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(Last Updated: July, 2020)
Whether it's cooking popcorn, melting chocolate, or reheating leftovers, microwaves have become a staple in every household. But, if you have a small kitchen like in a studio apartment, RV, or just a small house, you need to optimize your counter space at all times.
Having a small kitchen shouldn't stop you from having a microwave. In fact, there's a ton of great microwaves that are under 1 cubic foot that are great for squeezing into tight spaces. Although, some of these smaller microwaves may have limitations, some of them might really impress you.
We've reviewed dozens of microwaves to put together this list. To help you pick the best small microwave for your needs, we narrowed down our list to only the best of the best.
According to our tests, the best compact microwave is the Panasonic Microwave Oven NN-CD372S. This small, sleek microwave puts out 950 watts of power in a small 0.8 cubic foot frame. It has genius sensor that helps predict how long your food will take to cook.
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More About The Panasonic Microwave Oven NN-SD372S
This Panasonic microwave is sleek and compact, but it still packs in some features that a lot of full-size microwaves don't have, and is the best small microwave we've tested. It makes cooking just about any food way easier thanks to the built-in Genius Sensor auto cook feature (which automatically makes sure your foods are cooked properly) by sensing foods and adjusting heat and time accordingly.
You're sure to love all the convenience it packs in. Plus, it'll even keep your food toasty and ready to go with the ‘keep warm' feature (so soup, gravy, and dip fans, you're in luck). At under only 0.8 cubic feet, it's incredibly compact for all of the features it packs. This makes it perfect for foodies with limited room available.
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If you need a new kitchen (or counter) staple that isn't going to take up much room, but that is going to make your life easier, meet this handy little Farberware microwave. It comes in classic black design, but a new small size at about .7 cubic feet. It gives you all the convenient features you expect, and then some.
No dials, this small microwave has all digital controls and an easy to read LED display. Just press any number on the pad, and it immediately starts the one-touch express cook feature (or add 30 seconds when your food needs just a little longer).
It's basically built for kitchen convenience. You also have 6 one-touch, preset options for everything from pizza or popcorn to a whole dinner plate. It also supports multi-stage cooking and adjustable 10 power levels ranging from 1 to 10. The 10 adjustable power levels mean you have a wider range of things you can cook.
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The Toshiba em925a5a has a larger turntable plate than most compact microwaves, it still measures less than a single cubic foot (0.9 cubic feet) all in all. That means you get more usable, interior space for cooking food, without compromising on space.
While it powers up to a full 900 watts of cooking power, you can also use the eco-friendly power saving mode to get more efficient power use. It's got plenty of one-touch features, like the quick start and preset menu options (which also help cut down on guessing). Like a lot of small microwaves, it has adjustable power and heat settings, but here's where it stands out:
For the power level settings, you actually have the degrees Fahrenheit spelled out on the number pad. That's a super convenient feature for people who want to be able to do more cooking and less just reheating and something you don't see in other countertop microwave oven options.
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This GE microwave oven is a new take on the typical microwave, and that’s not just thanks to the ultra-clean, modern design. This small microwave is like a techy hybrid of smart devices and your typical small microwave.
You can set the power and kitchen timer, and use convenient preset options if you choose. While you can input them manually, you’ll probably be too excited to use the voice command features and handy Alexa connections to bother typing on the control panel.
How about those times your hands are full and you realize your food needs to come out or did quite a few seconds ago? No problem. Just use the voice commands to tell it to stop cooking. Or, feel free to simply scan the barcode on your phone and let this small microwave oven take care of adjusting the time and temperature.
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This microwave is sturdy enough to last several years and has all the features you need to add a little convenience in your kitchen. The compact design is perfect for when you're cramped for space, but don't want to lose any of the functionality you expect from a good small microwave oven.
It's meant to make your life easier by including preset cooking options for the top 6 most popular microwave cooked foods. You've got 10 different power levels to choose from, so you don't sacrifice cooking abilities for more space on your countertop, although the full power is only 700 watts which is reasonably low.
The microwave oven itself has ample interior space, bright (and easy to read LED display), easy one-touch features, making it a reliable new staple among your kitchen appliances.
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Features To Consider When Shopping For a Microwave
Not all "compact" microwaves are created equally. First, some are much more compact than others. A compact microwave is generally considered to be less than 1 cubic foot, but sizes vary a lot. You also need to consider the size of the unit itself, and how much actual space there is inside. Some microwaves may have a larger exterior, but a small interior, which isn't optimized well for small spaces where every inch matters.
Some models may appear larger than others, but when it comes to space inside, they could be smaller, even though they take up more space. Measure the space you have available, then shop for a microwave thats as big as your space allows, and that will satisfy your needs.
Not many microwaves would be considered compact if they're larger than 0.9 cubic feet, so if you have more than that to space, you may not even need a compact microwave in the first place.
The turntable should be at least 10 inches in diameter so it can hold a whole dinner plate without any issue. If you have a smaller turntable with less overall capacity, you're not going to be able to make normal amount of food in your microwave.
Power Levels and Wattage
In addition to the size of your microwave, the turntable, and its overall capacity, you need to consider power wattage.
The wattage of your microwave oven will determine how hot it can get your food, and how fast. It can also in part, determine what kinds of food you can cook in it. Most microwave products feature a power range range between 600 and 1200 watts, with 900 watts of cooking power being the max for most countertop microwave ovens.
A good rule of thumb is to go for a higher wattage whenever possible, although a model that's only 700 watts should still be able to boil water after a couple minutes if that option is your final choice. If different power levels are available, it’s even better. It’ll give you more methods of cooking and therefore more selection.
Specific Product Features
Many microwave products come with extra features. These are extras that aren't necessary, but they sure do make life easier. One of the biggest things to look for is preset cooking modes. These are the buttons you can press to auto cook food to the optimal temperature such as popcorn, pizza, chicken, potatoes, etc.
Then also check for preheating mode or slow cooking mode. Depending on how and what you plan to cook, these features can make a big difference.
Other great features you can find include things like adjustable or mutable volume, convection fans, or a child safety lock. Having a child lock helps prevent your child from accidentally microwaving something they shouldn't be. While most of us don't think about having a child lock on a microwave, if you had toddlers and a microwave thats on the counter, it's a great feature to have.
Ease of Use
How easy are products to use when cooking is generally something most people consider when making a purchase. Most microwaves really don’t require a lot of prior knowledge. The biggest takeaway from this should really be ease of maintenance and cleaning. When your microwave is splattered with caked on gunk, it’s not very appealing to use. So, make sure you look for one that’s easy to operate without making a mess, and that’s easy to clean when you do.
Maintaining your microwave properly can add several years of good use onto its lifespan. Though hearing ‘maintenance’ makes most people inwardly cringe, it really is a small task when you’ve done it regularly. Not to mention that with microwaves a lot of maintenance is actually prevention. Here’s what you need to know about microwave maintenance:
No metal, foil, or metal embellished dishes
We’ve all gotten the lecture about not putting metal in microwaves, so just don’t do it. That includes utensils and dishes that may have metallic decoration. The best way to avoid issues with this is simply by checking that dishes say ‘microwave safe.’
So only put appropriate items in your microwave. Also, never, ever run your microwave without anything in it. That causes the energy to go right back into the microwave components and can cause heavy damage.
Clean it up
Clean your microwave regularly, and especially after a big spill. This keeps big messes from getting into the other microwave components, which can lead to a shorter life for your microwave.
Not only that, it’s just easier to clean up messes before they get caked on. Make sure you use products that are safe for your microwave’s surfaces. Try using a microwave cover over a dinner plate or bowls when you are using it, as this helps prevent nasty clean ups later on.
Take it easy on the door
Microwave doors get a lot of abuse whether we realize it or not. Accidentally slamming it when you’re getting a late snack, bumping it with your arm to close it, that all happens through the course of its lifetime. We’ve all done it before, but it’s not the best for the door.
That means the latches get worn pretty quickly when you're not closing the door gently. Eventually, the latch doesn't close properly and you've got a problem. So, go easy on the door, and if you notice your latch isn't working as well as it used to, order a replacement.
Keep up with replacements
Many replacements that microwaves need through the years are easy fixes. Microwaves often include information from the manufacturer about replacing parts, so make sure you reference that so all replacement parts are the right dimensions. Check your manual to make sure you’re getting the right parts and going through the right procedure to safely replace them.
Things like door latches, light bulbs, and turntable plates are the most common. Important note: always unplug the microwave before making replacements, and don’t be afraid to consult a professional if you’re unsure about your replacements.
Owning the right microwave will make life easier for you and make heating up food a lot more enjoyable. A small microwave will also provide a great solution for making cooking more convenient, especially when you’re low on room and cooking time. Just make sure you pick the model with the power and dimensions that suits your needs.
As long as you check that it has the features, power, and size you need, then you'll be on your way to a new, space-saving microwave. Always be sure to take good care of it, so you can keep enjoying the convenience it provides for years to come.