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Microwave Buying Guide: The Different Types of Microwaves

Most households have a microwave without realizing its potential or wondering if they even have the right one for their cooking needs.

Finding the right microwave can unlock new cooking options and even provide additional—and often much needed— oven space.

This guide will explain the various types of microwaves, what they offer and how to choose one that makes the most sense for your kitchen and your culinary ambitions.

Table of Contents

What are the Different Types of Microwaves?

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Generally, there are five different types of microwaves:
     
  • Built-in
  •  
  • Over-the-range or microwave hood combinations
  •  
  • Countertop
  •  
  • Under-counter
  •  
  • Convection 
  •  
Start your shopping journey by learning about each of these types of microwaves.

Built-in Microwaves

As their name suggests, built-in microwave ovens are installed directly into an existing cabinet space, creating a custom look that seamlessly integrates into the style of your kitchen.

You can install a built-in microwave in a variety of places in your kitchen. That said, they are usually installed above a wall oven as this allows for easy transitions between the microwave and the oven.

Another option is a microwave oven combination. This type of microwave offers convenience and versatility, providing a streamlined combination of a wall oven and a microwave. The benefit of these models is that they aid with the preparation of multi-course meals while also integrating with your kitchen flow.

Some models have enhanced aesthetics and impressive innovations that allow them to transform into useful additional ovens. If you’re considering adding a built-in microwave to your kitchen, make sure you find the right one by using our Built-in Kitchen Appliance Guide.

Over-the-range or microwave hood combinations

Over-the-range microwaves, also known as microwave-hood combinations, free up counter space by removing the microwave from your countertop and placing it over the range. There, it doubles as a vent hood, helping clear smoke and odour. Over-the-range microwaves free up valuable counter space while also centralising cooking tasks.

Countertop microwaves

Countertop microwaves offer quick access close to where most of your meal prep happens.

Installation is easy; usually all you need is an outlet and a flat surface. They are also easy to take with you when you move. Furthermore, countertop microwaves can often be installed in cabinets, like a built-in microwave, with the purchase of a trim kit.

Countertop microwaves are versatile and come in a range of sizes and with a variety of features. For instance, KitchenAid® countertop microwaves come with features like convection cooking and sensor cycles.

Drawer or under-counter microwaves

Drawer microwaves work well for open kitchen designs and islands. One benefit of under-counter and in-wall installation options is that they free up counter space. This means you won’t have to chop vegetables for your soup in a tight corner next to your fridge.

The top access of these models let you check or stir without taking the dish out of the microwave. These are often installed at waist height so that they’re accessible and fairly discreet.

These models are generally equipped with the same features and functionality as other types of microwaves.

What About a Convection Microwave?

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Another possibility to consider is whether you want a microwave that offers convection cooking. Convection microwaves pair oven-like heating elements with a fan to help circulate heat throughout the microwave cavity. Most convection microwaves offer bake, broil and roast functions, just like a full-sized convection oven.

Convection cooking is available as an option with most microwave types.

Which Microwave Type is Right for Me?

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Choosing the right microwave often depends on your kitchen’s existing layout and the amount of space you have to work with. If you’re unsure of what microwave might be right for you, check out our Microwave Buying Guide.

Additionally, as you go through the decision-making process, ask yourself these questions:

Is my kitchen large?

Countertop microwaves will take up more counter space, making them a good option for large kitchens. Another clever option for large kitchens is drawer microwaves since they pull out below your countertops. With these models, you might lose some cupboard and drawer space, so be prepared for that. Learn more about microwave sizes.

Is my kitchen small?

Over-the-range and built-in microwaves offer a lot of benefits, with saving space being a big one. They can be placed on just about any wall in the kitchen but are typically located around chest or eye level.

Of course, they also free up counter space to make more room for meal prep. Remember, many kitchens are designed with over-the-range microwaves in mind. You may have to undergo some cabinet modifications to accommodate a built-in microwave.

Do I want or need a second oven?

Many current microwave features help microwaves offer more traditional oven-inspired functions like convection cooking. These features provide more options in the built-in and over-the-range categories. 

Learn more about combination microwaves here.

How important is venting power to me?

Over-the-range microwaves offer strong venting power but standalone vent hoods are typically even more powerful. We recommend selecting one of the other microwave styles and buying a separate hood if you want to achieve powerful ventilation.

Learn more about vent hoods and over-the-range microwaves here.

Does my kitchen have a clean, streamlined aesthetic?

Both built-in and under-counter microwaves have the cleanest lines and the ability to seamlessly blend with your cabinets.

Are you Ready to Shop for a New Microwave?

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When deciding on which type of microwave to buy, remember to consider the space where you prep and cook your meals and the cooking techniques you most often use – and don’t forget to give a thought to your culinary ambitions.

To learn more about what microwave is right for you, check out our Microwave Buying Guide.
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