Best countertop microwave

The countertop units in our microwave ratings are grouped by size—small, medium, and large—using the capacity claimed by the manufacturer. We also measure usable space, which excludes the corners if the microwave has a turntable. Today, we discuss the best countertop microwave convection oven, and best countertop microwave with trim kit.

Here, reviews of some of the best countertop microwave picks from our tests, grouped by size 

best countertop microwave with trim kit

Countertop microwaves are no longer those unsightly white boxes that you try to hide in the corner of your kitchen counter. Most of the models in Consumer Reports’ microwave tests come in a stainless finish.

You can spend less than $100 on a countertop model or more than $500—but our tests have found that price doesn’t predict performance.

“In some cases you may be paying more for the materials, such as a stainless steel interior,” says Ginny Lui, who oversees our microwave testing.

Consumers rely on their microwaves to heat their food and drinks quickly and evenly, so we test those capabilities in our labs. To test speed, we measure how fast the microwave heats 1 liter of room-temperature water. To judge heating evenness, we heat a bowl of cold mashed potatoes for 10 minutes, then take the internal temperature in 20 different spots.

We evaluate how evenly the microwave defrosts frozen food using the auto-defrost function, as well as how noisy the microwave is and how easy it is to operate without consulting the owner’s manual (because most people don’t).

We also incorporate ratings for predicted reliability and owner satisfaction—using survey results from members who purchased almost 50,000 countertop microwaves over the past 10 years.

Best countertop microwave

Best Overall: Panasonic Microwave Oven NN-SN651BBuy on AmazonBuy on WalmartBuy on Home DepotA mid-sized oven with 1.2 cubic food capacity and 1200 watts of cooking power, made by a company with some of the best ratings on microwaves and with a price that won’t break the budget, this microwave will do everything you need, and then a little more. The turntable is 13 1/2 inches in diameter, so it will hold your largest dinner plates as well as casseroles and serving dishes, while the interior footprint is slightly less than 14×14 1/2 inches, so your plates can hang over that turntable just a little bit and still turn smoothly.When you cook at lower power, most microwaves power on and off to provide that lower power, but this one provides a continuous stream of lower power throughout the cooking time, for more even cooking without hot or cold spots. This also has a turbo defrost feature for those days when you forget to pull food out of the freezer in advance.The proprietary cooking sensor automatically adjusts the power and cooking time for different foods. There are 12 cooking presets, a quick-minute timer, a delayed start function, and a keep-warm setting, so dinner will always be on time and hot.

Best Budget: Toshiba EM925A5A-BS Microwave OvenBuy on AmazonBuy on Walmart

This microwave has everything you need for basic tasks, plus a little more. It’s not the largest microwave you’ll find, but it’s not the smallest. It’s great for reheating dinner for one, or steaming frozen broccoli for a side dish. The inside capacity is .9 cubic feet, and it has a 10.6-inch diameter turntable that’s large enough for a dinner plate or a casserole dish.This has 900 watts of cooking power, 10 power settings, and a digital control panel. The defrost setting lets you choose a defrosting time or you can enter a weight to let the oven do the thinking. Presets for popcorn, potato, pizza, frozen vegetables, and a dinner plate give you one-button cooking, so you don’t have to guess how long you’ll need to cook those items. If oven beeping annoys you, you can turn off the sound.

Best for Small Spaces: Daewoo KOR-7LREM Countertop Microwave Oven

Buy on AmazonBuy on WalmartNot only is this microwave small enough to fit a small kitchen, or dorm room, it adds a decorative element and fun color to a space that might have any room for pieces that are purely decorative.This has the all-important popcorn button as well as a defrost button, and you can select auto-cook presets numbered from 1-5 for beverages, soup, baked potato, fresh vegetables, or frozen vegetables. The 10-inch turntable is large enough for your dinner or a casserole dish.This has 700 watts of cooking power, .7 cubic feet of cooking space, and 5 power levels to choose from.

Best for Families: Panasonic Microwave Oven NN-SN966S

EXCELLENTBuy on AmazonBuy on Staples.comBuy on Newegg.comWith 2.2 cubic feet of cooking space and 1250 watts of cooking power, this microwave has space to heat food for the family, and the power to get the job done quickly. The turntable is a whopping 16 1/2 inches in diameter, so it will hold several plates, large serving dishes, or a large casserole.Proprietary technology heats food evenly while it also speeds up defrosting time, so you’ll have less waiting time, no matter what’s for dinner. The “genius sensor” adjusts the power and cooking time for different foods. The keep-warm feature will hold your food at serving temperature, while not overcooking it, and the delay start lets you prep food, put it in the oven, and start cooking at just the right time so it’s ready for dinner.There are 14 presets including essentials like popcorn, pizza, soup, oatmeal, pasta, and frozen foods, so everyone in the family can prepare foods without having to guess how long to cook. Ten power levels, along with options for sensor reheating and cooking round out the functions that make this oven ideal for families of any size.Panasonic Countertop/Built-In Microwave Review

Best Convection Cooking: Toshiba EC042A5C-BS Microwave Oven with Convection Function

Buy on AmazonMicrowave ovens are great for steaming and reheating, but they’re not good at browning foods. This combination microwave and convection oven takes care of that problem. You can microwave or convection-cook the food separately, or you can use them in combination for super-fast cooking and perfect browning at the same time.This doesn’t have as many specific food presets, with just popcorn named, but it has buttons for auto bake, auto roast, sensor cook, sensor reheat, auto defrost, timed defrost, and for keeping food warm. You can also set up to three favorite combinations of time and power so your hot chocolate is always perfect and your butter melts just right.Convection cooking can be set from 175 to 525 degrees and there are 10 microwave power levels using 1000 watts of power.The 8 Best Over-the-Range Microwaves to Buy in 2020

Best Commercial Quality: Panasonic Countertop Commercial Microwave Oven NE-1054F

Buy on AmazonBuy on Officedepot.comIf your microwave is constantly working, particularly for reheating single dishes of foods for family members who operate on different schedules, a commercial microwave might be a great choice. This isn’t a huge machine at just .8 cubic feet of space, but it is built for quick cooking and long life despite heavy use.This has 1000 watts of power that it uses efficiently, feeding the energy from the bottom so it travels less than typical microwaves that product the energy at the top of the cooking chamber. This doesn’t have a turntable, so your cooking space isn’t limited by that disk area, so you can fit larger casseroles or arrange more plates and bowls without them tipping or wobbling.The keypad includes braille, with 10 buttons that are shortcuts for a variety of cooking times. You can also program multiple-stage cooking, with different times and power levels at each stage.Since this is designed for commercial use, the design is more stark than friendly, but the stainless steel exterior would blend well with a modern kitchen’s décor.

Best Design: Nostalgia RMO400RED Retro Microwave Oven

Buy on AmazonThe retro design of this microwave is just funky enough to look modern at the same time. The vibrant red will add a pop of color while the oval window, digital clock, and round controls evoke an era when space travel was a fantasy. In a modern kitchen, it would add a note of whimsy.It isn’t all about design, though. This offers .9 cubic feet of cooking space and 800 watts of cooking power, a dozen programmed cooking settings for favorites like popcorn, potatoes, pizza, vegetables, and more.The chosen cooking settings appear on the clock, so the controls are simple, while the LEDs made it easy to read, even if it’s a late-night popcorn snack. This has a rotating glass turntable and should hold plates up to about 11 inches in diameter.

Best with Grill Function: Farberware Black FMO12AHTBSG Microwave Oven with Grill FunctionBuy on AmazonThe grilling function on this microwave sets it apart from the rest of the pack, while its standard microwave functions are everything you’d expect from a quality microwave. It has 1.2 cubic feet of cooking space, 1100 watts of cooking power, a 12.4 inch turntable, and 10 levels of microwave power.Cooking presets include popcorn, potato, frozen pizza, frozen vegetable, beverage, meat, and dinner plate. You can defrost by time or weight, set your own cooking time and temperature, and set multi-stage cooking to change the cooking power during the cooking time.The grilling function can be used alone, or in combination with microwave cooking so you can cook quickly while also browning and crisping the food. A grilling rack is included.

How to buy a microwave

Your Pizza Rolls deserve a good microwave. This countertop wonder, whose origins date back to the 1940s, is probably one of the most frequently used appliances in your kitchen thanks to its ability to reheat food fast (and cook a mug cake or two). There are a variety of options when it’s time to select a microwave, so we’ve broken down the options you have when you’re ready for a new microwave.

Location

The first decision you need to make about a new microwave is where in your kitchen you want to put it. The location affects the price, features, size and installation of the appliance. You have three main options:

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Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Countertop

This is the most common type of microwave. They generally cost less and are significantly easier to install than other models. Just find a spot on the counter for it to sit, plug it into an outlet and you can use it right away.

The biggest issue with the countertop microwave is how much space it needs. If you have limited room on your countertop, you may either want to look at the smaller countertop models available, look into placing your microwave on a small cart, or consider another style of microwave.

Price: $40 to $700

External dimensions: From roughly 10 by 18 by 14 inches for compact models to roughly 14 by 24 by 20 inches for larger models

Internal capacity: Less than 1 cubic foot to more than 2 cubic feet

Wattage: Typically 600 to 1,200 watts

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Some of GE’s stoves and over-the-range microwaves are connected via Bluetooth.Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Over-the-range

You install this style of microwave above your range, which will save you some counter space. These models have vent systems that take the place of the oven hood and lights to illuminate your cooktop.

Price: $190 to $1,300

External dimensions: Usually wider than countertop models, about 16 by 30 by 15 inches

Internal capacity: Less than 1 cubic foot to more than 2 cubic feet

Wattage: Typically 600 to 1,200 watts

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Sharp

Built-in

Built-in models that you place among custom cabinets or paired with built-in, full-sized wall ovens are the most high-end (aka expensive) types of microwaves. Some microwaves in this category are even designed specifically as drawers with a compartment you pull out for your food.

Price: $500 to $5,000 and up

External dimensions: This varies widely depending on type, and drawers tend to have more depth than countertop or over-the-range models, hitting about 15 by 30 by 26 inches

Internal capacity: Less than 1 cubic foot to more than 2 cubic feet

Wattage: Typically 600 to 1,200 watts

Size

It’s important to find the right-sized microwave that will meet your food needs and fit in the space you have for it. First, you want to measure the counter or other space where you plan to put your microwave. Then, measure the height, width and depth of any model you’re considering to find out if it will fit on your counter top, over your range or in a custom spot. The external dimensions can vary a lot, from 10 by 18 by 14 inches on the smaller side to 14 by 24 by 20 inches on the larger side.

Then there’s also the internal capacity, which can range from less than 1 cubic foot to 2 cubic feet or more. There doesn’t seem to be any set rule for how internal capacity correlates to size (like 1 cubic foot = small, 1.5 cubic feet = medium, etc.), but here’s an attempt to break it down:

Compact: Under 1 cubic foot

Midsize: 1 to 1.5 cubic feet

Full-size: 1.6 to 2 cubic feet

Extra-large: More than 2 cubic feet

Most microwaves are somewhere around 1.4 to 1.8 cubic feet. Still not sure which size you need? If you’re out shopping, bring in a plate or bowl from home that you plan to use often to make sure that it fits inside the microwave.

Still in doubt? Measure everything, take notes and check with your appliance retailer for help deciding what would work best. For over-the-range and other built-in models, you most likely won’t be the one installing your new microwave, so you can always avail yourself of their expertise.

Wattage

Microwave wattage equals power. In general, the higher the wattage, the faster and more evenly your food will cook. Most microwaves sit somewhere between 600 to 1,200 watts. Larger, more expensive microwaves tend to have a higher wattage, so this is a price and size consideration that can strongly influence microwave cooking performance.

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This GE microwave has scan-to-cook tech via a related app.Chris Monroe/CNET

Features

Many microwaves share common functions. Here are some microwave cooking essentials: cook time, defrost, power level and timer. Each one requires your direct input, but they are usually very easy to set. Most microwaves have touch panel controls and a rotating carousel to spin your food for more even cooking.

Default settings

Many microwaves come with preset cooking modes so you only have to press one button to automatically cook a dish. For example, many microwaves have a “popcorn” button that will cook your bag based on factory settings. This can be handy for common dishes you heat in the microwave, but you’ll have to figure out if the microwave’s default cook times work for your own food. Other common presets include: baked potato, pizza, beverage, frozen dinner and reheat.

Broil

Manufacturers are increasingly including features in microwaves that mimic what we see in full-size ovens, such as a broiler. This is a good addition for finishing off a dish or cooking something for which you’d prefer more direct heat.

Convection

A convection fan that’s built into the back of a microwave oven circulates the heat around the food to cook things more quickly and evenly. (Many new full-size ovens come with at least one convection fan.) However, microwaves with convection fans are generally more expensive than those without.

Inverter technology

Inverter heating is another option available on some high-end models. If you want to heat something at a 50 percent power level, most microwaves actually switch between 100 percent power and 0 percent power to average in at 50 percent power. This doesn’t yield great results if you want to heat something on a lower heat and achieve an even result. So, some models now use inverter technology, which maintains a consistent 50 percent power. That way, you can poach salmon, make a fluffy omelet, etc.

Other advanced features

In addition to new heating technologies, higher-end models usually have more presets than just the basic pizza, popcorn and baked potato standard. Some use moisture sensors to detect food doneness. And we’ve started to see models include LED lighting on the interior.

“Smart” technology, i.e. options that connect microwaves to the internet and other products, aren’t as widespread in microwaves as we’ve seen in other kitchen appliances. However, we’ve seen GE Appliances include Bluetooth technology in some of its over-the-range microwaves. This connection, which GE calls “Chef Connect,” pairs the microwave with compatible GE ranges so the light and fan beneath the microwave automatically turns on when you turn on a burner.

More options

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Will the June Intelligent Oven become the next microwave?Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Other small appliances have started to make a case for forgoing the microwave, such as steam ovens that use water to cook for more moist heating or the basic toaster oven that mimics a full-size stove. These options promise to cook more effectively than a microwave, but it might take longer to reheat your food.

Smart countertop ovens have also started to become an option. The June Intelligent Oven uses facial recognition technology to identify food and cook it automatically, and the Tovala Smart Oven will scan packaged meals for automatic cooking, including frozen meals from Trader Joe’s. These options are promising, but the technology is too new to determine whether or not these will become kitchen staples.

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