When you’re short on space but still need a functional kitchen, these are the best small microwaves money can buy
A microwave is one of those kitchen appliances that most of us couldn’t do without, which is why, if space is at a premium, finding the best small microwave for your kitchen is a must. In fact, whether your kitchen is large or small, sometimes it feels like the space a microwave takes up is disproportionate to the number of times it gets used. Not to mention that, these days, with all the other countertop appliances such as air fryers, blenders, mixers and multi-cookers fighting for space, our kitchen counters are getting ever more crowded and space is at a premium.
But microwaves don’t need to be huge, especially if you’re only using it for the odd ready meal or to reheat leftovers. There are plenty of smaller, more compact microwaves that take up less space and do just as good a job as the bigger, fancier models. Just don’t expect to get extras such as a grill or convection oven function – these features make microwaves bigger, so you won’t see them in smaller models.
Here, we’ve put together a list of some of the best small microwaves around, so you can free up some counter space but still warm last night’s leftovers for your lunch.
How to choose the best small microwave for you
Should I go for the highest power possible?
Microwave power levels are measured in watts and, in theory, the higher the wattage, the faster the microwave will heat your food. But some very high-powered microwaves, such as those that are 1,000W or more, can be quite aggressive, meaning it’s often easier to achieve even heating and more palatable food with slightly lower-powered models. Yes, your food might take an extra minute to heat up, but who’s really in that much of a hurry?
What volume do I need?
The internal space in a microwave is measured in litres, which to most people doesn’t mean a lot. But it’s a useful way of comparing one model to another. Some websites also list the internal measurements, which is helpful if you want to use particular plates or you like to warm drinks in a taller mug and you’re not sure if it will fit. Generally speaking, though, you can’t expect a microwave to be small and compact on the outside and roomy on the inside, so be ready to compromise on internal space.
What turntable diameter do I need?
Realistically, if you’re in the market for a small microwave, you will have to accept that the turntable is likely to be small and your dinner plates may not fit. But on the plus side, turntable diameters are always listed in the product specs and if you really want to reheat leftovers on your usual plates, we would recommend measuring them to check if they will fit on the turntable.
What type of controls are best?
The controls come down to personal preference, if you want the most straightforward foolproof controls, look for dials. The microwaves that have one dial for time and another to select the power level are the simplest to use. But if you want to programme more accurate heating times, as well as having the option of auto-cook programmes, you will need a microwave with digital controls and a display screen, though these can be more complicated to use.
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The best small microwave to buy in 2023
1. ESSENTIALS CMW21: The best small (refurbished) microwave under £60
Price: £55 | Buy now from Direct Vacuums
Despite the small 15L internal volume, this microwave still squeezes in a respectable 245mm turntable, which is sizable enough to take an average dinner plate. Some reviewers have struggled to fit their plates through the door, however, so if your plates cater to larger portions, you may have to reheat leftovers in a different dish.
Not only is this microwave compact, it’s also very easy to use. The six power levels are clearly displayed on one dial at the front, while the time is selected on the second dial. There are no complicated digital controls to master; in fact, it’s unlikely you will need to browse the instruction manual at all.
At under £60 it’s a wallet-friendly choice.
Key specs – Type: Turntable; Dimensions: 292 x 443 x 340mm; Stated volume: 15L; Turntable diameter: 245mm; Stated power output: 700W; Convection oven/grill: No/no
2. Hotpoint Curve MWH1311B: The best small microwave for corners
Price: £100 | Buy now from Appliances Direct
In addition to the already small dimensions, this uniquely shaped microwave has a curved back so it will tuck neatly into a corner of your kitchen worktop. At just 13L, it’s one of the smallest microwaves you can buy, but impressively Hotpoint has managed to fit a 280mm turntable into the space, so you shouldn’t struggle to fit a dinner plate inside.
Unfortunately, the size isn’t reflected in the price, which is higher than you might expect. Moreover, the timer doesn’t allow you to be very precise, and if you’re used to a digital microwave this may take some getting used to.
On the plus side, though, the two dial controls mean it’s still fairly easy to use. It’s well loved by reviewers, who praise the compact size and the way it fits into awkward corners. For lots of people, the space-saving design will be worth paying extra for.
Key specs – Type: Turntable; Dimensions: 360 x 353 x 392mm; Stated volume: 13L; Turntable diameter: 280mm; Stated power output: 700W; Convection oven/grill: No/no
3. Russell Hobbs RHRETMM705C: The best retro-style small microwave
Price: £90 | Buy now from Amazon
This small microwave has a charming retro design that is likely to divide opinion, but if you’re looking for a quirky addition to your kitchen, it will fit the bill. The cream version is arguably the more retro colour choice; if you want the black model, it will set you back an extra £17.
The old-fashioned dials add to the old-school design but make it tricky to be accurate when setting the timer, so it won’t suit very precise cooks. However, it’s an easy-to-use microwave with just five power levels and a large handle that’s easy to grab hold of. If you’re looking for something simple and stylish, this is it.
Key specs – Type: Turntable; Dimensions: 25.6 x 45.1 x 36.7mm; Stated volume: 17L; Turntable diameter: 267mm; Stated power output: 700W; Convection oven/grill: No/no
4. Russell Hobbs Worcester: The best small microwave for colour choice
Price: £85 | Buy now from Argos
If you want a compact microwave that you can match to your kitchen, this is one to consider. Choose between cream, grey, black or red to complement your units and backsplash or to add a pop of colour.
It’s not the cheapest microwave around, but it has a super compact design – only 25.6cm tall, so ideal for rooms with restricted height – and also looks good on the kitchen counter.
It’s straightforward to use, and if you’re a fan of auto-cook programmes, you will be pleased to know that it also comes with plenty of choice. In addition to the five power levels there are three auto-weight defrost settings, as well as eight auto-cook settings. So whatever you’re heating or defrosting, there are enough settings available to ensure you get the perfect result every time.
Key specs – Type: Turntable; Dimensions: 256 x 451 x 326mm; Stated volume: 17L; Turntable diameter: 245mm; Stated power output: 700W; Convection oven/grill: No/no
5. Sharp R272KM: The best small microwave with a touch control panel
Price: £100 | Buy now from Amazon
The simple, flat touch control panel and unfussy exterior make this a sleek but subtle microwave, it’s ideal if you’re looking for a microwave that doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb in the kitchen. Its touch controls are easily wiped clean and there are no dirt traps to harbour muck and bacteria, making it a hygienic choice too. There’s also a child lock, which allows you to disable the controls for peace of mind.
A 20L interior means this microwave is more spacious than many other compact options and with 800W of power combined with 11 different power levels, it won’t struggle to heat up your dinner or warm a mug of hot chocolate. It comes in black or white and, thankfully, both models are the same price.
Key specs – Type: Turntable; Dimensions: 258 x 307 x 359mm; Stated volume: 20L; Turntable diameter: 255mm; 800W; Convection oven/grill: No/No