Find the Best New Microwave

This buying guide will help you find the right microwave that fits your personal needs the best. Let’s start with a few questions you should ask yourself to narrow down on your search for the perfect microwave.

Signs That It's Time to Replace Your Microwave

Smoke, sparks, or a burning smell emanating from your microwave are all signs that you might need a replacement. Also, if you find your food is not cooking properly (or not at all), there's definitely something wrong. A microwave is designed for fast cooking and if that's not happening, you need to take a closer look and figure out if you need a new one.

A microwave should make nothing more than a gentle hum while it's cooking/heating. If your microwave is making strange sounds like a buzzing or rattling noise, most likely something's off. Check your turntable to make sure it is fit properly. If it still makes sounds, you should consider getting it replaced.

Do you want to place the microwave overhead, on the counter, or built into cabinets?

Over the Range Microwaves (OTRs)

Over-the-range microwaves, also called OTR microwaves, are installed above a range or cooktop. They provide kitchen venting and air circulation, as well as overhead lighting. Many of them have multispeed fans to recirculate air using replaceable charcoal filters. Some of the OTR microwaves have exhaust fans which switch on automatically if a stove top becomes too hot, thereby protecting the microwave oven. Since they install over the range or cooktop, these microwaves do a great job of maximizing counter space. They also come with all the necessary installation hardware.

Installation: Unlike countertop microwaves that can just be placed and used, these microwaves require professional installation. They come with necessary hardware to mount to the wall and cabinetry. Proper spacing / distancing between the cooktop surface and the bottom of the microwave need to be taken into consideration.

Advantage: These microwaves are also great for venting as they draw smoke and odors from the cooktop and vent it out into the outdoor or in the case of ductless vents, filter it before exhausting it back into the room.

Capacity: The capacity of OTR Microwaves can vary between 0.8 Cu. Ft - 2 Cu. Ft.

Power Intake: The power wattage can range between 500 - 1500W

Shop Over the Range Microwaves

GE Over the Range Microwave

Countertop Microwaves

Countertop microwaves are freestanding units that usually sit on your kitchen counter. They do not require any venting hookups or special installation. Countertop microwaves are portable. So, if you are required to move often, this is the best bet.

Installation: No installation required. Buy, Unpack, Plug In, Use! It's that simple.

Advantage: Since they don't require professional install they are easily moved and can be placed anywhere near a walll outlet. They are also a more affordable option.

Capacity:The oven capacity is generally 1 cubic foot.

Power Intake:Power intake is between 500 and 1000 watts.

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Countertop Microwave

Built-in Microwaves

These microwaves are relatively new in the market and have a large capacity.Built-in Microwaves are designed to be installed within a cabinet or a wall for custom look and feel. They are different than OTR's in that they are not generally installed over a range or cooktop. Many people use these in unison with a wall oven.

Installation: Professional installation is required. Additional trim kits may also be required depending on the model.

Advantage: Super clean and custom look and feel. Saves countertop space. Since it is not installed over a range you have the option of adding a Range Hood over your range or cooktop.

Capacity:The capacity of OTR Microwaves can vary between 0.8 Cu. Ft - 2 Cu. Ft.

Power Intake: Power intake is between 500 and 1000 watts.

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Built in Microwave

Special Features to Consider when Buying a Microwave

A microwave turntable is a circular glass tray that rotates while cooking, ensuring an even temperature distribution. Without a turntable, you would have to keep pausing your microwave to move the vessel inside several times.

This is a convenient feature to have, especially when you are cooking meat, and want all sides of the meat to brown evenly.

This is a safety feature that ensures that the microwave oven does not run if the door is open or ajar. Most ovens have two interlocks; some even have three. This is to ensure that even if one lock fails, the backup lock will work.

Some modern ovens have this feature that can tell when the food is completely cooked by measuring steam in the oven. When food is cooked, the sensor measures steam and turn the microwave off.

All foods don't need full power. Having an oven with variable power levels ensures that you set the power to the task required. For example, you can simmer food at 50% power or defrost at 30% of power.

Many models come with a non-stick interior coating that makes cleaning easier. So, if your pasta sauce splatters when cooking, you can easily wipe it off with a washcloth.

Many modern ovens come with different task buttons that have preset power and heat settings for a specific task. Standard task buttons are Dinner Plate, Reheat Pizza, Popcorn, Frozen Vegetable, Fresh Vegetable, Potato, Defrost, etc.

This is the amount of noise produced by a microwave's cooking cycle. Newer microwave models are available with near-silent operation.

Microwave Specifications

A microwaves power is measured in Watts or Wattage. The higher the Watts the more power the microwave has to cook food faster. Most dorm or smaller countertop microwaves max out around 500W. Over the Range and several Built-in microwaves have wattages as high as 1500.

Another specification you need to keep into consideration when you buy a microwave is whether or not you want the ability to vent either externally or recirculating. An external vent would take the place of a Range Hood and allows for an internal fan to suck up and remove of air above the cooking surface. A recirculating vent does not vent to the exterior, however, it still sucks up that air above the cooking surface and filters it before blowing it back into the room. OTR microwaves have the capacity to vent in both ways.