The first commercially available microwave oven, known as the “Radarange,” was introduced in 1947. While it was impressive, it was almost 6 feet tall and weighed 750 pounds, so it could not fit in the average American kitchen. Today, compact microwaves have shrunk considerably, and compact models are available that are suited to small kitchens.
While choosing the best small microwave might seem simple, there are a number of considerations to weigh. This guide will explore several important features to look for as you shop and some choices by category for some of the top products on the market.
- BEST OVERALL: Toshiba EM131A5C-BS Microwave Oven
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Black+Decker EM720CB7 Digital Microwave
- UPGRADE PICK: Toshiba EC042A5C-SS Countertop Microwave Oven
- BEST BASIC: COMFEE’ EM720CPL-PM Countertop Microwave Oven
- BEST SMART: GE JES1097SMSS Smart Countertop Microwave
- BEST WITH INVERTER: LG NeoChef 0.9 cu. Ft. Countertop Microwave
- BEST DESIGN: GE JES1072SHSS Countertop Microwave
- BEST RETRO: Nostalgia RMO4IVY Retro Countertop Microwave Oven
- BEST FOR FAMILIES: Galanz GLCMKA07BKR-07 Retro Microwave
- ALSO CONSIDER: Cuisinart CMW-100 Stainless Steel Microwave
How We Chose the Best Small Microwaves
Anyone that has a busy schedule or relies on a microwave for daily use knows that the best options come with easy-to-use features, high power outputs, and are offered in multiple colorways.
We researched the most sought-after compact microwaves in their respective categories and discovered that the best options come with auto or programmable defrosts, multiple pre-programmed settings, turntables, digital clocks, child locks, and express cooking. While many compact microwaves in the above list come with one or more of these features, they also have ample cooking power, ranging from 700 to 1,100 watts for fast reheat or cooking times.
Some options also include ample functionality and operate as a microwave, air fryer, broiler, and convection oven. Many compact microwaves are also offered in multiple colorways or sizes to fit into your current kitchen seamlessly.
Our Top Picks
The top picks take into account the above-mentioned features to consider when shopping for the best small microwave, in addition to overall quality and value. Read on to discover some of the top options on the market in a variety of categories.
Toshiba’s EM131A5C-BS model is compact, affordable, and has an 1,100-watt capacity with a number of additional features that set it apart from other microwaves on the market. The add-30-seconds button and one-touch express controls from 1 to 6 minutes allow for quick cooking. Use the mute setting to prevent beeping when a button is pressed and when the cycle ends. Choose from two defrost settings: custom defrost and 1 auto defrost. It features a door handle rather than a button, which many users find easier to keep clean.
This Toshiba microwave has a 1.2-cubic-foot capacity, with external dimensions of 20.5 by 17.1 by 12.8 inches and internal dimensions of 13.07 by 15 by 9.5 inches. The turntable has a 12.5-inch diameter. Choose from two colors: brushed stainless steel or black stainless steel. As an added safety feature, a lock function prevents children from using the microwave unsupervised.
- Size: 20.5 by 17.1 by 12.8 inches
- Watts: 1,100
- Special Features: Add 30 seconds button and one-touch express controls
- Includes a mute button; great for heating up midnight snacks
- 2 defrost settings; auto and custom
- Child safety feature comes in handy and adds peace of mind
- Quite heavy for such a small unit
- Stainless steel parts are prone to fingerprints
Get the Toshiba microwave at Amazon.
This Black+Decker compact microwave oven is affordable and ultra compact, making it perfect for small apartments and college dorm rooms. It features a 700-watt power capacity, 10 power settings, and 30-second express cooking. Defrost by either time or weight. Choose from six auto-cook presets for popcorn, pizza, potatoes, frozen vegetables, beverages, and dinner plates.
While this model has a 0.7-cubic-foot capacity, larger versions with 0.9-, 1.1-, and 1.4-cubic-foot capacities are also available. The smallest model has external dimensions of 17.3 by 13.0 by 10.2 inches, internal dimensions of 12.05 by 11.97 by 8.11 inches, and it includes a removable 10-inch glass turntable.
- Size: 17.3 by 13.0 by 10.2 inches
- Watts: 700
- Special Features: 30-second express cooking and 6 auto-cook presets
- Includes 10 power levels; suitable for cooking a wide range of foods
- Comes in multiple sizes to suit user needs
- Budget-friendly compared to similar models
- Small internal capacity; may not fit a large dinner plate
Get the Black+Decker microwave at Amazon.
Toshiba’s four-in-one countertop appliance functions as a microwave, air fryer, broiler, and convection oven. The air fryer crisps up french fries, nuggets, and wings using minimal oil, the broiler toasts and browns, and the convection oven heats at temperatures up to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
The functions can be used independently or in conjunction with one another to cook a wide variety of dishes. The microwave uses an inverter and includes Genius Sensor Cook, Turbo Defrost, and settings for specific foods. A safety lock and silent mode are also available. Its capacity is 1.2 cubic feet, with external dimensions of 22 by 13.4 by 17 inches and a 14.2-inch glass turntable.
- Size: 22 by 13.4 by 17 inches
- Watts: 1,000
- Special Features: 4-in-1 capability, Genius Sensor Cook, and Turbo Defrost
- Functions as a microwave, air fryer, broiler, and convection oven
- Heats to an impressive 425 degrees Fahrenheit
- Great features including built-in safety lock and silent mode
- Pricier compared to similar options
- Some users report that the convection oven cooks slowly
Get the Toshiba countertop microwave at Amazon.
Comfee’s affordable microwave comes in black or white, with heavy-duty plastic and stainless steel construction. With a 0.7 cubic foot capacity, it operates at 700 watts and offers 11 power levels. No need to guess how much time or power you’ll need: Just select one of the easy auto-cook functions for popcorn, potatoes, pizza, veggies, beverages, and reheating leftovers. It also has a one-touch express operation and two defrost settings.
Other features include a mute button, digital clock, kitchen timer, and child safety lock. The glass turntable is a roomy 12.4 inches, and bright interior lights allow you to monitor food. Like other premium grade microwaves, Comfee’s comes with an energy-saving eco mode, allowing you to save up to 50 percent of standby power consumption. The external dimensions are 17.3 by 13 by 10.2 inches.
- Size: 17.3 by 13 by 10.2 inches
- Watts: 700
- Special Features: 11 power levels and one-touch express operation
- Available in multiple colors to fit the kitchen decor
- Includes mute button, digital clock, kitchen timer, and child safety lock
- Easy one-touch heat settings for popular foods
- Small internal capacity; may not fit a large dinner plate
- Turntable can often be knocked off track during use
Get the COMFEE microwave oven at Amazon.
The GE JES1097SMSS smart microwave connects to a Wi-Fi network and pairs with Google Assistant or Alexa for voice activation. It also features scan-to-cook technology, letting users scan the barcodes from prepackaged foods to set the time and temperature automatically.
The microwave has a 900-watt power capacity, a variety of presets, and it allows users to defrost by time or weight. Lock the controls by pressing the “off” button for 3 seconds. Its capacity is 0.9 cubic feet with exterior dimensions of 19 by 14.5 by 11.5 inches.
- Size: 19 by 14.5 by 11.5 inches
- Watts: 900
- Special Features: WiFi connectivity; compatible with Google Home and Alexa
- Voice activated; great for smart home enthusiasts
- Includes ultra high-tech scan-to-cook technology
- Lockable buttons great around young kids
- Added technology makes it pricey
- No convection setting included
- Buttons are not backlit; difficult to see in the dark
Get the GE smart microwave at Best Buy or The Home Depot.
While many compact microwaves have reduced power capacities, this LG compact microwave oven is an impressive 900 watts. Not only that, but it also uses smart inverter technology, ensuring that heating is even and consistent across all power levels. This functionality also allows you to thaw frozen vegetables, meats, or bread quickly.
Along with the standard cooking presets with smooth touch glass controls, this model also has an EasyClean interior that is stain-resistant and requires no chemicals to clean and a hexagonal stabilizer ring with 6 wheels for smooth spinning. Plus, an interior LED light allows you to check on your food while it heats.
This compact microwave oven has a 0.9-cubic-foot capacity with external dimensions of 11 inches by 14.5 inches by 18.5 inches and internal dimensions of 13.9 inches by 12.6 inches by 8.9 inches.
- Size: 1 inches by 14.5 inches by 18.5 inches
- Watts: 900
- Special Features: Smart inverted, EasyClean interior, LED light
- Smart inverter helps cook food more evenly
- Standard cooking presets
- EasyClean interior; great for cleaning up splatters
- Smooth touch glass controls provide a sleek look
- Some users report LED light going out quickly
Get the LG NeoChef microwave at The Home Depot.
GE’s JES1072SHSS model has a sleek, modern design that’s available in four finishes: stainless steel, black stainless steel, white, and black. The exterior measures 17.31 by 10.18 by 12.75 inches, while the interior measures 12.75 by 7.87 by 11.62 inches for a total capacity of 0.7 cubic feet.
It has a 700-watt power capacity. Cooking controls include auto and timed defrost, one-touch cooking, food-specific presets, an add-30-seconds button, and a reheat function. Express cooking options are available, ranging from 1 to 6 minutes.
- Size: 17.31 by 10.18 by 12.75 inches
- Watts: 700
- Special Features: Auto and timed defrost and a reheat function
- One-touch cooking is very convenient
- Food-specific presets included; great for snacks
- Add 30 seconds button makes it easy to heat food a little further
- Lower power level than comparable options
Get the GE countertop microwave at Best Buy or Lowe’s.
Generally speaking, microwaves aren’t known for their eye-catching designs, but this model by Nostalgia Electrics evokes midcentury aesthetics. It’s available in four colors: aqua, ivory, jet black, metallic retro red, and seafoam green. The vintage-style program dial makes for a tactile user experience. Despite its retro look, the microwave is equipped with plenty of modern features. It has an 800-watt power capacity and includes 12 pre-programmed cooking settings as well as a delay timer and express cooking.
This model also has a large, built-in, and programmable digital clock. The exterior dimensions are 19 by 15 by 11 inches, with a capacity of 0.9 cubic feet.
- Size: 19 by 15 by 11 inches
- Watts: 800 watts
- Special Features: 12 pre-programmed cooking settings
- Delay timer for cooking items later without forgetting
- Innovative design looks nothing like a regular microwave
- Comes in 5 jazzy colorways; great as a statement piece
- Not as user-friendly as comparable options
- Some users report manufacturing defects
Get the Nostalgia retro microwave at Amazon or The Home Depot.
The Galanz GLCMKA07BKR-07 has a name that’s almost bigger than the device itself. This 0.7 cubic foot microwave is easy to use, fast, and has a safety lock, making it suitable for busy homes with children. But with its retro styling, it’s also cute and suitable for any kitchen space.
Operating at a standard 700 watts, this Galanz microwave has six power levels, defrost settings, a safety lock, and an easy to read LED display. Bright interior lights allow you to monitor food without opening the door. The glass turntable rotates smoothly, 360 degrees, to ensure consistently heated results. Choose from one of four vintage hues: Retro Red, Bebop Blue, Surf Green, and Vinyl Black. As for size, the exterior dimensions are 17.9 by 13.8 by 10.3 inches.
- Size: 17.9 by 13.8 by 10.3 inches
- Watts: 700
- Special Features: 6 power levels and 2 defrost settings
- Child lock makes it suitable for homes with young children
- Bright interior lights and LED display; easy to use in the dark
- Comes in 4 colorways to suit a range of decor styles
- Comes with fewer features than comparable models
- Some users report manufacturing defects
Get the Galanz retro microwave at Amazon.
The Cuisinart CMW-100 has a 1,000-watt power capacity and features a unique two-stage cooking option, letting users defrost for a set amount of time before cooking at high temperatures. One-touch controls and presets allow users to cook popcorn, potatoes, bacon, and more with the push of a button. Twenty-five pre-programmed settings are included, which can be customized for your favorite dishes.
This model’s interior is 1 cubic foot, while the exterior measures 20.5 by 15.25 by 12.8 inches. It includes a 12-inch rotating turntable. A child lock prevents settings from being changed while in use.
- Size: 20.5 by 15.25 by 12.8 inches
- Watts: 1,000
- Special Features: 2-stage cooking option and one-touch controls
- 25 pre-programmed settings; can cook almost anything
- 12-inch rotating turntable included; fits most plate sizes
- Child lock great for inquisitive toddlers
- Large construction; may take up more counter space
Get the Cuisinart stainless steel microwave at Amazon.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Small Microwave
While it’s easy to assume that all compact microwaves offer similar performance, a number of factors affect their functionality, including type, power capacity, dimensions, settings, availability of additional features, and more. Keep reading to learn about some of the most important features to consider when choosing the best small microwave for your kitchen.
Choose from several types of microwaves:
- Countertop models are the most popular, with two-thirds of Americans opting for this style. They simply need to be plugged into an electrical outlet, so installation is a breeze. They can be moved around as needed. Most small, countertop microwaves on the market are of the countertop variety.
- Over-the-range (OTR) microwaves are mounted above the stovetop and include an exhaust fan to double as a range hood. Shopping for an over-the-range microwave can be tricky because it must fit perfectly in the available space. Professional installation is generally recommended.
- Under-cabinet microwaves are similar to over-the-range models but are not suspended over the stove.
- Built-in microwaves are installed flush with kitchen cabinets for a cohesive aesthetic. While they do save on counter space, they tend to be expensive and are difficult to install.
- Convection microwaves circulate hot air to speed up cooking times. They also have advanced capacities for browning and crisping.
Microwave capacities are measured in cubic feet. Capacities generally range from 0.5 to 2.2 cubic feet. Those looking for a small microwave should consider models with capacities of 1.3 cubic feet or less. Microwaves with a 0.5-cubic-foot capacity are still large enough to accommodate a standard 10-inch dinner plate.
While capacity does influence a microwave’s dimensions, it’s not the only figure to consider. Some models are made with bulkier siding, increasing their size even if the interior capacity remains the same. Countertop microwaves are typically between 18 and 24 inches wide, 14 and 16 inches deep, and 9.8 and 13.8 inches tall.
Microwave power capacities range between 500 and 1,200 watts. Higher wattage means that food will cook more quickly and evenly. Keep in mind, however, that higher wattage is associated with higher price points. Countertop microwaves with less than 700 watts may cook food slowly or unevenly.
Most prepackaged foods assume a cooking power of 1,000 watts when providing cooking instructions. Smaller microwaves generally have lower power capacities. Look for a compact model with a power capacity of between 700 and 1,000 watts for the best results.
Most microwaves are powered by transformers, but some upgraded inverter microwaves have more consistent cooking. Transformer-powered microwaves cycle between full power and zero power at lower settings, while inverter microwaves maintain a constant temperature.
When shopping for a microwave, consider its interior features:
- Nearly all microwaves include turntables that rotate food to guarantee even cooking. Ensure that the turntable of a compact microwave is large enough to hold your household’s dinner plates. Look for a model with a turntable that can be removed and hand-washed or put in the dishwasher.
- Some microwaves come with interior racks, allowing you to cook two or more dishes simultaneously. These racks are removable and may be dishwasher safe or may require hand-washing.
- An interior LED display light lets users monitor food as it cooks.
Controls and Settings
Microwaves come with a variety of settings and cooking presets:
- An “Add 30 seconds” button is handy for food that just needs a little longer.
- Auto-defrost settings optimize thawing times based on the weight of the food being defrosted.
- Cooking presets for specific foods—like popcorn or pizza—automatically choose a cooking time and power setting.
Look for a model with large, clearly marked buttons. A backlit LED display provides improved visibility in low-light conditions. Smooth control panels are easy to wipe clean, while interfaces with buttons or knobs can accumulate dirt and require more extensive cleaning.
Many modern microwaves feature smart sensors that detect moisture levels in the food you’re cooking to regulate cook times and prevent overcooking.
More high-tech smart microwaves connect to Wi-Fi networks and can be controlled using a smart-home assistant, smartphone, or tablet. Some models allow users to scan the barcodes of prepackaged foods and then search their internal databases to determine cook times.
Some microwaves include other features to increase safety or improve functionality.
- A child lockout feature forces users to input a code before use to prevent young children from using it.
- A silent mode eliminates all auditory alerts, which is perfect for quiet late-night snacking.
- A grill function sears the outside of the food.
- A delayed start time allows users to program a cook time in advance.
- An eco-mode setting reduces standby power usage.
While some of the most affordable countertop microwaves have simple black or white plastic finishes, most high-end models feature stainless steel exteriors. Match your microwave to your fridge, stove, dishwasher, and other kitchen appliances for a consistent aesthetic. Alternatively, choose a model with a colorful retro finish to create a visual focal point.
Ready to reheat? Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about microwaves.
Q. How do you know what size microwave to buy?
Choose a microwave based on your available counter space. Microwaves with capacities of 0.5 cubic feet can accommodate a standard 10-inch dinner plate, while a larger microwave is necessary to fit larger dishes and cookware.
Q. What can a smart microwave do?
Smart microwaves connect to a Wi-Fi network and can be controlled using a smartphone, tablet, or smart-home assistant device.
Q. Can any microwave go over the range?
No, only specially designed over-the-range microwave ovens should be placed above a stovetop to ensure adequate ventilation and heat resistance.
Q. How do you make a countertop microwave look built-in?
Many manufacturers sell trim kits that make standard countertop microwaves appear as if they’re built into kitchen cabinetry.
Q. Can you hang a countertop microwave?
To suspend a countertop microwave, you must purchase a microwave mounting kit.
Q. How do I clean my small microwave?
To prevent damage or odors on the interior, you should clean a microwave by wiping down the interior surfaces with a damp rag or paper towel and then using a combination of baking soda and vinegar or a commercial cleaner to scour off grease and food stains.
Q. How should I recycle a microwave?
As with any household appliance, a microwave should be recycled by taking it to a local recycling center.
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