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The Best Countertop Microwaves Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

The Best Countertop Microwaves of 2022

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The Best Countertop Microwaves Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

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Editor's Choice Product image of Cuisinart CMW-100
Best Overall

Cuisinart CMW-100

This mid-sized, mid-powered microwave is well-designed and performed well in our tests. Read More

Pros

  • Great performance
  • Bright interior light
  • Good size

Cons

  • Doesn't heat as quickly as some microwaves
  • Dim panel
Editor's Choice Product image of Magic Chef HMM1110B
Best Value

Magic Chef HMM1110B

This affordable microwave comes with 10 power levels and essential presets, as well as offering multi-stage cooking and three stylish finishes. Read More

Pros

  • Affordable
  • 10 power levels
  • Multiple finishes

Cons

  • None that we could find
Product image of Toshiba ML-EM45P

Toshiba ML-EM45P

This extra-large microwave offers multi-stage cooking, sensor cooking, and a few presets, making it straightforward and easy to use—although the panel isn’t always easy to see in the dark. Read More

Pros

  • Sensor cooking
  • Fine performance
  • Attractive design

Cons

  • Too large
  • Not the most even heating
Product image of Panasonic NN-SD975S

Panasonic NN-SD975S

This sleek stainless-steel microwave is meant for the precision cooker, uses cyclonic inverter technology to heat food from three directions, but takes up a lot of countertop space. Read More

Pros

  • Beautifully designed
  • Responsive buttons and dial
  • Heats food evenly

Cons

  • Takes up a lot of countertop space
Product image of Magic Chef MCM990ST

Magic Chef MCM990ST

This Magic Chef microwave heats mostly evenly, but it's very old-fashioned looking and didn't impress us in testing. Read More

Pros

  • Fine performance
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Old-fashioned design
  • Slightly small

You probably don’t think about how your microwave works often—you just want it to reheat your food quickly. The truth is, most microwaves are made by the same few manufacturers and perform almost identically to one another.

Since they’re so similar, it took us a while to do a testing-based microwave roundup. However, we realized many shoppers still want to know how evenly a microwave will reheat their dinner plate, how well it will fit into their kitchen, and how features differ. That’s why we put the best mid-priced countertop microwaves to the test.

After testing a dozen microwaves in our labs and comparing features, prices, user ratings, and more, we found the highly-rated Cuisinart CMW-100 Microwave Oven (available at Amazon for $179.95) is the best for most people, balancing size, wattage, and features.

Ultimately, you should pick the countertop model with the wattage you need and the control panel that makes sense to you, in the size that fits. But if you don’t know where to start, our recommendations are here to help.

Here are the best countertop microwaves we tested, ranked in order:

  1. Cuisinart CMW-100 1-Cubic-Foot Stainless Steel Microwave Oven
  2. Magic Chef 1.1 Cubic-Foot Countertop Microwave
  3. Toshiba EM45P Countertop Microwave oven with Smart Sensor
  4. Panasonic NN-SD975S Countertop Cyclonic Wave Inverter Microwave
  5. Magic Chef MCM990ST 900W Countertop Oven with Stainless Steel Front
  6. Black+Decker EM925AB9 Digital Microwave Oven
  7. Toshiba EM131A5C Microwave Oven with Smart Sensor
  8. Panasonic NN-SN65KB Compact Microwave Oven
  9. Panasonic NN-SN686S Countertop Microwave
  10. Amazon Basics Microwave
Cuisinart Microwave
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

The Cuisinart CMW-100 is our favorite countertop microwave for most people.

Best Overall
Cuisinart CMW-100
  • Dimensions: 20.5 x 15.25 x 12.8 inches
  • Capacity: 1 cubic feet
  • Power: 1000 watts

In a sea of average microwaves, the Cuisinart CMW-100 stands out. It hit almost every mark in testing and perfectly balances power, size, and features, making it the best countertop microwave for most people.

The first thing you’ll notice is its sleek stainless-steel-and-black exterior and convenient, elegant pull handle. It also has a bright interior light, so you won’t be fumbling around to see your food. Although not overloaded with features, this Cuisinart has multi-stage cooking and a number of extra presets including bacon, rice, and baked potatoes. It excelled in our popcorn test, popping kernels evenly without burning.

However, the control panel can be difficult to see in dim lighting, and the frozen dinner test left a few parts of the meal colder than we’d like despite following the box’s instructions. Still, the Cuisinart is much more impressive and distinct than almost every other microwave we’ve tested, and it would make a worthy addition to your kitchen counter.

Pros

  • Great performance

  • Bright interior light

  • Good size

Cons

  • Doesn't heat as quickly as some microwaves

  • Dim panel

Magic Chef 1.1 Cubic-Foot Countertop Microwave
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

The Magic Chef 1.1 Cubic-Foot Countertop Microwave is our favorite affordable countertop microwave.

Best Value
Magic Chef 1.1 Cubic-Foot Countertop Microwave
  • Dimensions: ‎23 x 18.5 x 14.5 inches
  • Capacity: 1.1 cubic feet
  • Power: 1000 watts

The surprisingly sturdy Magic Chef passed all our food tests with flying colors, and it's one of the few microwaves at this low price point that also offers multi-stage cooking.

While it's a pretty typical microwave, its average power and space is enough to handle most microwave tasks. With 10 power levels and essential presets, this model has everything you need. It is available in black, white, and stainless steel finishes, and it has almost retro-looking control panel.

Pros

  • Affordable

  • 10 power levels

  • Multiple finishes

Cons

  • None that we could find



Other Countertop Microwaves We Tested

Product image of Toshiba ML-EM45P
Toshiba ML-EM45P
  • Dimensions: 17.91 x 21.77 x 12.87 inches
  • Capacity: 1.6 cubic feet
  • Power: 1200 watts

The Toshiba EM45P Countertop Microwave Oven with Smart Sensor is the next-best performing microwave after our badge winners, and except for its size, it’s very similar to the rest of the mid-ranking units in this roundup. Its size may be useful to some, but it may be too large for people with small kitchens.

This unit excelled in the popcorn and frozen dinner tests, although it couldn’t heat tomato sauce to a suitable temperature in the recommended time. It offers multi-stage cooking, sensor cooking, and a few presets, making it straightforward and easy to use—but the panel isn’t always easy to see in the dark. Its aesthetic could be described as functional, rather than beautiful. Ultimately, this is a quality model, considering its size and price.

Pros

  • Sensor cooking

  • Fine performance

  • Attractive design

Cons

  • Too large

  • Not the most even heating

Product image of Panasonic NN-SD975S
Panasonic NN-SD975S Countertop Cyclonic Wave Inverter Microwave
  • Dimensions: 23.88 x 19.44 x 14 inches
  • Capacity: 2.2 cubic feet
  • Power: 1250 watts

We were excited to test the Panasonic NN-SD975S after several Reviewed readers asked us about cyclonic wave inverter technology. The patented technology means the microwave heats foods using radio waves that cover three directions—up/down, left/right, and front/back—rather than the usual two—left/right and up/down.

It's meant to help food heat evenly, and offer more consistent microwaving performance while heating multiple things in quick succession, like several bags of popcorn. However, our food tests didn't prove any real differences in successfully heating our food than models that rely on single inverter technology.

This stainless-steel microwave is a beauty though, and it's one of the best-looking kitchen appliances to come into the Reviewed labs. It includes three stages of multi-stage cooking and has more sensor cooking options than other microwaves we've tested. However, it is meant for the precision cooker, rather than your average user who just wants to quickly heat up leftovers, make a cup of tea, or pop some popcorn.

Its control panel includes actual buttons that depress, and it features a responsive dial that rotates smoothly. If you haven’t used a microwave with a dial instead of a numeric keypad, it may take a moment to get used to. Be aware that this microwave oven will require more countertop real estate than most.

Pros

  • Beautifully designed

  • Responsive buttons and dial

  • Heats food evenly

Cons

  • Takes up a lot of countertop space

Product image of Magic Chef MCM990ST
Magic Chef MCM990ST
  • Dimensions: 14.6 x 19.1 x 11.3 inches
  • Capacity: 0.9 cubic feet
  • Power: 900 watts

The Magic Chef MCM990ST Countertop Oven has a stainless steel front, but its looks are still on the dated side. It popped popcorn well and adequately heated frozen dinners and tomato sauce. It’s a fine, basic microwave at an affordable price, but it’s too small for more substantial cooking.

Pros

  • Fine performance

  • Affordable

Cons

  • Old-fashioned design

  • Slightly small

Product image of Black & Decker EM925AB9
Black & Decker EM925AB9
  • Dimensions: 19.1 x 14.8 x 11.5 inches
  • Capacity: 0.9 cubic feet
  • Power: 900 watts

The Black and Decker EM925AB9 Digital Microwave Oven is very similar to the Magic Chef MCM990ST, but with a more modern exterior and more features. It has a child lock, multi-stage cooking, and a variety of presets. It performed well in every test except for the tomato sauce test.

Pros

  • Useful presets

  • Modern look

Cons

  • Slightly small

  • Not very quick at heating

Product image of Toshiba EM131A5C-BS
Toshiba EM131A5C-BS
  • Dimensions: 17.1 x 20.5 x 12.8 inches
  • Capacity: 1.2 cubic feet
  • Power: 1550 watts

Based on reviews and specs, the Toshiba EM131A5C Microwave Oven with Smart Sensor looked like a top pick for affordable microwaves. Unfortunately, testing found it to be quite average. This mid-powered unit is aesthetically pleasing, with sensor cooking, multi-stage cooking, and a variety of presets.

This Toshiba excelled in the pork and popcorn tests, but it struggled to heat tomato sauce in the time given. It’s easy to use and quieter than other units we tested. Ultimately, this is a very standard microwave.

Pros

  • Useful presets

  • Smart sensor

Cons

  • Not very fast heating

  • Slightly oversized

Product image of Panasonic NN-SN65KB
Panasonic NN-SN65KB
  • Dimensions: 15.8 x 20.7 x 12.2 inches
  • Capacity: 1.2 cubic feet
  • Power: 1200 watts

The Panasonic NN-SN65KB Compact Microwave Oven is more expensive than most units in this roundup. Despite its “compact” name, it’s on the larger side, but it offers sensor cooking and comes in a variety of exterior finish options. It performed adequately in all our tests, only really excelling with popcorn.

For the price, we don’t think this is the right choice for most people—but it’s a perfectly fine option.

Pros

  • Adequate performance

  • Sensor cooking

Cons

  • Slightly oversized

  • Not the most even heating

Product image of Panasonic NN-SN686S
Panasonic NN-SN686S
  • Dimensions: 12.5 x 20.75 x 15.8 inches
  • Capacity: 1.2 cubic feet
  • Power: 1200 watts

Like the NN-SN65KB, the Panasonic NN-SN686S Countertop Microwave has 1200 watts of power, a 1.2-cubic-foot interior, and a variety of finishes. However, this model is more old-fashioned looking, and it has fewer presets. It also performed adequately in most tests. Neither of these Panasonic microwaves are worth writing home about, but the NN-SN65KB is the stronger option.

Pros

  • Adequate performance

Cons

  • Old-fashioned look

  • Slightly oversized

Product image of AmazonBasics Microwave
Amazon Basics Microwave
  • Dimensions: 17.3 x 10.1 x 14.1 inches
  • Capacity: 0.7 cubic feet
  • Power: 700 watts

This popular compact microwave from AmazonBasics has one feature that sets it apart from every other one we tested—it’s compatible with Alexa. But of all the microwaves we tested, this is the only one we vehemently do not recommend.

This tiny unit is too small and too weak to perform many basic tasks. It’s almost too small for a standard bag of popcorn. In testing, it struggled to pop popcorn and heat a frozen dinner. It’s easy to see why it’s the cheapest unit we tested.

Sure, the Alexa command aspect is a unique bonus, and the voice control options help keep the display panel uncluttered. On the other hand, it’s one more extra thing that can break, and it isn’t that useful. Since you have to physically walk over to put food in and take it out, commanding your microwave from afar isn’t helpful.

Pros

  • Smart device

  • Many presets

  • Inexpensive

Cons

  • Poor performance

  • Uneven heating

  • Low wattage

How We Tested Countertop Microwaves

The Tester

Hi all, my name is Julia MacDougall, and I’m the senior scientist here at Reviewed. I have a lot of experience with testing a wide variety of products—from water filter pitchers, fire extinguishers, and dehumidifiers to smart thermostats, STEM coding toys, and air purifiers. Most of the stuff I test isn’t food-related, so my tummy rumbled in excitement when I saw that I’d be putting these microwaves through their paces.

The Tests

Microwave tests - water test
Credit: Reviewed / Julia MacDougall

We ran each microwave through five different objective tests, in addition to our subjective evaluation.

People don’t think much about their microwaves, beyond whether they heat food or beverages in a timely fashion. However, many microwaves boast a number of neat and useful features. To try to get a grip on how well a given microwave can do its job, I subjected them to a battery of tests, including:

Water test: To get a sense of each unit’s power, we warmed up three cups of water for two minutes on the maximum power setting, then measured the temperature of the water. Typically, more powerful microwaves give us hotter water temperatures.

Tomato sauce test: Most microwaves have different power levels, so you can adjust the level at which your food is heated. To see if there’s actually a difference in the microwave’s power levels, we warmed up a cup of tomato sauce in a ceramic dish on level 2, level 6, and level 10 for 30 seconds each, measuring the temperature after each. If the power levels actually are different, then the rate of temperature change between the three stages should be distinctly different.

Popcorn test: One of the most obvious (and delicious) uses for a microwave is popping popcorn. Using the popcorn setting on each model, we popped a normal-sized bag. Once finished, we checked to see if either the bag or the popcorn was burnt, and recorded the number of unpopped kernels. The best microwaves can pop your popcorn without burning it and leave only a few kernels unpopped.

Hungry-Man test: If you don’t have the time or effort to spend cooking or assembling a meal kit, a frozen dinner is a tried-and-true way to quickly get food on the table.

We followed the microwave directions on the back of a Hungry-Man Boneless Fried Chicken dinner box. When it was done cooking, we looked at each of the four dinner components (two breaded chicken patties, mashed potatoes, corn, and a brownie) to see if they were evenly and/or thoroughly cooked. If the mashed potatoes were lukewarm while everything else was steaming hot, that microwave lost points.

Pork roast test: Reheating leftovers is another common reason to use a microwave. After thoroughly cooking four small boneless pork loins, we cut them up into smaller slices and let them cool in the fridge overnight.

The next day, we put four palm-size pork loin slices on a small plate, covered them with a paper towel, and cooked them on whatever setting was most appropriate for reheating approximately 8 ounces of meat. Once the microwave finished reheating the meat, we touched each piece of pork to determine if it was hot enough to eat.

A good microwave should not only pass these food tests, but it should make the user experience as easy as possible. When assessing each microwave, we looked for common pain points: non-responsive buttons, confusing or dimly-lit control panels and buttons, loud humming noises, or anything that would prevent the microwave from being easy to clean with a wet paper towel. Our favorites are both effective and user-friendly.

What to Look for When Buying a Countertop Microwave

When purchasing a countertop microwave oven, a few factors will help determine which model is right for you, including price, interior size and wattage, and extra features.

How Much Does a Microwave Cost?

Cuisinart Microwave with Popcorn 2
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

We suggest choosing a unit that will cost you between $100 and $200.

A microwave can cost anywhere from $20 to $2,000, which suggests a wide range of performance and quality. The truth is, very expensive models aren’t inherently better than the ones that go for around $100, because most are made by a handful of manufacturers and the core technology is all the same.

If you’re drawn to super high-end design, covet a ton of crazy features, or want a unit that’s built into your cabinetry, you will need to spend at least a couple hundred dollars on a microwave. But if you’re just looking for a countertop unit that will heat evenly and has some useful bonuses, we suggest choosing a unit that will cost you between $100 and $200.

The rest of your small appliance budget can be spent on a nice multi-cooker, air fryer, or fancy pizza oven.

What Size and Wattage is Right for Me?

Cuisinart Microwave with Popcorn
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

Make sure that the microwave you choose fits into your kitchen and meets your needs.

The two key microwave specifications are interior size (measured in cubic feet) and wattage. When shopping for a new unit, you’re guaranteed to see these specs listed before anything else. Of course, external dimensions also matter, so you know if the microwave will actually fit in your kitchen.

Microwave sizes generally range from 0.5 to just over 2 cubic feet. We find that most models over 1.5 cubic feet are needlessly big. Unless you plan to cook turkey dinners in your microwave or reheat entire casserole dishes, you won’t need that much space. If you have a large dish to reheat, the oven will almost always give you better results, anyway.

Cuisinart Microwave Panel
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

Wattage is usually related but not directly proportional to size—you can expect large microwaves to also have higher wattages.

Compact microwaves (between 0.5 and 0.9 cubic feet) can suit smaller kitchens, dorms, and anywhere you need to conserve counter space, but they may be too small to cook or reheat all types of food. Ultimately, buy whatever size suits your needs, and make sure to compare the exterior dimensions to your actual space before you invest, but remember that bigger isn’t always better.

Wattage is generally related to size, but it’s not directly proportional. People often believe that higher wattage guarantees a better microwave, but that isn’t always the case. Even though we recommend a baseline of 900-1000 watts for mid-sized microwaves, we’ve tested 700 watt compact models that heat evenly. A microwave can also be overpowered, meaning the high wattage can quickly overcook food.

Generally, the higher the wattage, the faster your microwave cooks. If you’re only using your unit for basic tasks or don’t care about lightning speeds, don’t be afraid of lower wattages. Choose the microwave that balances size and wattage to suit your needs.

Which Presets Matter?

Cuisinart Microwave Close-Up 1
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

Presets are useful, but most microwaves operate the same way.

Most microwaves have a full panel of preset options for different modes and types of food. But what does pressing those buttons actually do? And which presets matter?

All microwaves operate on the same basic principle: A magnetron generates microwaves, which excite the water molecules in food and cause them to heat up. Pressing a button only controls the on and off interval of the magnetron.

When you hit start, your microwave heats up your food at full power for the time you enter on the keypad. But when you press a button like Defrost, Popcorn, or Potato, most microwaves simply alternate between 0 and 100 percent power for a predetermined period of time that varies from model to model. Find a microwave that includes the presets you use most often, but don’t stress about finding one that has them all—they’re not critical.

One preset that we actually find rather useful is the sensor cook option. Sensor controls on your microwave generally adjust the cook time based on the amount of steam the food gives off, while newer and more expensive models use even more precise technology to determine when food is done cooking. If you want to take the guesswork out of microwaving something, consider a unit with a sensor cook option.

Meet the testers

Julia MacDougall

Julia MacDougall

Senior Scientist

@reviewed

Julia is the Senior Scientist at Reviewed, which means that she oversees (and continually updates) the testing of products in Reviewed's core categories such as televisions, washing machines, refrigerators, and more. She also determines the testing methods and standards for Reviewed's "The Best Right Now" articles.

See all of Julia MacDougall's reviews
Cassidy Olsen

Cassidy Olsen

Contributor

@olsencassidy

Cassidy covered all things cooking as the kitchen editor for Reviewed from 2018 to 2020. An experimental home chef with a healthy distrust of recipes, Cassidy lives by the "Ratatouille" philosophy that, with a few techniques and key tools, anyone can cook. She's produced in-depth reviews and guides on everything from meal kits to stand mixers and the right way to cook an egg.

See all of Cassidy Olsen's reviews

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