In addition to its sleek design and ultra-modern looks, this KitchenAid model cooks quickly and efficiently. Has CrispWave capabilities for preparing foods with crunchy texture. Microwave delivers 900 watts of power. Available in black and stainless steel.
Priciest option we considered. A few reports of units requiring costly repairs after the 2-year warranty expired.
Offers an impressive feature set for a fraction of the price of other models in its class, including a large build, 30 cook settings, and 1,200 watts of power. Easy to use. Also has a stylish appearance that makes it look expensive, even though it's not.
Some owners found that the lack of a handle makes it awkward to open and close.
Cooks fast and is capable of preparing large portions, as it delivers 950 watts. Has a large capacity and 10 power levels. Very quiet when running; looks great too.
Some consumers may not be able to hear the soft timer alarm.
This microwave earns praise for versatility, as it can be built in or used on the countertop. Price is very reasonable. Ten power levels and 1,100 watts of power mean you won't have to wait long for food to cook. Generous size is great for families. Available in black, gray, and white.
Comes with a learning curve to master all of the capabilities. No door handle. Some lemons reported.
Features a unique drawer construction that has concealed controls that give it a seamless look. Shorter individuals will appreciate that it can be installed at a lower level than some other models in its class. Offers 1,000 watts of power. Works well for kitchen islands.
Isn't suitable for all kitchens. Some consumers may find switching to the drawer feature difficult to get used to after using standard microwaves.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
A microwave oven is an invaluable kitchen appliance, and a built-in microwave carries convenience and functionality one step further with a sleek design that fits neatly on your wall or in your cabinet space.
Many built-in microwaves offer the same great features that advanced countertop models do, including cooking settings for steaming, grilling, and convection oven cooking. These counter space-saving appliances range from basic models to those packed with myriad features and novel door designs. But sifting your way through the specs and descriptions to find the best microwave for you 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 created this shopping guide to give you an overview of your options and help you decide which features are most important to you in a new microwave.
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 via a control panel on many models. Conventional microwaves are the least expensive options, though they can still have a long list of extra features.
Convection microwaves combine conventional microwave technology with the perks of convection cooking. A radiant heat source works in conjunction with a fan to circulate air inside the microwave. The air movement regulates the heat to thoroughly and evenly cook the food. These microwaves produce results that are close to those of a convection oven. Notably, these appliances cost a bit more than traditional microwaves.
The power of a microwave, measured in wattage, indicates how quickly it can heat. 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.
How much cooking space do you need? Manufacturers express a microwave’s physical capacity in cubic feet. The smallest built-ins have a capacity of about 1 cubic foot, while the largest have about 2 cubic feet. The capacity you need depends on how you plan to use your new microwave. If you plan to prepare full meals, a larger capacity will get the job done faster. If you only cook for one or two, a small-capacity model might be best.
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.
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 available, the higher the price. You also want to consider whether you’re willing to scroll through all the cooking controls on the control panel to find the one you want.
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.
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 your chance of overcooking your food.
A child safety lock on a microwave door not only keeps kids from playing with the microwave but also protects them from getting burned. Child safety locks are especially important on models that use radiant heat because food cooked in this manner tends to get extremely hot.
Sometimes known as a genius sensor (for example, in some Panasonic offerings), this feature monitors the steam level in the microwave and turns the oven off when the food is fully cooked. This feature is designed to prevent over- and undercooking and to eliminate the need for a timer. However, it is not a fail-safe option. The temperature, volume, and density of the food could potentially throw off the sensor.
A microwave drawer adds extra cooking space to your kitchen setup without consuming more counter space. Drawers are a relatively new addition to microwave design that sit low (usually at the height of your waist). The drawer hides away when not in use, but it does not sit flush with your cabinets.
Ergonomically speaking, there is less back, shoulder, and arm strain when removing food from a microwave drawer. Built-in microwave drawers generally come in 24-inch models, which can be built into standard cabinets, and 30-inch models, which may require extensive modification or customization of the cabinetry to fit.
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. If you want cook options that simulate the taste of grilled food, this is a good feature to look for.
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.
Note that in order to grill in a microwave, you need the appropriate rack. If you purchase this type of microwave, a rack should be included. If you do not have a rack for some reason, you may be able to purchase one for your specific model on Amazon. However, you should read the product description carefully, as racks come in different sizes, and some are made only for use in specific models.
Casserole dish: Pyrex Easy Grab
This affordable casserole dish from Pyrex comes with a glass lid and handle for easy maneuvering. Along with being microwave safe, it can also be placed in the oven, freezer, and dishwasher.
Dinner plates: Bico Havana Ceramic Dinner Plates
Add some spice to your table with these colorful plates from Bico which are safe for microwave use. If you love the pattern as much as we do, note that you can also purchase patterned pasta bowls, mugs, and other items to match.
Splatter cover: ROSERAIN food cover
To avoid splatter messes and to cook/steam food more evenly, try this splatter cover from ROSERAIN. It costs very little and can be fitted over a dinner plate, bowl, or other container while you heat or reheat food.
Bacon cooker: Emson Bacon Wave
With this handy microwave addition, older kids can prepare their own bacon without you having to get out the heavy pots and pans. The Bacon Wave separates each slice and also separates bacon from its fat drippings, creating a healthier breakfast option.
Inexpensive: For under $500, you can find built-ins with a capacity of 1 to 2 cubic feet and 800W to 1,200W. Some of these models are available in more than one finish and usually include automatic sensors. (Sensor cooking minimizes your chance of overcooking.) These microwaves might also have several preset cooking options or One-Touch controls. Functionality is usually good, but these appliances may lack the visual appeal of pricier built-ins.
Mid-range: Between $500 and $1,000, you’ll find the majority of built-in microwaves. Some of these models have pull-down doors rather than swing-out doors to mimic the appearance of a wall oven. You’ll start to see a few drawer-style built-ins in this price range as well. Fingerprint-resistant finishes start to pop up in this price range as well.
Expensive: For over $1,000, you’ll find built-in microwaves with all the bells and whistles. These models usually include sensors, grills, advanced cooking options, and up to 100 shortcut settings. Style and design are impressive; many drawer-style options are available in this top tier. These are the models that look like true built-in wall ovens rather than microwaves. Notably, 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.
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 microwave oven must be able to vent steam and smoke from a stovetop. Over-the-range microwaves 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.
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.
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.
A. No, but there is some overlap between these two features in the microwave world. As mentioned, an oven with convection capability circulates heat to cook food more evenly. A microwave oven with sensors adjusts time and heat based on humidity and moisture it detects; it “auto cooks” until food is just right, eliminating the guesswork from microwave food prep. Many, but not all, convection microwave ovens have auto cook automatic sensors.