We took into account both the best compact microwaves for people with less space and more temporary setups, as well as extra-large models for huge oven ranges. But the inside space matters even more, and for the average microwave we preferred to see capacity at least over 1 cubic foot, if not closer to 1.5. For smaller models we went down to 0.7 cubic feet (although there are impressive models out there that are even smaller).
Countertop microwaves are some of the most popular models, and there are many options to choose from. They are quick and easy to install—just plug them in—and you can move them around as needed, making them a top choice for renters. The main downside of countertop microwaves is that they take up valuable counter space, which can be frustrating if you have a small kitchen.
This microwave’s voice-control integration with the Amazon Echo is a big selling point among reviewers. Hundreds of people mention Alexa in their reviews, and commenters use it in some unique ways: “It’s great and has some unexpected uses besides the coolness factor. For example, sometimes I’ll reheat a cup of coffee while working at home and forget about it. The Echo alarm in my room lets me know the microwave is done. If I forget about it, I can just say, ‘Alexa, reheat for one minute,’ and it goes. Verbal confirmation from the Echo is a great feature.” Another reviewer shares, “Surprisingly, the voice command is more fluid to use even than using the buttons we all are so used to.”
If you really want microwave power levels that function accurately, look for a microwave with an inverter. What is an inverter microwave? Essentially, it uses a different type of microwave production that actually does change the power levels and heating. Set power to 5, and the inverter will make sure heating is at 50%. Other types of microwaves will use a cycling method, where the power is always set to 100% but at level 5 it cycles half as much as at level 10. Inverter technology tends to make power levels much more effective and sensible, but either way it’s important to know what you’re getting into.
Our microwave oven tests found big differences in overall performance among models. To test heating we warm up mashed potatoes, and we use frozen ground beef to test defrosting. We also test speed of heating, noise, and ease of use. We measure usable capacity, too. (Manufacturers often include space you can't use.) Plus we test how well the over-the-range models vent.
The 1.2-cubic-foot Toshiba didn’t heat as evenly as the smaller Toshiba. Unlike the 0.9-cubic-foot version, this Toshiba uses a steam and temperature sensor to automatically determine cooking time. However, we didn’t find the sensor particularly accurate: The baked potato we cooked using it came out completely raw in the center. In our heat map test, the marshmallows near the center of the turntable came out very dark. That said, it heated more evenly across the surface of the turntable than most of the microwaves we tested. The popcorn we made wasn’t burned, though it did have twice as many unpopped kernels as the 0.9-cubic-foot model. We liked that this model beeps to prompt you to flip meat while defrosting, something the smaller one doesn’t do. Impressively, this Toshiba only slightly cooked the edges of ground beef on the defrost mode, unlike most of the models we tested, which fully cooked entire sections of meat.
“What is microwave radiation? Is it dangerous? Are microwaves safe?” We see these questions a lot, so let’s clear it up once and for all: this type of electromagnetic radiation can be dangerous at high levels, but we’ve been using microwaves for decades, and it’s never been a problem. This is because, from the mesh door to the locking mechanism, microwaves are specifically sealed to prevent radiation from escaping, and the design works really, really well. However, if your oven door is damaged or if you think something is wrong, call a contractor and have them test radiation levels. It only takes a few seconds, and then you’ll know for sure.
There are three main styles of microwaves, and they’re distinguished predominantly by where and how they’re installed. First, there are your standard countertop microwaves, which simply sit on the kitchen counter and are plugged into an electrical outlet. This style is often the least expensive and works best for anyone who lives in a rented home, as they can be moved easily. Countertop microwaves are also a good option if you don’t want to remodel your kitchen to accommodate a built-in style.
Over the range microwaves are a different sort of beast – they typically have extra features like air flow fans underneath their base (used to clear smoke off stoves, which can add to the cost) and tend to be larger than other options. With 300 CFM of air flow and two speed fan controls, this GE model can handle over the range tasks as necessary. That spacious 1.6 cubic ft countertop microwave is also great for larger dishes.
Microwave ovens come in a variety of styles to fit all your home decor needs. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about otr microwaves or countertop microwaves. Some are black stainless steel, others are shiny stainless steel finish for the modern kitchen. If you have retro decor, there is also a retro microwave for you. Many people prefer a stainless steel exterior. It is easy to find the right model that blends right into your kitchen and matches your, espresso machines, food processors, coffee makers, air fryers and other appliances. Many of today’s models can even work with other smart home devices if your home is a smart home.
If you’re worried about standing too close to your microwave and absorbing radiation, don’t be. The level of radiation in microwave ovens is very low, and must comply with strict regulations put in place by the FDA. You can read a detailed explanation in this article from The New York Times (parent company of Wirecutter). And no, for the most part, the radiation in microwaves won’t destroy the nutrients in your food.
From the late 1970s, Japanese companies such as Sharp Corporation manufactured low-cost microwave ovens that were affordable for residential use, leading to the rapid expansion of the microwave oven market in the 1980s. After Japanese dominance for much of the 1980s, with Sharp as market leader, South Korean manufacturers began entering the market in the late 1980s, with Samsung becoming a major microwave manufacturer.