The best over-the-range microwave
A good over-the-range microwave can make food preparation quicker and easier. The convenience and utility of over-the-range microwaves make them a nice complement to a well-designed range. Microwaves aren't just for heating up leftovers or "zapping" a frozen dinner. They can be a useful tool for preparing delicious meals for your family.
Our helpful buying guide can help you find the right model, so you don't have to pull out your hair, or empty out your pocketbook. We've also included reviews of a few of our favorites, include our Best of the Best choice, the GE 1.9 Cubic Foot Over-The-Range Microwave.
Considerations when choosing over-the-range microwaves
Traditional vs. convection
While traditional microwave ovens are a common tool for heating, cooking and defrosting items, convection ovens offer another level of cooking. They can be used for more intense convection cooking, which circulates warm air throughout the microwave, to allow toasting and broiling. Convection microwave ovens, because of their additional functions, cost more than traditional OTR microwaves.
The size of your over-the-range microwave will be determined by the space available over your range. If you get one too large, then it may not fit between your cabinets. If you get one too small, you may leave an ugly gap on either side. Pay close attention to the space available when choosing the size for your OTR microwave. The most common sizes are 1.4, 1.5, 1.7, 1.8, and 2.0 cubic feet of internal capacity.
There are a number of different finishes available for over-the-range microwaves. While black and brushed stainless steel are the most common, look for something that suits your style and the aesthetic of your kitchen for the greatest longevity and satisfaction. OTR microwaves with metal finishes have higher average ratings than those with plastic finishes.
Most over-the-range microwaves have an internal capacity of somewhere between 1.1 and 2.2 cubic feet. Think about how you plan to use your microwave and how much you plan to heat at one time when determining capacity.
Over-the-range microwaves use either fans or auto-venting for ventilation. Fans are the most common means of ventilation, to pull smoke and smells away from the stovetop. However, auto-venting is becoming more popular. It ventilates by using a temperature sensor that turns on when the stovetop temperature reaches a certain level. It then turns off when the heat has passed. One negative of this is that you cannot turn it off manually, which can frustrate some users.
Some turntables inside of OTR microwaves are automatic, while others allow you to change the settings. How hands-on you want to be will determine which works best for you.
Every over-the-range microwave has different levels of control features. Think about how much control you think you'll need to determine the type of power, presets, and quick keys you want on your OTR microwave.
If you want to be able to cook two or more items at once, then invest in an over-the-range microwave that incorporates a rack. It is a welcome convenience for those who prepare entire meals in the microwave at a single time.
Cooking sensors in an over-the-range microwave can help with everything from popcorn, to humidity detection and leftover timing. In your busy life, it's sometimes nice to have some technological help along the way.
Hood lights are great to help you see what you're cooking on the stovetop. Many over-the-range microwaves come with this helpful accessory.
Most over-the-range microwaves will cost between $130 and more than $500. The microwaves found over the $500 mark will mostly be convection models.
Q. Will I pay extra installation costs with an OTR microwave?
A. That depends on your level of comfort with installing your own microwave. If you feel comfortable with such a DIY project, then you shouldn't need to hire a professional. However, if you don't want the headache of a self-install, then you will likely have to pay someone to do it for you.
Q. Are there any safety features on OTR microwaves to keep kids safe around them?
A. Yes. Some OTR microwaves have safety locks that cannot be opened by children, unless they've been taught the proper procedure. Furthermore, OTR microwaves are generally mounted higher than most kids can reach without a chair or stepladder.
Over-the-range microwaves we recommend
Best of the best: GE 1.9 Cubic Foot Over-The-Range Microwave
Our take: Works great and looks great. The perfect combination.
What we like: Efficient exhaust fan and helpful programmable night light.
What we dislike: Some think the fan is too loud.
Best bang for your buck: KitchenAid 2.0 Cubic Foot over-The-Range Microwave.
Our take: An intuitive microwave that does half of the guesswork for you.
What we like: Quiet with a simple keypad and sensor that knows when your leftovers are ready.
What we dislike: The handle heats up when cooking on the range below.
Our take: Large and powerful, but not without flaws.
What we like: Stylish design and well-made touchscreen. The fan is impressive and powerful.
What we dislike: Difficult to see inside, and the clock turns off after five minutes to save power.
Adam Reeder 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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