For over 40 years, the microwave oven has been a staple in even the most minimally equipped family kitchen, company break area, or dorm room. Often, it’s the first appliance we purchase when moving into a new home or apartment, if it doesn't come equipped with one already.
And the reason is simple. Even the most basic microwave can handle a myriad of cooking tasks while using a minimum of electricity and still producing no ambient heat in your kitchen. Add a few accessories for browning, baking, and roasting, and there’s almost nothing you can make on a stove or in an oven that you can’t cook in your microwave. From reheating your coffee, to defrosting a steak, to baking a whole chicken, even the most basic microwave can produce stellar results with just the push of a few buttons.
Finding the Best Microwave Ovens of 2018
In this article, we’ll look at a range of microwave ovens currently on the market. They come in a wide range of sizes, with varying features and special functions. Some are just bare-bones models that are perfect for a dorm or gaming room. Others boast upgrades like multiple function programming.
Whether you’re looking to upgrade your kitchen or sending a child off to college, check out the following models. You’re sure to find one that fits your needs and your wallet.
Westinghouse WCW660W Rotary Microwave Oven
Sometimes a basic unit is all you need, and if that’s the case, this Westinghouse model may be the one for you. The simple controls, low power rating, and small cooking area make it an excellent choice for those less-demanding microwave tasks such as reheating leftovers or beverages, cooking pre-packaged microwave foods, or cooking a small meal.
The classic white color and curved edging will fit into any décor without showing every mark and fingerprint, too. And even though it's a rotary knob model, that doesn’t mean it's not programmable. The six different power levels are available and annotated on the power dial display, making it easy to use. There is even a setting for defrosting.
The 30-minute timer should be sufficient for most cooking and reheating tasks while keeping your input quick and easy. There is also a very loud ‘ding’ to let you know that your cook cycle is complete.
This tabletop style microwave is only 600 watts, making it energy efficient. With a cooking space of 0.6 cubic feet, it’s just the right size to reheat meals or beverages. The 9.5-inch interior turntable ensures that your food cooks evenly, too. It’s a space saver, as well, measuring 17.75 x 12.5 x 10.25 inches. It's made of 18.8 steel and weighs 23.1 pounds.
The WCW669W may not be the biggest or most versatile microwave on the market today, but it does cover basic microwave tasks quickly and easily, and at an affordable price.
Nostalgia Electrics RMO400 Retro series
As long as we are looking at retro styling, the Nostalgia company seems to have cornered the market on vintage-look kitchen appliances. They offer a wide array of similarly styled devices, from toasters to a full family-sized “Breakfast Station.”
If you've become bored with the same old square, black, digital microwave, the Nostalgia Electrics RMO-400 Retro could be just what you need to put a smile on your face at meal times.
The curvy edges, as well as the bright red and contrasting chrome design, will undoubtedly go a long way to brighten up your kitchen.
Both more powerful and a bit larger than most retro-designed microwaves, this powerful 700-watt oven has a 0.7 cubic foot capacity.
Still not large enough to take on large family meals, but more than adequate when it comes to tackling smaller meals and snack duty. It has 12 programmed cooking settings and a highly legible LED display. It features an easy-to-use turn-and-push programming dial, making use a breeze.
Even though it appears to be from the past, it comes equipped with the functions you would expect in most modern microwave ovens. From “Frozen Dinner,” “Popcorn,” and “Reheat” pre-sets to a child safety lock to keep the little ones safe if they mistake it for a brightly colored toy.
If you aren’t looking for loads of features but still want something more than a basic microwave, and crave some cool in your cooking, this Nostalgia microwave will shine. It will do most anything you will want it to, but not so much that it drives the price out of reach.
Don’t get us wrong, you can certainly make the occasional meal in this unit, but if you have a large family to feed, you may want to forgo the kicky design and opt for something bigger and more conventional.
A user favorite, the Panasonic NN SN736B is clearly one of the best available in that price range. Start with the Panasonic “Patented Inverter Technology,” which keeps the cooking consistent.
This feature is a real plus when cooking at lower power levels, as your meals emerge thoroughly cooked and evenly heated. The 1250 watts of power combined with a full 1.6 cubic foot capacity cooking area, as well as a 15-inch turntable, make this microwave oven more than up to the task of taking on large meals for the entire family.
Ease of operation is another critical feature, as this unit boasts 14 auto-cook pre-settings and a delay start option with a timer. The membrane keypad and five menu buttons make for easy programming as well as easy cleanup. There are 10 power levels, making it not only powerful but flexible too.
If you need a larger, more powerful unit for feeding an entire family without breaking the bank, the Panasonic NN SN736B will be a welcome addition to your household.
Magic Chef MCM1611ST
Another very well-received large microwave is the Magic Chef MCM1611ST. Its contemporary classic stainless-steel front and handle not only makes it look at home in any kitchen décor but also makes it easy to clean.
The 1.6 cubic foot of cooking area, 1100 watts of power, and 11 distinct power levels mean this microwave can take on a large dinner assignment and shine while doing so.
Naturally, it has a standard rotating turntable for even cooking, and the usual six one-touch pre-programmed cooking buttons for "Popcorn," "Potato," "Dinner Plate" "Pizza," "Frozen Vegetables," and "Beverage."
One unique feature is the ability to program two separate defrost modes: one defrost mode by time and one by weight, which is very convenient. The easy-touch controls are clearly visible with the digital display, and the kitchen timer is programmable up to 99 minutes 99 seconds.
There is an "Express" cooking function for quick cooking, and a +30 second button if you want to set your cooking time by 30-second intervals and avoid regular programming. Another favorite feature is multi-stage cooking, whereby you can defrost and then cook by programming both cycles.
The memory feature can also hold as many as three personal settings. This unit also comes with child safety feature, which locks out the control pad. Now that you are spending a bit more on your microwave, you should expect it to do more for you.
With its abundant features, capacity, and power, the Magic Chef MCM1611ST should be able to do practically everything you expect your microwave to do.
Now we are going to take your microwave off the countertop and mount it on the wall over your stove. The most popular model for this task, based on customer ratings, is the Frigidaire FGMV175QW.
Much larger than a countertop model, the 1.7 cubic foot capacity (with a full 15-inch turntable) also makes it understandably larger and heavier than a countertop microwave. But along with that size and weight, this unit also comes with a wider range of features and a proportionally larger price tag.
It has a reheat and five sensor cooking functions that automatically adjust both cooking times and the power level for more precise results. Boasting over 30 pre-programmed settings to do a variety of tasks, up to and including, melting butter and softening your ice cream for you.
Other great features include a ducted or ductless installation option for versatility. The 300-CFM, two-speed venting system also contains a dishwasher-safe reusable filter to remove cooking odors. For installation over your cooktop, it features two downlights to illuminate your workspace.
It also comes complete with a “SpaceWise” rack, allowing you to cook several items at once to make even more use of the spacious cooking area.
What to Consider When Buying a Microwave
When hunting down the right model for your kitchen, there are a few things to consider before you begin. Price, size, power and, in some cases, whether you want a countertop model or a more permanent installation. These options will vary based on your budget, the available space in your kitchen, and your preferred décor. Even the length of time you need it is a factor. Is it for a dorm room or family home? The cooking tasks you want it to accomplish will also impact your decision. Will you be preparing dinner for your family or making popcorn in your game room?
All microwave ovens, from the simplest to the most versatile, offer faster cooking speeds than more traditional methods. But after that, you may need some help sorting through the field of available units. Hopefully, this list will help you narrow down your purchasing options. It may even give you an option or two to add to your must-have list that you never previously considered.
What cooking tasks do you use your microwave oven for the most? Do you prepare meals or simply reheat leftovers and pre-packaged foods? What innovations would you most like to see from microwave manufacturers? Let us know in the comments below.
Last update on 2021-07-28 at 06:23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API