Best Countertop Microwave 2016: Reviews, Top Picks, Guides

Are you one of the many people trying to find the best countertop microwave for your home? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, a staggering 94.63% of all American homes have microwaves and 8.5% have two or more. With so many busy households these days, it is no surprise at all that families on the go rely so heavily on microwaves to prepare meals quickly and efficiently in order to keep going. As microwaves have advanced in technology since their introduction for home use in 1967, many options have become available. Settings, sizes and types can make choosing the best one confusing. This guide is created to help take the guesswork out of choosing.

Countertop Microwave Comparison

PictureCountertop MicrowaveProduct Dimensions (inches)Turntable Diameter (inches)Power (watts)Weight (lb)Our Editor's Rating (out of 5)
Whirlpool MC20005YD13.8 x 15.4 x 14.11175032.64.5
Kenmore 721299.53 x 13.07 x 1512.25110035.624.5
Panasonic Genius NN-SN773S18.5 x 16.8 x 9151250324.2
Sharp R-820JS23.2 x 22.2 x 15.512.75900444.1
Panasonic NN-SD372S14.8 x 19.2 x 1113.595020.94.0
Panasonic NN-H765BF Genius19 x 22 x 1215125029.84.0
Panasonic NN-SN651B Genius15.9 x 20.9 x 12.313.5120025.33.9
Panasonic NN-SD681S20.7 x 12.2 x 15.213.51200313.9
Panasonic NN-SE982S Genius19.7 x 23.9 x 1416.5125036.83.9
Cuisinart CMW-20021.2 x 19 x 12.2121000383.4

What are countertop microwaves?


The Raytheon Company introduced microwaves for home use through its acquired company, Amana, in 1967. They introduced the first popular home model, the countertop microwave named RadarRange, was available at the cost of $495 (or roughly $3,400 in today’s dollars). It would not be until the 1970’s that the advancement of microprocessors would make them more affordable and thus driving down the cost enough so that by 1986 25% of all U.S. homes would have one in their kitchens. Today it is a rarity to not see one in any house in America.

A countertop microwave is the type of microwave that sits on your kitchen counter, island, baking rack or any other hard flat surface in your home. This free-standing version requires no wall-mounts or brackets to install. Simply place the appliance on enough surface space to stabilize all four corners of the unit and plug it in. Unlike its over-the-stove version, there are no tools needed for installation or any special electrical plug outlets to consider because it does not need to be anchored to cabinets or on a wall above the range.

The convenience of this stand-alone appliance makes it the most appealing of the options. Kitchen counter space can be rearranged at any time with a countertop microwave because all it requires is an available socket on your wall to plug into. They are typically lightweight for easy handling and even larger models can be handled by one person.

Countertop microwaves are easier to clean because they are typically situated in places where the entire interior is easily reached. There is no standing on a stool to see into the cavity of the microwave to clean it. All inside surfaces are easily accessed, making it convenient to wipe down and keep it looking like new. They are also more convenient to check for damage or to get to if the interior light needs replacing. For ease of use, countertop microwaves are the better option.

For your money, the countertop microwave is a wiser investment as they are typically more economical. They come in at about half the cost of the over-the-range version so they are more affordable for everyone. For about the same price as a smaller over-the-range microwave, you can get a really nice model with many more options.

Maybe you are wondering if countertop microwaves will match your kitchen decor. Not to worry, they come in all the latest appliance colors and finishes so you are certain to find one that matches well with the appliances that you already have. The good news is that they are easily movable. You can take your favorite appliance with you wherever you go.

Why do we need to get the best model?

Panasonic NN-SD372S 0.8 cuft 950-Watt Microwave with Inverter Technology, Stainless Steel

Getting the best model does not necessarily mean the most expensive. You will however, want to select the most suitable model for you and your cooking needs. Quality and durability can range widely depending on the price point. The least expensive microwaves can fit almost any budget, but they are very small and have few features and cooking options. Cheap microwaves tend to break easily and need to be replaced more often, which leads to making more of an investment in your microwave in the long run when maybe spending little more the first time would have resulted in a microwave that does more and lasts longer. Think about what you really need your microwave to do and how long you’d like it to last before you decide on a budget for your purchase.

If you are looking to buy the best countertop microwave for a busy family, you will likely need a microwave with easy pre-sets for cooking efficiency. The finest models, if you are on the run, have functions that take the guesswork out of cooking by selecting menu options that have times and temperatures pre-selected for even and thorough cooking. No more pressing times on a whim only to stop and realize your food is either over-cooked or still frozen. Having to open and close your microwave to keep checking your food for doneness is frustrating and slows down the cooking time that would have been saved by handy pre-sets.

Perhaps you like to do a wide range of cooking but do not always want to use a standard oven. Some microwaves that have special settings like one-touch defrosting features, so food thaws perfectly, are a wise choice for food enthusiasts. Also, they can brown and crisp food as well. Even the cooking enthusiast with a gourmet kitchen can enjoy the convenience of the best countertop microwave with a variety of functions to help make even the most complicated meal preparation more enjoyable and efficient. Popcorn lovers rejoice over the popcorn feature on most models. No more burnt popcorn when the microwave does the timing for you. The best models will pop the kernels more thoroughly, taking less time than other microwaves where you are required to figure out the right time and power yourself.

Families with small children may want to select a model with a child safety lock to keep small children away from hot foods. Whatever your specific cooking needs, the finest microwaves for a well-used kitchen is one with a lot of functions and pre-sets.

Which model is right for me?

Panasonic NN-SN651B Genius 1.2 cuft 1200 Watt Sensor Microwave w/Inverter Technology

When considering your budget for your countertop microwave purchase, it helps to think of this investment like you would if you were buying a new refrigerator. The size of your family needs to be considered in order to select the right size microwave that is right for you. Just like a refrigerator purchase, you wouldn’t buy a small one for a family of 6 or more, would you? Microwaves vary in size. You will need to take into account how many servings you typically cook for and select the best countertop microwave for the size of your family.

Wattage also needs to be considered. The higher the wattage, the faster your food will cook. This can be an important consideration depending on how many servings you need to prepare on a daily basis. Most microwave recipes recommend a minimum wattage of 800 watts in order to cook food evenly.

The best countertop microwaves will always have a good warranty. You will want to make sure that your appliance investment is safe in case of breakage or manufacturer defect. Issues do come up at times with any appliance so making sure that your investment is secure is important. Any reputable company will stand behind their product. You should always read and understand the manufacturer’s warranty guidelines before you spend your hard earned money. Also, it is helpful to check with the retailers return policy to make sure you understand what their time limits are to accept returned merchandise in the event that you need to make an exchange. Some of the best return policies are actually online retailers. You will usually find their guidelines to be more advantageous to the customer. Consider reading any consumer reviews as well. Some of the best advice comes from those who have already made the purchase before you. Previous purchasers will be able to tell you, from a consumer’s point of view, what they liked about their purchase.

We hope that we have been most helpful in directing and guiding you to make the best purchase for your needs. Taking in some of these suggestions and helpful hints should make you feel more confident in making the right purchase for your home. Whether you make your purchase today or in the future, we hope you will take advantage the information that you’ve read in this guide. Cooking is easy, efficient and more convenient with a countertop microwave and we know you’ll agree once you own one.

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