Best Small Microwave Ovens (Reviews & Buyer’s Guide)

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It is fairly safe to say that the microwave oven is now as much part of the modern-day kitchen as the stove and the refrigerator. They add a level of convenience and speed that most families appreciate. While most microwaves are recognizable by their box-like shape and glass panel on the door, they vary in terms of features and size.

The main benefit of a small microwave oven as opposed to a large one, is that  it can be used in locations where there is not an abundance of space. This is especially the case in those kitchens where countertop space is at a premium. Another advantage is that they are cost-effective and there is a considerable array of them available to buy.

In this post we'll cover the following:

  • Reasons to  Buy a Microwave Oven
  • Where to Put a Small Microwave Oven in a Kitchen?
  • How to Buy the Best Small Microwave Oven  
  • Best Small Microwave Oven Reviews

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To read the reviews, click here.

Where to Put a Small Microwave Oven in a Kitchen?

The question of where to put your microwave oven in a kitchen, especially a small one, requires some careful thought. Not only do you need to ensure it is placed somewhere that is safe, but you also want it to be in a position that is as convenient as possible.

To make this easier, we'll note a couple of the places in your kitchen where you definitely should NOT place your microwave oven. Places like next to the sink and beneath a window, are two of the most common mistakes people make.

Setting a microwave next to a sink is probably the most dangerous place possible given that if water splashes on it, an electric shock could be produced. As for setting it under a window, it is generally considered best if appliances are not set there as the heat can damage the frame.  

As for where you should place your microwave oven here are some suggestions.

In the middle of the countertop

Be sure to leave sufficient gaps on each side. This allows for a place to put the dishes of food when they are removed from the microwave. Also, there will be room for an empty plate that will be used if you are cooking a frozen dinner. The tray can easily be placed on the plate. 

At the corner of the countertop

By angling your microwave across the corner of your countertop you can utilize space that maybe wasn't being used effectively. It also means you should have plenty of space to open the microwave's door.

In a spare cabinet or large drawer

Of course, we are not advocating operating the microwave that sits in a drawer. However, if there is more storage space than countertop space you could store your microwave oven in a drawer or cabinet when it's not in use.

On a shelf

Similar to the cabinet idea, where have you plenty of shelving you can use it to store the microwave so that you have as much countertop available as possible for preparing other meals.

How to Buy the Best Small Microwave Oven

Dimensions

The appliance industry does not have a set of guidelines used to categorize a microwave oven as small or large. That being said, you will find that most microwave oven manufacturers will classify one of their products as 'small' if its dimensions are within a certain range.

Before we look at those, it is also important to point out that with most small microwave ovens, the interior cooking area is also small. It is often the case that a microwave is designed with a small interior, and yet the exterior dimensions are larger than what you might expect them to be.

This means that you must be very careful when selecting a small microwave oven and that you consider its external dimensions as well as its internal ones. You do not want a scenario where you buy one where you think the interior size is ideal, yet you get it home and find out the exterior is too big for where you were going to place it.

The flip side of that is a microwave that will perfectly fit on your countertop, but its interior is too small for the plates and bowls you were planning to use with it.

For compact microwaves, interior dimensions will be published in cubic feet which is the volume of the cooking area.  Generally, the range is from 0.7 cubic feet at the lower end and up to 1.2 cubic feet at the upper end.

In terms of external dimensions, widths can be between 17 and 21 inches, the depths between 13 and 17 inches, and the heights range between 10 and 13 inches.

There seems to be only a couple of inches difference between some of those dimensions, but it will save you time and aggravation if you check them carefully against the space you plan to locate it. Even 1/4 inch out could be the difference between your new microwave oven fitting where you want it to and it not, with you then having to exchange it for one that does.

energy efficiency

Power Output

All small countertop microwave ovens will have their maximum power published by the manufacturer. This identifies the maximum power that the microwave oven can produce in terms of heating the food inside it. Obviously, the higher the power the greater heat it can produce and the quicker it will be able to cook, heat or defrost food.

Bear in mind this rating is merely the maximum power, and it does not mean that every time you use the microwave oven it will be producing that level of heat. In our reviews you will notice the smaller microwave ovens have variable power settings, with some having as many as 11. This allows you to set your microwave oven at a temperature that is appropriate for the food you are cooking, and how you are cooking it, such as quickly or slowly, for example.

For small microwave ovens, you find that the power rating will range between 600 watts and 1200 watts. For one to produce over 1000 watts is impressive as this is similar to what many larger microwave ovens produce.

What Features do You Need?

Most microwave ovens that are on the smaller side tend to have all of the basic features that you would expect them to have, with the main differences being the number of options within each feature.

What we mean by that is that they will all have the means for you to set them at variable power outputs, but one model might have 11 different settings, whereas on another there might only be 6. Now you may think you'll only ever need 3 or 4 power settings, so this shouldn't be a problem in this example.

In terms of what features you should want on any microwave you should look for the following:

Defrost

Some microwave ovens might have just one defrost option but look for those that have a 'Turbo' option which lets you defrost items quicker.

Sensor Cooking

This feature means the microwave oven can detect humidity levels within the food and adjust its output accordingly so that it cooks it optimally.

Food Presets

The number and variety of these will vary from product to product but they allow for one-touch cooking of specific foods.

LED Display

The larger and brighter the better it is so that you can see the timer and cooking settings.

Control Panel

There are differences in how well these are laid out and how easy it is to read the writing on the buttons.

Child Safety Lock

This prevents children from opening the door which is a huge safety consideration when there is piping-hot food inside.

Is it Easy to Use?

All microwave ovens should be easy to use as they usually come with an instruction booklet. The reading is dry, but it will same time and aggravation if you run through it before using your new appliance. That being said there are ways in which some are easier than others.

The first is the text on the control panel. On some ovens it is large and easy to read, and on others, it is smaller and a bit more difficult. The best not only have large text, but they even have the button text in Braille for those with impaired sight.

Secondly, microwave ovens that have one-touch controls and lots of preset cooking functions where you only have to press one button to select it, are  more convenient to use.

The other features which will make your microwave easier to use is a memory function where you can pre-program it to cook at your favorite and most used settings. Again, this normally means one-touch operation when you need to use those settings again.

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Is it Easy to Clean?

Many small size microwaves have stainless steel exteriors which can attract more than their fair share of fingerprints so the exteriors will need to be wiped regularly.

Otherwise, the interior and turn table normally requires only a wipe with a damp cloth after each use to ensure they remain clean. It's important to clean the interior after each use as spills and dropped pieces of food can potentially cause staining to the interior, plus there is the likelihood of them creating unwanted odors.

Best Small Microwave Oven Reviews

1. Toshiba EM131A5C-BS Microwave Oven with Smart Sensor

With its impressive black and stainless steel finish, the Toshiba EM131A5C-BS Microwave Oven is certainly going to appeal to those who like everything in their kitchen to look modern. While it may be classed as a small microwave oven, it punches above its weight with a power output of up to 1100 watts and has several cooking options to give it even more to commend it.

Toshiba EM131A5C-BS Microwave Oven with Smart Sensor, Easy Clean Interior, ECO Mode and Sound On/Off, 1.2 Cu.ft, 1100W, Black Stainless SteelLearn More on Amazon

Pros

  • Modern stainless steel design
  • Smart sensor heating
  • 1100-watt max output
  • Custom defrost functions
  • Energy-saving eco-mode

Cons

  • Control panel does not have backlighting
  • Noisier than other ovens

Product Highlights

Let's start with an overall look of this Toshiba microwave and its very modern demeanor. The door panel, handle and control panel are black, which compliments the stainless steel body and trim perfectly and gives this an immediate checkmark for its looks.

However, we are assuming you are buying a microwave oven for its cooking features rather than its visual appeal, so let's look at them in some detail.

The first thing we must point out is the power output which has a maximum of 1100 watts. This is excellent for this size of a microwave oven and should allow it to cook quicker than many other small microwaves ovens will. You can set it any one of 10 different power settings, so you have plenty of range when it comes to fast or how intense you want it to cook.

On the control panel, you have several preset options which include a popcorn setting and two defrost settings - one based on the weight of the item you are defrosting, and another which you can customize.

Other cooking options include several auto menus which you can adjust depending on the weight or size of the portion of the food you are cooking. These pre-set options include frozen pizza, frozen entree, potato, rice, and vegetables. You also have an option to soften or melt items like chocolate or butter.

You can also program this microwave and save that setting as a 'Favorite' which will be useful if there is a type of food or meal you cook regularly. Last, but not least, there is a sensor reheat option which automatically adjusts cooking time and temperature, so those leftovers are heated just right.

As always there is a timer and clock, and one of the benefits of this microwave is that the display is large and can be easily read. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the control panel buttons where the text is annoyingly small.

The capacity of this Toshibas microwave is 1.2 cubic feet and the coating of the interior is designed to make it easier to clean, plus it is stain and scratch-resistant.

Finally, for those that are environmentally aware, this microwave oven has an 'ECO-mode' which you can select. It means that when the microwave is on standby, the power it uses is reduced by around 50%.

There is a one year limited warranty.

Specifications

  • 1100 Watts
  • 1.2 Cu. Ft.
  • Exterior Dimensions 20.5"x17.1"x 12.8" WxDxH
  • 10 Power Levels
  • What We Like

    A microwave oven has a lot of advantages but for many, its top benefit is its ability to reheat and in particular those leftovers which just couldn't be finished off yesterday. This microwave oven’s smart sensor means anything which you reheat in it, including leftovers, will be cooked for the most optimum time and at the best temperature.

    What We Don’t Like

    Although the digital display is a decent size and can be easily read, unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the control panel buttons. The writing on some of them is extremely small and therefore it is going to be a case of either putting your face up close to read them each time or memorizing all of them eventually. 

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    2. BLACK+DECKER EM720CB7 Digital Microwave Oven 

    While many of you might expect a product from Black+Decker to be more likely to be something you would find in a DIY workshop, they do produce a large, and impressive range of kitchen appliances. One of those is their EM720CB7 Digital Microwave Oven, a 700 Watt, .7 Cu. Ft. unit.

    BLACK+DECKER EM720CB7 Digital Microwave Oven with Turntable Push-Button Door,Child Safety Lock,700W, Stainless Steel, 0.7 Cu.FtLearn More on Amazon

    Pros

    • Modern stainless steel finish
    • 10 power settings
    • Preset cooking options
    • 30-second 'Express Cooking'
    • Child safety lock

    Cons

    • Door can stick sometimes
    • Only 700 watts power

    Product Highlights

    If you are looking for a small microwave oven that is compact and easy to use, then the Black+Decker EM720CB7 Digital Microwave Oven is certainly one you should consider.

    First, it has one of the easiest to understand control panels we have seen and coupled with its large easy-to-read display, it means nobody should have any problems operating it.

    While it is easy to use, that does not mean that it doesn't have some functionality to make cooking even easier. It has preset functions for popcorn, potato, pizza, frozen veggies and it even has a function for heating beverages such as cocoa and hot chocolate.

    There is also a 'dinner plate' option which tells the microwave that there is a larger amount of food to be cooked, and thus it will make adjustments for that.

    In addition to all these programs, you have 10 power levels to choose from, a clock timer, and there is a memory function which you can use to save your most commonly used cooking settings. There's also a 30-second express cooking option.

    The final cooking feature to tell you about is the 'multi-stage' cooking option which enables you to set the microwave to automatically change its power setting while cooking so that you don't have to stop it and adjust it yourself manually.

    The door is opened by pressing the large door release button under the control panel. For safety, the microwave oven has a child lock function to ensure no children can open the door while there is hot food cooking inside.

    The interior includes a glass turntable that can be removed for cleaning, and it is dishwasher safe. There is a light inside so that you can monitor your food as it cooks.

    Finally, a word on this microwave oven’s appearance. It comes with a stainless steel finish making it ideal for modern kitchens, but it will look great in more traditional kitchens too.

    Specifications

  • 700 Watts
  • .7 Cu. Ft.
  • Exterior Dimensions 17.3"x13.0"x 10.2" WxDxH
  • 10 Power Levels
  • What We Like

    It is often the case that the item you wish to cook merely needs a quick blast to either heat or soften it, in the case of chocolate for example. On many microwaves, this means going through the process of selecting a power setting and setting the timer, but with this, all you need to do is select the '30-Second Express Cooking’ option which is much easier, and quicker.

    What We Don’t Like

    While you are always going to have to accept that appliances such as a microwave oven will make some noise, this one is just too noisy, and that includes the ‘Time Up’ buzzer. This is especially disappointing given that it is a small microwave oven, and there are many larger ones which we have reviewed, that are quieter than this one.

    This model has a one year limited warranty.

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    3. Panasonic Compact Microwave Oven 

    Panasonic has an enviable reputation for being one of the world's top manufacturers of electrical and electronic products. Their NN-SN67KS 1200 Watt Compact Microwave Oven likely to enhance this reputation further. This 1.2 Cu. Ft. unit has a host of cooking options, an impressive power output, and it looks stunning.

    Panasonic Compact Microwave Oven with 1200 Watts of Cooking Power, Sensor Cooking, Popcorn Button, Quick 30sec and Turbo Defrost - NN-SN67KS - 1.2 Cu. Ft (Stainless Steel / Silver)Learn More on Amazon

    Pros

    • Inversion technology for even cooking
    • Multiple preset options
    • One-touch control panel
    • Stainless steel finish
    • Turbo defrost
    • Child safety lock for door

    Cons

    • Power cord length is too short
    • No panel lighting

    Product Highlights

    We'll start with one of the microwave’s features which Panasonic calls 'The Inverter Advantage.' What this inverter technology does is, instead of the usual way microwaves operate, where the power is pulsed on and off intermittently, it heats foods more evenly. This should mean that instead of some areas of the food being very hot and others being colder, the heat should be even across it

    This inverter technology works on all of the microwave's 11 power settings. At the top of those settings, this microwave can produce an output of 1200 watts which is one of the highest we have seen for this size of a microwave.

    The range of cooking options available to you on this Panasonic microwave is very impressive with a list of foods that have preset options that read like a shopping list.

    In no particular order, they are fried chicken, chicken nuggets, soup, potatoes, vegetables, rice, pasta, quinoa, fish fillets, omelet, sausage, pizza, grilled sandwiches, and last, but not least, popcorn, where you have 3 different settings.

    As well as the cooking presets, there are defrost options which include turbo defrost for when you need something defrosted quickly.

    While cooking, the microwave employs sensor technology which will adjust temperatures and timings when cooking foods. This sensor also ensures that when reheating food, the food will be heat with optimum settings.   

    The control panel is well laid out and should be easy to use for anyone, not least because many are one-touch controls and the large LED display allows you to see which settings and timings you are choosing.

    Within the oven, you have a reasonably sized 1.2 cu ft. interior, a removable turntable plate, and child safety lock on the door to prevent any risk of them opening the door when there is very hot food inside.

    This unit has a one year limited warranty and with an additional 5 years for magnetron tube (parts only).

    Specifications

  • 1200 Watts
  • 1.2 Cu. Ft.
  • Exterior Dimensions 20.7"x15.8"x 12.2" WxDxH
  • 11 Power Levels
  • What We Like

    We’ve all experienced it ... taken something out of the microwave only to find part of it is as hot as the sun, while another part is as cold as it was when it was put inside. Thankfully, Panasonic has included a solution to that within this microwave called ‘Inversion Technology.’ This provides more evenly distributed heat so that when you cook or reheat with it, the food comes out with an even temperature across all of it.

    What We Don’t Like

    The LED light that Panasonic has used in this microwave is poorly positioned. When it is on it only lights up half of the interior meaning the other half is effectively in darkness. Given that the whole point of the light is for a user to see what is happening inside this should have been designed better.

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    Conclusion

    We hope you've enjoyed our reviews of what we consider the best small microwave oven and that they, along with our buyer's guide will help you make the most informed choice possible when you purchase yours.

    Our top pick is the Panasonic NN-SN67KS 1200 Watts Compact Microwave Oven. It has a massive 1200-watt output giving you the maximum in cooking power and the extensive number of pre-sets and programmable cooking options.

    These features, plus their 'Inverter Technology' which allows your food to be cooked more evenly than it would be in other microwaves, tips the balance even further towards this small microwave oven from Panasonic being our top choice.

    Another consideration is whether to buy a convection microwave oven. If you plan to use your microwave to cook food, as opposed to reheating food or boiling water, then a convection microwave might be worth the money.

    Updated August 4, 2020