Over the range microwaves have come a long way since first introduced. The once large, bulky, and in your face over the range microwaves have evolved into a smaller, more smart, and power packed kitchen appliance. The best over the range microwave has work cut out for it because they have two primary functions. It first is a microwave convection oven ready defrost and warms up any food with a push of the button. However, it also has a ventilation system in the base of the device to help when cooking over the stove to keep circulating clean air while ventilating the bad our out of the cooking area.
Best Over the Range Microwave vs Hood Ventilation
The question of which is better the best over the range microwave or hood ventilation has long been a debate among cooks, kitchen designers, and just your average consumer. Two years ago this question was a lot simpler to answer if you had space and the money getting a good ventilation system above your stovetop area and then buying a microwave to place elsewhere was the way to go. We are in 2017 now, and with better ventilation units packed into smaller microwaves, the debate is not as cut and dry.
- Saves space- especially in smaller kitchens. Having a hood above your stovetop is great but if you can get a microwave into the same place you are freeing up countertop or shelving space where you would have to put the microwave.
- Pricing- A big win with the over the range microwaves. Instead of spending on two separate appliances you spend on one. Quality over the range microwave might cost more than a regular microwave, but when you add the cost of a hood or ventilation system, you come out way ahead.
- Convenience- This one is a big one for me as a cook. I love the convenience of storage while cooking right in front of me. A lot of the time I will be using the oven and stove top (finishing sides and what not) when I need to rest something typically a meat. Having a microwave right at my head level allows me to plate and rest in the microwave without taking up any countertop space while finishing up your cooking. Newer microwaves allow for broiling and other uses as well that come in very handy around the holiday with lots of desserts and casseroles to be cooked.
- Ventilation Power- The newer over the range microwaves have kicked up fan speeds and ventilation capabilities, but it does not compare to a hood system. For those looking to ramp up the cooking to the extremes with flambees and searing meats a hood might be your best bet.
- Style- Most people love the look of an elegant, sleek, and clean hood. It adds a bit of mystic and elegance to the kitchen an over the range microwave simply cannot. Hoods also come in a wide variety allowing for the personality of the kitchen to really shine.
Conclusion- For most an over the range microwave is probably the best way to go. It provides more space in the kitchen, gives great functionality, and is cost effective. Some circumstances buying a hood ventilation makes sense, but with the new power, these microwaves pack its hard go any other way.
What is a convection microwave and can it go over the range?
We get asked a lot what a convection microwave is and why is different than a regular microwave oven. To answer this question, we first need to understand how a microwave oven cooks food. A microwave is set to send microwaves at a frequency that agitates water molecules. When the water molecules get agitated the at an atomic level, they start vibrating and generating heat from inside the food. The vibration of atoms is what cooks the food, so the heat comes from within the food.
In convection heating, heated air is blown over the area that you want to warm up. For foods, this means crispy and warm food on the outside but sometimes does not get to the middle of foods or leaves the middle cooler than the outside.
A convection microwave can combine the best of both worlds. Using microwaves to heat up the middle of your food while blowing hot air on the outside to provide a warm crisp outside. When combined the two technologies create the best chance at an even cook. Heating foods evenly make convection microwaves desirable and over the range convection microwaves a rare "unicorn" for kitchen appliances. The L.G. LMVH1711ST tops our list of best over the range microwave with convection oven capabilities.
What makes the best over the range microwave?
When we review and rate over the range microwaves we look at three major factors; microwave features and performance, ventilation performance, and design.
Microwaves Features and Performance
The functionality of a microwave has advanced far from the turn the dial for the time you want to nuke your food and ding when times up. Some microwaves have the ability to judge the moisture in foods and adjust to cook the food properly. Defrosting has become an art, and better microwaves have multiple options including defrost by weight, by a sensor, and by food types or a combination of all three. Add in extra functions such as baking or broiling there is a wide range of features we look for with microwave features.
Most brands will give an area size as to how powerful the ventilation system is. An example is our top model can ventilate a 400 cubic feet area per minute. We have used a lot of consumer reports data, however, to make sure that the manufacturer is not over promising on the ventilation ability. We gave bonus points for microwaves that had multiple fan setting, and some even start automatically when the area below gets too smoky.
With most kitchens focusing on the oven and stovetop area the over the range microwave will be right in the center of your kitchen. We look at the design for not only functionality but also sleek or elegant design to not be a sore eye in the focal point of the kitchen.
1.8 Cu Ft
4.4 out of 5.0
1.7 Cu Ft
4.1 out of 5.0
1.6 Cu Ft
4.6 out of 5.0
2.2 Cu Ft
4.8 out of 5.0
2.1 Cu Ft
4.5 out of 5.0
1. LG LMHM2237ST 2.2 Cubic Feet Over-The-Range Microwave Oven, Stainless Steel
Our top pick for Best Over the Range Microwave goes to this LG dandy. It was an easy choice with the largest capacity of 2.2 cubic feet, reliable ventilation power, multiple microwave features, and highly satisfied confirmed purchase reviews.
- Microwave Features-
LG did not skimp on the microwave features with this model. A touch pad control panel that is smudge proof immediately starts you off right with your microwave experience. Including features such as defrost, smart, clean, bi-level cooking, melt/soften, and reheat by sensor you will find a setting for anything you need. There are no broil or oven features which could be a deal breaker and almost dropped it from our recommended choice but....
- Ventilation Performance-
This won the day for LG LMHM2237ST. When installing you have the options to chose back, top, or front ventilation. The back and top ventilations are for exterior venting if you have the setup for it. If not no worries there is a charcoal filter that does a fantastic job when ventilating back into the kitchen. LG has created a quiet power technology that keeps the noise from the system relatively quiet, and you gives you four different setting for fan speed. The power behind the system is one of the strongest on our list at 400CFM and performed well in all of our tests.
While this microwave could have some added features with oven functionality it tested so well in ventilation tests its hard to recommend anything else to go above your stovetop. If ventilation is less of a priority for you, look at some other models that give you higher functionality as a microwave.
2. Samsung ME21F707 Over-The-Range Microwave
- Microwave Features-
Samsung put its best foot forward with the ME21F707MJT microwave and its functionality. It's sleek design with easy access control panel, and the display is easy on the eyes and a great focal point for any kitchen. It offers significant size in its interior and is made up of ceramic enamel for easy clean and the best germ control. The microwave offers sensor cooking with ten sensors perfect for defrosting or warming up leftovers without drying them out. To top it off the one touch easy clean button rounds of a near perfect microwave functionality from Samsung.
- Ventilation Performance-
The ME21F707MJT boasts a 400CFM ventilation system; however, tests show its air cleaning power underperforming other 400 CFM models. The ventilation system has four speeds, powerful led lights, and is a charcoal/grease filtration system.
From a microwave perspective, this is our hands down favorite model. Unfortunately for Samsung, we feel that ventilation is equally as important when judging over the range microwaves and this unit falls short in that department. If you are only looking to save some space and don't do a ton of cooking that requires ventilation then this unit is perfect for you.
How to Install an Over the Range Microwave
Before you start your install, you need to prepare a couple of items and have a good game plan for your above the stove microwave.
Over the Oven Microwave Install Check List
First, you need to measure the area above the stove and make sure that you microwaves dimensions will fit into the space you will be installing.As you will notice, there are no standard sizes of microwaves on the market, but microwaves which are specifically designed to fit over a range, will all fit into a 30-inch wide space. But you also need to check the height and depth of the microwave will fit and look natural in its new location. All manufacturers have these dimensions listed on their Amazon page so you can order the right size of microwave.
All microwaves have internal blowers which recirculate around the venting system. On the other hand, microwaves designed for over the range installation have options for venting to the outside. While the microwave itself does not require external venting, a vent needs to be in place for transferring odors, moisture, and grease from conventional cooking from the range. The best over the range microwaves all have different ventilation options normally outside, below, and out with some models even having the option venting up. You need to know which way you want to the vent to be blowing. Then you will need to check the user manual and set up the vent system correct BEFORE INSTALLING! Nothing is worse that getting everything set up and installed correctly only to have to take it down and change the vents to blow the proper way.
For convenience and safety, an OTR microwave should not be installed too high, and guides specify that the bottom of the microwave should be no higher than 54 inches from the floor.Secondary to this is the space between your stove top and the bottom of your microwave; guides specify a minimum of 13 inches should be available, but many professional builders recommend 20 – 24 inches of clearance from stove top to the bottom of the microwave. Distance from the stovetop area is important as the heat from your range could cause the lower portion of the microwave to become hot during cooking processes.
Don't forget Power
Nothing is more frustrating than having a perfectly centered microwave after a mistake free installation only to forget power. Two things to remember; make sure you have a power source if not hire an electrician and make sure the power source is close enough to where the microwaves power cord can reach.
Measuring and mapping out the installing will save many headaches. There are a few measurements you will need to map out.
Width- The space flanking the range should be at least 30 inches, if space is wider, determine how to fill these spaces. Some OTR ovens come with filler kits, or you may be able to buy kits that match your kitchen.
Height- If you have a wall cabinet above your range, this may have to be cut down or replaced to allow your microwave to fit in at your required height. You will need the proper height from the ground, from the microwave, and also check the height of the actual microwave will fit in your designated space.
If you have a vented hood already, isolate the power and remove the hood, you can now determine if there is a suitable power supply for your microwave. If none are present, you will need the service of a qualified electrician.
***It should be noted; some manufacturers give an optimal height for the exhaust fan, which should have the most effect on extraction. Remember microwave fans are not as strong as range hoods and getting optimal performance is key.
Standard Measurements Quick Guide-
- Cabinet spacing width – A minimum of 30-inches (most microwaves are just under 30 inches wide).
- Shelf or Cabinet Depth – A minimum of 12 inches and a maximum of 14 inches (microwaves vary between 12-inches – 18-inches deep).Range Height to Bottom of Shelf – The normal distance should be 30-inches.
- You should have a cabinet or sturdy shelf above the position where the microwave will be installed; this will be used to secure the top of your microwave.
Most OTR microwaves contain installation instructions, and most come with a fastening template which will show the hole positions required in the wall and the shelf above. If your microwave comes with a built-in wall bracket, this would have to be removed from the unit and positioned on the wall to obtain the drilling positions.If the spacing between your cabinets is greater than 30-inches, you must determine the center point of where to position and fasten your brackets, and also check that the length of your power cable is sufficient to reach your power socket..
- Wall Fastening
Hold the bracket or template against the wall in your chosen position, and mark the drill positions for the fastenings. Additionally, if you are fastening to a studded wall, try to find at least one solid stud on which to secure the bracket. If no studs are available, holes must be drilled to accommodate toggle bolts.Once you have drilled all the holes, fasten the bracket to the wall and use a level to make sure it is level.
- Shelf or Cabinet Fastening
After you fix your wall bracket, you should then lay out the template on the underside of the shelf or cabinet where the top of your microwave will fasten. Included in the template should be the position required for the opening that you will cut for the exhaust damper (for external exhaust) and the microwave power cable. You typically want this to lead to a socket located outside of the cabinet area. Following the manufacturer’s instructions, make the required cutouts and drill holes as specified.
***MAKE SURE BEFORE SETTING YOUR MICROWAVE- Your exhaust outlet, either through the roof, through the wall, or if you have recirculating venting, and you have oriented the blower to follow which option you have decided on.
Take the microwave and engage the bottom edge of the wall bracket, and slowly rotate the microwave in an upwards direction to bring the top of the casing in line with the fastening on the shelf above the unit.Thread the power cable through your precut hole ready for connection to your power outlet.
With the aid of a helper who can support your oven, carefully thread the bolts, provided with your kit through the shelf or cabinet and into the top of your microwave. Be sure to use all the fasteners provided and then check the microwave with a level and plumb once installed.
The ducting for air extraction can be fastened to the microwave’s blower/ damper and concealed inside the overhead cabinet. The ducting is typically in the form of a 3-1/4 inch x 10-inch rectangular to round fitting.
***Safety is always paramount. Always lift cautiously and maintain a safe power supply during the installation process.
Congratulations now you may enjoy your new above the stove microwave!