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Best Built-In Microwaves

Updated September 2018
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 5 Models Considered
  • 5 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 134 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best built-in microwaves

    Last Updated September 2018

    Microwaves have proven to be an invaluable kitchen appliance, and built-in microwaves combine the advantages of quick cooking with sleek design. These models fit into the wall or cabinet space, and designs have continued to advance until you now have drawer-style options as well.

    Many built-in microwaves offer extra cooking features like convection, steam, or grilling. In some ways, they can act as a second oven and still offer the quick reheating that we all love. These microwaves range from the most basic to models packed with extra features and novel door designs. Sifting your way through the specs and descriptions can be a daunting task.

    That’s why we’re here. At BestReviews, we’re always on the hunt for the best of the best. We’ve provided this shopping guide to give you an overview of your options and help you decide which features are most important to you. Take a break, relax, and read through our guide knowing we’ve got your best interests at heart.

    Some built-in microwaves include conventional, convection, grilling, and steaming, making them four-in-one kitchen appliances. If you like to use your microwave to make entire meals, one of these models might work best.

    Types of built-in microwaves

    Conventional

    Conventional models emit microwaves that pass through containers to heat food. The wattage determines how quickly the microwave can heat the food. Not all foods need 100% power to be heated, which is why the power level can be adjusted on many models. Conventional microwaves are the least expensive option, though they can still have a long list of extra features.

    Convection

    Convection microwaves combine conventional microwave technology with convection features. Convection uses a radiant heat source and fan to circulate air inside the microwave. The air movement regulates the heat to more thoroughly and evenly cook the food. Convection microwaves produce results that are closer to those of an oven, but these appliances come with a much higher price tag.

    Some built-in microwaves are framed using a trim kit that includes strips of metal to conceal the gaps between the microwave and cabinets. Others don’t require a trim kit but recess into the cabinet.

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    BestReviews

    Built-in microwave features to consider

    Power

    The power of the microwave, measured in wattage, indicates how quickly it can heat food. Keep in mind that a large-capacity microwave with low wattage will take longer to heat food than a low-capacity microwave with high wattage. Wattage for built-in microwaves ranges from 800W to 1,200W.

    Capacity

    Manufacturers use cubic feet to calculate microwave capacity. The smallest built-ins have a capacity of about one cubic foot while the largest have about two cubic feet. The capacity you need will depend upon how you plan to use the microwave. Some models are designed to cook a full meal, so a larger capacity microwave will get the job done faster. If you’re only cooking for one or two people, a high-powered small-capacity model might be what you need.

    Shortcut settings

    Shortcut settings enable you to adjust power levels and cooking times for specific foods with the single touch of a button. Some models have as many as 100 preset cooking functions. The more shortcut settings, the higher the price. You also want to consider whether you’re willing to scroll through all the presets to find the one you want.

    Turntable

    Turntables rotate the food for more even cooking. The turntable can be removed from some models. In others, a rectangular tray slides back and forth throughout the cooking time. Models that allow you to turn this feature on or off give you more control and options when cooking. However, if you choose not to use the turntable, you might need to stop and turn the food manually while it cooks.

    Variable power

    Built-in microwaves with variable power levels allow you to adjust the power according to what and how much you’re cooking. For defrosting or softening, you might only need 30% to 50% power. Adjusting the power can reduce the chances that you’ll overcook your food.

    Child lock

    A child lock on the microwave door not only keeps kids from playing with the microwave but also protects them from getting burned. This feature is especially important on convection models because food cooked using convection tend to get hotter.

    Automatic sensor

    An automatic sensor monitors the steam level in the microwave and automatically turns the oven off when the food is fully cooked. This feature is designed to prevent overcooking or undercooking and eliminate the need for a timer. However, it’s not a fail-safe. The temperature, volume, and density of the food can throw off the automatic sensor.

    Microwave drawer

    Drawers are a relatively new addition to microwave design. The drawer – and microwave – hide away when not in use. However, the drawer isn’t flush with your cabinets. Ergonomically speaking, there is less back, shoulder, and arm strain when removing food from these models.

    Built-in microwave drawers generally come in 24-inch models, which can be built into standard cabinets, or 30-inch models, which require either extensive modification or customization of the cabinetry to fit.

    Grilling

    Built-in microwaves that can grill have a heating element in the top of the interior. These models come with a rack that, when placed in the microwave, moves food closer to the heating element.

    There are two types of microwave grills – quartz and radiant. Quartz grills heat in seconds but are costly. These come with only the most expensive built-in microwaves. Radiant grills are more powerful but can take up to five minutes to reach temperature.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Interlocks prevent the microwave from running while the door is open. Most models include a backup lock in case the first one fails.

    Built-in microwave prices

    You can expect to pay from less than $500 to $1,000 and up for a built-in microwave.

    Inexpensive: For under $500, you can find built-ins with a capacity of one to two cubic feet and 800W to 1,200W. Some of these models are available in more than one finish and usually include automatic sensors. These microwaves might also have several preset cooking options or One-Touch controls. These models function well but lack the visual appeal of more expensive built-ins.

    Mid-range: From $500 to $1,000, you’ll find the majority of built-in microwaves. In this range, there’s a balance between functionality and appearance. Some of these models have pull-down rather than swing-out doors to mimic the appearance of a wall oven. You’ll also start to see a few drawer-style built-ins in this price range.

    Expensive: At over $1,000, you’ll find built-in microwaves with all the bells and whistles. These models not only function well and include automatic sensors, grills, convection, and up to 100 shortcut settings but also have impressive style and design, including more drawer-style options. These are the models that look like true built-in wall ovens rather than a microwave. While these models look good, their cooking times are similar to those of less expensive models.

    Drawer-style built-in microwaves don’t require a trim kit for installation.

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    BestReviews

    Tips

    • Some built-in microwaves might require some serious customization of your kitchen. Depending on your kitchen design, you might need an extra electrical outlet in the wall, which can increase the cost of installation.

    • The air movement and radiant heat used in convection microwaves browns and crisps food rather than leaving it soggy. If you want to do more than reheat your food, a convection microwave can give you oven-like results.

    • No matter which built-in microwave you choose, keep the owner’s manual handy for quick reference, and be sure to register your product so you’ll be notified of any recalls.

    One-touch controls are shortcut buttons on the face of the microwave that automatically set the power level and cook time. Popcorn, Butter, and Frozen Bagel are common one-touch buttons.

    FAQ

    Q. What’s the difference between a built-in and an over-the-range/under-cabinet microwave?

    A. While both of these types of microwaves utilize cabinet space, their placement is different. A built-in does not require a hood or ventilation whereas an over-the-range model has to be able to vent steam and smoke from a stovetop. Over-the-range models also provide lighting for the range. However, the differences are mostly on the exterior. Both types can include the same cooking technology and extra features.

    Q. How much clearance do I need for a built-in microwave?

    A. That depends on the model, make, and size of the built-in. Models with swing-out doors need more clearance to prevent the door from running into other appliances or cabinet doors. Manufacturers usually include clearance requirements in the manual.

    Q. Do built-in microwaves come in different finishes?

    A. Built-ins can be found in any finish, including smudge-proof options. While not all models can be found in all finishes, you can certainly find ones in white, black, or stainless steel.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Bronwyn
      Bronwyn
      Editor
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Melinda
      Melinda
      Web Producer
    • Samantha
      Samantha
      Writer
    • Stacey
      Stacey
      Writer

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