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Microwave Buying Guide

A comprehensive guide that will give you all the information you need on how to buy a new microwave.

Getting Started

One of the quickest ways to add functionality to your kitchen, without needing a lot of space or money, is with a Microwave Oven. 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, prior to purchase, you may want to consider all of the new advancements and features microwaves now offer.


Currently there are a few types of microwaves currently available. Those are Countertop Microwaves, Built-In Microwaves with Trim Kits, Over The Range Microwaves, Over The Counter Microwaves, Microwave Drawers, Built-In Drop Down Microwaves, Commercial Microwaves, and Microwave Combination Ovens.

Countertop Microwaves

Countertop Microwaves come in a wide variety of sizes, which are often sorted by compact, mid-size, and full. This usually correlates to the microwave's interior cubic feet measurement. Countertop microwave models can offer the same cooking power as installed units. However, the downside to countertop models is that they take up valuable kitchen counter space and do not have an outdoor ventilation system. Today many countertop microwaves come with trim kits that make it possible to build them into surrounding cabinetry or attach them to a nearby wall, for utmost convenience.

Built-In Microwaves with Trim Kits

A built-in microwave with trim kit is installed into a recess in your kitchen cabinetry for an easy, professional looking installation. The microwave will be resting upon existing shelves, and with the addition of a trim kit, the microwave will be flush with the existing cabinets. Additional advantages of built-in microwaves with trim kits are they free up counter space and add a custom look to your kitchen, while also allowing for easy access and maintenance.

Built-In Microwave with Trim Kit Buying Guide

Over The Range Microwaves / Mircrohoods

Over the range microwaves, also know as microhoods, are probably the most commonly purchased microwave model. They offer the ability to either vent air outside or recirculate it back into the kitchen. Over the range microwaves are ideal for use over a traditional 30inch range or cooktop. Many users of over-the-range microwaves enjoy that they help free up valuable counter top space. 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.

How to Measure for a new Over The Range Microwave / Microhood

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, and require the included 4 screws which go through the bottom of the cabinet above, in order to hang. Many over-the-counter models may include a hanging rack underneath, to hang certain kitchen accessories such as small pots and accessories.

Microwave Drawers

The microwave drawer style slides out and is installed below a countertop or wall oven. It's another microwave option that frees up much needed counter space. Drawer microwaves are at an easily accessible height, which allows you to stir items mid-cooking without removing anything from the microwave itself, providing one with utmost convenience.

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; this allows for easy access for all family members. Additionally, a drop down microwave is built-in to existing cabinets for a clean look.

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 evenly distribute the microwave energy throughout the microwave, in turn, cooking faster and more evenly than a traditional microwave.

Microwave Combination Ovens

A two-in-one appliance, a combination microwave oven has a microwave on top, and on the bottom a traditional oven. Offering the conveniences of melding two essential kitchen appliances together, thus saving both space and time in the kitchen. 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.


Auto Cook Menu

Choose the type of dish and the serving size, and cook many of your favorite foods without adjusting cooking times and 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

Are microwaves that have a built in heating element and a fan which shortens traditional cooking time. By utilizing "Combo" cook, food can be done in half the time.

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 noted as 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 time-cook food at a touch of a button, usually on maximum (high or 100%). Typically express cook functions are within the number keypad (1-5). To operate this function, press a number and then press start for the corresponding time. This means if you press 1 then start, or just 1 depending on the microwave, you will have a 1 minute cooking duration.

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.