Whether it’s speeding up the roasties, steaming your greens or heating the pudding, a good-sized microwave could be your new secret to stress-free Christmas cooking.
If you’re looking for a new microwave to make hosting easy this year, not only will it need to heat evenly and quickly, but it should also be spacious enough for your larger plates and dishes.
We’ve found that microwaves can vary massively in terms of what they can fit inside, as well as how much space they take up on your worktop. The roomiest can fit dishes of up to 46cm, but the smallest can only manage 27cm – which could mean you’ll struggle to get your dinner plates in.
Even microwaves of the same size can have very different amounts of usable space. A flatbed microwave, which doesn’t have a turntable, will allow you to fit rectangular or awkwardly shaped containers in for hassle-free heating.
Combi microwaves, on the other hand, function like a mini oven, giving you the option to roast, bake and grill food, as well as microwaving.
We’ve just tested the latest microwaves, and uncovered two brilliant new Best Buys. See which models made the grade, and all our top picks for fast and easy cooking, by heading to our independent microwave reviews.
Choosing the right-sized microwave
When it comes to choosing the best size for you, you’ll need to make sure there’s enough room inside for what you need, as well as finding one that’s a good fit for your kitchen.
Manufacturers state the internal capacity in litres, but this won’t tell you what size dishes will actually fit inside. For every microwave we test, we measure the largest plate that you can fit through the door without tilting it, so you can check it will be big enough for your dinner plates or casserole dishes.
Generally, the more you pay, the more room you’ll get to play with. We’ve crunched the numbers for all the microwaves we’ve tested that are currently available, and the maximum plate size increases as the price goes up, as you can see below:
Microwave size: price vs maximum plate size
A larger capacity can be handy if you often defrost or reheat big meals. But if you only ever use your microwave to warm up a bowl of soup or plate of leftovers, it might not be worth the extra expense.
Best microwaves – discover our top picks of 2018
Fit in more with a flatbed microwave
Flatbed microwaves don’t have a turntable, so tend to have more usable space than traditional models. You can fill the whole space inside the microwave with dishes of all shapes and sizes, without having to worry about leaving room for them to turn.
We’ve tested 17 flatbed microwaves, including a couple of extra-spacious models that even have room for a 41cm plate. Head to our flatbed microwave reviews to compare models and find the best for your budget.
Combi microwaves: a helping hand for busy households
Combis usually have a much bigger capacity than standard microwaves, so they’re great for defrosting or reheating extra-large dishes.
- 35cm – the average plate size that can fit in a combi microwave, based on models we’ve tested
- 29cm – the average plate size that can fit in a microwave-only or grill model
They tend to take up more space in your kitchen, but also offer much more functionality than a standard microwave.
As well as microwaving your food, a combi can also bake and grill, so they can come in handy as a second oven space for big cooking occasions such as Christmas. If you don’t have space for a double oven, a combi could be the next best thing.
Combis are usually more expensive than standard microwaves, although we’ve found great Best Buys for as little as £170. See our combination microwave reviews to see which models we recommend.
Microwave clearance – don’t forget this crucial step
Before you rush out and buy the biggest microwave that will fit on your worktop, bear in mind that it will also need a little ventilation space around it.
The advised clearance space can range from 10cm to 30cm, depending on the model, which can be a problem if your microwave sits under kitchen cupboards. They can also need up to 20cm clearance space at the sides and behind, so it’s worth double checking how much space you’ll need to leave spare before you take the plunge.
Getting the best microwave
As well as being the right size for the job, a good microwave will need to heat and defrost food quickly and evenly, without drying it out or losing flavour in the process.
If you need to re-heat several things in a row, you’ll want a model that doesn’t lose power with continuous use, so the last person at the dinner table isn’t only just tucking in when everyone else has already finished.
The best models will make dinner time a breeze, but the worst can leave cold spots in your food, burn the edges or lose power with repeated use.
We’ve found Best Buy microwaves for all kitchen sizes and budgets. Head to our list of the best microwaves you can buy to find one to suit yours.
Latest microwave reviews for 2018/2019
Here’s are all the latest models to have gone through our exhaustive lab tests. Click on the individual links to read the full reviews, or head straight to our microwave reviews to compare models side by side.
- Daewoo KOR6M5R – £75
- Daewoo KOR9LBKC – £85
- Hotpoint MWH301B – £90
- Next 20-litre Copper microwave (700-433) – £75
Microwave with grill
- Hotpoint Supremechef MWH338SX – £225
- Panasonic NN-CD58JSBPQ – £200
- Sharp R890S – £230
- Sharp R870KM – £120
Prices correct as of 14 December 2018.