We know you love to cook. And sometimes a microwave is the easiest option. You can come home from a long day at work and quickly reheat yesterday’s leftovers or whip up a chicken quesadilla.
Over-the-range microwaves boast a useful aspect that other microwaves don’t: they ventilate your stove. If you have a small kitchen, this is incredibly helpful. Don’t expect the efficiency of a dedicated extractor, though – you may get a little smoked out if you’re tossing up a stir fry or steaming veg while searing a pan full of steaks. Because they’re built in, you also won’t have to sacrifice one of your precious plug points when you’re running an over-the-range.
In this article, we’re going to review the best over-the-range microwaves for your kitchen. We’ll consider features like the control panel and visual appeal, and do an analysis of what it’s like to use each model.
Best Over-the-Range Microwaves: An In-depth Review
First, though, let’s review the best over-the-range microwaves available to households right now.
In a nutshell: it’s black, has a volume of 1.6 cubic feet and takes 950 watts. It has speed settings for the venting system and lights installed underneath. It boasts some fancy controls.
Overall, for its moderate price, the GE JNM3163DJBB is a highly functional machine. It’s spacious, and although it’s the second least powerful microwave on this list, it’s still powerful enough to cook fast. It’s relatively easy to install – though if you don’t have experience with electronics, I would advise hiring someone to help. Because it’s all black, it’s surreptitious. Good-looking, but not too flashy.
The lights shining on your work area are tremendously helpful. So is the speed setting for the venting system: if you’re frying a panful of eggs, the slow speed works perfectly, but you can toggle the high setting on if you’ve got multiple pots bubbling on your stovetop.
The myriad of options on the control panel can be a little confusing (I suggest studying the manual.) I really like having dedicated settings for “beverage”, “popcorn” and “potato”, though. It also has a customizable “defrost” setting. Being able to toggle the turntable off means that you can heat several plates at once, or squeeze in that giant dish. The panel is smooth, so cleaning up is a breeze.
There are some downsides. The sides vents are high; there’s a risk of objects falling inside. Unlike some of the other microwaves on our list, it doesn’t have sensors for automatic cooking. And while it’s generally quiet, it can rattle sometimes, creating a disturbing buzzing noise.
| Not too expensive|
Lights up your workspace
Relatively easy installation
| Large vents|
Can be noisy
Only one color
Details in a nutshell: it’s silver and black, powers up with 1000 watts and has a 1.5 cubic feet capacity. It has lights installed underneath, some awesome settings (including ones for the venting system) and some surprising sensor capabilities.
This machine is expensive… but it’s also impressive. It’s touted as a “smart microwave” because it has 11 sensor settings for what Sharp deems are the most popular microwave foods (popcorn is one of them – no surprises there). In other words, for these foods, you don’t have to punch in the minutes, do a check, punch in some more… You just have to select your food type, and the microwave will notify you when it’s ready. And I mean perfectly cooked.
It’s powerful, and although it’s the second smallest microwave on this list it’s still large enough to be convenient. It has a clean, square appeal and comes in silver with black accents.
The control panel is quite unusual: the only one of its type in this review. At first glance, it appears to have only 4 small round buttons. This is because the rest of the control panel is “auto touch”, which means it displays digitally when you use the microwave. The control panel is a little more complicated to clean than our other picks, though, as you have to work your way around the slightly raised buttons.
Other perks are the lights underneath which have high and low settings, an enormous 14 1/8 inch glass turntable which is hugely convenient when you’re working with bulky or multiple dishes, and the fact that you can adjust the extractor speed.
| Kick-ass sensor capabilities|
Lights up your workspace
Slightly less convenient cleanup
Only one color
Details in a nutshell: it’s white, has a volume of 1.6 cubic feet and churns up 1000 watts. It has some extravagantly convenient cooking settings, two speeds for the extraction fan and lights for your stovetop.
Let’s cut to the chase: as the cheapest on our list this machine delivers bang for its buck. It’s big, it’s as powerful as the top players here and it has an arsenal of handy settings. Lots of thought has been given to convenience: a pre-programmable menu feature remembers your three favorite menus, and it has six one-touch cooking settings (including pizza and popcorn…sensible). It can keep your dish warm while you’re waiting for the family to get seated or for guests to arrive. This is a beautiful family machine, ideal for large, hearty meals and busy parents.
Aesthetically, it’s unassuming: function is prioritized over form. It’s all-over white with a basic black display. The controls are easy to read, and the panel is smooth, so once again it cleans easily. You can adjust the speed of the ventilation fan. Buyers with electrical experience should find it easy to install.
On the downside, the machine is pretty noisy. The humming is particularly deafening when the fan is set to high speed.
Lights up your workspace
Relatively easy installation
Lots of convenient settings
| Only one color|
Not particularly pleasing to the eye
No sensor capabilities
Details in a nutshell: it’s stainless steel and black, has a volume of 1.1 cubic feet and powers up at 850 watts. It has speed settings for the venting system and lights installed underneath. It has convention and sensor settings.
Even though the Sharp R-1874-TY is the smallest on this list, it’s the second most expensive: right below the Sharp R-1514. The reason why is a good one: if you have a tiny kitchen but still want a microwave that can do nearly everything, this machine is a dream come true.
You can cook literally everything in it. The convection setting means you’ll be able to grill your dishes, and bake like a pro. It’s the only convection oven on this list, as there don’t seem to be a whole lot of top-quality over-the-range microwaves with convection capabilities. It also has eight sensor settings. Not quite as many as the bigger Sharp brother named above, but still a treat to use.
The control panel, despite having so many options, is uncomplicated to navigate and smooth for easy cleanup. The aesthetic is simple and square, in brushed stainless steel with black accents. You can set the stovetop lighting brightness and the extractor fan speed.
Although it’s the least powerful machine on this list, the wattage is ample because of its small size. This compactness is definitely an advantage for some, but could also cause frustration. Many baking dishes can’t turn while you’re using the convection setting – or simply won’t fit in. The extractor fan is relatively weak. I guess the assumption is that you’d be using the microwave for most of your cooking.
Don’t get this machine if you’re a family of more than two. If your kitchen is already kitted out in small dishes and you don’t use your stovetop for anything heavy duty, though, it’s a highly convenient investment.
Has sensor capabilities
Has an awesome convection element
Easily navigable control panel
Weak extractor fan
Can’t fit larger dishes
Only one color
Details in a nutshell: it has a crazy amount of color options, a volume of 1.7 cubic feet and chows through 1000 watts. It has speed settings for the venting system and has lights installed underneath. It boasts sensors,some fancy settings and a light that switches on when the charcoal filter needs to be changed.
First off, I’d like to point out that this is the only microwave on our list that comes in more than one color. Perhaps “color” is stretching it a little, as the options are really black, white, and varying grey or metallic finishes, but I highly appreciate being able to decide what will blend in best with the rest of my appliances.
Overall, it’s in middle of this list price-wise, but offers an array of benefits. It’s the largest machine here, and it’s powerful. It automatically sets the defrost time once you’ve punched in the weight, and it boasts a melt feature. No more opening the door every few seconds because you’re terrified your chocolate, marshmallows or caramel will burn. When it comes to sensor capabilities, it doesn’t have has many food choices as the two Sharps (other than the functional defrost, melt and reheat, it has beverage, popcorn and potato options), but you can get a lot of use out of what it does offer.
Aesthetically, it’s slick, with a lot of empty space: I like that. The control panel is smooth for easy cleanup. I find the lettering a little small to be truly convenient. It’s a breeze to install, and the fact that the charcoal filter lights up when it needs changing could save money and a lot of hassle in the long run.
| Not too pricey|
Charcoal filter lights up
Lots of color options
Clean, minimalist aesthetic
|Small lettering on control panel|
What to Look at When You’re Hunting Down the Best Over-the-Range Microwave?
Now that you know product range, let’s run over a quick list of things you need to know when buying a microwave.
The more powerful, the better. Machines in the 900 – 1100-watt range work beautifully.
They need to be clear and easy to read. Some microwaves have fancy settings (like pizza, popcorn and Mary Poppins… no, wait, that last one hasn’t been invented yet). If you think this would be a game changer for you, make sure it’s somewhere on your new machine’s gleaming control panel. Also, smooth controls make for easier cleanup.
Visual designs can vary wildly. You want a machine that blends in with the rest of your kitchen.
Some microwaves circulate hot air too. This is a dramatic step up in the microwave game. You can brown dishes and bake tender, crispy patisserie.
Microwaves with sensors measure the volume of steam rising from your cooking food, and judge when to switch off. This saves power and makes a perfectly cooked meal.
You Won’t Regret Buying These Microwaves
Microwaves are the epitome of modern convenience. However, if you’re uninformed when you shop, there’s a chance you’ll land up with an over-the-range microwave that performs poorly and doesn’t quite satisfy your thirst for fast, delicious meals at the touch of a button. But if you keep in mind that these microwaves don’t work as well as dedicated extractors, and invest in any of the models on this list, you will be a very happy buyer.