Microwave Ovens: Buying Guide

Microwave ovens have been helping us in the kitchen for decades.  Most of us don't use them for much more than warming food, so be sure you are clear on how you will use yours before buying a new one.  There are lots of great features to lure you into a Cadillac model, but you will pay for them.  If you don't really need them, it's really a waste of money.  I also believe that most of features don't work quite as well as they claim to.  Do you really want to roast your Thanksgiving turkey in one? 

Over-the-range microwave

Choose Your Type

The over-the-range model (pictured above) is a great space-saving option, as it doubles as a range hood or vent hood.  The drawback is that typically the fans in these models--even the top-of-the-line models--don't work all that well.  And remember that you will need an electrician to install this one.  So, I would recommend this type if you have very limited space and/or you don't cook all that much. 

Built-in Microwave

The built-in model has become standard in remodeled and new construction homes.  With a simple trim piece it looks as though it was built to exacting specifications for each specific kitchen.  These usually require custom cabinetry in order to get them to fit perfectly, which is very important for all built-in appliances. 

Under counter microwave

Here is another example of a built-in model: under the counter.  As you can see, it is totally built-in, but is even more out of the way than the other model--down low freeing up that precious wall space you may need for a pantry, wall oven or other storage you will access more often than a microwave.  For myself, I like this placement best.  I don't use mine much and it's still very accessible, but not obtrusive. 


Whichever model you choose, keep in mind that the wattage and usable size is what matters most when purchasing.  The higher the wattage, the better the machine.  Don't worry about a difference of 100 watts; it won't make a difference.  Also, most have an automatic rotating carousel which is very important for even cooking and heating.  As for size, be sure when you look at the dimensions of the appliance, you also look at the dimensions of the interior cooking area as well.  This will vary greatly among same size exteriors, so be sure you are buying what will work best for you.  If you heat coffee, for instance, will the interior hold a tall travel mug? 


When it comes to bells and whistles, I am not a big fan.  For the most part, we're going to reheat food, cook frozen meals or make some popcorn, right?  While a fancy loaded shortcut keypad may look great, you probably aren't really going to use them.  You will pay to have them, though, so only buy what you need.


So, let's get the clunky boxes off of the counters and find the perfect place in your kitchen for your new microwave.  Happy shopping!

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