Microwaves are arguably amongst our most used kitchen appliances – whether you’re whipping up some popcorn for movie-night or heating up leftovers, a handy device with a bunch of presets can help take all the guesswork out of cooking. And while there is the argument that countertop microwaves take up too much space, especially if you’re looking for something inexpensive for your temporary apartment, student dorm or studio, it really is a question of picking the right option. There are plenty of sleek, compact gadgets out there which not only save counter space but also make the job of keeping your food warm or cooking simple, quick dishes a breeze. And if you get all this under an affordable price tag? You’ve hit jackpot. Check out our picks for the best countertop microwaves you can get, for under $100.
Danby Designer DMW077BLSDD Countertop Microwave
Perfect for keeping at work or in a student dorm, this 700-watt powered microwave comes with 6 popular preset options – including settings for Popcorn, Dinner Plate and Pizza – so you don’t have to risk unevenly warming your food by simply guessing how long or how much you need to heat it up. Apart from a numerical keypad to let you manually enter time as well, there are also options to let you “Weight Defrost”, “Time Defrost” and “Time Cook” to let you adjust the level of heat so you can evenly or thoroughly thaw or cook food at the required time. The stainless steel design makes it an attractive device to look right at home on your countertop, while still being economical and not eating up too much counter space with its 0.7 cubic feet dimensions.
STAR BUDGET PICK
Westinghouse WCM660B Rotary Microwave Oven
The microwave features two rotary dials – one to operate the 30-minute timer, and the other to let you choose out of 6 cooking options from Low, Defrost, Med/Low, Medium, Med/High and High. The oven features a handle to simply pop the door open with a light tug, with an interior of dimension 0.6 cubic feet, the turntable inside clocking in at 9.5 inches.
Compact, simple to use and straightforward in the features it offers, this lightweight but sturdily built oven is perfect for small spaces such as student flats or communal office kitchens. With 600 watts of cooking power, this microwave is also ideal for heating up or cooking smaller portions or items evenly.
Emerson MW9255B Touch Control Microwave Oven
Offering 900 watts of cooking power, this device is better suited for cooking up or heating slightly bigger portions quickly and evenly. With 6 presets for common cooking menus, such as Popcorn, Beverage, Dinner Plate etc. as well as time and weight defrost features, the oven also comes with a numerical keypad to let you input your preferred heating or cooking time as well.
The sleek, black machine pulls off a contemporary effect that will go well on any kitchen countertop, with dimensions of 0.9 cubic feet to help save you some space. Offering swift, thorough cooking for those days you don’t have the time to put together elaborate meals from scratch, this oven also comes with other attractive features such as a child-safe lock-out feature and a UL listing for additional safety.
Westinghouse WM009 Counter Top Microwave Oven
Designed for those who have limited counter space, this oven is perfect for cooking or heating small to medium sized items. The 900-watt power allows for even, efficient and quick cooking without the risk of burning food to a crisp or leaving it under-cooked and soggy. The 6 cooking presets include Pizza, Popcorn, Beverage as well as a Reheat option, to do away with the trial and error of guessing how long you’d need to heat your food or drink, without risking under- or over-cooking it in the process. There are also handy timer and defrost options, especially useful if you wish to quickly whip up a meal but forgot to leave your veggies or meat outside to thaw out overnight. Efficient and convenient, this is a great option to go for if you’re moving into your first flat or are setting up in a smaller apartment space, as well as a great practical gift option for someone about to move into a place with limited kitchen space.
Choosing the Best Countertop Microwave under $100
Picking a compact microwave to save counter space may seem like a no-brainer, but there are plenty more things to take into consideration when it comes to choosing such an essential kitchen appliance. Depending on your requirements, you might want to pick a manual dial option or one with digital keypads and presets, or consider options of different cooking powers.
If you’re on the lookout for a compact contraption to heat up personal meals or to keep in the office to warm up lunches, a small, 600-watt machine would be adequate. While these may not be the best options to go for if you’re planning to cook for more than one person or more than one portion, they are perfect space-saving gadgets to have around if you are living alone or in a student dorm.
If you’re planning on something a bit more heavy-duty, though, for heating up bigger portions or for cooking larger meals, cooking power between 900-1000 watts would be better. With this wattage, there is less risk of food warming up too slowly or cooking too unevenly, especially for larger portions.
We also recommend picking an option with a versatile combination of presets and defrost and timer options – microwaves can be finicky with how much time and intensity different food items need to be properly heated, and a couple of presets for standard dinner plates, pizza and so on helps avoid the process of constantly sticking food into the oven as you experiment with different temperature settings and times to heat it all the way through. This prevents the risk of unevenly cooking your food, or cooking it too slowly. These types of ovens typically come with number pads as well to let you input your chosen time settings with more precision than possible with rotary dials.