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Microwave Buying Guide

Learn about the appliance's features and styles as you get ready to buy a microwave.
Buying Guide: Microwaves Video
Buying Guide: Microwaves
Buying Guide: Microwaves Video Buying Guide: Microwaves Video
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Buying Guide: Microwaves

Getting Started

Buying a microwave oven is one of the quickest ways to add functionality to your kitchen. Smaller and less expensive than most appliances, microwaves give you an easy way to quickly defrost frozen foods, reheat leftovers, and even cook entire meals. If you are in the market for a new microwave, learning about the advancements and innovative features offered by modern microwaves will help ensure you get the best microwave for your needs and at the best price. This guide should answer any questions you may have had and even those you don't know to ask. However, if you're still curious about anything, please feel free to reach out to our experts at 800-860-3577. Our knowledgable staff and exceptional customer service are what make Abt the best place to buy a microwave.


Countertop Microwaves

Countertop microwaves' sizes are often simplified into three categories: compact, mid-size, and full. These categories generally reflect the microwave's interior capacity, measured in cubic feet. Although countertop models can offer the same cooking power as installed units, they do require a chunk of valuable counter space that some kitchens can't spare. However, many countertop microwaves offer trim kits that border the appliance and make it possible to build them into surrounding cabinetry or mount them on to a wall. Countertop microwaves also lack ventilation systems, a useful feature of over the range microwaves that helps keep your kitchen air clean. Despite these minor drawbacks, countertop microwaves are one of the most popular designs. The simplicity of placing them on the counter, plugging them in, and getting cooking is hard to beat.

Built-In Microwaves with Trim Kits

A built-in microwave with a trim kit gets installed into a recess in your kitchen cabinetry, providing a professional look. These microwaves sit on existing shelves and rest flush with the existing cabinets thanks to the trim kit. This style of microwave frees up counter space while still allowing easy access for any necessary maintenance it may need down the road.
Microwave Trim Kit Buying Guide Video
Microwave Trim Kit Buying Guide
Microwave Trim Kit Buying Guide Video Microwave Trim Kit Buying Guide Video
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Microwave Trim Kit Buying Guide

Over The Range Microwaves/Mircrohoods

Over the range microwaves, also know as microhoods, are probably the most common choice in updated kitchens. Combining the functionality of a standard microwave with the air-cleaning capabilities of a ventilation hood, these versatile appliances help save space in your kitchen by staying out of your way. Over the range microwaves are ideal for use over a traditional 30 inch range or cooktop. Keep in mind, over the range microwaves require at least 16 inches between the top of a cooktop, rangetop, or range/stove and the bottom of the microwave.
Measurements For Replacing An Over The Range Microwave Video
Measurements For Replacing An Over The Range Microwave
Measurements For Replacing An Over The Range Microwave Video Measurements For Replacing An Over The Range Microwave Video
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Measurements For Replacing An Over The Range Microwave

Over The Counter Microwaves

The over-the-counter microwave provides a wide range of options for placement, which helps free up space in your kitchen. They are best used underneath a shallow cabinet, using 4 screws to secure themselves to the cabinet so that they can hang from it. Many over-the-counter models also include a hanging rack beneath them, providing convenient storage space for items like cooking utensils, oven mitts, or even small pots and pans.

Microwave Drawers

Installed below a countertop or wall oven, microwave drawers are similar to built-in microwaves. However, these models are often installed below waist level. The cooking area, typically with a rotating tray, extends out from the microwave in place of a swinging door. This makes loading and unloading the microwave simple as can be, wherever it's installed. In addition to freeing up counter space, drawer microwaves provide easy access to your food, especially helpful for meals that require a quick stir midway through heating.

Warming Drawers

Warming drawers typically share the design of a microwave drawer, sliding out for easy access to the heating area. However, these useful tools are more concerned with keeping already hot food at a table-ready temperature than heating up a meal from the fridge. Perfect for entertaining, microwave drawers make it easy to keep the coming courses (or maybe the plates) warm while you mingle with your friends and family. These devices are also great for families whose dinner schedules don't always line up, making sure everyone has a meal that tastes like it came fresh from the oven. Most models feature an automatic shut off ranging from 1-4 hours, preventing you from wasting energy when junior decides he isn't eating at home tonight. Many models also offer a timer and precise temperature controls (with a range typically between 100-200 °F), allowing you to fine-tune your warming.
If you're considering a warming drawer, think of how you plan to use it. Do you expect to keep a single plate warm for a few hours now and again or might you need a few plates full plates at a time? Measure your dinnerware and make sure the drawer you're considering offers enough room. You might also consider a drawer with a second rack, making it easier to keep multiple items toasty together.

Built-In Drop Down Microwaves

Drop down door microwave ovens allow for easy access in an under the counter installation. Resting at hip height, the door of the microwave opens downward much like an oven door, granting easy access to everyone in the family. Additionally, a drop down microwave is built-in to existing cabinets providing that clean, custom look and feel.

Commercial Microwaves

Commercial microwaves are designed to stand up to the rigorous use of a restaurant or office kitchen. A commercial microwave uses a different method of heating food. Compared to a traditional microwave that rotates food around in a circle, a commercial microwave uses a stirrer system to distribute heat more evenly. As a result, your food cooks faster than it would in a traditional microwave while avoiding pockets of hot or cold.

Microwave Combination Ovens

A two-in-one appliance, a combination microwave positions a microwave above a traditional oven. This space-saving design often makes more sense than a double oven, especially for smaller families and those who don't cook multicourse meals regularly. Since the unit has to be built-in to the wall, the combo oven will blend into the kitchen.

Sizes and Specifications

Family Size

Is in reference to the size of some microwaves. Family size ranges from 1.2 to 1.6 cubic feet and has wattage ranging from 1000 to 1300 watts.

Full Size

Is in reference to the size of some microwaves. Full size is larger than a Family size but not by much. Full size ranges from 1.8 to 2.2 feet and has wattage around 1200 watts.

Door Clearance

Is the actual clearance you have when the microwave door is wide open.

Trim Kits

Available for some countertop microwaves. A trim kit surrounds the microwave to give it a built in appearance.
Microwave Trim Kit Buying Guide Video
Microwave Trim Kit Buying Guide
Microwave Trim Kit Buying Guide Video Microwave Trim Kit Buying Guide Video
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Microwave Trim Kit Buying Guide


Auto Cook Menu

Auto Cook lets you choose the type of dish and the serving size, cooking your favorite foods without requiring you to adjust times or power levels. This button will either be used to view the available menu options, or may be divided into specific buttons that will be labeled with a specific food type, such a "potato" button.

Child-Lock Out

A feature on some microwaves that allows you to lock the control pad so that children won't be able to activate the microwave without supervision. Most child-locks require a pass code or touch command.

Convection Oven Microwaves

Using a built in secondary heating element and fan, microwaves with convection capabilities shorten traditional cooking time by circulating hot air around your dish. Many of these models offer "Combo" cook, which uses both the convection and microwave heating elements to get your food ready even faster.

Conventional Microwave Ovens

Cooks with microwave energy only.

Control Display (Electronic Control vs. Manual)

Each make and model varies when it comes to control display. Most are electronic keypads that operate at a touch of a button; others include manual controls which have to be turned like a rotary dial to operate.

Cooking Power or Power Rating (Watts)

Cooking power is measured in wattage. Wattage often ranges from 600 to 1300 watts depending on the brand and model. The more wattage a microwave has the faster it cooks and heats.

Defrost or Auto Defrost

This preprogrammed feature lets you defrost meat, poultry, and seafood, by entering the weight.

Delay Start

Allows you to start cooking food at a later time.

Express Cook

This feature preselects cook times for your food at the touch of a button. Generally utilizing max power (high or 100%), express cook functions are often located within the number keypad (1-5). To operate this function, press a number and then press start for the corresponding time. For example, press "1" then "Start" (or just "1," depending on the microwave) and the microwave will begin cooking at the highest power level for 1 minute.

Multi-Lingual Menu Action Screen/Function Key

Whether you speak English, Spanish, or French, the menu action screen scrolls step-by-step cooking instructions in all three languages.

Oven Rack

Some microwaves include a cooking rack that is placed inside the microwave to elevate food; this allows you to cook more than one thing at the same time.

Inverter Microwave Technology

Conventional microwave ovens operate on only one power level. When you program them to cook at lower levels, they "pulse" delivery of 100% power and remain idle the rest of the time. Panasonic Inverter Technology allows for true multi-level power settings, similar to a "Dimmer" switch on a light. The consistent delivery of microwave energy also helps delicate foods to simmer without overcooking the edges and surface.

Popcorn Key

The popcorn key lets you pop a single bag, usually 3.5 oz., of prepackaged microwave popcorn automatically.

Reheat or Auto Reheat

This feature allows you to reheat foods by simply pressing the Reheat or Auto Reheat key and entering the number of servings.


Turntable microwaves have an actual turntable in the microwave that rotates food while it cooks, this allows food to cook evenly and more efficient. The turntable is usually made of glass. When there is a turntable button, you will be able to choose whether or not to use the turntable. If you choose to turn the turntable off, keep in mind that it will only be off during the duration of time specified; once the duration has been completed the turntable will automatically turn back on.

Sensor Cooking

Sensor cooking customizes the power level and time for each food. This customizes your reheating and cooking functions for various foods.

Quick Minute

Use the quick minute feature to set cooking times in multiples of one minute or to add minutes to a current cooking session.