Top rated small microwaves

We reviewed dozens of small microwaves to identify the Top rated small microwaves. To help us pick the best top rated small countertop microwaves and best over the range microwave 2020 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 over the range microwave 2020

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.

A smaller living space doesn’t mean one has to get by on fewer kitchen essentials, but it does require being smart about shopping for them. 

When it comes to purchasing a microwave, it’s important to determine which model is right for your budget, kitchen counter and overall lifestyle. Above all, a small appliance doesn’t have to be limited in function or quality. Here are 7 compact microwaves that come up big.

Top rated small microwaves

G.E 0.7 Cubic Feet 700-Watt Countertop Microwave

G.E 0.7 Cubic Feet 700-Watt Countertop Microwave

This microwave features electronic touch controls and convenient cooking options (including a mute function to keep the noise down when a dish is ready).  With auto defrost and time options as well as presets for common items, this is an ideal starter microwave for a single person or small family.

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Magic Chef 0.7 Cubic Feet Countertop Microwave in Black

Magic Chef 0.7 Cubic Feet Countertop Microwave in Black

This small but mighty microwave has 10 power levels for a variety of cooking options, convenient 30-second express cooking option, and preset functions for food preparation. It also has a vital child safety lock as well as weight and time defrost options.

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Toshiba 0.9 Cubic Feet Stainless Steel Countertop Microwave Oven

Toshiba 0.9 Cubic Feet Stainless Steel Countertop Microwave Oven

This Toshiba microwave is perfect for smaller kitchens and it’s packed with power. It has 10 power levels up to 900 watts, a digital display, and six pre-programmed settings: popcorn, potatoes, frozen vegetables, beverages, dinner plate, and pizza.

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LG 0.9 Cubic Feet 1000-Watt Countertop Microwave

LG 0.9 Cubic Feet 1000-Watt Countertop Microwave

The problem with cooking in the microwave is often parts of a dish will be overcooked around the edges with cold centers. LG’s Smart Inverter is great for precise and even heating, and there’s There’s also a stabilizer ring that prevents items on the turntable from tipping, which is a smart way to avoid a mess. But just in case, this model has an EasyClean function when you’re finished. 

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SMEG 24-Inch Built-In Microwave Oven

Microwaves that are small don’t have to be limited in style, and this microwave has a sleek, retro design. But it also has substance: The microwave features a turntable as well as a  child safety option and a mind-boggling 36 automatic programs for everything from memory to slow cook.

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RCA 0.7 Cubic FeetCountertop Microwave

RCA 0.7 Cubic Feet Countertop Microwave

This affordable microwave has 700 watts of power and 10 power levels, with six one-touch options. There are also express cooking and weight defrost options, as well as a digital timer to make things even easier.

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Cuisinart 1.0 Cubic Feet Countertop Microwave

Cuisinart 1.0 Cubic Feet Countertop Microwave

For an even more powerful microwave that doesn’t take up too much space, this Cuisinart model has 1,000 watts of cooking power and 10 power levels. It’s also easy to use with several pre-programmed one-touch controls and eight preset options that even accounts for serving size.

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

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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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