The best built-in microwave
Microwaves, with all their convenient time-saving properties, are not the most stylish appliances. The large box style can feel clunky and intrusive. Even the most compact models tend to take up a serious chunk of counter space.Built-in microwaves combine the convenience we love with the style we crave, plus they leave your countertop free and clear for other appliances and activities. These models are often built into a cabinet or the space above your stove. However, built-in drawer options are becoming increasingly popular.
Considerations when choosing built-in microwaves
Conventional vs. convection
There are two types of built-in microwaves: conventional and convection. Conventional microwaves use tiny, powerful waves to heat food from the outside in. The wattage determines how quickly your food is heated. These models tend to be more affordable and are perfect for reheating leftovers.
A convection microwave works more like an oven. A fan rotates hot air around your food, cooking it from the inside out. A convection microwave even browns the edges of your food. If you plan on cooking plenty of meals in your microwave, convection is probably the way to go.
Wattage is used to measure the microwave's power level. Built-in models typically range from 800 to 1,200 watts. If you're looking to cook and prepare meals a higher wattage is better. However, if your primary use is to reheat food, then a lower wattage does the trick.
Built-in microwaves come in a range of capacities, from one to two cubic feet. Larger capacity models are typically designed to prepare an entire meal. If you're only cooking for one person, a smaller capacity might be a better choice. Always keep cabinet space in mind as well.
You can choose between a side opening door and a drop-down door. The choice rests on the specifics of your kitchen layout. Side opening doors are common, but a drop-down option adds a high-end feel.
Common microwave features include defrost, an LED display, and timers. Advanced models may also include steaming, self-clean, and grilling.
Even basic models include preset features for cooking popcorn or potatoes. These quick buttons set the power level and cook time for you, eliminating all the guesswork. More advanced models can have upwards of 100 preset options, but you pay more for these.
Higher-end models offer sensors that detect humidity and automatically adjust the cooking time. You'll never have to deal with overcooked food again.
Some models require a child lock code before the microwave turns on. This feature is helpful if you have little ones running around, especially with a convection model, as they tend to get hotter.
Turntable vs. flatbed
Turntables refer to the round glass insert inside of most microwaves. The table rotates your food to provide even heat distribution. This insert can be removed for cleaning, but the tracks it sits on can make it harder to wipe out the microwave.
Flatbed models may be easier to wipe clean, but the lack of rotation means you likely have to stop and stir your food throughout the cooking time.
Built-in microwave prices
Inexpensive: Under $500
These models tend to have a lower wattage and smaller capacity. It's not uncommon to have some preset functions and automatic sensors. However, you miss out on the more advanced settings and visual appeal of a higher-end microwave.
Mid-range: $500 to $1,000
As this price range has more options, microwaves between $500 and $1,000 combine functionality and style. Drop-down doors and drawer options are common.
At this price point, you can expect a range of advanced settings and visually appealing style and design. These models tend to look more like built-in ovens. They look great, but have cooking times similar to most mid-range options.
Q. Can I convert my countertop microwave into a built-in model?
A. It is possible, but be cautious. Vent placement must be considered as you can't cover those. Remove your microwave from the cabinet once every few months to clean out the vents.
Q. Are there different interior finishes?
A. Yes. Built-in microwaves usually come with ceramic or stainless steel interiors. Ceramic is easier to clean while stainless steel heats food more efficiently. Some lower-end models also have painted interiors.
Built-in microwaves we recommend
Best of the best: KitchenAid Built-in Microwave
Our take: It may sit at the higher end of the price spectrum, but this feature-packed stylish model is a worthwhile investment.
What we like: Combines microwave technology with convection cooking. Stylish pull-down door and beautiful stainless steel finish.
What we dislike: High price not doable for everyone's budget.
Best bang for your buck: Frigidaire Built-in Microwave
Our take: The perfect combination of style, power, and affordability.
What we like: Frigidaire has a reputation for good appliances. Fast, even cooking, user-friendly controls, and sleek design.
What we dislike: The lack of a handle will turn some off.
Choice 3: GE Profile Microwave
Our take: A stylish, mid-range power option that's budget-friendly.
What we like: Looks stylish above your stove. Includes a number of preset cooking options.
What we dislike: There is a slight learning curve to use it, but the low price and functionality are worth it.
Amber Van Wort is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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