Best over-the-range microwave

Microwaves

All the added features and cooking options in the world won’t do you any good if you never plan on using them. Save money by only buying a microwave that has functions you’ll use!

BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details.

Which over-the-range microwave is best?

An over-the-range microwave serves all the functions of a standard microwave while adding key benefits, putting this particular type of microwave above the rest. Placing it above your range both saves counter space and looks far better than a large, unsightly ventilation system. The only downside is the need for installation and a bit of a higher price.

The best over-the-range microwave is the GE Over-the-Range Microwave (1.9 cubic feet). This top-of-the-line option features tons of internal cooking space with plenty of cooking settings and features in addition to a sleek design and strong exhaust fan.

What to know before you buy an over-the-range microwave

Traditional vs. convection

Over-the-range microwaves come in two heating types: traditional and convection.

Traditional: Traditional microwaves cook foods like all microwaves do. They use microwaves to cause water molecules contained within foods to vibrate, generating heat. These microwaves can have any number of features, power levels, interior plates and siding.

Convection: Convection over-the-range microwaves are much the same as traditional microwaves. The only difference is that they introduce the option to cook via convection, if desired. Convection microwaving is almost like a mini-oven. It uses hot air circulated around the food to cook your meal, which allows the microwave to broil, bake and even toast foods. However, they are far more expensive than traditional microwaves.

Size and capacity

Over-the-range microwaves measure their exterior and interior with two different units.

Exterior: The exterior, also known as the size, measures the width, height and depth using inches. These measurements are vital to know before purchase, as if the over-the-range microwave is too large or small for the space above your range, you’ll have to send it back and purchase another option.

Interior: The interior, also known as the capacity, is measured using cubic feet. The same size microwave can have very different capacities depending on the brand and model, and you should also know that the listed capacity is frequently larger than the effective capacity.

What to look for in a quality over-the-range microwave

Ventilation

Over-the-range microwaves are able to whisk away various smokes, steams and odors generated by your range using either a manually triggered fan or an auto-triggered fan.

Controls

Over-the-range microwaves are controlled using three different aspects: power level, presets and quick keys.

Power levels: Different over-the-range microwaves have different available power levels, usually somewhere between three and 10. They allow you to be more precise with your cooking should you need to be.

Presets: Some over-the-range microwaves also include preset buttons that automatically apply a set power level and length of cooking for common foods like popcorn and potatoes. Certain microwaves will have more presets or none at all.

Quick keys: Quick keys, when available, allow you to add time to your cooking with a single press instead of multiple keystrokes. They typically begin with 30 seconds and 1 minute, with more quick keys on each minute interval.

Hood lights

Depending on your lighting situation, it may get rather dark in your kitchen. With hood lights, your over-the-range microwave can help you to more clearly see what you’re cooking.

How much you can expect to spend on an over-the-range microwave

Over-the-range microwaves can vary in price anywhere from a bit over $100 to easily more than $1,000. The basic models won’t cost you more than $150, though mid-range models can stretch into the $300 territory range. Top-tier lines can go into the $500 range, while above $500 is when you’ll start to see convection microwave options.

Over-the-range microwave FAQ

Do I have to pay someone to install an over-the-range microwave?

A. It’s definitely possible, and sometimes quite mandatory. If you’ve installed kitchen appliances before or are generally handy with some tools, you can most likely manage it yourself. That said, your kitchen might require some remodeling to be compatible with an over-the-range microwave, such as if the proper ductwork for the ventilation system isn’t already installed.

Are there any features that make over-the-range microwaves easier to clean than other microwave types?

A. While it’s true that some microwaves have “easy clean” interiors that claim to be resistant against foods becoming caked-on, this is generally unnecessary. As long as you clean any spills and splatters as soon as they occur, you won’t ever need any special features to help keep your microwave clean, over-the-range or otherwise.

What are the best over-the-range microwaves to buy?

Top over-the-range microwave

GE Over-the-Range Microwave (1.9 cubic feet)

GE Over-the-Range Microwave (1.9 cubic feet)

What you need to know: Anything you could ever want in an over-the-range microwave is present in this excellent option from General Electric.

What you’ll love: Multiple cooking settings combine with an excellent exhaust fan and a few great extras to fill out the available features on this model.

What you should consider: This over-the-range option from GE is fairly noisy when in use.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Home Depot

Top over-the-range microwave for the money

BLACK+DECKER 1.6 Cu. Ft. Over-the-Range Microwave

BLACK+DECKER 1.6 Cu. Ft. Over-the-Range Microwave

What you need to know: This is a smaller, budget over-the-range microwave that nonetheless performs wonderfully.

What you’ll love: This microwave easy to install and features 1,000 watts of power for easy cooking of most any meal or dish size.

What you should consider: The top vents use up more space than you would think, and the design isn’t as elegant as others.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Sharp Over-the-Range Convection Microwave (1.1 cubic feet)

Sharp Over-the-Range Convection Microwave (1.1 cubic feet)

What you need to know: This over-the-range microwave comes with a convection cooking option to raise your cooking possibilities.

What you’ll love: The convection cooking options lets you broil and bake in your microwave, and the 1000 watts deliver all the power you need.

What you should consider: The inner turntable must rotate for the convection option to function properly.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Jordan Woika writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.