An over-the-range microwave is effectively a microwave that you install over your stove. Unlike more traditional countertop microwaves, over-the-range microwaves can help to free up your available counter space and often provide some extra features too. For example, over-the-range microwaves can have built-in exhaust fans and removable racks for bi-level cooking. The exhaust fans vent smoke and steam and eliminate unwanted odors. Bi-level cooking allows you to cook twice the amount on two different levels.
These microwaves are suitable for people who have small kitchens but still want to heat food at speed, or who don’t want to use counter space for a microwave. It’s worth stating that over-the-range variants almost always come with higher price tags than countertop microwaves.
Our guide to the best over-the-range microwaves will detail what to look for in one of these microwaves and will include reviews of our top picks for this year. From how we chose them to the different types of microwaves out there, this guide will cover everything you need to know.
Our Top Picks: Summary
- Best Overall: GE Profile Over-the-Range Microwave
- Best Budget: Magic Chef Over-the-Range Microwave
- Best Low-Profile: Whirlpool Over-the-Range Microwave
- Best Convection: Sharp R1874T Over-the-Range Convection Microwave
Best Overall: GE Profile
The microwave’s 1050 wattage, with ten different power levels, adds some much-needed flexibility to your cooking.
Why we Picked It
Our favorite overall over-the-range microwave is the GE Profile. The microwave’s 1050 wattage, with ten different power levels, adds some much-needed flexibility to your cooking. The microwave also uses a sensor that automatically adjusts cooking time and power—convenient indeed.
On top of that, the GE provides an impressive 2.1 cubic feet capacity, more than enough to allow you to cook whatever you desire, from standard meals to small casseroles. The microwave’s 3-speed venting system, measured at 400 CFM, is powerful enough to stand on its own. This ventilation will adequately remove smoke, steam, and other odors.
There’s also a turntable with an on/off feature for oversized dishes, cooktop lighting with a nighttime setting, and a 30 seconds button for accessibility. In other words, this microwave has it all. It comes with a limited 1-year warranty.
Keep in Mind
Some customers have complained about a strong plastic smell when the microwave is first installed, but this should dissipate after a few days of use.
In a Nutshell
- 3-speed venting and 400 CFM
- 2.1 cubic feet capacity
- 10 different power levels
Best Budget: Magic Chef
With a 1.6 cubic feet capacity that can accommodate small casserole dishes and its 1000 watt cooking power, it’s a small but mighty microwave.
Why we Picked It
The Magic Chef offers a lot at a fantastic price, and that’s why it made our top budget over-the-range microwave pick.
With a 1.6 cubic feet capacity that can accommodate small casserole dishes and its 1000 watt cooking power, it’s a small but mighty microwave. It even comes with ten cooking levels that allow you to boil, defrost, and reheat food.
In terms of ventilation, the Magic Chef provides two fan-speed settings that can move up to 200 CFM of air. The charcoal filter that helps to clean impurities out of the air is also replaceable.
It also comes with six pre-programmed auto-cook menus that can speed up your cooking. There’s a hood light that illuminates above the range, and a 12-inch recessed glass turntable. We like the safety lock that prevents unintentional use too.
Keep in Mind
The exhaust fan can be louder than some models, so keep that in mind.
In a Nutshell
- 2-speed vent fan
- 1000 watt cooking power
- Safety lock for peace of mind
This microwave has been specifically designed to fit in the space where an under cabinet hood would be.
Why we Picked It
For the best low-profile over-the-range microwave, we picked the attractive looking Whirlpool. This microwave has been specifically designed to fit in the space where an under cabinet hood would be.
It’s not just the slim form that won us over, though. The Whirlpool offers a 400 CFM performance when it comes to venting, allowing you to get rid of smoke and moisture without any problems. On top of that, it has 1000-watt cooking power and a clean release non-stick interior that enables you to clean up with greater ease.
The Whirlpool uses sensors that can track the progress of your food and will adjust cooking times accordingly. Instant settings that allow you to cook popular foods, such as popcorn and baked potatoes, are also available.
If all of that wasn’t enough, the microwave features ten cooking levels, a timer, and a touch panel that makes everything that little bit easier to use. It’s a low profile design, but it’s unquestionably a high achiever.
Keep in Mind
At 1.1 cubic feet, it may not be the biggest over-the-range microwave available, but that’s due to its sleek and low profile design.
In a Nutshell
- Excellent low-profile design
- 400 CFM
- 1000 watt cooking power
Best Convection: Sharp R1874T
The Sharp R1874T nails it with a 4-way convection system that browns, bakes, broils, and crisps.
Why we Picked It
When it comes to convection cooking, the Sharp R1874T nails it with a 4-way convection system that browns, bakes, broils, and crisps.
It features a built-in exhaust system that provides three venting choices: vertical, horizontal, and ductless recirculation. The exhaust system has a dedicated hood light and fan.
It’s worth mentioning the interactive cooking system the Sharp offers. With a custom help key, it offers easy to understand cooking and programming instructions that will help you cook with accuracy and precision.
We were impressed with the sensor settings that can determine times and power levels, the high rack included for two-level baking, and the 25 automatic settings too. With a stainless steel finish and its interactive color display, there’s much to like about the Sharp convection microwave. It’s a premium microwave that rewards you with cooking options.
Keep in Mind
The 850-Watt cooking power is a little bit lower than other models, but it’s not a deal-breaker.
In a Nutshell
- 4-way convection system
- 1.1 cubic ft. capacity
- 25 automatic settings
How We Chose the Best Over-the-Range Microwaves
When we were deciding which over-the-range microwaves would make out top picks for this year, we looked at specific criteria. Price is always a factor when it comes to home products, but we also focused on the wattage, ventilation, and the settings the microwave offered. Of course, we looked at customer reviews too.
To give you a better understanding of our selection process, we’ve detailed everything we look at below before deciding those all-important top picks.
Wattage is essentially the cooking power of the microwave. We prefer over-the-range microwaves that offer around 900-1000 wattage. A lower wattage is unlikely to heat the food evenly enough. The cooking time will also be slower in smaller wattage microwaves, so this is an essential requirement. Higher wattages usually command higher prices when it comes to over-the-range microwaves. Ideally, there will be a good balance between power and cost.
Over-the-range microwaves usually don’t feature ventilation systems that will vent as well as a range hood (the device that removes steam/smells in the kitchen). They tend to operate with a fully-vented or ductless system. A fully-vented system will force the air outside through the available ducts. A ductless system works by forcefully pulling the air through a charcoal filter and then recirculating it back into the kitchen.
The best over-the-range microwaves have interior and exterior venting capabilities. Some over-the-range microwaves can provide up to 400 CFM (Cubic Feet Per Minute) via their exhaust fans. This would be a powerful enough alternative to a range hood, and this is what we like to see in the cream of the crop.
We prefer over-the-range microwaves with settings that take the unnecessary hassle out of cooking. Automatic one-touch defrosts buttons and common task buttons are invaluable to get things done. We like to see glass turntables that lock to cook casseroles with greater ease too. The best sensor settings will also detect steam and can automatically adjust cooking times and power. These settings help to make life in the kitchen more manageable, and we look for all of them.
Over-the-range microwaves, like all products, vary in price. The cheapest available come in at around at around $160, while high-end variants can cost more than $500—with some over $1000. A higher price will usually result in more features and a typically higher wattage. We look for a healthy balance of power, price, and features. The most expensive isn’t always the best, but generally, the best will cost at least $300.
Customer reviews help to inform us of what shoppers think about an over-the-range microwave, especially in the long term. We don’t just look at a few reviews, but rather gather a consensus on a microwave before entering it into our decision process. Customer reviews are an important factor; over-the-range microwaves with consistent poor reviews won’t make our top picks.
What is an Over-the-Range Microwave?
The two most common types of microwaves are over-the-range and countertop microwaves. An over-the-range microwave is ideal for those with small kitchen space as it is installed up and off the countertop. Some kitchens are so full that every inch really does count, so these are an excellent option for that.
Over-the-range microwaves differ from countertop microwaves in price, size, and ventilation. When it comes to price, they are, in most cases, more expensive than countertop microwaves, so keep that in mind.
The average size for an over-the-range microwave is around 1.5 to 1.7 cubic feet. This size should comfortably accommodate a dinner plate. Compared to a countertop microwave, they are typically larger, but they mitigate this by purposefully being out of the way. Of course, if you’re a shorter person, you may find it difficult to remove cooked food from an over-the-range microwave.
Over-the-range microwaves can actively eliminate steam, smoke, and heat, with their ventilation systems measured at around 300 CFM. With that said, they are rarely as quiet, or indeed, as powerful as a dedicated range hood (they can reach above 450 CFM). Countertop microwaves don’t offer ventilation, but a range hood can do the work for them.
Over-the-range microwaves are available with two different ventilation systems. The first vents smoke and steam and forces it out via air ducts. The second system uses a charcoal filter which can effectively recycle the air. The recycled air is then pushed back into the kitchen. It’s fair to say that the best over-the-range microwaves offer both interior and exterior venting capabilities.
What to Consider When Choosing an Over-the-Range Microwave
There are multiple things to consider when choosing which over-the-range microwave is right for you. From the size to the available settings and the special features on offer, here’s everything you need to think about before diving in with your purchase.
When we talk about size in an over-the-range microwave, we use cubic feet to measure it. The average size for an over-the-range microwave comes in at around 1.5 to 1.7 cubic feet (they can go up to 2 cubic feet). That size will ensure you can fit in a dinner plate with ease. The interior height is important if you purchase a convection microwave oven (if you want to cook on two racks, for example). A convection microwave cooks the outside of the food as well as the inside.
Most over-the-range microwaves come with a plethora of settings. For example, some of them will allow you to enter the weight of the food you’re cooking, and the microwave will then adjust the power and cooking time accordingly. Others have pre-set programs that can reheat and defrost common foods with a single button. You can even maintain a temperature over a specific period, and the microwaves will then switch themselves off afterward. Think carefully about what settings are the most important for you.
The primary goal of ventilation is to remove smoke, steam and smells from the kitchen. Over-the-range microwaves can offer ventilation in two distinct forms. The first is through a ducted vent. A ducted vent carries the air from the microwave through a duct and to the outside of your house.
On the other hand, a recirculating vent sucks in the air from the microwave, and then recirculates it through a filter and then back into the kitchen. Some of these contain charcoal filters that aim to eliminate odors and reduce the heat. Most agree that a ducted vent is a better option, but not all building structures are ideal for it.
Special features of over-the-range microwaves include options like convection heating, grilling, and browning. Microwaves are good at heating the inside of the food but aren’t always the best at browning it. A convection microwave will solve that, but will usually come with a higher price tag.
Other special features include removable racks that allow you to cook several foods at once, 30-second keys to extend cooking time, and sensors that can adjust a heating cycle specifically to the food you want to cook. Consider which of these are necessary features for you.
What’s your available budget for an over-the-range microwave? High-end microwaves can cost $500 and up to $1000 or more. The higher the price tag, typically the more special features that will be on offer. Cheaper variants, like those costing around $160-220, will get the job done, but don’t expect a considerable amount of extra perks. With that said, it’s always worth looking around. Some over-the-range microwaves defy expectations like those on our top picks!
Types of Microwaves
There are different types of microwaves available to buy, but it can be confusing to know the exact difference between them. That’s why we’ve listed the main types along with the pros and cons of each below:
These are the most standard microwaves you can buy. You can find them at very reasonable prices, and, of course, you can move them around the kitchen or take them with you when you move. The main disadvantage is that they use up quite a bit of counter space.
These microwaves are mounted above the stove and free up space that would be wasted with a countertop microwave. They are not as cheap as countertop microwaves, though, and you may need help to install them in your kitchen.
Similar to over-the-range microwaves but different enough to still be a separate choice, built-in microwaves are literally built into cabinets. These are particularly useful as you can choose the height and exact location of them. They don’t take up any counter space either. However, they are best installed when designing a new kitchen from scratch (or renovating one).
Microwave drawers are a somewhat new option when it comes to microwaves. They don’t take up counter space and are found below the counter surface. Some people prefer the position of these, but you have to bend down to use them. The good news is that the installation is relatively easy.
For more on top appliances, you can check out our other independent guides below: