Best Built-In Microwaves

Updated September 2021
Woman taking bowl out of microwave
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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.Read more 
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How we decided

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

52 Models Considered
14 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
60 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

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

Buying guide for best built-in microwaves

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. 

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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.

Key considerations

Conventional vs. convection cooking power

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.

Power

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.

Capacity

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.

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Features

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 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.

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 your chance of overcooking your food.

Child safety lock

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.

Automatic sensor

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.

Microwave drawer

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.

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. 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.

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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.
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Accessories

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.

Built-in microwave prices

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.

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Tips

  • Some built-in microwaves require serious kitchen customization. Depending on your kitchen design, you might need an extra electrical outlet in the wall, which can increase the cost of installation.
  • Fingerprint-resistant finishes are commonly seen on some stainless steel models. In our research, we found this gorgeous and easy-to-clean smudge-proof feature offered by reputable makers including Samsung, Sharp, and Toshiba, to name a few.
  • A microwave with inverter technology renders more precision. Say you want to reheat some leftovers at 50% power. A microwave without inverter technology will alternate exposing your food to 100% and 0% to create a “net effect” of 50% power. A microwave with inverter technology will actually reheat your food at 50% power rather than alternating its exposure to the two extremes.
  • Consider thawing frozen foods in the microwave with auto defrost. A microwave with an auto defrost feature brings frozen foods to temperature a lot faster than traditional defrosting methods, such as letting frozen meat sit in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Use your microwave to keep warm food warm. For example, if you get takeout but are not quite ready to eat it, you can store the food in your microwave until you are ready. (Note: food should not be left in the microwave for more than a short period of time!) Further, some advanced models have an actual keep warm function, which may also be referred to as a “stay warm.”
  • The air movement and radiant heat microwave browns and crisps food rather than making it turn soggy. If your cooking goals include more than just reheating food, a convection microwave oven can give you oven-like results.
  • Regardless of which built-in microwave you choose, keep the owner’s manual handy for quick reference. Be sure to register your product so you’ll be notified of any recalls. It may also be easier to claim reimbursement via a warranty if you register your product, though it is not always necessary.
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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 microwave oven?

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.

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.

Q. What does it mean to sensor cook?

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.

 

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