Like so many 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 — if initially gross — 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, the technology has improved (and shrunk considerably) since then, and the cost has gone way down, too. Where early microwaves cost thousands, today you can get a much more powerful and compact one for less than a hundred. There are still differences between countertop microwaves, though. Higher watt options will heat your food quickly and more evenly than lower watt options, and newer models are increasingly being outfitted with smart technology.
While microwaves are easily written off as being for those who can’t cook, they’re handy for tons of things outside of making frozen meals. Microwaves are frequently used by professional chefs in fine dining establishments for certain tasks, and you can use a microwave for everything from peeling garlic to steaming fish (just don’t try that at work). Suffice to say, microwaves are still an essential kitchen gadget. So, embrace the convenience by trying one of the options below. They include powerful, high wattage options, as well as a voice-controlled microwave.
1. Panasonic Microwave
This microwave is available in two sizable options: 1.6 or 2.2 cubic feet. It boasts a powerful 1250 watts which means it cooks more quickly. Plus, it’s powered with inverter technology, which cooks more evenly and keeps food warm longer.
2. Toshiba Microwave
This microwave has a sleek, stainless steel exterior. It has a sizable interior capacity of 1.2 cubic feet, and it produces 900 watts of power. The sound can be turned on and off, which is perfect for sneaking in a late-night snack without waking anyone up. It adjusts power automatically while cooking, making for evenly heated meals.
3. Sharp – Carousel Microwave
As the name implies, the Sharp Carousel microwave has a turntable for more even cooking. It has a stainless steel finish to fit in with modern kitchen decor. It’s has 1.1 cubic feet of interior space, and it’s a good option for kitchens where countertop space is limited. A convenient push release pops the door open.
4. Breville – the Combi Wave Convection Microwave
The cost might seem steep for a microwave, but it’s not just a regular microwave. In addition to standard microwave functions, this grill can work as a convection oven and grill, making it a versatile machine. The larger interior makes it well suited for the avid home cook. Inverter technology helps ensure more even heating results.
Breville - the Combi Wave Convection Microwave
5. GE Mid-Size Stainless Steel Microwave
This mid-size (and mid-price) option is a versatile pick that ticks off most of the important boxes. It’s 1.1 cubic feet and has 950 watts of power, and the turntable design helps ensure more even cooking. One-touch controls help during busy mornings, and a push release pops the door open.
6. Samsung 1.2 Cu Ft Countertop Convection Microwave
Looking for a powerful and versatile option that can perform a variety of tasks? This Samsung microwave features a convection oven, grill and microwave capabilities. This option is unique, because instead of a traditional swing door, it has a drop door. That makes it feel more like a microwave. The benefit is that you can install it in a wall and not have the door orientation be an obstacle. However, you can still use it as a regular countertop microwave.
7. Galanz Microwave
Usually, the nicest thing you can say about a microwave’s aesthetics is that they aren’t ugly. Not so with this genuinely stylish option from Galanz. It has a rounded window and a traditional pull-handle, and it’s available in retro colors like mint and pale blue (you can also get it in black, but why would you?). It has built-in programs like defrost, reheat, and, of course, potato.
8. Farberware Classic Microwave Oven
Faberware’s basic microwave has 1000 watts of power and 1.1 cubic feet of internal cooking space, and the glass turntable rotates your food and makes for more even cooking results. It has a traditional door handle for opening and closing, and the added child lock keeps your family safe. Ten power levels and a memory function ensure consistent quality every time.
Farberware Classic Microwave Oven
9. AmazonBasics Microwave
The AmazonBasics microwave is a good compact option for smaller counters. It has Alexa compatibility. If you have an Echo device, you can control a wide range of features with your voice. It’s an inexpensive option, despite its smart technology.