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Microwaves are often written off as devices for people who can’t cook. However, these versatile devices are handy for much more than warming up leftovers or making popcorn. The best countertop microwave ovens are frequently used by professional chefs in fine dining establishments and can be used for everything from peeling garlic to steaming fish (just not in the office kitchen, please. Suffice to say, microwaves are essential kitchen gadgets for every level of home chef.
When it comes to choosing the best microwave oven for your home, there are three types of devices to choose from: countertop, over-the-range and built-in.
Each device type has its positives and restrictions. Because they can be easily moved, countertop microwave ovens are the most popular and convenient option for most households, though you may want to consider popular microwave alternatives.
What to Consider Before Buying a Countertop Microwave Oven
From basic to feature-filled devices, there is a countertop microwave oven for every household. To find the right device for your home, consider the following factors:
- Internal Capacity: The capacity of your microwave oven makes a difference to the size and amount of food you can defrost, reheat or warm-up. If you’re dealing with family-size meals, it’s probably worth looking at devices above 1.2 cubic feet. However, if you’re only preparing small portions, 0.7 to 1.2 cubic feet will likely be enough.
- Wattage: The greater the microwave wattage, the more power it has to heat your food. However, you will likely find that devices with higher wattages also have higher price tags. When it comes to making a decision, consider how fast you want your food cooked and whether the accompanying increase in features — and often size — is worth the price tag increases.
- Features: Higher-end countertop microwave ovens may include features like the ability to control the microwave via a smartphone app or intelligent tech that can adjust internal settings to deliver more consistent results. Other devices may also be able to air fry, broil and bake food.
- Style: You can find retro-style countertop microwave ovens for budget-friendly prices and stainless steel options for much more. Decide what microwave oven style is best suited to your kitchen decor and there’ll likely be one for your style and budget.
Embrace the convenience that the best countertop microwave ovens provide and read on to discover our top picks. We’ve included devices for all budgets and household sizes. Each device is also well-reviewed by users and represents great value for money.
1. Galanz Retro Microwave Oven
Usually, the nicest thing you can say about a microwave’s aesthetic is that it isn’t ugly. This isn’t the case with the Galanz GLCMKA07BER-07 Retro Microwave Oven. The genuinely stylish device sports a rounded window and a traditional pull handle. It’s also available in several retro colors, including mint and pale blue (you can also get it in black, but why would you?). Furthermore, built-in programs like defrost, reheat and potato make for a user-friendly and more relaxing experience.
2. BLACK+DECKER Digital Microwave Oven
With a price tag under $100, this BLACK+DECKER EM720CB7 Digital Microwave Oven is ideal for households on a tighter budget. The stainless steel microwave features six auto-cook presets that save time and deliver a more user-friendly experience. There are also 10 power levels to choose from and a safety lock for homes with children. Additionally, the device is backed by more than 9,500 five-star ratings and comes with either a 0.7 or a 0.9 cubic feet capacity.
3. COMFEE’ Retro Microwave
This 0.9 cubic feet device comes in either green, red or apricot and features the soft, rounded edges and shiny, silver accents you would expect to see in a retro-era microwave. You’ll also find a handle for easier door opening and nine presets to choose from, with menu options including popcorn, pizza, potato, pasta and soup.
4. Toshiba Smart Countertop Microwave
With more than 30,000 five-star ratings from Amazon users, this Toshiba EM131A5C-BS Countertop Microwave is the most popular option on our list. The device has a sleek, stainless steel exterior and a sizable interior capacity of 1.2 cubic feet. With 900 watts of power and the ability to turn the sound on and off, it’s ideal for sneaking late-night snacks without waking people up. The smart device can also be controlled using your voice alone or the accompanying smartphone app. Furthermore, the microwave automatically adjusts the power during heating to ensure your meals are evenly cooked.
5. Farberware Professional Microwave Oven
The Farberware Professional FMO12AHTBKE Microwave Oven has 1100 watts of power and 1.2 cubic feet of internal cooking space. The glass turntable rotates during heating to deliver more evenly cooked food. It also sports a traditional door, a lock to keep children out and an easy-clean interior for faster and easier post-use cleanups. Additionally, the 10 power levels and smart sensor cooking technology ensure your food is cooked exactly how you want it to be.
6. Samsung 1.9 Cubic Feet Countertop Microwave in Stainless Steel
Samsung makes some of the best appliances in the world, full stop. Right now, the company has heavily discounted many of its most popular home appliances, including this handsome stainless steel countertop microwave. With an extra large 1.9-cubic feet capacity and 950W of power, this microwave features a stainless steel finish and a ceramic interior. For the price, this is the best value, as you’re getting a premium microwave for under $200, making this the best countertop microwave of 2022 for budget-conscious shoppers.
7. Sharp Carousel Microwave
As the name suggests, Sharp Carousel Microwave has an actively moving turntable to produce more evenly cooked results. The device’s 1.4-cubic feet capacity and 12.8-inch plate also allow it to accommodate larger food items than your average microwave. 1000 watts of power, an LED display with touchscreen controls and Amazon Alexa compatibility make this a great option for every household, big or small. This is further backed by the attractive stainless steel finish that blends in with modern kitchen decor and the convenient push-pop release door that doesn’t stick out or waste space.
8. GE 3-in-1 Countertop Microwave Oven
BEST SMALL MICROWAVE
The GE 3-in-1 Countertop Microwave Oven is a compact device that offers users an impressive amount of cooking versatility. Why is this one of the best small microwaves on this list? Despite its small 1.0 cubic feet capacity, it still offers 1,050W of power, which is more than your typical countertop appliance. The one-touch controls can help save important seconds during busy, hectic mornings while the choice of air frying, broiling and convection cooking make this device more than just your average microwave.
8. LG NeoChef Countertop Microwave
EASIEST TO CLEAN
With its 2.0 cubic feet capacity, this LG NeoChef Countertop Microwave is ideal for users looking to cook or thaw larger items. It features a smart inverter to deliver precision cooking without overheating. And you’ll find LG’s EasyClean interior makes post-use cleanups quick and easy. The microwave also comes with a unique, hexagon-shaped stabilizer ring that measures 16 inches across to help prevent items from tipping over during cooking. Furthermore, this simple yet stylish device comes in standard stainless steel or a black stainless steel finish.
10. Breville Smooth Wave Countertop Microwave Oven
You may assume this Breville Smooth Wave Countertop Microwave Oven is worth investing in for its stylish look alone, but its features make it stand out from the crowd. Sensor iQ technology and 15 built-in smart presets help ensure cooking, reheating and defrosting with this 1250-watt, 1.2-cubic-feet device is simple. For further user convenience, the microwave’s door is 80% quieter than previous models, while the whole thing runs 50% more silently. Plus, there’s a child lock, a mute button and an easy-grab handle.
9. Panasonic Microwave Oven
The Panasonic NN-SN936B Microwave Oven is the largest device on our list. It boasts 2.2 cubic feet of internal capacity and 1250 watts of power, meaning it can handle and cook large items more quickly than many of its competitors. This family-size microwave also uses inverter technology to cook food more evenly and can automatically adjust cooking temperatures and times depending on what’s inside. Additionally, the device’s sleek design, which comes in either black or white, can fit in with a range of kitchen decor.
12. Samsung Powergrill Countertop Convection Microwave
Looking for a powerful and versatile device that can perform a variety of tasks? This Samsung Powergrill Countertop Convection Microwave could be the answer with its convection oven, grill and microwaving capabilities. The 1.2-cubic-feet capacity device is also unique on our list, as instead of a traditional swing door, it features a drop door. This is a handy benefit if you are thinking of installing it in a wall and don’t want door orientation to be an obstacle. However, it is still possible to use it as a regular countertop microwave.
11. Panasonic HomeChef 4-in-1 Microwave Oven
The Panasonic HomeChef 4-in-1 Microwave Oven lets you air fry, bake, broil and microwave. This space-saving microwave oven comes supplied with a wire rack, a 14.2-inch glass turntable and an air fryer basket. Its 1000-watt power output can be used to cook, reheat or defrost food in the 1.2-cubic-feet interior. In addition, the microwave’s internal walls are made from stainless steel to make cleaning quick and easy.
What Other Features Should You Look for in a Countertop Microwave Oven?
As mentioned above, the internal capacity, wattage and style of your microwave oven are important aspects to consider. But what features are available and most useful in a countertop microwave oven? Here, we look at some of the most convenient and modern options available.
- Inverter Technology: Inverter technology is a great option if you’re fed up with unevenly cooked results. This tech solves the issue by providing continuous heat at the same power. This helps prevent overheating, cold patches, flavor loss and obliterated food.
- Sensor Technology: By sensing the moisture, humidity and heat of the food inside, microwave ovens with built-in sensors can automatically adjust the settings and cooking power to deliver more consistent results. It also helps to prevent overcooked or undercooked food.
- Child Lock:This feature allows you to “lock” the control panel so no unauthorized or accidental use can occur. Unlocking the panel is usually done via a specified code or specific set of buttons to press.
- Versatility: Choosing a microwave oven that also functions as other kitchen devices is a great way to save space and money. Yes, the initial investment may be slightly more, but having a device that can also air fry, broil or bake reduces the need for a second device on your kitchen countertop.
- Smart Technology: Smart microwaves open up several useful capabilities. From controlling your microwave oven through a smartphone app to scanning barcodes and downloading cooking instructions, these intelligent devices can bring a whole new level of convenience to your kitchen.
- One-Touch Buttons: One-touch buttons certainly aren’t the latest technology, but they do make for a convenient user experience. Whether it’s for heating specific food types or blasting the food for a pre-programmed 30 seconds, a few one-touch buttons can make things more simple.
How Was the Microwave Oven Invented?
Like a lot of things we use today, the origins of the microwave lie in military technology. In 1945, a Raytheon engineer was working with a magnetron and found that a chocolate bar in his pocket melted. This incredible discovery led to the technology that lets you heat up the tea you forgot you left on the counter. Raytheon’s early attempts at marketing the microwave were not terribly successful, though. It was first called the Radarange, and it was taller than the average man and weighed more than the average bodybuilder.
Thankfully, microwave technology has improved (and shrunk considerably) since its initial discovery, and the cost has gone way down, too. Where early microwaves cost thousands, today you can get a much more powerful and compact unit for less than $100.