We take microwave cooking as a given these days, but it wasn’t so long ago that microwave cooking resembled something out of a book of magic spells. Today, manufacturers are constantly looking for ways to stretch the capabilities of existing microwave oven models, and it’s super easy to get your hands on one multi-tool of a cooker that can do the job of four different kitchen appliances and then some. If you want to save space, explore various cooking styles, or feed large groups of people, one of these specialized microwaves is bound to be so useful that you’ll wonder how you ever got by without it.
Here’s a list of our favorite microwaves that go the extra mile.
Best overall: Panasonic Countertop / Built-In Microwave Oven
Bake an entire chicken in a snap. Amazon
This 2.2-cubic-foot capacity microwave from Panasonic can braise, poach, and steam in addition to traditional microwave cooking at a toasty 1,250 watts. Since it can be a substitute for a traditional oven in many culinary circumstances, it makes a great choice for tiny spaces, studio apartments and otherwise limited kitchens. Its sleek stainless steel finish ensures that it will fit right in with any decor taste and style.
Built-in humidity monitor: Toshiba EM131A5C-BS Microwave Oven
LARGE DIGITAL DISPLAY
1100 watts of cooking power. Amazon
This Toshiba microwave boasts extensive one-touch cooking functions, and can nuke popcorn, meats, pizza, potatoes, and more with the press of a single button. Because of this, it’s a champion at saving time, making it a good choice for busy people or households that prepare a variety of different products. With its glass turntable and large digital display, it’s sure to be every bit as functional as it is stylish.
Best for small spaces: Panasonic Microwave Oven NN-SN686S
Automatic cooking for specific foods. Amazon
If it’s automatic, sensor-based cooking you seek, turn your gaze to this Genius microwave from Panasonic. It boasts a thin profile that prioritizes saving space in the kitchen while maximizing interior capacity, and cooks using a sensor according to 12 different preset food categories, ensuring perfect preparation every time. In addition to this and traditional microwave functions, it offers turbo defrosting as well as a “keep warm” option for when you’re juggling more than one thing.
Best value: AmazonBasics Microwave
Set it to reorder popcorn when you run low. Amazon
Amazon’s small, Alexa-enabled microwave is cost-effective enough to land itself in any situation imaginable, from office kitchens to game rooms. It offers a spacious 0.7 cubic feet of cooking capacity, which is more than enough for heating single entrees, beverages and appetizers. Of course, because it works with Alexa, you can use your voice to ask it to cook from anywhere in the house, making it a perfect way to outfit auxiliary rooms in your home.