Best easy to use microwave

Simple freestanding microwaves are super-convenient for cooking, heating and defrosting food and can quickly become the most hard-working appliance in your kitchen. Ideal for renters, you can simply plug them in and get dinner on the go, whether you’re reheating yesterday’s left-overs, defrosting a portion of that stew you prepped on the weekend, or cooking yourself a delicious baked potato. In the market to buy the best easy to use microwave for elderly or best easy to use combination microwave? But is the best easy to use microwave right for you?

Best easy to use microwave

Whether you’re simply trying to melt a pack of butter or making yourself a oven-free feast, these kitchen appliances get the job done

These machines move beyond simple reheating and defrosting, with features like steam and grill <br>
These machines move beyond simple reheating and defrosting, with features like steam and grill <br>

While some people are content with using microwaves for occasional tasks such as reheating a cup of tea that’s gone cold or melting butter, others depend on them for everything from baking cakes to cooking complex dinners. Whatever your needs, the good news is there’ll be a microwave to suit you.

Standard microwaves, which are the cheapest, are great for the simple stuff like reheating and defrosting. They don’t take up much room and are the easiest to use.

But if you want something more whizzy, consider a microwave grill, which also has a heating element, or a combi which can heat, roast, crisp and brown just like a normal oven.

Remember more watts mean faster cooking and think about capacity too, bearing in mind that anything less than 20l can feel cramped for larger households.

Consider the latest tech, such as a drop-down door and flatbed design to fit awkward and bigger shaped dishes inside. You may also want features such as auto-reheat, auto-defrost and steam.

When testing microwaves, our criteria included all this tech, as well as size, capacity, cooking time, ease of use and cleaning, aesthetics, usefulness, efficiency of features and value for money.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

Beko MOC20200C reto style freestanding microwave oven

Power: 800W
Dimensions: 25.5 x 45.5 x 35cm
Capacity: 20 litres
Convection oven/Grill: No/no

The four-step programming is the stand-out point with this great value 800W microwave – it means you can set it to automatically carry out four different cooking stages in a row while you get on with other things, making it a fabulous time saver. Also worth a special mention is the steaming function, as well as the setting for reheating hot beverages. Despite the low price tag, it keeps food moist and cooks evenly, with none of those rubbery edges that are so common with microwaved food. The vintage aesthetics look smart and it’s available in four different colours – red, black, cream and blue. The only downside is that it’s quite noisy.​

Buy now £68, Amazon

Price comparison

  • Amazon£69.99Buy now
  • ao.com£85Buy now

Panasonic NN-SF464MBPQ silver microwave

Power: 1,000W
Dimensions: 32.6 x 52.9 x 43cm
Capacity: 27 litres
Convection oven/Grill: No/no

The innovative flatbed design of this microwave means there’s more room inside than with traditional turntable ones and you can fit odd-shaped dishes in it too – sometimes even two. An added bonus is that food doesn’t spill because the dishes don’t move around. It all combines to make this a great microwave for larger families or people who enjoy entertaining. The 1000W machine has five power settings and 18 auto-cook functions, as well as the opportunity to set your own. And if all this sounds too complicated, it isn’t – the intuitively designed touch controls and excellent instructions mean it’s surprisingly quick to get your head around, and it’s quick and quiet too, with no cold spots. But there’s no combi cooking or grill, despite the high price tag.

Buy

Buy now £165, John Lewis & Partners

Price comparison

  • John Lewis & Partners£165Buy now
  • ao.com£165Buy now
  • Currys£165Buy now
  • Argos£174.99Buy now

Hotpoint curve solo microwave

Power: 700W
Dimensions: 35.3 x 39.2 x 36cm
Capacity: 13 litres
Convection oven/Grill: No/no

This has been designed to squeeze into worktop corners, although don’t feel you have to – it sits nicely enough anywhere. And despite being so compact, it still has a decent sized turntable at 28cm. It can cook at five power levels and although it’s only 700W, and therefore slower than some, it manages to defrost surprisingly quickly. Not a machine if you want lots of wow-factor features, but it has all the basics plus timer, clock and child-safety lock and it’s so simple to use that you probably won’t even need to refer to the instructions. On the downside, it does a lot of bleeping so won’t suit those that get easily irritated by unnecessary kitchen sounds and the light stays on until you manually press the stop button.

Buy now £109, Amazon

Price comparison

  • Amazon£114.99Buy now
  • ao.com£115Buy now
  • Currys£129Buy now

Swan SM22036GRYN Nordic microwave

Power: 900W
Dimensions: 34.2 x 45.1 x 25.7cm
Capacity: 25 litres
Convection oven/Grill: No/no

This is a handsome microwave, if ever we saw one, with the mirrored door, curved edges and wood-effect handle and trim around the control dial all making for a chic, Nordic finish, which is available in either grey or white. Performance wise, there’s good news too as this 800W microwave cooks quickly and evenly. The auto-cook programmes save time and hassle, with the three auto-defrost settings ensuring that meat, poultry or fish don’t start cooking before the time’s up. You can warm up hot drinks on a special setting and it steams to perfection. Forget it if you have extra-large plates though – the inside is rather on the small side. The mirrored door is prone to fingerprints too, although it wipes clean easily enough.​

Buy now £99.95, Amazon

Price comparison

  • Amazon£99Buy now
  • ao.com£99Buy now
  • Currys£114.99Buy now
  • Very£114.99Buy now

Cookworks 700W standard microwave P70B

Power: 700W
Dimensions: H26.2 x W45.2 x 31.8cm
Capacity: 17 litres
Convection oven/Grill: No/no

This vibrant red 700W microwave is a steal for a cooker that gives even results despite being used by everyone else in the household before you get a turn! It’s easy to use, with the digital display offering plenty of versatility – 10 power levels and two defrost programmes, plus the option to cook in two steps. There’s plenty of room inside too. And unlike others in this price bracket, it’s nice and quiet (unless you count the beeps that go off whenever you press a button) and a doddle to keep clean. But, as you might expect at this price, it’s somewhat slow, so you will need a bit of extra patience – and the turntable is prone to rattling too.

Buy now £54.99, Argos

Price comparison

  • Argos£54.99Buy now

Sharp 900W combination flatbed microwave R861

Power: 900W
Dimensions: 30.3 x 50.4 x 49.7cm
Capacity: 25 litres
Convection oven/Grill: Yes/yes

This 900W combi grill microwave has a pull-down door, which makes for easy loading and unloading. And as with the Panasonic NN-SF464MBPQ, the flatbed design replaces a traditional turntable, allowing you to fit in more unusually shaped dishes, as well as the wire rack and baking tray it comes with. There are six automatic functions for the likes of jacket potato, rice, pizza, roast chicken, oven chips and cake, with another seven for auto-reheat, beverages, veg, soup, grilled bacon, grilled fish and roast lamb or fish. With this long list, it’s hard to think of anything they’ve missed, although we think it could be better at grilling. We couldn’t fault the evenness of cooking, it’s easy to work and it’s great value too, though it is quite noisy and bulky.​

Buy now £149.99, Argos

Price comparison

  • Argos£159.99Buy now
  • Amazon£315Buy now

Sage quick touch crisp microwave

Power: 1,000W
Dimensions: 30.6 x 44.3 x 51.3cm
Capacity: 25 litre
Convection oven/Grill: No / yes

Sage has become the go-to brand for kitchen electricals with special functions for foodies. Backed by Heston Blumenthal, this 25l and 1000W microwave-grill combi is no exception, with a row of extra buttons just inside the door for everything from melting chocolate to softening butter (making it a particularly good choice for keen bakers). At 31cm, the large interior means the turntable is good for big plates – brilliant for entertaining. It’s quick, intuitive, quiet and looks good. And if you’re not sure how to make the most of your new toy, check out the vast range of menus – from entire dishes to toasting nuts on its crisper pan. But it doesn’t come cheap.

Buy now £229, John Lewis & Partners

Price comparison

  • Amazon£699Buy now

Panasonic NN-E28JBMBPQ compact solo microwave

Power: 800W
Dimensions: 25.8 x 44.3 x 33cm
Capacity: 20 litres
Convection oven/Grill: No/no

If your primary use for a microwave is to reheat takeaways, then look no further. This 800W machine has auto-programmes for reheating Chinese food, curry and pasta that means you can practically get dinner on the table with your eyes closed. It’s also great at reheating healthier options such as vegetables and fish, as well as defrosting. And all in record time, with no sign of food drying out. There are five power levels and nine auto-programmes, so everything is covered, and the intuitive touch controls, delayed start and multi-step programming are all genuinely useful, especially in busy households. But it’s on the small side, so forget it for larger families, and we didn’t think it was much cop at steaming.

Buy now £72, John Lewis & Partners

Price comparison

  • Amazon£74.99Buy now
  • John Lewis & Partners£74.99Buy now
  • ao.com£79Buy now
  • Currys£79.99Buy now

Hotpoint MWH 27321B ultimate collection microwave

Power: 700W
Dimensions: 31 x 52 x 39cm
Capacity: 25 litre
Convection oven/Grill: No/yes

This sleek-looking 700W microwave won us over with its comprehensive list of genuinely useful features, as well as being incredibly user friendly and big enough for large families (25l). Not only does it have a decent grill, crisp function (great for pizzas) and defrosts to perfection, but it triggers you to stir, add or turn when needed and even pauses cooking so you can do it. Unusually, you can turn off the rotating feature of the turntable – handy for oblong or very large dishes. Be warned it’s heavy and big, though, so might dominate smaller kitchens.​

How to buy a microwave

This buying guide is what you need if you’re looking for a new 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

Sharp_builtin_microwave.jpg
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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