When it comes to quick and delicious meals, nothing beats the convenience or functionality of a modern microwave oven. Microwaves are ideal for reheating leftover meals, cooking frozen vegetables, heating beverages, and defrosting frozen meat. In fact, the uses of a modern microwave are virtually endless. However, when shopping for the perfect microwave for you or your family, there are many factors to consider. We made this guide to simplify your search for the perfect microwave and to showcase the best microwaves on the market.
Why buy a microwave oven?
Microwave ovens are extremely convenient inventions that have become a modern kitchen staple for a good reason. As previously mentioned, they can be used to warm up leftovers, defrost frozen foods, and heat up hot drinks like tea as well as hot foods like canned soups. While most of these tasks can be achieved in a regular oven or on a stovetop, a microwave oven offers one distinct advantage—speed. You don’t have to preheat a microwave oven or wait for it to warm up. You can simply pop in your food or drink, set the timer (and power level in some cases), and hit “start,” and you’ll have a hot cup of cocoa, some defrosted chicken, or some steamed broccoli in a matter of minutes.
Since microwaves have become a kitchen staple, there’s also a whole range of foods designed specifically to be cooked in a microwave oven. Some premade meals or foods can be cooked in either the regular oven or the microwave oven, which is convenient when you’re in a hurry or running late, or when you’ve forgotten to make something for dinner. Microwave ovens can even be used for some non-food-related tasks, such as warming up certain types of heating pads to help soothe joint or muscle pain.
What should you look for in a microwave oven?
Here are some factors to consider:
- Size: To determine what size microwave will work great for you, it’s a good idea to measure the plates or casserole dishes that you’ll use in it. If the microwave that you like has a rotating turntable, its size should be considered to ensure that it’s large enough for your plates. If you plan on reheating large meals for an entire family in your microwave, choosing a large, powerful microwave oven is best.
- Power: At its highest power setting, a high-wattage microwave will heat your food much more quickly and thoroughly than a low-wattage model. Thus, if you like your microwave to do its job as quickly as possible, then choosing a model that uses 1,000+ watts is a good idea. That being said, low-wattage microwaves can still do a wonderful job heating your food. It might just take an extra minute or so.
- Features: There are also some features to keep an eye out for when shopping for a new microwave. A rotating turntable will help heat your food more evenly. Also, pre-programmed heating functions can be really helpful for everything from defrosting frozen meat to preparing delicious microwave popcorn. Additionally, if you tend to make a mess, be sure that you choose a model with an easy-to-clean interior that resists scratches and stains.
How much can you expect to spend on a microwave oven?
Like any decent-sized kitchen appliance, a microwave oven is going to cost a decent amount of money. Depending on the type and size, however, you can find quality units that are more budget-friendly. If you don’t mind a microwave oven with limited capacities, you can buy a good, small model for around $50 or so. Mid-sized microwave ovens, the most common kind, have a wider price range depending on their features, brand, model, and other factors. Around $200 is a good median price for a mid-sized microwave oven, although there are quite a few quality options closer to $100 or $150. Over-the-range microwaves will be a bit more expensive on average, usually priced somewhere between $250 and $400.
Toshiba Microwave Oven with Smart Sensor
This microwave oven heats meals quickly and effectively and sports an intuitive, easy-to-use interface. It's also equipped with handy, pre-programmed cooking functions.
Pros: This microwave oven features an intuitive, easy-to-use interface and an eco-mode that could lower your energy bill by limiting standby power usage. It’s scratch-resistant and has a fingerprint-free finish. The interior is easy to clean, and the smart sensor modes take the guesswork out of cooking frozen food.
Cons: This microwave oven was designed specifically for countertop use, so it can’t be installed in a built-in slot or otherwise mounted over your regular oven. The vents aren’t properly placed for over-the-stove use. Since it’s a larger microwave, it will take up more space on your kitchen countertops. It might be too powerful for some people, especially for those who only cook for one person instead of a whole family.
Bottom Line: If you’re looking for something that’s microwave spacious and powerful enough to serve the whole family, this offering from Toshiba is as good as it gets. The price is on the lower end for microwave ovens, especially for its size. As long as you have the space and don’t mind a microwave oven that has to be used on your kitchen countertops, you should get good mileage out of this model.
SMETA Over-the-Range Microwave Oven with Speed Vent
This over-the-range microwave oven is large and powerful enough for most families and features a vent fan and power-saving mode.
Pros: This over-the-range model will come in handy even when you’re cooking on your stovetop rather than in the microwave oven itself. The equipped vent fan will help to filter away fumes, odors, smoke, and even grease while you’re cooking in your regular oven. Even though it uses a lot of power, an eco-friendly mode helps you save power during use. It’s also kid-friendly, with a child safety lock option and cooking modes for popular dishes for kids like chicken nuggets and hot dogs. With three size choices available, you should be able to find one that fits perfectly over your stovetop, large or small.
Cons: As is the case with most over-the-range microwave ovens, this model will be trickier, more involved, and take longer to install than countertop units. It’s also quite heavy, especially the larger capacity models, so be sure that your built-in space can accommodate its weight. And, as is also common with over-the-range microwave ovens, this model is quite pricey. Even the smallest capacity model is more expensive than most mini microwaves.
Bottom Line: This over-the-range microwave oven is a great option for those who are seeking something functional and reliable for their kitchen. Parents especially will get good use out of this microwave oven thanks to its multiple kid-friendly functions. But if you’re on a tight budget or you prefer a countertop microwave oven, you’ll probably want to pass on this model.
COMFEE' EM720CPL-PMB Countertop Microwave Oven
What this microwave oven lacks in size, it makes up for in its functionality, 11 power levels, and child safety lock feature.
Pros: This countertop microwave oven is nice and compact, so it won’t take up a lot of extra space on your kitchen countertops or whatever other surfaces you choose to place it on. It has plenty of power levels and auto-cook functions to choose from despite its small size. You also have the choice of defrosting your food by weight or time, depending on your preference. The mute function is extremely handy for anyone who shares a small space (like a dorm room), has a newborn at home, or is noise-sensitive, since it allows you to heat up or cook food late at night with minimal noise and no beeping. As a miniature microwave oven, it also costs less money.
Cons: The small size (0.7-cubic-foot capacity with a 10-inch turntable) does mean that this microwave oven can’t fit or heat larger portions of food. It also has a smaller wattage and thus, takes more time to reheat leftovers or defrost food than a midsize or large-capacity microwave does. This means that you’ll likely have to adjust your cooking or heating times, which might take some experimenting if you’re used to a larger model.
Bottom Line: For those who are seeking a compact, budget-friendly microwave oven, this model is right up your alley. It’s also a great choice for anyone who’s living in a dorm room or who otherwise has a smaller kitchen or living space, as it won’t take up much extra room, yet still packs a decent amount of power. Overall, this microwave oven should work nicely for people who live alone or even for couples, but it probably won’t be large or strong enough for larger families.
Nostalgia Retro Large Microwave Oven
This retro-inspired microwave oven offers 12 pre-programmed cooking settings, intuitive controls, and a rotating glass turntable for even heating.
Pros: Retro-inspired microwave ovens are all the rage these days, and this is one of the best retro models on the market. The design is 1950s-inspired, yet it contains plenty of modern features and functionality. It also comes in six different colors, which is much more variety than what’s usually offered by modern microwave ovens. The interior is easy to clean, while the rotating glass carousel ensures that your foods and drinks heat up as evenly as possible.
Cons: As cool and unique as the retro-like style of this microwave oven is, it’s not going to suit every kitchen. If you have a very modern or minimalist-style kitchen, then this microwave oven will likely look wildly out of place among the rest of your decor. And the turn-and-push dial will take some getting used to for those who are accustomed to modern microwave oven buttons. Many consumers will likely find it confusing or feel thrown off by the dial (unless they grew up with a similar style of microwave).
Bottom Line: If you’re in the market for a vintage accent for your kitchen, then this is the microwave oven for you. Featuring a gorgeous vintage design and five unique color options, this microwave oven also offers a lot in terms of functionality and makes for a good midsize model. If you have a more sleek, modern-style kitchen or don’t want the bother of adjusting to a turn-and-push dial, you’ll want to look elsewhere for your new microwave oven.
BLACK+DECKER Digital Microwave Oven
This microwave oven features a sleek design with a large digital LED display and easy-to-read control panel.
Pros: You can buy this sleek, modern-looking microwave with a 1.1- or 1.4-cubic-foot capacity. Either way, it’s plenty large enough for most families, or for anyone else who cooks or heats high volumes of food at once. Even better, it has a lower-than-average price tag for its capacity and power, regardless of which of the two sizes you pick. The sleek, modern, stainless steel body will suit any modern kitchen. It also has a unique “dinner plate” preset option that’s designed specifically for preheating leftovers of all sorts.
Cons: As with any larger capacity microwave oven, this countertop model will take up more space than its midsize or miniature brethren. And while the 1,000 watts pack plenty of power for heating larger quantities of food, some users found it to be a bit too overpowering and heated up their food quicker than expected. This, in turn, led to some food overcooking or overheating, so you might need to adjust some of your cooking times to suit its power. It’s a fairly noisy model without the mute or “sound off” feature that many modern microwaves possess.
Bottom Line: This unit is perfectly sized for placing in larger cupboards or countertops, and it’s a great choice for anyone who heats up a lot of leftovers or who cooks for a bigger family. It provides an excellent bang for your buck thanks to the relatively low price. People with smaller kitchens or limited countertop space, or anyone who’s noise sensitive will want to opt for a smaller, less powerful, or quieter microwave oven.
No matter how busy or calm your lifestyle might be, everyone can benefit from keeping a microwave oven in their kitchen. They help you to save time and effort on certain cooking tasks, offering a level of convenience and speed that a regular oven and stove just can’t match.