Best Countertop Microwaves of 2021

Find a reliable, top-performing microwave for your kitchen

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Countertop microwave with a plate of pasta inside. Photo: Michael Haegele/Getty Images

You can spend less than $100 on a small countertop microwave—or five times that on a larger model. Spending more typically gets you more power and convenience features, such as a sensor that shuts off the oven when your food is hot enough. But according to Consumer Reports’ tests of microwave ovens, a higher price doesn’t equal better performance when you’re comparing microwaves of the same size.

First and foremost, you want a microwave that heats your food and drinks quickly and evenly. To test speed, we measure how fast the microwave heats 1 liter of room-temperature water. For heating evenness, we heat a bowl of cold mashed potatoes for 10 minutes, then take the internal temperature in 20 spots. Models that do well will heat your leftovers through and through.

Our testers also rate how evenly a microwave defrosts frozen food, how noisy it is, and how easy it is to operate without checking the owner’s manual (because most people don’t). We incorporate ratings for predicted reliability and owner satisfaction for each brand using survey results from members who purchased more than 70,000 countertop microwaves over the past 10 years.

The countertop units in our microwave ratings are grouped by size: small, midsized, and large. Read on for reviews of some of the top countertop microwaves from our tests, listed alphabetically within each group. And for more tips, take a look at our free microwave buying guide.

CR’s take: Small countertop microwaves tend not to perform as well in CR’s tests because they’re usually underpowered. This model from Amazon Basics is no exception, though it’s at the top of the pack of small microwaves. It excels at defrosting, earning an Excellent rating in that test. And it’s very quiet. But it earns a Poor rating for speed of heating, and heating evenness is only so-so. This microwave works with Alexa, so you can use voice controls to turn it on and set the time if you have an Echo device.

CR’s take: Cuisinart has great brand recognition in the small appliance space, but the small Cuisinart CMW-70 microwave doesn’t rise to the level of some of its other countertop wares. But it’s serviceable and, like most small microwaves, a bit sluggish. Heating evenness is so-so and heating speed is subpar, but it defrosts like a champ and is super quiet, earning an Excellent rating on our noise test.

CR’s take: If cute and retro is your thing, this Galanz is the microwave for you. Bonus: it’s the best small microwave in our tests. That may not be saying much since small microwaves are typically underpowered, though. The Galanz GLCMKA07BER-07 lags at heating speed and may try your patience, but once it gets going it heats evenly and operates quietly. And it earns a Very Good rating for defrosting. Plus, it looks good and the price is right.

CR’s take: The General GEW1000E is superb at heating food evenly, earning an Excellent rating on that test. Speed of heating is also impressive, and this microwave runs quietly. All the controls are intuitive, so you don’t need to consult the manual. The main drawback of the General is that it lacks a defrosting function, so if that’s one of the reasons you need a microwave, look elsewhere.

CR’s take: The midsized Panasonic HomeChef NN-GN68KS earns top marks for heating evenness, earning an Excellent rating on that test. It’s also impressive at speed of heating and defrosting evenness, and our testers found the controls to be easy to understand and use. It can be a bit noisy, though. According to our member survey, Panasonic countertop microwaves earn a Very Good rating for both predicted reliability and owner satisfaction.

CR’s take: For the price, you can’t go wrong with the midsized Panasonic NN-SN67HS. Speed of heating and defrosting evenness are both superb, notching Excellent ratings on both of those tests. It evenly heats a dish of cold mashed potatoes, and our testers found it easy to operate without reading the manual. It is a bit noisy when running on high, but if you typically run your microwave in short bursts that might not bother you.

CR’s take: In addition to its cooking prowess, the large Panasonic NN-SE785S comes from one of only two brands that earn an Excellent rating for owner satisfaction from our members. Heating evenness and speed of heating are superb, and it defrosts very well, earning a Very Good rating. The controls are self-explanatory, and this machine operates relatively quietly. It’s another model that comes equipped with a sensor, which takes the guesswork out of cooking. Panasonic countertop microwaves get a middling rating for predicted reliability.

CR’s take: We picked the Panasonic NN-SN77HS as a CR Best Buy for its combination of an attractive price and impressive performance. Heating evenness and speed of heating are top-notch, earning this model Excellent ratings on those tests. It was also superb at defrosting ground beef evenly. It runs quietly, and the controls are easy to understand and use. Because it’s equipped with a sensor, you don’t have to worry about overheating your food.

CR’s take: Another CR Best Buy, the well-priced Panasonic NN-SN946W has a lot going for it. This large microwave aces three of our tough tests: speed of heating, heating evenness, and defrosting evenness. It runs quietly, earning a Very Good rating on our noise test, and our testers found little need to consult the manual to learn how to operate it. This model is equipped with a sensor that shuts off the oven when the food is hot enough.


Mary H.J. Farrell

Knowing that I wanted to be a journalist from a young age, I decided to spiff up my byline by adding the middle initials "H.J." A veteran of online and print journalism, I've worked at People, MSNBC, Ladies’ Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, and an online Consumer Reports wannabe. But the real thing is so much better. Follow me on Twitter.