A good microwave oven can make your life so much easier. By quickly reheating last night's dinner, melting butter, softening ice cream and performing hundreds of other kitchen tasks, a decent microwave can make cooking quicker, simpler and more fun.
Based on more than 40 hours of research, we've selected the best microwave ovens for families and kitchens of all sizes. Our top pick is the Toshiba EM925A5A, an $80 model that offers a good selection of features at a great price. It provides 900 watts of cooking power and a 0.9-cubic-foot interior that can hold a decent-size plate of food.
For those who need more space to reheat larger meals, our top pick for large families is the GE Profile JES2251SJ, a powerful, 1200-W model that has a sensor to tell you when your food is ready.
Kenmore microwave ovens have been recalled due to burn hazards from the exterior surfaces. The recall applies to model number 204.77603610 with serial numbers 17042700001 and 17042700684. The brand name and model and serial numbers can be found on the data plate on the back of the microwave ovens. Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled products and contact Sears for a free in-home repair. 800-659-7026 www.sears.com
The Sharp 24-inch IoT Microwave Drawer ($1,399) can be paired with the new "Sharp Kitchen" app. It enables remote control of the oven’s features and allows you to receive alerts when your food is ready. In addition, it connects to the brands online community Simply Better Living.
Amazon's newest smart appliance is the Amazon Smart Oven ($249), which is a microwave, convection oven, and air fryer in one. The Smart Oven can also be connected to and controlled by an Alexa device. Check out our hands-on with the Amazon Smart Oven.
Shopping for other appliances? Be sure to check out our top picks:
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1. Toshiba EM925A5A
Best microwave overall
Type: Countertop | Size: 19.2 x 15.9 x 11.5 inches | Capacity: 0.9 cubic feet | Power: 900 W | Power Levels: 13 | Cooking Features: Express Cook | App Control: No
There's a sweet spot for most appliances where the price, performance and features are all balanced. For microwaves, you'll find that in the Toshiba EM925A5A, which has enough room for a good-size dinner plate (up to 11 inches); enough power, with 900W, to reheat the food on that plate well; and a low enough price, at $80, that you can still afford to eat.
There aren't any fancy features here; there's no voice control, and there are no sensors to measure how cooked your food is. There are some nice touches for convenience, though, such as the Express Cook: Press any of the buttons, 1 through 6, and the Start button, and you get 1 to 6 minutes of microwaving.
Wirecutter did extensive testing that shows that this microwave heats food thoroughly and evenly, and the oven even includes a mute button so you can nuke a midnight snack without waking the dog.
2. Sharp ZSMC0912BS
Best microwave for those on a budget
Type: Countertop | Size: 19.1 x 11.5 x 16.1 inches | Capacity: 0.9 cubic feet | Power: 900 W | Power Levels: 10 | Cooking Features: Popcorn, Pizza, Potato, Beverage | App Control: No
On the lookout for a bargain? The Sharp ZSMC0912BS could be it. It's a simple, no-frills microwave, but it has it where it counts, with a 0.9-cubic-foot interior and a 900W magnetron. That makes it smaller and slightly less powerful than some other models, but big and powerful enough for snacks and small plates of food.
It’s also pretty simple to use. Need a quick reheat of a cup of coffee? Put it inside and hit the express button, which gives it a 30-second zap. Not hot enough? Hit it again for an additional 30 seconds. Sure, it’s a basic microwave that won’t hold a large plate or dish, but it’s perfect for heating a snack without hassle.
3. Kenmore 73779
Another great budget microwave
Type: Countertop | Size: 11 x 19 x 14.3 inches | Capacity: 0.9 cubic feet | Power: 900 W | Power Levels: 10 | Cooking Features: Popcorn, Potato, Pizza, Weight Defrost | App Control: No
The Kenmore 73779 is another smart pick for the cook on a budget, as it offers a great set of features for the price. You get a clean, smart design; a decent amount of cooking power from the 900-W magnetron; and a decent amount of space in the 1.1-cubic-foot interior, which is big enough to hold a 10-inch plate.
What you don't get is a sensor to detect how well-done your food is, or any of the accompanying cooking modes. You do get a decent selection of modes, though, including a weight-defrost mode, in which you enter the type and weight of the frozen food and the microwave calculates the defrosting time for you.
4. GE Profile JES2251SJ
Best microwave for large families
Type: Countertop | Size: 14 x 24 x 19 inches | Capacity: 2.2 cubic feet | Power: 1,200 W | Power Levels: 10 | Cooking Features: Breakfast, Snack, Dinner, Inverter Defrost | App Control: No
If you regularly heat up large amounts of food to feed the ravenous horde that is your family, then you need a bigger microwave. The GE Profile JES2251SJ can fit a lot of food in its 2.2-cubic-foot interior, which comes with a big, 16-inch rotating turntable. This microwave has 1,200 W of power, so it can reheat big plates full of food. The reviews show that it does so nice and evenly, which is much harder to do with a large interior.
The JES2251SJ also includes a sensor that detects when your food is done. This seems to be pretty effective, as most reviewers and users say that it worked well.
This microwave isn't cheap, though. Priced at about $300, it is more than double the cost of our smaller picks.
5. GE JVM3160RFSS
Top over-the-range microwave
Type: Over the Range | Size: 29.9 x 16.5 x 15.3 inches | Capacity: 1.6 cubic feet | Power: 1,000 W | Power Levels: 10 | Cooking Features: AutoCook, Child Safety Lock | App Control: No
Over-the-range microwaves fit above your range but underneath your cabinets. That means they take up less space and save you precious counter area. The GE JVM3160RFSS has a clean, smart design that comes in five different colors. It's all business on the inside, though, with 1.6 cubic feet of space and a 1,000-W magnetron that heats food evenly.
A Warm setting will keep food at a ready-to-eat temperature, while six express-cook buttons let you start nuking your food with a single press. However, the keypad is not backlit, making it hard to see in the dark. This microwave also has a powerful two-speed ventilation system, capable of moving 300 cubic feet of air per minute.
6. Whirlpool WMH53521H
Best over the range microwave for large families
Type: Over the Range | Size: 17 x 30 x 16 inches | Capacity: 2.1 cubic feet | Power: 1,000 W | Power Levels: 10 | Cooking Features: AutoCook, Steam | App Control: No
The WMH53521H is an over-the-range microwave that the critics and users love. Buyers praised its performance at reheating and cooking food. That just goes to show that it is not always just about power; this oven has a 1,000-W magnetron, which is smaller than what many similar models have. Users also praised the ease of use of this microwave, as well as the spacious, 2.1-cubic-foot interior and the large, 14-inch turntable that can hold the biggest plates. Also included is a wire rack that makes it possible to put more food inside the oven. The Melt/Soften setting is great for helping with sensitive ingredients like butter.
7. GE JES1097SMSS Smart Countertop Microwave Oven
Best smart microwave
Type: Countertop | Size: 17.3 x 10.1 x 14.1 inches | Capacity: 0.9 cubic feet | Power: 900 W | Power Levels: 10 | Cooking Features: Scan-to-Cook | App Control: Yes, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant/GE Appliances app
If you like the idea of controlling your microwave by voice but need a bit more performance than the Amazon Basics model provides, the GE JES1097SMSS is a great pick. It has the same Alexa voice-control features; just say, "Alexa, microwave for 60 seconds," to a connected Amazon Alexa voice device, and the microwave will follow your commands. And, it also works with Google Assistant, so you can use a Google Home speaker to control it, too. With 900 W of power, it is faster at cooking and reheating food than the Amazon model, but it is not as fast as some more-powerful models.
This microwave can also be controlled through the GE Appliances Kitchen app, which some reviewers found a little difficult to get installed and connected. When it is connected, though, it includes a neat feature called Scan-to-Cook. When you scan the bar code of a supported microwaveable food, the app detects the code and programs the microwave appropriately. Reviewers found that the feature worked well, but the list of supported foods isn’t that long. Find a list of supported foods here.
8. AmazonBasics Microwave
Best budget smart microwave
Type: Countertop | Size: 17.3 x 10.1 x 14.1 inches | Capacity: 0.7 cubic feet | Power: 700 W | Power Levels: 10 | Cooking Features: Auto Popcorn Replenishment | App Control: Yes, Amazon Alexa
Need more Jetsons in your life? The AmazonBasics Microwave would be happy to oblige, as it comes with voice control — well, sort of: Press the Alexa button on the microwave, and a nearby Amazon Alexa device (such as an Echo Dot) will listen for instructions. So, you need to have an Alexa device to hand already. If you do, you can issue instructions, such as "microwave for 60 seconds," "reheat a cup of coffee" or "defrost a 13-pound bag of peas," and the microwave will oblige.
One interesting feature is Auto Popcorn Replenishment. The microwave keeps a tab of how many bags of popcorn you have microwaved and automatically orders more when you run low — from Amazon, of course.
Reviewers found that the voice-control feature worked well, with the built-in Amazon Alexa assistant understanding and following instructions clearly. However, there are a few gotchas: CNet found that the presets didn't work well with multiple quantities. The oven microwaved a single baked potato fine, but when it tried three spuds at once, they came out uncooked.
Part of that may be because this is a rather low-power microwave. With only 700 W of power, it struggled to cook larger items or took much longer than other, more powerful microwaves. So, while it is a great pick for an office or dorm room microwave, families may want to go with a larger, more powerful model.
9. Breville Quick Touch
Type: Countertop | Size: 18 x 20.5 x 12.5 inches | Capacity: 0.9 cubic feet | Power: 1,100 W | Power Levels: 10 | Cooking Features: Smart Defrost, A Bit More | App Control: No
Smart microwaves aren't just about adding apps and Wi-Fi; sometimes, smart design outweighs technology. The Breville Quick Touch offers a very different, but user-friendly approach to controlling your cooking. On the outside, you get a couple of dials and buttons on a clean, smart, stainless-steel exterior with a nicer, retro design. When you open the door, you get a load of additional buttons that allow you to program frequently used settings. Like your drinks reheated in a certain way? Program a button for it. Like to zap your pancakes to get that butter melted just right? Program a button for it.
The Quick Touch also includes a sensor-based Auto Defrost setting, which uses a humidity sensor to detect when your food is properly defrosted. Another cute and useful touch is the A Bit More button. Tap that, and it gives your food a bit more time; this is just what you need if your dish isn't quite to temperature yet.
How we picked
To come up with a list of the best microwave ovens, we looked at the top picks from CNET, Wirecutter, Good Housekeeping, Consumer Reports and other sites, as well as the top-selling models at Best Buy, Lowe's and The Home Depot. From there, we narrowed the list down to the best microwaves based on features, price, design and other factors.
What type of microwave should you get?
There are two main types of microwave available: countertop and over the range. Here's what you need to know about each of them.
Countertop: These are the classic microwaves that sit on your countertop next to your cutting board and toaster. They don't require any installation except being plugged into a nearby power socket. However, some models can be rather tall, so make sure to measure the available space if you have cabinets above the counter or pans, cups, etc. that hang down.
Over the range: Also known as built-in, or microwave hoods, these microwaves are installed above your rangetop, saving space and providing a vent that sucks in and filters out smoke and odors from cooking. These are the tidiest type of microwaves, as all of the cables and vents are hidden away. However, they do require some installation, as they will typically be attached to the cabinets or the wall behind them.
The most common size is just under 30 inches wide and about 16 inches deep, but make sure that you measure the space before you buy. Most of these microwaves will have a left-right door opening, but some high-end models may have a door that opens upward. Either way, check to ensure that any adjacent cabinet-door fittings will not block the microwave or make it awkward to open.