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Small Microwave Oven: Compact Power for Your Kitchen

October 26, 2023

Discover our comprehensive guide on small microwave ovens. Save space, time, & power in your kitchen with our top microwave picks for compact living.


Microwave ovens, particularly small ones, have become an essential appliance in modern kitchens. Their combination of speed, convenience, and compactness make them an excellent solution for heating and cooking, particularly in homes where space might be a premium. This guide aims to give an in-depth view of small microwave ovens, their development, technology, and salient features, as well as advice on buying and efficient usage.

History of Small Microwave Ovens

The history of microwave ovens dates back to the 1940s. Percy Spencer, an engineer at Raytheon, discovered that microwaves could heat food when a chocolate bar in his pocket melted while he was working on radar technology. This key insight led to the development of the first microwave oven, named the ‘Radarange’. Initially, these machines were large, heavy, and expensive, making them impractical for most homes.

However, as technology advanced and became more affordable, smaller, lighter, and less expensive models were introduced in the 1960s and 1970s. These new models, suitable for countertop use in home kitchens, heralded the era of the small microwave oven. Over the decades, continuous technology improvements have resulted in the efficient, versatile, and affordable small microwave ovens we use today.

Understanding Microwave Oven Technology

At its most basic, a microwave oven works by generating microwaves using a magnetron. These microwaves are absorbed by the food, causing water, sugar, and fat molecules in the food to vibrate, producing heat and cooking the food. Understanding this technology can help homeowners use their appliances more effectively and safely.

Radiation Safety

Despite fears, microwave ovens are safe. They are designed to contain the microwaves within the oven and automatically stop producing them when the door is opened. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sets strict standards for radiation leaks, which modern microwave ovens are designed to meet.

Innovative Technologies in Modern Microwaves

Modern small microwave ovens often incorporate innovative technologies such as smart sensors, which can detect when food is done and automatically turn off the oven. These additions make microwaving food easier and more convenient. Some models even include advanced settings like grilling and convection heating, reducing the need for large, energy-consuming ovens. Altogether, these technologies contribute to the overall value and utility of small microwave ovens in the modern home.

Benefits of Small Microwave Ovens

Small microwave ovens offer a vast array of benefits, contributing to their popularity in home kitchens. Firstly, their compact size makes them a perfect fit for smaller kitchens or areas with limited counter space. They’re convenient for apartments, dormitories, office pantries, and even for outdoor cooking spaces.

Secondly, small microwave ovens are remarkably energy-efficient. They use less electricity to run, which is beneficial to the environment and your energy bills. Thirdly, small microwave ovens offer speed and convenience. They cook and heat food quickly, saving you time and effort compared to using traditional cooking methods.

Various Sizes of Small Microwave Ovens

Small microwave ovens come in numerous sizes to cater to different needs and available spaces. Standard dimensions generally range from 15 to 20 inches in width, about 10 to 14 inches in height, and approximately 10 to 16 inches in depth. However, this can vary somewhat among brands and models.

Compact designs are typically less than 15 inches in width, making them perfect for tiny kitchens or minimal countertop space. There are also in-between sizes, designed to provide the perfect balance between space-saving and internal capacity. When choosing a microwave oven size, it is essential to consider both the external dimensions and the internal capacity to ensure it both fits in your kitchen and can accommodate the sizes of food you typically cook.

Main Features of Small Microwave Ovens

Despite their compact size, small microwave ovens come packed with features to provide flexibility in their uses and convenience in operation. One fundamental feature is the power setting, which allows users to adjust the microwave’s power output. For example, a lower setting might be used for defrosting or slow heating, while a high setting may be useful for quick heating or cooking.

Some models include preset cooking modes for specific food items like popcorn, pizza, or baked potatoes. These settings make it easier to achieve the perfect cook without having to guess times and power levels. Additionally, a defrost feature is standard on many models, allowing users to defrost meat or other frozen food evenly and safely. Other features might include timers, child locks, and sound options.

Special Features of Modern Small Microwave Ovens

Modern small microwave ovens sport a plethora of special features designed to enhance user experience and convenience. One such feature is smart technology integration–some microwaves can now connect to your home’s Wi-Fi network and be controlled remotely using your smartphone. This means you could start defrosting your dinner while still on your way home!

Sensor cooking is another cutting-edge feature seen in newer models. Here, the microwave measures the humidity or steam in the oven and adjusts the cooking time and power level accordingly to prevent over or undercooking. This eliminates guesswork and ensures food is cooked perfectly every time. Some small microwave ovens also now include convection modes which integrate a fan to circulate the hot air, allowing for more even heating and enabling functions like roasting and baking typically reserved for full-sized ovens.

Importance of Wattage in Small Microwave Ovens

The wattage of any microwave oven, regardless of size, is a vital factor to consider because it directly affects the appliance’s cooking power. Generally, the higher the wattage, the faster the microwave can cook your food. Most small microwave models feature wattages between 500 to 1000 watts.

Choosing a microwave with lower wattage might mean waiting a little longer for your food to prepare but can be a practical choice for kitchens with limited electrical capacity. On the other hand, models with higher wattage selections can provide faster cooking times, which can be a boon for those always on the go. For this reason, understanding wattage can help potential buyers select a microwave oven most suitable for their needs.

Comparing Small Microwave Ovens to Conventional Ovens

Though both are beloved kitchen appliances, small microwave ovens and conventional ovens serve different purposes and have some distinguishing characteristics. For instance, conventional ovens are often larger and consume more energy but can provide a richer, roasted flavor and get hotter for applications like broiling.

Small microwave ovens, however, excel in speed, efficiency, and convenience. They need little preheating and are better at preserving nutrients in food because of the shorter cooking times. Plus, their lower power consumption makes them more energy-efficient and cost-effective. While they might not provide the exact taste that comes from a conventional oven, many modern microwaves now include features like grilling, broiling, or convection to bridge the gap.

In finality, the two appliances can complement each other in a well-equipped kitchen, but the small size, convenience, and efficiency of microwave ovens make them a household essential.

Popular Brands of Small Microwave Ovens

As the demand for small microwave ovens has increased over the years, plenty of brands have stepped in to offer their own models, each with its own unique set of features and functionalities. Some of the most popular brands include Panasonic, Samsung, and Toshiba, known for their high-quality, reliable, and feature-rich microwaves. Budget brands like Hamilton Beach and Black+Decker also offer microwaves that, despite their lower prices, provide solid performances and are loved for their value-for-money proposition.

If you are seeking luxury, brands like Breville and Frigidaire offer models with high-end features such as smart cooking settings, sensor heating, and elegant designs. Overall, the brand you choose will help define the features, reliability, and service you can expect from your microwave.

Small Microwave Ovens for Different Needs

Small microwave ovens are versatile and can serve various needs due to their compact size, speed, and efficiency. They are a boon for individuals living in small spaces, like apartments or dorm rooms, where space is a precious commodity. Students, in particular, benefit from having a small microwave in their dorms, providing quick and easy ways to heat leftovers or prepare instant meals amidst their fast-paced schedules.

Small microwave ovens are also popular choices for small kitchens that need countertop space for food preparation. They can be a great addition to recreational vehicles as well, providing the benefits of a microwave to those on the road. The adaptability of small microwave ovens makes them suitable for various living situations and lifestyles.

Best Practices for Using Small Microwave Ovens

For prolonged and optimal use of your small microwave oven, it’s essential to follow certain best practices. Firstly, always ensure your microwave is clean. Food particles or splatters inside the appliance can cause smells to linger and can affect the heating performance of the oven. Most microwaves can be easily cleaned with a damp cloth or a microwave-safe cleaning solution.

Secondly, don’t run the microwave empty. Doing so can damage the appliance as there is no food to absorb the microwave radiation. Similarly, make sure to use microwave-safe containers for heating or cooking. Some materials, like certain plastics or metals, can warp or cause sparks if microwaved. Lastly, for best results, always refer to your microwave’s user manual for specific instructions about safe usage, maintenance, and any special features your appliance may have.

Decoding Microwave Oven Labels

Understanding microwave oven labels is crucial for making informed purchase decisions and for safe operation of the appliance. One important piece of information on these labels is the wattage. The wattage tells you about the microwave’s power output, which directly affects cooking efficiency and energy consumption. Generally, higher wattage microwaves can cook faster and more evenly.

Another vital aspect is the safety certification mark, such as the UL (Underwriter Laboratories) mark in the US. This mark indicates that the microwave has undergone testing to meet established safety standards. So, spotting such a mark can give you some assurance about the product’s safety.

The label also includes a model number, which is unique to each microwave unit. This can be handy when looking up product information or troubleshooting issues.

Price Ranges for Small Microwave Ovens

Small microwave ovens come in various price ranges, catering to distinct budgets and needs. Entry-level or budget microwaves can be found for as low as $50 to $100. These models generally offer basic functions, lower wattages, and are suitable for simple tasks like reheating or defrosting.

Mid-range microwave models are priced between $100 to $200 and usually offer a wider array of features, including superior build quality, higher wattages, and more preset cooking modes. These are a good balance between cost and functionality, suiting most average households.

High-end small microwave ovens can cost more than $200, and they provide advanced features like sensor cooking, convection capabilities, smart technology integration, and aesthetically pleasing designs.

Tips for Buying Small Microwave Ovens

When buying a small microwave oven, start by determining what you primarily need it for. If you intend to use it for reheating or defrosting only, a low-cost model with basic features may suffice. For more extensive cooking or baking, you’ll need a high-wattage, feature-rich model.

Then, consider the available space in your kitchen. Make sure to measure the area where the microwave will be placed and choose a model that fits comfortably in that space. Also, factor in the interior space of the microwave and whether it fits your usual dishware.

Be sure to check the microwave’s energy efficiency, as this will impact your utility bills over the long run. Finally, consider the brand’s reputation, check product reviews, and explore the specifics of the warranty provided. Investigate where you’d need to go if your appliance needs servicing or spare parts. This approach will help you make an informed decision which will likely improve your satisfaction with your purchase.

Comparing New and Used Small Microwave Ovens

When looking to purchase a small microwave oven, one important decision you’ll need to make is whether to buy a new or used model. Both options have their set of pros and cons.

New microwaves typically come with a manufacturer’s warranty, which can offer some peace of mind. They are also less likely to have any defects or problems, since they are brand-new and have not been used before. On the downside, new microwaves can be quite pricey, especially if you are looking at high-end models.

Used microwaves can be a more budget-friendly option. However, you need to be diligent when buying used appliances. Check the appliance thoroughly for any signs of damage or malfunction. It’s also recommended that you ask for the appliance’s history – how it was used, how often, any repairs done, etc. Keep in mind that used microwaves rarely come with a warranty, and you might have to compensate for repair costs on your own if any issue arises post-purchase.

Discussion on Innovations in Small Microwave Oven Technology

The world of home appliances is continuously evolving, and microwave ovens are no exception. The technology behind these handy kitchen appliances keeps getting better, enhancing our convenience and safety like never before.

Smart technology is a groundbreaking innovation that is rapidly gaining popularity. Modern microwaves can now be connected to your smartphone or tablet, letting you control your appliance remotely. For instance, you can start, stop, or adjust cooking time and temperature from your device without having to get up from your couch. Some models are also compatible with voice-controlled personal assistants like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant for hands-free operation.

Sensor cooking is another exciting innovation that revolutionizes the way we cook. Microwaves with this feature can sense the amount of moisture in the food and adjust the cooking time and power accordingly. This ensures your food is always cooked to perfection and reduces chances of overcooking or undercooking. Such intelligent features simplify cooking and make it more user-friendly for everyone.

Environmental Impact and Sustainability of Small Microwave Ovens

Microwave ovens, despite their convenience, pose some environmental concerns. They consume a significant amount of electricity. While small microwave ovens are generally more energy efficient than larger models, regular usage can still result in substantial energy consumption.

Similarly, the lifespan of a microwave oven is usually about 10 years after which it becomes an electronic waste that’s often not easy to dispose of due to its components. Microwave ovens contain certain electrical parts and metals that may be damaging to the environment if disposed of improperly.

However, various manufacturers are now recognizing these issues and working on more sustainable solutions. More energy-efficient models are being developed, and some brands are offering recycling programs for their products.

The Role of Small Microwave Ovens in Home Improvement and Storage

When it comes to home improvement, the role of a small microwave oven cannot be overstated. Its compact design makes it a perfect fit for small kitchens, apartments, or any space where counter space is at a premium. They add functionality to your kitchen setup without demanding a lot of space, thereby optimizing the usage of space.

Larger microwave ovens may provide more cooking space, but they also take up a significant amount of countertop real estate. A small microwave oven enables the homeowner to maximize counterspace for meal preparation or other uses. Beyond its space-saving benefits, a small microwave oven can also contribute to the aesthetic appeal of your kitchen. Compact and sleek designs can blend seamlessly into a modern kitchen decor.

As for storage, the small size of these microwave ovens allows them to be easily stored in cabinets or shelf when not in use. For kitchens with less countertop space, having the option to store the oven away can significantly improve your kitchen’s functionality and design flow. Furthermore, the small size also benefits those who are on the move, such as college students or those in temporary living arrangements. The microwave is light and compact enough to be moved and stored easily.


In conclusion, small microwave ovens are a versatile and efficient appliance in today’s kitchens. Their compact sizes and enhanced technologies make them suitable for different cooking needs and living circumstances. They offer a host of benefits like saving countertop space, efficient cooking, energy conservation, and ease of use. Moreover, their role in home improvement and optimization of storage space makes them an essential appliance for modern living.

However, when you decide to buy one, it’s important to compare options and consider factors like wattage, innovative features, and its efficiency to ensure it fits your needs. Whether you want a small microwave for a dorm room, an RV, or a small city apartment, there’s no denying that these compact kitchen helpers will continue to revolutionize cooking practices in homes everywhere.

By understanding this comprehensive guide to small microwave ovens, you are now equipped with the knowledge and confidence to choose the right one for your needs, all while contributing to your home improvement and energy efficiency goals.