Best microwaves 2024 UK - cook, reheat, defrost and more with these multi-tasking gadgets

Cook jacket potatoes, heat up a ready meal in minutes, defrost frozen goods, reheat leftovers - or even crisp up pizzas - with the best microwaves

Best microwaves on Ideal Home background
(Image credit: Future)

One of the best microwaves is simply a kitchen essential, with these appliances working since the 1970s (when they arrived from across the pond) to make cooking easier than ever. 

Microwaves have saved many of us on too many occasions to count, from last-minute defrosting to warming up ready meals or leftovers or even cooking things from scratch. 

Like pretty much all kitchen gadgets, the microwave has moved with the times and today’s offerings include a whole range of gadgets going from small, basic machines that will reheat, defrost and cook, right up to bigger, more complicated bits of kit that not only microwave but can be used as grills, ovens and more - with some hefty price tags to match. 

The microwave you should buy does come down to what you plan on using it for. Just like we’ve helped identify the best air fryers out there through testing, we’ve also put a range of popular microwaves through their paces to make choosing one easier. Here's our favourite six.  

Quick list

Best microwave overall

Swan microwaveproduct badge

(Image credit: Swan)
Best microwave overall

Specifications

Type: Digital
Capacity: 20 litres
Features: 6 functions, a range of colours

Reasons to buy

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It comes in a range of colours so is great to show off on your counter 
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It’s relatively affordable and not too big, making it versatile
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That wooden handle which adds to the stylish look

Reasons to avoid

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The door isn’t that easy to see through and keep an eye on what’s cooking
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Compared to some models it feels bit basic - so if you want all the bells and whistles this isn’t for you

This is a good-looking microwave that’s smaller than some of the bigger machines yet perfectly formed. As the name suggests, it oozes minimalist Nordic vibes and we loved the wooden handle and dial, though during testing, I did wonder how much they’d stand the test of time or whether they’d get dirty and fade. 

It's a fairly simple machine compared to some models but it’s got all the different modes you need including an express setting that makes it quick, easy and efficient to reheat soup.

The defrost mode is also reliable, allowing you to select meat, poultry and seafood and then enter the weight, plus it has an easy-to-use straightforward cook function. Some elements felt more basic and less precise than other models, but so is the price tag, so this is a fairly good all-rounder if you want to keep things simple and not spend too much. 

Read our full Swan Nordic microwave review for more information.

Best microwave oven

Sage The Quick Touch Microwaveproduct badge

(Image credit: Sage)

2. Sage Quick Touch by Heston Blumenthal

Best microwave oven

Specifications

Type: Microwave-grill combi
Capacity: 25 litres
Features: Large capacity, smart menus, “A Bit More” button

Reasons to buy

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The space-age tech and easy shortcut buttons
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The ability to ‘crisp’ things and grill things, making it even more versatile
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The little touches, like being able to adjust the volume of the ‘beep’

Reasons to avoid

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It’s big - this is no small bit of kit so you’ll need a big space to store it
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The price tag 

This microwave looks like it means business, and has all the space-age gadgetry you’d expect from Sage. It also needs a fair bit of space as it’s one of the bigger microwaves we tested, so you’ll be clearing a countertop if you invest in one of these. 

There’s a whole array of shortcut buttons just inside the door, plus an easy-to-adjust read-out that will take you from cook, down to reheat and defrost, with options for ‘melt’ and ‘soften’ along the way. 

It’s got several ‘smart’ buttons making it easy to cook or grill, reheat or defrost too - allowing you to input the weight and then just hit start. We tried ‘smart defrost’ for the frozen chicken breast but found ourselves having to add on some extra minutes as it didn’t quite get it completely thawed. 

The ‘potato’ shortcut cooked our jacket perfectly, while the soup was incredibly easy to reheat. There are all sorts of little touches, including being able to adjust the beep volume, but the most useful is the ability to grill or ‘crisp’ food. We tried a pizza and it was quicker and easier than using a conventional grill, with the same results. Full marks from me - minus the price!

Best microwave under £100

Panasonic microwaveBudget buy badge

(Image credit: Panasonic)

3. Tower T24021W Digital Microwave

Best microwave under £100

Specifications

Type: Digital
Capacity: 20 litres
Features: 60-minute timer and 8 autocook settings, 20L, 800W

Reasons to buy

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The lovely design and rose gold handle and trim 
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The fairly reasonable price tag
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It’s automatic settings

Reasons to avoid

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The door isn’t the easiest to see through

This is a good-looking addition to your kitchen counter, and isn’t too big, meaning it fits on the worktop nicely. The rose gold handle and trim gives it a sleek feel, but it promises a fair bit of functionality giving you faith that it won’t be style over substance. 

Its defrost function recommended a fairly lengthy time for the weight of the chicken breast, which meant it ended up cooking it rather than just defrosting it. Possibly operator error, but it seemed to be over-estimating cooking time. 

The auto-cook setting promises to find the right time for various foods - including our jacket potato - but that needed a few extra minutes once it was done. Our favourite bit of functionality was the easy way of adding extra minutes on while the microwave is doing its thing - perfect for heating soup. 

The door isn’t the easiest to see through, so if you’re trying to watch something like soup to see if it’s boiling over, you might find yourself with your nose pressed up against the rather lovely door. 

Best microwave for functionality

Panasonic microwaveproduct badge

(Image credit: Panasonic)

4. Panasonic NN-CT56JB Microwave

Best microwave for functionality

Specifications

Type: Digital
Capacity: 27 litre
Features: Oven, grill, defrost and 29 functions in all

Reasons to buy

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Power and capacity - it's big and powerful
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Sheer versatility 
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Junior programmes aimed at catering for babies, toddlers and children

Reasons to avoid

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It has a large footprint

This lacks the space-age feel of the Sage, yet takes up the same space and definitely looks like it’s catering for a busy family kitchen rather than a minimalist set-up. The options are virtually endless, with classic defrost, reheat and cook options, plus grill and convection oven. 

Its power cooked the jacket potato more efficiently than some of the other microwaves - plus nice and evenly - while its defrost setting seemed more accurately timed than some other microwaves and the grill function delivered a good cheese melt and crispy crust on a pizza. 

The endless possibilities of cooking options come with a comprehensive manual packed with exhaustive charts and information. Useful, but if you’re someone who just wants to do a few simple tasks, it can get a bit intense and I found myself shying away from complex programming and praying for something simpler. 

That said, if you were planning on using this as your main cooking tool, the world really would be your oyster. There’s a nice big window to watch what’s cooking and it's well lit so you can see what’s going on. Similar levels of functionality as the Sage, though somehow not quite as intuitive or enjoyable to use, yet a bit cheaper.

Best value microwave

Russell Hobbs microwaveproduct badge

(Image credit: Russell Hobbs)

5.Russell Hobbs RHM2060 Microwave

Best microwave for smart features

Specifications

Type: Digital
Capacity: 20 litre
Features: Oven, grill, defrost

Reasons to buy

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Affordable - one of the cheaper ones we reviewed, this won’t hit your wallet too hard
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Simple - easy to use without over-complicating things
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Small and fairly good-looking 

Reasons to avoid

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Very basic and no easy digital display
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Less good looking than some other microwaves of the same size

While some microwaves have gone design-heavy and are clearly aimed at impressing with their looks as well as their functionality, this microwave keeps things simple with its straightforward white or black options and metallic handle.

It's all dial-operated without any swanky displays. This is great if you want to keep things simple, though we were thrown by the lack of display and may or may not have questioned whether it was working until we played around with it. 

The dials allow you to move through the power levels, and adjust accordingly depending on whether you’re cooking, reheating or defrosting, though they somehow feel a bit less precise than a digital option. 

That said, the RHM2060 still did the job - defrosting the chicken, cooking the jacket potato and reheating the soup. A basic microwave, with a price tag to match, but it might be worth spending a bit more to get something better looking and with a bit more functionality.

Best microwave with retro style

Dunelm Retro green microwaveproduct badge

(Image credit: Dunelm)

6. Dunelm Retro 20L 800W Microwave

The best microwave with a style other than silver or black

Specifications

Type: Digital timer
Capacity : 20 litres
Features : 5 power settings, wide colour range

Reasons to buy

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Retro style means you can stay away from black and silver 
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Fair capacity for everyday use 
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Easy to use controls with no frills
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Matching toaster and kettle available

Reasons to avoid

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No push button to open the door
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No tech-y features for your money

Not every kitchen is going to suit a stainless steel microwave, especially if you've only got space for this particular appliance on your worktop, rather than the option to stash it away in a cupboard somewhere. 

That's where this retro Dunelm microwave excels, with a colour range and retro styling that means you don't mind having it on display, especially if you pick up the matching toaster and kettle in the same shade. 

Aside from the design of this toaster, it's fair to say that during testing, we found that the controls were basic, rather than advanced. The no-frills tech might be just what you're looking for, if you just want this microwave to be able to warm up leftovers. 

There's a digital timer that can be set, while everything else is operated through one dial and various buttons. There also isn't a button to open the door of the microwave, which means you'll have to rely on yanking it open yourself. All in all, we think these points are minor overall, and if it's a basic microwave you're looking for to suit your pastel kitchen, you can't go too wrong with this one.

How we tested the best microwaves

As part of our commitment to how we test products that we recommend in our buying guides, we put these microwaves through their paces over several days and in a range of ways. We tested their ability to defrost by thawing out frozen chicken fillets, their reheating function with a classic cream of tomato soup, and their ability to cook a jacket potato from raw. We also tried out a pizza to give the crisping-up function on some of them a run for its money.