrift centers such as Goodwill, Salvation Army, and others. If the microwave is not functioning, you should bring it to an electronics recycling center or any location that receives and/or processes e-waste.

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