Best small microwave

What is the best small microwave to buy? From melting chocolate to steaming vegetables to popping popcorn, microwaves are useful for all kinds of cooking tasks, both big and small. But, what if you have a compact kitchen or very little spare counter space? You don’t have to let a lack of space stop you from owning one of these useful kitchen appliances; you can find a wide range of small microwaves perfect for squeezing into compact spots. Although small microwaves have a few limitations due to their size, you can still cook all but the largest items, and will more than suffice for those living alone, couples, or even small families. We reviewed dozens of small microwaves to identify the best small microwave ovens. To help us pick the best small microwave out there, we focused on a range of factors, including internal and external dimensions, programmed settings, ease of use, wattage, and average customer reviews. 

best small microwaves 2020

The best small microwave

In this section, we take a closer look at each model. Find out what we think of each microwave and which one we’d choose over all others.

Panasonic SD372S            *** Tiny House, Huge Ideas – TOP PICK ***

Now let’s get one thing straight before we explain why we like this tiny microwave so much. This is not THE smallest microwave on the market.

It is, however, very small as microwaves go and a very fine piece of kitchen technology.

If you’re only interested in the smallest of the very small microwave ovens then stick around for the Whirlpool review coming up next.

With that out of the way, let’s get down to business.

This Panasonic model is in our opinion the best small microwave currently available. There are a variety of reasons for this, and over the course of the next few paragraphs, we’ll explain why. But we’d better start with some stats…

At 0.8 cubic feet of capacity, this ranks as one of the larger of our recommended microwaves. Having more space for food means that it does, of course, take up a bit more space in the kitchen than some of the others.

At 14.8″ it is also one of the longest of our choices and that may be enough to put some off, but if you can afford that extra inch or two of space then you won’t be disappointed as the Panasonic SD372S is feature packed.

For a start, it packs a serious punch. At 950 watts of power, you don’t need to be worried about sacrificing cooking times by downsizing your microwave.

The patented Inverter Technology and Turbo Defrost add to the cooking power at your disposal. Expect evenly cooked food in less time than your old microwave and a defrost function that’s better than ever.

Besides controlling the power output you also have the options of defrosting by weight or time, and also a simple timer mode.

These basic modes work nicely with the six automatic settings, which offer one-touch heating of specific foods. These 9 pre-programmed automatic functions include potato, popcorn, pizza, frozen vegetables, dinner plates, and beverages.

A ‘keep warm’ feature is also included so that food can be kept warm and delicious until it’s ready to be served. 

So why would we choose this tiny microwave over all others?

Well, sorry to use the old cliché but it’s the complete package.

It’s compact, feature-rich, powerful, and maybe above all, it’s good value for money.

It’s a really thoughtfully put together little microwave that includes little design touches that are overlooked by the competition.

No, it’s not the smallest, but if you can spare a couple of inches here or there then you won’t regret it.

Whirlpool WMC20005          ** The Smallest Microwave on the Market **

Taking up just 213.1 square inches of counter space in the kitchen, this tiny 0.5 cu ft microwave from Whirlpool is as small as they get. It has a unique rounded back so that it will fit nicely in the corner of a countertop too.

Be warned though, what it lacks in countertop inches, it makes up for in height. This is the tallest of our recommended small countertop microwave ovens. Standing at 14.1″ tall, just be sure you have the extra clearance.

Let’s get the other big negative out of the way while we’re at it. It’s expensive.

It’s actually the most expensive model on our list by some margin. It seems there’s a price to pay for saving space on the kitchen countertop.

The Whirlpool WMC20005 actually puts out a fair amount of power and despite being smaller, isn’t underequipped by any means. At 750 watts of cooking power, it’s the 3rd most powerful microwave on our list.

The power modes are split into 10 levels. There are also ‘Quick Touch’ buttons to add an extra 30 seconds and for popcorn. The further cooking modes allow for easy defrosting and reheating.

It’s not as feature rich as some of the other models on this list, but that’s a sacrifice you’ll have to pay in the quest for the ultimate in compact microwaves.

Daewoo KOR-7LREW          * Stylish & Small *

Daewoo’s new retro line of appliances includes this classic microwave that looks amazing and has all the modern functions that you’d expect too.

In our opinion, it’s the most attractive model on this list by some margin and one of the few microwaves in the world that a teenager might describe as looking “cool”.

It could definitely bring a bit of ‘life’ to a dreary kitchen with its stylish finish. It comes in a choice of colors, but the standard cream/white is our favorite.

Aside from looking great, it has all the features and performance that you’d expect from a modern microwave oven. It’s one of the smallest models on the market too with a 0.7 cubic feet capacity and space saving design to minimize its footprint in the kitchen.

This model takes up very little vertical space (just 10.5 inches) so it could be just the ticket for those struggling in this department.

There are three quick settings for heating food. There’s the standard timer (with 5 adjustable power settings), an auto-defrost setting and even an autocook function. These sit beside the 5 pre-sets for specific food types (beverages, soup, baked potato, fresh vegetable, and frozen vegetable).

It puts out 700 watts at full power which is a little on the lower side, but then this is significantly smaller than your average microwave oven. A nice touch is the ‘Eco’ mode which uses zero power when the device is not in use.

Electrical appliances are still a drain on power when in standby mode, so this feature will save you energy and money in the long term all be it not vast amounts of it.

Westinghouse WCM770B      *** Cheapest Small Microwave ***

This little gem from Westinghouse has a lot going for it. It was an easy decision including it on this list of the top models in this class.

Let’s start with the price. It’s the cheapest model in this guide and represents amazing value for money. If you’re on a strict budget then this is the tiny microwave oven for you.

And it really is tiny. At just 12.5 inches depth it’s the shortest of our picks. If you’re dealing with shallow shelves or narrow countertop space then this microwave might be the one you need.

It’s also the shortest. At only 10.25 inches tall, it’s able to squeeze into those tight spaces that others just can’t.

With such slender dimensions, you won’t be shocked to hear that it only has a capacity of 0.7 cubic feet. You won’t be heating up whole turkeys in here, but single meals are no problem.

The side effect of keeping the cost low is a cutback with the user interface. Instead of LCD displays and one-touch buttons, this model uses old-fashioned mechanical rotary dials.

The positive here is that there’s absolutely no confusion in the operation of this microwave oven. Dial interfaces like these are so simple to understand and operate that you shouldn’t really even need to look at the instruction manual. Some digital interfaces, on the other hand, aren’t exactly very user-friendly.

This model keeps things very simple and uses two of these rotary dials for operation. One controls time and the other controls the cooking modes. The cooking modes are simply 5 power levels controlled by a timer (low, medium-low, medium, medium-high, high) and a defrost by weight setting.

Panasonic NN-SN686S          * Multiple Features & Bigger Capacity *

Though we class this as a mini microwave it is the largest of our recommendations and probably not the one for you if space is really tight. It is however full of modern features that make cooking with it easy, efficient, and convenient.

It uses patented Inverter Technology which Panasonic says will preserve the flavor and texture of your food that microwave cooking can sometimes destroy. This technology is also said to cook more efficiently at lower power settings.

Microwaves struggle with consistency when heating food, with thin or small pieces heating up much quicker than larger pieces. Inverter Technology reduces this inconsistency and delivers more even cooking.

It delivers a massive 1200 watts of power which is a lot, especially for its size. The power delivery is divided into 10 levels that are selectable via a dedicated button.

There’s plenty of control over the cooking settings too. With 14 pre-sets for different foods, a ‘Quick Minute’ button. ‘More’ and ‘Less’ buttons, a ‘Keep Warm’ function, quick defrost, popcorn function, and our personal favorites the ‘Sensor Reheat’ and ‘Sensor Cook’ functions. Here the microwave is able to automatically choose the correct cooking cycle settings for the food in question.

This model really is the exact opposite of the Westinghouse. While the Westinghouse keeps things really simple, this model from Panasonic has so many options that you might never use them all.

Conclusion

If you’re simply looking for the smallest microwave oven to wedge into a tight space then the Whirlpool model takes up the least counter space. However, it is also the tallest model on our list. 

If height is an issue then the Westinghouse model is the shortest, and also has a pretty lean footprint overall.

While the tiniest models are just perfect if you have serious space restrictions in your kitchen, they aren’t exactly the most feature packed of devices.

For this reason, we recommend the Panasonic SD372S if you can afford an extra inch or two here and there.

It’s still a very little microwave but it retains the power and cooking options that a regular sized model would have. At 950 watts and just 0.8 cubic feet it’s an impressively engineered piece of kit.

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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