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Microwave Buying Guide

Combine quick cooking and reheating with modern convenience

The microwave oven is one of the most commonly used appliances in the kitchen because its versatility is hard to beat. When reheating last night's dinner, the convenience of a microwave is unmatched. If you're heating a cup of water for your morning tea, there's no easier method. You can extend your microwave use beyond popping popcorn or reheating meals, and try preparing recipes like poached fish fillets and pineapple upside-down cake. Because a microwave can do so much, it's important to pick the best new microwave for your kitchen and your lifestyle.

Why buy a new microwave?

  • Modern microwaves come in a larger selection of sizes than before. If you'd prefer a bigger microwave to accommodate large pans or a smaller one for a single-person dorm room, it's easy to find the precise size you need with new microwaves.
  • If your current microwave has damaged door seals, latches or hinges, it's time to replace it. Having a worn-out door on a microwave can lead to excessive cooking smells and steam escaping into your home.
  • New microwaves have higher wattage and much more cooking power than old models. If your microwave is over 10 years old, it's a good idea to replace it even if nothing is visibly wrong. Reduced power efficiency is hard to detect but the savings to your electric bill will add up over time.
  • Smart features of new microwaves, like a customizable favorites cycle or convection technology, make cooking an easier and more hands-off affair.

Features of new microwaves


Upgraded convenience and cleanliness

  • Frequent task buttons allow you to input common microwave functions, like making popcorn or reheating pizza, at the touch of a button
  • Sensory reheat functionality detects the temperature of the steam produced from food and automatically adjusts cook time and temperature on the fly
  • An auto defrost feature saves you the trouble of entering power levels and defrost times by calculating those inputs based on the food's weight
  • Non-stick interior linings make it easy to wipe off any sauce splatters and stains.
  • Safety features of newer models include alarms that sound when your microwave door is left open and child safety locks to keep kids from using the microwave
  • Sones ratings refer to the amount of noise produced by a microwave's cooking cycle and newer microwave models are available with near-silent operation

Aesthetic features

  • Modern microwaves are available in a variety of finishes, ranging from stainless steel to matte black, making it easy to match your other kitchen appliances
  • Custom-installed or over-the-range microwaves blend seamlessly into your kitchen 

Types of microwaves


Countertop microwaves are best for…

People who prefer immediate installation and use: Countertop microwaves are by far the easiest type to install. There's no need to break out the tool box; just find some counter space and plug it in.

People on a budget: These are typically the most affordable of all microwaves, making them ideal for a student moving into a dorm room or a young couple just starting out.

People who relocate a lot: The portability of countertop models means they can easily go from home to home for those who anticipate frequent moves in the future.


Over-the-range microwaves

These models install above your cooking area, whether a range or a cooktop, and double as range hoods.

  • Price range: $175-$1100
  • Height range: 12.6-16 inches
  • Width range: 28-30 inches
  • Depth range: 15-18 inches
  • Capacity range: 1.1-2.1 cu. ft.

Over-the-range microwaves are best for…

People with small kitchens: If you have limited counter space area, an over-the-range microwave saves space by combining the functions of a range hood and microwave into one appliance.

People with limited cabinet or drawer space: Over-the-range microwave models don't take up any storage space in your kitchen.

People who do a lot of stovetop cooking. Many over-the-range microwaves have a ventilation system that will automatically switch on when it detects steam and fumes coming from the stovetop. Powerful vent fans also make stovetop cooking more pleasant by venting fumes and steam away from the cook.


Microwave drawers

These microwaves sit in your cabinet space at waist level and pull out like any other drawer.

  • Price range: $900-$925
  • Height range: 15.62-22.88 inches
  • Width range: 5.8-9.5 inches
  • Depth range: 13.5-23.4 inches
  • Capacity range: 1-1.5 cu.ft.


Microwave drawers are best for…

People building a dream kitchen: Those who are designing a kitchen from scratch can easily plan their drawer or cabinet space to accommodate a microwave drawer.

Shorter people: Microwave drawers are conveniently positioned for those of shorter stature. Because they're not located over the cooktop, they are easier to reach for people of all heights.

Frequent oven users: Many microwave drawers are equipped with conventional oven features like broiling capability and convection cooking, so they can function as a faster version of your regular oven.


Built-in microwaves

These microwaves can be installed in almost any available wall space.

  • Price range: $275-$2000
  • Height range: 12.6-16 inches
  • Width range: 22.1-27 inches
  • Depth range: 13-21 inches
  • Capacity range: 0.8-1.8 cu. ft.

Built-in microwaves are best for…

People designing new kitchens from scratch: Built-in microwaves are a great option if you’re looking to seamlessly blend-in all kitchen décor. These models are also easy to plan a space for.

People with unused cabinet room or wall space: Those short on counter space can take advantage of unused cabinet space by installing a built-in microwave instead.

People with wall ovens: The space just above a wall oven is a visually attractive place to install a built-in microwave. This arrangement is also handy for preparing multi-course meals.

Bottom Line

There's no other appliance in your kitchen that delivers the versatile cooking capabilities of a microwave. When you're using just one appliance for reheating leftovers, steaming vegetables, heating canned soup and cooking main courses, you want to make sure you get the right microwave for your needs. Check crucial features like size, interior capacity, wattage and power efficiency before you commit. Don't forget to consider ease of installation and how much space it takes up when deciding between countertop and installed microwave models. 

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