When microwave ovens were first introduced into the customer sector, they were a novelty – and they were large and costly.
An oven that can heat or cook things up in seconds instead of half an hour or more? Amazing – as long as you were ready to pay more than a thousand dollars for a huge microwave that apparently took up a quarter of the kitchen and did little more than turn on and off.
Today’s Microwaves Can Do Almost Anything!
Today, of course, it is very hard to find any apartments, homes, or college dorms without a countertop microwave oven. You can purchase one at almost any drugstore for $25, and it’ll do a lot more than those rudimentary ovens. If you’d like to spend more than a thousand dollars, naturally, you still can; those models will be built in ones, though, and will do everything but walk the dog and clean out the trash can.
But countertop microwaves are now easily indispensable, affordable, versatile, and can fit into almost any kitchen easily. And some of the latest models even include convection cooking, a breakthrough certainly unthinkable when those original boat anchor microwaves first arrived in the middle 1900s.
What To Look For When Buying the Best Countertop Microwave?
Almost all of the best everyday countertop microwaves will cost you between $100 to $200; even ones with convection features run less than $300. You’ll get a lot of appliance for that price, with one touch “quick keys” for different kinds of foods, buttons for express cooking (choosing one or two minutes, for example), delayed start times and also beeper volume controls.
What matters most, however, are a unit’s power and size , its flexibility and versatility when it comes to presets and how well it does what it really does cook.
The Groom+Style review team have factored all of those into our rankings of the top 5 best counter-top microwaves oven, and come up with a variety of models to fit different budgets and needs . We will also give you a selection of the best convection-microwave combination, and another for those who really do have a very small countertop to work with.
Let’s set the microwave for 5 minutes and get cooking well, not with gas but microwaves!
This is one of the best and biggest microwaves on our list, so you will need a pretty sizable counter for accommodation. But the JES2051SNSS will give you a lot of inside cooking space and more power than most regular microwaves.
1000 w is pretty much the standard size for countertop units. This GE unit boasts 1200 w, so it is faster and may cook, reheat or defrost food in less time than you are accustomed to.
The oven is also a full 2.0 cubic feet having a 16 inch turn table, so that it can easily fit more food than you might expect to cram into a microwave; heating up a full-sized 9 x 13 casserole or even de-frosting a small turkey will not (blank).
The combination of power & size makes for a quite effective appliance although you will need to have a spare 2 ft of width and 20 ins of depth on your counter-top for this very large “counter top” appliance.
Those who depend on a microwave to do their thinking for them will love this GE unit. There’re 10 power levels available, as well as a defrost function and 6 single button presets: vegetables, fish, chicken, potatoes, beverages, popcorn, and reheat.
We tend to be lazy at times, so we particularly like the one touch buttons for “express cooking,” allow you to just hit one button for a minute, 2 minutes, and up to 6 minutes of cooking. A number of competitive models give you a selection that automatically adds 30 seconds to the preset cooking time, but this is one of the few that lets you keep hitting the button so you can add 60 seconds, 90 seconds or more at one time.
OK, so the JES2051SNSS is large and full featured. More importantly, it is accurate & cooks food exactly the way you would like it to. When you select potato or popcorn, as an example, the final result is just about perfect, thanks to sensors which accurately judge the amount of time required for each function.
No microwave, no matter how “smart” it is, can be a complete replacement for oven baking without personal supervision. This GE comes darned close, though.
Some of the little details are nice, too. You are able to turn down (or off) the beeping when food is done, the pre-programming options for timed cooking are terrific, and you can use the countdown timer for other tasks around the kitchen even if your microwave is on.
The Groom+Style review team debated for a long time before putting the GE at #1 and the Panasonic at #2 on our best countertop microwave top five list, because the Panasonic has an awful lot going for it.
What swayed us was the point that we do not need to go through a large learning curve in order to operate a microwave, and also the NN-SN651B’s innovative features are far from intuitive.
This device also puts out 1200 w of power, although it is much smaller at 1.2 cubic ft – a plus for those with less spacious kitchens (it is only 20 ins wide and 16 ins deep) but a negative for those who want lots of room in the oven cavity.
Other than its size, what makes the Panasonic much different compared to GE is the former’s usage of “inverter” technology, which depends on consistent delivery of microwave energy (which cooks the food) instead of the usual high and low energy pulses. There is also “inverter turbo defrost” which uses a sequence of energy levels to defrost foods much faster.
Do they really work? Sort of. The inverter turbo defrost does work much faster, but there is not a noticeable difference-between inverter & standard microwave technology for most foods. Experts say that is because the technique is not advanced enough to be used efficiently in a microwave.
Our bigger issue is with the controls about the Panasonic. You do not simply punch in cooking time (or hit a control button, as you can for common time increments on the GE). There are a wheel which sometimes controls time, sometimes controls power – but there’s also buttons that control power.
Would you like to use “sensor cook,” “inverter cook/power level” or “inverter melt/ soften?” What’s the difference between “quick min” and “more/less?” There are particular functions for all of them, but we do not wish to memorize a user’s manual or keep it on the counter, and then have to find out the buttons and dials in order to heat-up some leftover food.
This might be the countertop microwave you expect to see in a kitchen: no fancy functions and complicated controls or novel cooking methods; the RCA RMW1138 just cooks well and price is very reasonable.
The design of this appliance (and let’s be clear, the color is stainless-steel but the materials are primarily chrome) makes it look smaller than it is actually, so plan on needing a little more space than you’d for the Panasonic.
The inside size of this microwave is generous at 1.1 cubic ft (even though the turntable is smaller than Groom+Style think it should be), and it provides the standard 1000 w of power.
There are 6 presets ( pizza, potato, popcorn, beverage, reheat and frozen dinner ), as well as “cook by weight” and “defrost by weight” functions all options you would want on a good microwave. The only one missing is an “add time” button.
The RCA operates like a traditional microwave oven, and it cooks like a wonderful one. Popcorn, potatoes and reheated food all come out done well, and it heats food equally. The only possible issue you might find is that the presets are all “guesswork” (not unusual for microwaves), so do not be surprised if you need to keep cooking after the oven tells you that your food is done.
Groom+Style promised to include one microwave oven with convection cooking capabilities on this list, and here it is.
The MG14H3020CM is more expensive than the usual traditional microwave oven and the most expensive model on the top five list. But the added functionality makes this unit a excellent addition to a dedicated home cook’s kitchen.
Let’s first talk about the microwave oven. It is 950 watt with a 1.4 cubic foot interior, more than enough for most people’s daily needs.
The only dedicated microwave presets are suitable for popcorn, reheating & defrosting, and if you don’t depend on the built in sensor you need to set cooking time with a dial instead of buttons. But the design is intuitive (unlike the Panasonic we reviewed earlier) and easy to determine. Bottom line: the microwave oven works very well.
The intriguing feature is the convection oven feature of this Samsung, which goes up to 400°. It bakes, browns, crisps and basically adds a new dimension to microwaved food and works fairly well as a pure convection oven, although we would recommend buying a dedicated convection unit if that is your main reason for choosing the MG14H3020CM .
Roasts and biscuits come out fine, but not quite as good as in a “real” convection oven. There is additionally a grilling element, along with a “slim fry” option which lets you use convection technology to fry without oil, which is a cool idea but takes forever.
The convection, microwave+convection or microwave+grill functions are what place the extra value into this model; no other microwave is going to give you pizza that’s crispy on the bottom.
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