From heating ready meals on busy days to steaming vegetables to melting chocolate or butter for recipes, microwaves extremely useful and versatile appliances that few American households would do without. Unless your home has space for a built-in option, you’ll probably want a countertop microwave. You just set them on the counter, plug them in, and you’re ready to go, which is highly convenient. Not only that, but you’ll find the widest variety of microwaves in the countertop form—there are far more size options than built-in microwaves, since they don’t need to fit in a particular spot, plus there’s just a greater range of models and features, since countertop microwaves are the most popular option.
To find the best of the best, we reviewed dozens of countertop microwaves, comparing a range of features, such as size, wattage, sensor cooking capabilities, inverter options, price, and customer ratings.
During our extensive research, the Panasonic Countertop Microwave Oven with FlashXpress Broiler stood out to us as the clear winner, thanks to its wide range of excellent features, such as sensor cooking, inverter technology, and broiler option.
In This Article
The 5 Top-Rated Countertop Microwaves
|Best Countertop Microwave Overall
|Panasonic Countertop Microwave Oven with FlashXpress Broiler
|Best Countertop Convection Microwave
|Toshiba EC042A5C-BS Microwave Oven with Convection Function
|Best Budget Countertop Microwave
|AmazonBasics Small Microwave
|Best Small Countertop Microwave
|BLACK+DECKER EM720CB7 Digital Microwave Oven
|Best Countertop Microwave with Sensor Cooking
|Toshiba EM131A5C-BS Microwave Oven with Smart Sensor
*Ratings are from Amazon at the time of publication and can change
Best Countertop Microwave Overall: Panasonic Countertop Microwave Oven with FlashXpress Broiler
Anyone who uses a microwave often and wants one of the best money can buy, should opt for the Panasonic Countertop Microwave Oven with FlashXpress Broiler. The broiler function means this microwave can brown foods, as well as heating them through. So, if you want to toast a bagel or give your microwave lasagna a crispy top, you can do all that with this microwave. It also uses inverter technology, which heats food and drink evenly all the way through without the characteristic hot spots of standard microwave cooking.
Not sure how long a dish takes to cook? Use one of the 18 sensor cooking settings, including rice, pasta, soup, fresh vegetables, and oatmeal. There are also some standard autocook settings, including popcorn and coffee, if you want to keep it simple. The 1.1 cubic foot interior isn’t huge, but is large enough for most households, measuring approximately 14 inches wide 14 inches deep and 10 inches high. All this doesn’t come cheap, however, as this Panasonic microwave will set you back $300.
Panasonic Countertop Microwave Oven with FlashXpress Broiler Key Features:
- Simple press-button controls
- 10 power levels up to 1,000 watts
- Combination cooking can microwave and broil simultaneously
Best Countertop Convection Microwave: Toshiba EC042A5C-BS Microwave Oven with Convection Function
Not only can the Toshiba EC042A5C-BS Microwave Oven with Convection Function do everything a standard oven can do, its convection function makes baking and roasting possible, so you can make muffins, rolls, French fries, pizza, roasted vegetables, and so much more all in your microwave oven! It’s a more eco-friendly alternative to using a full oven when making a single dish, plus it produces far less external heat than an oven, which is a real boon on hot summer days. What’s more, it’s ideal for places where you don’t have a full oven, such as dorm rooms and RVs.
In addition to its convection abilities, it also uses sensor cooking with 13 automatic settings. The warm hold function can keep dishes warm until you’re ready to serve without drying them out. It can cook using a maximum of 1,000 watts, but with 10 power settings to choose from. It costs between $170 and $215, depending on the color option you choose, which is extremely reasonable when you consider everything this microwave can do.
Toshiba EC042A5C-BS Microwave Oven with Convection Function Key Features:
- Stainless steel interior is easy to wipe clean
- 1.5 cubic foot capacity is ideal for small families
- Flat touch pad controls don’t have gaps for dirt to get into
Best Budget Countertop Microwave: AmazonBasics Small Microwave
Not everyone requires a microwave with all the bells and whistles. If you really only need your microwave as an occasional helper to heat coffee, steam veggies, or make popcorn, rather than an appliance to cook full meals, the AmazonBasics Small Microwave might be your ideal choice. The 0.7 cubic foot interior is great for small cooking tasks (though it still has a 10-inch turntable which fits most foods you might want to microwave) and means the microwave won’t take up too much counter space.
What sets it apart from other budget microwaves is that it’s Alexa compatible. If you have an Alexa device, you can operate this microwave with various voice commands, such as “2 minutes,” “microwave 1 ounce of popcorn,” or “reheat a cup of coffee.” Considering it only costs $60, you couldn’t ask for much more. If you prefer to do things old school, however, you can also operate this appliance using the touch pad.
AmazonBasics Small Microwave Key Features:
- Wide range of Alexa presets with more added regularly
- Child lock helps keep young children out of trouble
- 10 power levels up to 700 watts
Best Small Countertop Microwave: BLACK+DECKER EM720CB7 Digital Microwave Oven
Yes, microwaves are useful, but when you have a small kitchen, a counter top microwave can take up too much space. A small microwave, like the BLACK+DECKER EM720CB7 Digital Microwave Oven is the perfect compromise. It measures just 17. 3 by 13 by 10. 2 inches externally with a 0.7 cubic foot interior. It’s great for small spaces or for people who generally only use their microwaves for tasks that don’t require much space—melting butter, making mug cakes, or warming soup, for instance.
With its flat touch pad, this microwave is extremely easy to use. It has six presets, including popcorn and frozen vegetables, plus defrost modes, a kitchen timer option, and the ability to manually set microwaving times. The LED display screen is large and easy to read. It’s made from sturdy stainless steel and is a breeze to clean. Retailing for $75, it won’t make too much of a dent in your bank balance.
BLACK+DECKER EM720CB7 Digital Microwave Oven Key Features:
- Maximum of 700 watts
- 10 inch turntable
- Features a child safety lock
Best Countertop Microwave with Sensor Cooking: Toshiba EM131A5C-BS Microwave Oven with Smart Sensor
Using a microwave isn’t exactly rocket science, but it can be hard to remember the optimum cooking times for all your favorite foods. Plus, sometime you might follow the microwaving directions exactly and still end up with dry or under cooked food. The Toshiba EM131A5C-BS Microwave Oven with Smart Sensor uses internal sensors to detect how the food or drink inside is cooking, adjust the power settings or cook time, and give you perfect results. The sensor cooking options include frozen pizza, frozen entrée, potato, rice, and vegetables, plus a general sensor reheat option for optimal reheating of any food or drink.
The soften and melt functions are great if you often use your microwave to give you a helping hand when making recipes that call for softened butter, melted chocolate, and so on. There’s also the ever-popular popcorn setting and a range of defrosting options. You get all this for just $120, which is excellent value considering what you can do with this microwave.
Toshiba EM131A5C-BS Microwave Oven with Smart Sensor Key Features:
- 10 power settings up to 1,100 watts
- 1.2 cubic foot capacity
- Large 12 inch turntable
Who Should Buy a Countertop Microwave
Anyone who wants a microwave but doesn’t have a spot in their kitchen for a built-in or over-range microwave should buy a countertop microwave. They don’t take any effort to set up and are ready to go straight out of the box.
You can find countertop microwaves with all kinds of features to best suit your needs, such as models with built-in broilers or convection functions, to those using sensors to make microwave cooking even easier. Even if you don’t intend to cook full meals in your countertop microwave, they still have many convenient and time-saving functions, such as reheating coffee that’s gone cold, warming up leftovers, and steaming fresh vegetables.
If you’re more interested in a microwave that won’t take up your counter space, you may want to check out The Best Over-the-Range Microwaves.
Important Features to Consider
A countertop microwave should have a few important features. Here’s what to consider when selecting a new countertop microwave:
- Wattage. Countertop microwaves tend to have a maximum wattage of between 600 and 1,200, but you should be able to select from a range of power levels (so you don’t have to cook at the maximum wattage all the time). The higher the wattage the faster the cooking time. Most microwave meals give cooking instructions for microwaves of 800 watts and higher.
- Capacity. You can find compact microwaves with an internal capacity of 0.5 cubic feet way up to 2.5 cubic foot giants. Small capacity microwaves (under 1 cubic foot) generally only fit a 10 inch dinner plate. Mid-size models (around 1 to 1.5 cubic feet) can fit 12 inch plates. Large microwaves (of 1.5 to 2 cubic feet) can fit larger cookware, such as casserole dishes. Extra-large models (over 2 cubic feet) are great for large families who might cook a full meal in their microwave.
- Sensor cooking. Countertop microwaves with sensor cooking have internal sensors that monitor steam, temperature, and other variables, then automatically adjust the cook time and temperature to give the best results.
- Inverter technology. Inverter technology is a system that modules the power being emitted from your microwave to give better, more even results. You don’t need to know the science behind it, just that you can expect food cooked in an inverter microwave to have an even temperature throughout, without stirring, rather than some boiling parts and some cold parts.
- Broiler. If you choose a microwave with a built-in broiler, you can brown and toast food, not just heat it. Some models can microwave and broil at the same time to give results similar to a conventional oven.
- Convection function. Microwaves with a convection function act like real ovens and can bake and roast all kinds of foods. They’re great for using in the summer when you don’t want to overheat your home by turning the oven on.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a countertop microwave and how does it work?
Countertop microwaves are microwaves that sit on your countertop (or other surface of your choice). They differ from built-in microwaves, which are set into a wall or kitchen cabinet, and over-the-range microwaves, which are types of built-in microwaves that sit directly above a range.
Like other microwave ovens, countertop microwaves emit high-frequency electromagnetic waves called microwaves. These electromagnetic waves flip the molecules in water millions of times a second and the friction caused by this heats your food.
Can a built-in microwave be used on a countertop?
It isn’t impossible to use a built-in microwave on a countertop, but it can create a range of issues, such as clogged vents. Plus, it won’t look as attractive as nothing but the front is supposed to be seen. With so many excellent countertop microwaves available, it makes much more sense to buy a countertop model if you intend to position it on your counter.
Does a microwave need to be vented?
No, countertop microwaves don’t need to be vented. They can vents that release steam from inside the microwave, but minimal steam is produced so it doesn’t need to be vented outside.
Can a microwave sit on a metal shelf?
Any microwave-user will know that you can’t put metal inside a microwave (it will set on fire) but microwave ovens do a great job of keeping their electromagnetic waves inside, so you can put a microwave of a metal shelf (or any other metal surface) without any problems.
Other Countertop Microwaves We Reviewed
We looked at 20 other countertop microwaves. Even though they didn’t make our 5 best countertop microwaves list, they’re the best of the rest and each is still a great option for your kitchen. The information you’ll need to compare each one is included with the listing.
- Countertop Microwaves with Sensor Cooking
- Small Countertop Microwaves
- Countertop Convection Microwaves
- Other Countertop Microwaves
Countertop Microwaves with Sensor Cooking
Sure, it’s not cheap, but this microwave is a pleasure to use. It has sensor settings for both cooking and reheating, plus a grill function and more.
- Large screen with “smart menu”
- Easy shortcut panel
- 1.2 cubic foot capacity
With 8 sensor setting from everything from baked potatoes to popcorn, it’s beyond simple to cook some of your favorite foods. It is expensive, but it’s one of the most durable options out there.
- Also suitable for use as a built-in microwave
- Easy to use
- Maximum of 1,100 watts
An extra-large 2 cubic foot microwave that can fit dishes of up to 16 inches across and features 6 sensor settings to choose from.
- Durable and attractive stainless steel construction
- 10 power levels up to 1,200 watts
- Kitchen timer function
Not only does this excellent microwave have sensor cook and sensor reheat settings, it also uses inverter technology for more even cooking.
- Large 2 cubic foot capacity
- 1,200 watts
- Features child lock and kitchen timer
With 7 sensor cook settings plus a sensor reheat option for warming already-cooked food, you have almost all your bases covered. This model doesn’t use an inverter, but there is an inverter option available.
- 1,100 watts on high power
- 1.3 cubic feet with 13.4 inch turntable
- Wipe clean control panel
Want a microwave that’s large and in charge? This is a great bet. Not only is it physically large with a 2.2 cubic foot capacity, it also gives you some huge features, such as a cyclonic inverter and genius sensor.
- 20 autocook sensor options
- Large 16.5 inch turntable
- Sturdy and easy to clean
Small Countertop Microwaves
A compact 0.7 cubic foot microwave with a cool retro design for an affordable price. You couldn’t want much more from a basic microwave oven.
- Three retro color choices
- Large easy-read display screen
- 700 watts with 10 power levels
This simple dial controls and 0.6 cubic foot internal capacity make this an ideal choice for occasional use or when cooking for one.
- Choice of power levels up to 600 watts
- Takes up very little counter space
- No digital display
We love the retro style of this microwave, but it performs excellently for a simple model, too. A great choice if you want an effective microwave without too many extra features.
- 5 power levels up to 700 watts
- Choose from 5 preset programs
- Available in city blue, cream, mint green, and red
Cost: $90 to $110
Sturdy and easy to use with a flat key pad that wipes clean with no nooks and crannies where dirt can get caught. The 0.7 cubic foot capacity means it won’t take too much counter space.
- 5 presets plus a reheat function
- 10 power levels up to 700 watts
- Attractive stainless steel exterior
Sleek, stylish, and small. This compact 0.7 cubic foot microwave is the perfect kitchen helper. It has 6 preset programs and works at 10 power levels up to a maximum of 700 watts.
- Great for small kitchen or dorms
- Flat touch pad controls
- Easy to use
A small countertop model from one of the biggest names in microwave ovens. Packs a powerful 900 watt punch in a compact package.
- 7 preset autocook functions
- 10.6 inch turntable
- Three power levels for microwave popcorn
Countertop Convection Microwaves
A new 4-in-1 oven from Amazon that works as a microwave, convection oven, air fryer, and food warmer. A truly versatile appliance that’s a great help whether or not you have a full oven, too.
- Amazon Dot included so you can use Alexa features
- Built-in temperature probe
- Can scan packaged foods to find the correct cooking times/temperatures
Not only can you use this as a standard microwave, you can also roast, bake, and grill/broil. All this in a fairly compact package, too!
- Stainless steel interior is easy to clean
- Simple touch pad controls
- Maximum power of 1,000 watts
A decently-sized 1.5 cubic foot microwave with a simple to use convection function for roasting and baking. Also features a grill setting that’s a great alternative to frying.
- Up to 1,000 watts of power
- 9 preset cook functions
- Child safety lock
There’s little this oven can’t do with convection, grill, and air fry options (alongside standard microwaving, of course), all in a small package with a 1 cubic foot interior.
- 11 cooking programs
- Low temperature mode for keeping food warm, slow cooking, and dehydrating
- Combination grill/convection option
Other Countertop Microwaves
This mid-sized 1.1 cubic foot microwave can manage a commendable 1,000 watts and comes at a reasonable price. A great all-round option for basic use.
- 6 one-touch preset controls
- LED display works as a handy kitchen clock
- Child lock for safety purposes
Easy to use with 10 power levels up to 1,000 watts. Don’t expect any high-end features, but it’s a great choice if you simply want to reheat, defrost, make popcorn, etc, without paying extra for features you won’t use.
- Interior capacity of 1.1 cubic feet
- Flat, wipe clean touch pad
- Kitchen timer mode
With its stainless steel exterior, this sturdy microwave looks great in kitchens with other stainless steel appliances. The 1.6 cubic foot capacity is big enough for medium to large families.
- 11 power levels up to 1,100 watts
- Choose from 6 preset programs or set the time manually
- Child lock function
The single dial control is quick and easy to use. As it’s designed for medium duty commercial use, it’s extremely sturdy, but not so large or expensive you can’t use it at home.
- Internal capacity of 1 cubic foot
- Can accommodate plates up to 13.5 inches
- Handy cooking time reference guide on the control panel