Why Buy an Over-the-Range Microwave?
Microwave ovens are a common household appliance, but many are evolving to be more than the simple microwave you’re used to. Today, the best microwaves are more powerful and compact than before and also include features to increase the variety of foods you can prepare with a single appliance.
An over the range microwave is a convenient appliance, especially if you need to clear some counter space. The top-rated over the range microwave ovens combine the latest microwave technology with the functionality of a ventilation hood for your cooktop range. Installed over your stovetop and off the counter, these built-in microwaves do the work of a high-power microwave and replace a traditional range hood. An over the stove microwave and ventilation hood gives you more countertop space in your kitchen and clears polluted air. It also provides powerful cooking, defrosting, melting, popping and, in some models, even baking and roasting.
Our Verdict and Recommendations:
Over the range microwaves are handy appliances to have in your kitchen. Much more than simple microwaves, the over-range microwaves have sensor-cooking options to take the guesswork out of preparing food, in addition to other features to make cooking simpler. The ventilation hood clears the air while you're cooking on your stove or in your oven, and most models have fans that start automatically when they sense too much heat or polluted air. While all the models in our review outshine basic microwave ovens, the Kenmore Elite, Electrolux E130BM60MS and KitchenAid KMHS120ESS top our list.
The Kenmore Elite over the range convection microwave has the highest amount of power of any microwave in our lineup with 1,050 watts, and it has a roomy interior of 1.8 cubic feet. This model not only includes sensor cooking but basically functions like a second oven with its convection cooking capability. On top of all that, you can feel more confident in your purchase knowing that the magnetron is covered by a five-year warranty. With its sleek design and large selection of features, we found the Kenmore Elite to be the best over the range microwave in this review.
The Electrolux E130BM60MS has slightly lower power capabilities than the Kenmore Elite, but with 1,000 watts, it is on the more powerful side of the spectrum. Its interior also has 1.8 cubic feet, so you will be able to cook a decent amount of food at one time. You can use it to broil and roast by using the convection cooking or use its sensor cooking features like a regular microwave. With a 10-year magnetron warranty you can feel confident in this purchase.
The KitchenAid KMHS120ESS also offers 1,000 watts of cooking power – however, it doesn't have as many features as the top two products in our lineup. It does offer 2 cubic feet of interior space that lets you fit slightly larger objects inside. This magnetron is also covered by a 10-year warranty, so you know that KitchenAid has faith in its product. The features and functionality of the top three products make these the best over the range microwave ovens. For further reading, take a look at our articles on over the range microwave ovens.
Over the Range Microwaves: What We Evaluated, What We Found
We looked at a wide selection of over the range microwaves in a variety of price ranges. They can be priced anywhere from $200 to $900, and the upper range, in many cases, is justifiable because of the amazing capabilities of the machines. Many of the microwave oven models are designed to make you forget about your oven and stovetop, because these microwaves bake cakes, steam vegetables, and reheat or cook virtually anything. We looked at units that do the traditional duties of a microwave well and include a great ventilation system for your stovetop. We looked specifically at the following categories in our research:
Power & Cooking
When looking for a microwave, it’s important to keep power and wattage in mind. The best microwaves typically have higher wattage – around 1,000 watts or more. Higher wattage typically means faster cooking times. Power levels on higher-end microwaves typically range from 10 percent to 100 percent in increments of 10 and allow you to control and fine-tune the percent of time the magnetron tube cycles on and off during a cooking cycle. Higher levels, between 80 and 100 percent, are better for heating ground beef, fish and other food that responds well to high temperatures. Medium levels, between 50 and 70 percent, are typically better for casseroles, poultry, slow cooking, braising, roasting meat and reheating foods. Low levels between 20 and 30 percent are best for defrosting and simmering. The lowest level, 10 percent, is best for softening butter or chocolate, heating bread and keeping food warm for a small amount of time.
Most modern microwave ovens offer sensor cooking in one form or another. This means the appliance senses moisture to determine if your food is cooking properly and makes temperature adjustments to finish the job. Nicer microwaves tend to have more sensor preset cook buttons, which automatically adjust power levels and cooking times for specific foods at the touch of a button. These days most people are familiar with the Popcorn preset cook button found on most microwaves. Other common preset cook buttons include Veggies, Pizza, Beverage and Defrost. Some newer over the range microwaves also perform the functions of a second convection oven, so you can bake, roast and broil right in the microwave. Many also offer a generous interior capacity that allows you to reheat a collection of plates at the same time. If leftovers are on the menu for your family, you won't have to form a line. You can all come to the table at the same time. To put size in perspective, microwaves with a capacity of 1.7 cubic feet or more can usually fit a 20-pound turkey.
Some of the microwaves we reviewed allow you to delay start times, meaning you can place the food in the microwave, focus on other things and have food ready at the time you want without having to be in the kitchen or even in the house. We do recommend monitoring your food since burning may occur without supervision. When preparing a meal, it often happens that one dish is ready way before the others. To keep it from getting cold before the rest of the food is done, you can use the Warm Hold setting, which allows you to keep food warm until you are ready to serve.
Vent & Hood
High-quality over the range microwave oven hoods offer great vent functions in addition to plenty of microwave features. A good vent has a strong airflow capacity; the best in our lineup can handle up to 400 cubic feet per minute. A quality vent offers multiple fan speeds, and many start automatically when they detect too much heat from the cooktop. We also looked for over the range microwaves that hide the vents – or at least make them look sleek and attractive. We looked for these advanced features, as well as for common items like cavity lights, grease filters, charcoal filters and night lights when reviewing the microwaves in our lineup. Most over the range microwaves are capable of venting to the outdoors. However, this might mean that you need to pay additional money for the venting parts. Most microwaves also use internal or recirculating vents to circulate the air in your kitchen.
Some over the stove microwaves allow you to lock the controls so children cannot change the settings. This feature is also helpful when cleaning the microwave's surface, so you don't change settings accidentally. The stovetop, oven and built-in microwave really take center stage in your kitchen's decor. We looked for units that come in a variety of colors and attractive designs. Certain design elements, like multicolored displays, can also add to functionality. A particularly nice feature is the ability to turn the sound down or off so you don't have to deal with the loud beeping while you cook. Shelves or racks are valuable additions as they allow you to cook more than one dish at a time. A cooktop light is also standard and helps you see better when cooking on your stove. It also is helpful to be able to turn off the turntable if you are cooking a particularly heavy dish.
Warranty & Support
We looked for manufacturers that stand behind their microwaves with solid warranties and customer service. While it's unlikely you'll purchase a unit from the manufacturer itself, if there is any sign of trouble or you have a question, the original manufacturer should be a great source of information and help you through its website, customer service representatives and warranties.
An over the range microwave oven can save you time, counter space and trouble by taking on the job of two appliances. The ones that do both jobs the best offer solid features across the board and look gorgeous in your kitchen.