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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

32 Models Considered
10 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
281 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.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best over-the-range microwaves

Last Updated July 2019

Microwaves used to be a luxury item, but today they’re a necessity in many households. Modern designs are more efficient, sleek, and convenient than ever before. Over-the-range (OTR) microwaves represent the next step in integrated microwave design. These appliances cook your food while leaving your counter space free and keeping your kitchen well ventilated.

If you're in the market for an OTR microwave, but you're not sure what features you need or where to start your search, we're here to help.

Our shopping guide dives into the facts and features to give you a good overview of what to look for. We've also provided our top picks for the models we’d like to install in our own kitchens. Relax, take a seat, and get ready to start cooking.

Over-the-range microwaves are different than built-in microwaves even though they look similar. Built-ins fit into the cabinetry itself and don’t ventilate or illuminate the stovetop.

Key considerations

Types of OTR microwaves

OTR microwaves come in the same types as countertop models, but here is a quick refresher:

  • Traditional: Traditional microwaves are used for heating, defrosting, and cooking. They can be loaded with features like cooking sensors, preset buttons, quick keys, multiple power levels, and a turntable. You are probably already familiar with this type of microwave.

  • Convection: Convection microwaves do everything a traditional microwave does but with the option of convection cooking, which moves warm air throughout the interior of the microwave. Unlike traditional microwaves, these models can also toast and broil. Convection microwaves have many features, adding to the overall price, but they function almost like a second oven. If that's something you need, it might be worth the steep price.
     

Size

Carefully measure the available space in your kitchen and then measure again. It’s a pain to have to box up your brand-new OTR microwave and send it back because it doesn't fit! The width of OTR microwaves ranges from 30 to 36 inches, height from 14 to 18 inches, and depth from 15 to 17 inches. The space above your stove can vary just as widely, so we’ll say it again: measure carefully.

Capacity

OTR microwave capacity generally ranges from 1.1 to 2.2 cubic feet. Keep in mind that manufacturers typically advertise a larger capacity than is generally usable. It's also important to remember that microwave size and microwave capacity are two different things. Some large microwaves have a surprisingly small capacity.

Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell (1831–1879) developed the concept of electromagnetic radiation. He probably didn’t foresee cooking with microwaves, but his work did pave the way for many other scientific advancements, including Einstein’s special theory of relativity.

Staff
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OTR microwave features

Ventilation

  • Fans: OTR microwaves pull double duty. They not only cook your food but also remove odors, smoke, and steam from your stovetop – and some do a better job than others. Models with multiple fans move more air and therefore vent better than models with a single fan.

  • Auto-venting: This is another ventilation feature you might want to consider. Models with auto-venting have a temperature sensor that turns on the ventilation system when temperatures on the stovetop get high enough. It then automatically turns off the ventilation system once the stovetop cools. This type of system can keep odors and heat from building up unnoticed. On the downside, once the auto-venting has turned on, it can’t be turned off until the temperature decreases, taking some of the control out of your hands.
     

Turntable

The turntable rotates while the food cooks, eliminating one of the downsides of microwave cooking – uneven heating. Some models allow you to shut off the turntable for extra flexibility in how you cook your food.

Controls

  • Power levels: OTR microwave power levels can be basic – low, medium, high – or as many as ten. The more power levels, the more precise the cooking. Models that also include custom presets automatically use the right power level for the foods you cook most often.

  • Presets: Preset or shortcut keys take the guesswork out of cooking common foods. With the touch of a button, the power and time settings are adjusted for you. Some presets include popcorn, baked potato, and frozen vegetables. Check the presets. If they include foods you eat often, they're probably worth a few extra dollars.

  • Quick keys: Quick keys add to the heating time without disrupting the cooking process. They're usually found in 30-second and 1-minute intervals. They're great because you can hit a preset key and then add time with the quick key based on the volume of food you’re cooking. You can also press quick keys more than once to incrementally add to the cooking time.
     

Rack

Do you want to cook more than one dish at a time? A cooking rack adds flexibility and capacity to your meal preparation. With a convection model, a rack can also help move air around all surfaces of the dish, evenly distributing heat and reducing the cooking time.

Sensors

OTR microwaves may come with one or more types of cooking sensors. There are popcorn sensors that detect the sound of popping corn, while other sensors detect humidity to determine when food is done. Other models have a temperature sensor that connects to a probe that’s inserted into food. The microwave then shuts off once the food reaches a predetermined temperature.

Low-profile

Low-profile OTR microwaves have the same width and depth of regular models but aren’t as tall. These microwaves don't have extra features like preset or quick keys, but one might work well for you if you'll be using it for the basics – heating a dinner plate, defrosting meat or vegetables, and heating water. If you want a microwave that leaves more cupboard space but still vents and lights your stovetop, a low-profile model might be right for you.

Hood lights

It's so much easier to cook when you can see what you're doing! OTR microwaves with lights illuminate everything that takes place on your stovetop.

Finish

The finish makes a difference when it comes to the look and feel of your kitchen. In general, we suggest matching the finish of your OTR microwave to the rest of your kitchen appliances. These microwaves come in all the classic and modern finishes, such as white, black, stainless steel, black stainless steel, and fingerprint-resistant stainless steel.

DID YOU KNOW?

In the 1940s, Dr. Percy Spencer (1894–1970), who worked on radar tubes called magnetrons at Raytheon, noticed one day that radio waves melted a candy bar in his pocket. It wasn’t long before Raytheon introduced the first microwave oven.

DID YOU KNOW?

The first commercially available microwave oven hit the market in 1955. The $1,200 price tag made it a luxury item that didn't quite catch on. It wasn't until 1967 when Amana produced a more affordable $495 option that microwaves became more popular.

OTR microwave prices

Inexpensive: A basic OTR microwave starts at around $130 to $150. These models typically have a smaller capacity, ranging from 1.1 to 1.6 cubic feet. Though they’re small, they still come with a few convenience features like preset keys, cooking sensors, and turntable.

Mid-range: In the $150 to $300 range, the capacity increases and the features start to pile on. You’re looking at stainless steel finishes, preset keys, quick keys, turntable, sensor cooking, child locks, cooking racks, and sleek, elegant designs.

Expensive: The jump to the $300 to $500 price point adds more capacity, with models reaching up to 2.2 cubic feet, and multiple sensors that adjust for humidity and temperature. You’ll see the same features you find on less-expensive models plus extra filtering systems and better ventilation options.

Premium: It’s not until you’re around or well above the $500 mark that you start to see OTR convection microwaves. Some cost more than $1,000. Convection cooking adds the ability to grill, brown, and more evenly cook food.

Tips

  • Don’t pay for features you won’t use. Be honest. If you only use the microwave to reheat last night’s dinner and occasionally make popcorn, you don’t need a convection model.

  • Always use microwave-safe containers. Some plastics can melt or release harmful chemicals at high temperatures, while metals can damage the microwave.

  • Don’t use the microwave if the door doesn’t close properly. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (fda.gov) advises that you periodically check the seal on the door, the hinges, and the latch for damage. If there’s a problem with the seal, microwave radiation can leak.

Other products we considered

The number of OTR microwaves on the market continues to grow, and we simply can’t include all of the great models out there on our top five list. Here are a couple that didn’t quite make the cut but might still be perfect for you. The Sharp R-1214 OTR Microwave has a capacity of 1.5 cubic feet, a popcorn sensor, as well as preset and quick keys. And we love the horizontal button orientation, especially if you’re on the shorter side. For a reasonably priced convection oven, you might want the Sharp OTR Convection Microwave Oven. It comes loaded with preset and quick keys and lets you switch between convection and microwave mode. Plus, if you really don’t want to mess with settings, it has several features and settings that take the guesswork out of cooking.

Microwaves can be used for much more than heating food. They’ve played a vital role in communication for decades. Microwaves are used to study Earth from space, and they create the weather images you see on your local television news.

FAQ

Q. Are there features that make some OTR microwaves easier to clean than others?

A. Some microwaves have a patented “easy clean” interior. According to the claims, the surface resists caked-on food, making it easier to clean. However, if you wipe down the interior of the microwave after each use, you shouldn’t need to pay extra for a special interior. Remember, the longer the splatters and spills stay in the microwave, the more difficult they become to remove.

Q. Are there additional installation costs with an OTR microwave?

A. You might want to pay a professional to install it if you’ve never installed a kitchen appliance before. The compatibility of the OTR microwave with your kitchen depends on your kitchen’s setup and design. There could also be added installation costs if your kitchen doesn’t have the ductwork for ventilation.

Q. Are there any child safety features available?

A. Some models have a child safety lock that prevents any unapproved cooking or tampering with the settings once the cooking starts. Such a device requires holding a certain button for a designated number of seconds to lock and unlock the microwave.

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

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