Which built-in microwave is best?
Microwaves are staples in nearly every home these days, but there is no reason one has to take up valuable counter space. These built-in models offer more seamless integration into your kitchen while leaving your counters free for other appliances or preparing food.
If cost is no object, the KitchenAid KMBP100ESS 1.4 cu. ft. Built-In Microwave is one of the best options. It is capable of microwaving, convection cooking and grilling, making it an extremely versatile addition to any kitchen. It is powerful enough to quickly heat up foods and is even equipped with sensors that allow it to automatically adjust its power and cooking times to ensure your food comes out hot and ready to eat every time.
What to know before you buy a built-in microwave
The power of a microwave is determined by the wattage, and the more wattage it has, the quicker it can heat food. This means that a large microwave with low wattage would actually cook foods slower than a small microwave with high wattage. Most built-in microwaves have between 800 and 1,600 watts.
Not all built-in microwaves are the same size, so it is important to measure your space and read the specs of any model you are considering. They are generally designed to fit standard cabinet sizes, which usually have openings between 24-30 inches wide. On some models, the actual microwave itself may be smaller than that, but it will come with a trim kit to give it a seamless fit.
The capacity of the interior of a microwave is different from the overall size and will be denoted in cubic feet. You can have two microwaves that have the exact same overall dimensions but with notably different cooking capacities. The smallest built-in microwaves have capacities of just 0.9 cubic feet, while the largest are usually 2.2 cubic feet.
Features to look for in a quality built-in microwave
Built-in microwaves with variable power allow you to adjust the power based on your needs. This offers a more precise method of cooking your foods, just like when you adjust the temperature of your regular oven. It should be noted that most microwaves that boast variable power actually only stimulate this by alternating between full power and no power. While this works well enough, it isn’t the best method. If you want a built-in microwave that actually adjusts its cooking power, look for one with inverter technology.
Built-in microwaves with shortcut buttons will offer the most convenient operation. On the most basic models, this will simply be pre-set cooking times of 1 minute, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, etc. These will also often have an “add 30 seconds” button. On more advanced models, these shortcuts are pre-programmed settings for popular foods, such as pizza, baked potatoes, popcorn, vegetables and more.
Built-in microwaves with convection cooking offer the quick-heating features of a microwave combined with the full cooking capabilities of a regular oven. They can do this because they emit radio waves just like a regular microwave but also contain a radiant heat source and fan to circulate the hot air. Though more expensive than standard microwaves, they are much more versatile.
Many built-in microwaves that offer convection cooking are also capable of grilling food. These will almost always come with a metal rack that is used to raise food up closer to the radiant heat source.
Just like other appliances and electronics in our homes are getting smarter, so are microwaves. The most notable way they are doing this is with the inclusion of sensors that monitor the heat and steam inside of the cooking cabinet. This allows the microwave to autonomously determine when the food is done and automatically adjust the time and power as needed throughout the cooking process.
Child safety lock
If you have young children in the home, consider buying a built-in microwave with a child lock feature. This allows you to lock the control panel so that even if a youngster fiddles around with it, they cannot accidentally turn it on and start cooking something.
How much you can expect to spend on a built-in microwave
On the lower end of the price spectrum, you can find built-in microwaves for between $200-$500. More commonly though, you should expect to spend somewhere between $500-$1,500. Premium options with advanced functionality can cost upwards of $2,000.
Built-in microwave FAQ
Is it hard to install a built-in microwave?
A. If you are comfortable with basic DIY projects around the home that involve drilling and mounting, and you already have the space cut out and an outlet installed in it, then you will find installing a built-in microwave to be a relatively easy task. Those who are not comfortable tackling these kinds of tasks or who do not have an outlet already in place and are not familiar with electric work may want to hire a professional.
Are built-in and over-the-range microwaves the same thing?
A. No. While they function the same in regards to microwave cooking, over-the-range microwaves have additional features needed for their placement above a stove. This includes venting capabilities and providing downlighting.
What is the best built-in microwave to buy?
Top built-in microwave
What you need to know: A sleek and versatile appliance with 1,600 watts of power, this KitchenAid microwave makes a great addition to any home.
What you’ll love: It has convection cooking and grilling capabilities, and it is equipped with a sensor to take some of the guesswork out of heating up food.
What you should consider: Its high price tag may put it out of reach for some consumers.
Where to buy: Sold by Home Depot
Top built-in microwave for the money
What you need to know: This surprisingly affordable Frigidaire microwave offers 1.6 cubic feet of cooking space to accommodate large casserole dishes and has several functions that make for convenient operation.
What you’ll love: It’s smudge- and finger-print resistant, so you won’t feel like you have to constantly clean the exterior, and the interior light stays on while cooking so you can keep an eye on your food.
What you should consider: Some may find the drop-down door gets in the way.
Worth checking out
What you need to know: With a slide-out drawer design, this microwave is ideal for low placements and can be installed in kitchens that might not have room for other styles.
What you’ll love: Its hidden controls and several one-touch cooking functions make it both aesthetically pleasing and convenient to use.
What you should consider: It seems slightly underpowered and can take a while to heat up foods.
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Brett Dvoretz writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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