- 1 Countertop Microwave vs. Built-In Microwave
- 2 Can You Put a Countertop Microwave in a Cabinet?
- 3 How to Buy the Best Built-in Microwave Oven
- 4 Reviews of the Best Built-in Microwave Ovens 2020
- 5 Top-Rated Built-In Microwave Ovens Comparison Chart
- 6 Conclusion
A good built-in microwave oven can make life easier for you. It allows you to prepare food without having to babysit— you can set it, get on with something else, and come back when it pings to enjoy hot, evenly cooked food. Whatever your cooking needs are, the built-in microwave you invest in should offer the right combination of value, build quality, ease of use, and cooking performance.
Not all built-in microwaves are made the same. While some are formulated with enough functions to handle their most basic cooking task— reheating leftovers, others come with more advanced features that make them into a dual function cooker, such as the convection function. Other variables might include food capacity, motor power, the number of pre-programmable cooking modes, and length of warranty. With a lot of different factors to consider, it can be easy to get overwhelmed.
Let our tips and top choices help you choose the best built-in microwave!
Countertop Microwave vs. Built-In Microwave
Microwaves are a great asset in any kitchen, and you have a choice of whether to get a countertop microwave or a built-in microwave. While both types serve the same purpose— quickly and evenly heating food— they’re situated differently.
Countertop microwaves are less expensive but they need a space in the kitchen where they can sit, which may not always be available. People may prefer using a countertop microwave because of its portability. It’s quite easy to relocate a countertop microwave whenever you decide to remodel your kitchen. Depending on the model, your countertop oven can be placed anywhere, from a kitchen island to a shelf or drawer.
Built-in microwaves, on the other hand, are designed to fit into a cabinet or wall. A built-in microwave will sit flush with the cabinets around it, giving a more streamlined appearance in your kitchen. This look can also give the impression of a more high-end finish. Having your oven built-in frees up precious counter space, leaving ample room for other appliances and food preparation. Because your built-in microwave will be installed in a permanent position, it may not be an ideal choice if you move or remodel frequently.
While countertop microwaves have no installation costs (they only need a home on the counter and an electrical outlet to operate), the total cost and installation of a standard built-in microwave can be $350 or more. Despite the fact that the process of installing a microwave is relatively simple, things could potentially go wrong, in which case both the microwave and your kitchen could be damaged. To ensure the installation procedure is done properly, it’s highly advised you hire a certified handyman or electrician.
Can You Put a Countertop Microwave in a Cabinet?
While there are many countertop microwaves available, only select models can be installed in a cabinet; the ones that are compatible have trim kits of 27-inches or 30-inches wide.
Microwave trim kits are formulated to help the unit fit well into its space. This add-on can be included with the oven or purchased as an optional accessory. If you buy a trim kit separately, make sure you choose the one that matches the opening in your cabinet, provides adequate clearance for proper air flow, and doesn’t interfere with cabinet doors.
How to Buy the Best Built-in Microwave Oven
When it comes to buying a new built-in microwave, we believe the first step to success is ensuring you choose a model that perfectly fits your cabinet. Apart from paying close attention to the size, it’s also important to make sure that the microwave matches both your kitchen decor and intended use. As such, you’ll want to consider the design, power, capacity, and feature set of each unit.
Size and Installation
First and foremost, you should determine your physical cabinet dimensions so that you can figure out what size model is best for you. To measure your cabinet, you’ll need nothing more than a measuring tape, a pen, and a piece of paper to note down the height (from top to bottom), width (along the front), and depth (from front to back) of your cabinet. For the most accurate number, it’s necessary to make the same measurement more than once.
Any kitchen appliance intended for installation needs to “breathe” to keep itself from collecting odors, moisture, smoke, and overheating. So in addition to ensuring your microwave nicely fits the space, it’s also necessary to provide adequate clearance surrounding the appliance for proper ventilation.
In general, the minimum ventilation opening that should be provided for a built-in microwave is around 3 inches on each side, 3 inches on the top, and 1 inch in the rear. However, the clearance required can vary and is recommended by the manufacturer, so it’s best to check the installation instructions for the best amount for your model.
Once you’ve got the dimensions of your cabinet, as well as the clearance recommended by the manufacturer for appropriate air flow, compare these measurements to the dimensions of your desired microwave oven. Make sure you also take into account how the microwave will be brought into the house and kitchen.
Delivering a relatively large piece like a built-in microwave through small doorways, narrow halls, and curvy stairwells may become a bit more complicated. So when measuring the cabinet opening where the appliance will go, be sure you also record the height and width of all doors and entryways to be sure that the microwave will fit through.
Some microwave ovens have cords that are a few inches too short to reach the nearby electrical outlet. It’s not recommended you use extension cords with appliances, so it’s best to double check that your microwave’s cord is long enough to accommodate the reach and accessibility requirement. That’s great if you’re lucky enough to find a microwave with appropriate cord length. Otherwise, if you were really set on that spot, you might have to install a new power outlet in a location that would allow even the short cord to be easily maneuverable. This would add time and more expense to the installation.
Type of Built-in Microwave
There are three types of built-in microwaves, including conventional, convection, and combination oven.
1. Conventional Built-in Microwave
Conventional built-in microwaves come in handy for reheating leftovers, defrosting frozen meats, and heating up coffee or tea. These models are the least expensive of the bunch with the fewest features, but they are equipped with enough functions to help you quickly get the best possible results.
Even with the most basic models, you will have a timed cook function, which lets you set the cooking time. You will also have a set of pre-programmed cooking modes for common dishes, such as pizza, popcorn, and cake. With these add-ons, you don’t need to constantly guess the cooking time for the proper outcomes.
2. Convection Built-in Microwave
Convection built-in microwaves are the combination of both standard microwaves and convection ovens. Exceptionally powerful and versatile, they’re able to cook almost everything in a variety of ways, from baking to roasting and grilling. If you’re a fan of homemade cookies or crave a barbecue-grill-smoky flavor but don’t have a gas or charcoal grill, convection microwaves are a great solution.
Typically, convection microwaves work better than their conventional counterparts. They have a fan with a heating element around it to circulate air around the oven cavity. This allows the heat to be more evenly distributed around the food, thus promoting faster cooking time and less energy use.
3. Oven-Microwave Combo
A combination oven is a primary oven with either a standard or convection microwave on top. These models are a good choice for people who are serious about baking or who appreciate the practicality of a large capacity oven, and the convenience of a high-spec microwave. Providing the users with two different cooking zones, this model allows you to quickly prepare multi-course meals at the same time.
A good oven-microwave combo tends to be very expensive, ranging from as low as $900 up to several thousand dollars. This range usually depends on the unit’s size, capacity, and feature set.
Keep in mind that a combination oven will take up more space than a seperate oven or microwave, so it wouldn’t be an ideal choice for those with limited cabinet space. If you intend to install your combination oven into your kitchen’s cabinet, models with 35-inch in height should be the most suitable. With an oven that is designed to be built-under the kitchen’s work surface, its height should reach around 28-inch. Think about the space you have available in your home.
We’ve talked about external size, now let’s look at internal. As a matter of fact, the capacity of a built-in microwave isn’t determined by its size or cost. In other words, a smaller microwave with a lower price tag can have the same (or even more) capacity than a bigger, more expensive one. As such, when it comes to determining your microwave’s capacity, it makes sense to think about how much food you’d like to heat up at any given time. The capacity of your built-in microwave is measured in either liters (L) or cubic feet. The volume of 1.0 cubic foot is approximately 30 liters.
If you’re after something that can comfortably fit most main courses, from a full-size chicken to a 13-by-9-inch casserole dish with handles, models with a capacity ranging from 1.8 to an extra-large 2.2 cubic feet are the best options.
There are also many small microwaves that come with a handy capacity of between 1.1 to 1.8 cubic feet which is roomy enough for a common 12-inch dinner plate or 9-inch square casserole dish with handles.
With a combination model, the smaller upper oven is less than 2.0 cubic feet, and a lower primary oven is usually between 4.5 and 5.0 cubic feet— which is spacious enough to cook a 35-pound turkey.
Features and Functions
Ideally, you should find a microwave featuring an Add 30 seconds button, which allows you to add to the cooking time in 30-second increments for quick “shortcut” cooking.
Another must-have feature of any microwave is the preset cooking cycles (from 1 to 6 minutes). This simplified control enables you to cook food for a certain period of time by choosing the corresponding number (buttons 1 to 6).
For those who have young children, microwaves with a child lock function are worth considering. This safety feature allows you to lock the keypad either when the machine is operating or powered off. By doing this, any cooking cycle chosen cannot be modified under any circumstances, as well as no one being able to operate the oven accidentally.
If you wish to cook two or more different dishes at the same time but cannot afford an oven-microwave combination, high-end models that come with racks can work well.
We particularly like a microwave with automatic sensors which allows your oven to turn off automatically when the food is ready. This helps to minimize the chance of overcooking food.
There are also many other convenient features that should be taken into account, including the mute, auto defrost, and steam cook functions. While most modern models usually include these add-ons, it’s best to check the product’s description to be sure.
It’s important to know that microwaves with lower power ratings usually work slower than the higher-wattage ones. If you buy a 700-watt microwave, it tends to take 25-30% longer to heat food than a 1000-watt model or more.
Reviews of the Best Built-in Microwave Ovens 2020
1. Panasonic NN-SN966S – Best to Buy 2020
The Panasonic NN-SN966S is one of the most excellent countertop microwaves available with the option of being a built-in model. Coming with large capacity, innovative features, and an exceptionally powerful motor, this oven stands out from the rest with its ability to quickly reheat foods and defrost veggies without taking up too much space.
If your counter space is at a premium, we recommend you buy the optional trim kit that allows you to install your microwave into either an existing wall or cabinet. Apart from being a space-saving solution, the trim kit will also make your oven look more substantial and like a permanent feature.
The Panasonic NN-SN966S seems to be the best choice within this price range. Maxing out at about 1200 watts of power, the microwave works well and provides shorter cooking time along with more consistent, even results (when compared with competitors at the same price). It even performs better and has the same great build quality as some microwaves that are double the cost.
The Panasonic NN-SN966S is quite durable. If properly cared for, it should give you many years of cooking enjoyment. Though it comes with a relatively inexpensive price tag, it is packed with many features that are sure to improve your cooking experience. One of the most notable features is the Inverter Technology. This unique function helps to generate a steady stream of power at all temperature settings, which results in consistent, evenly prepared food across a wide range of cooking methods. A more consistent power draw also allows the food to defrost evenly, preventing the risk of food being overdone on the outside and cold on the inside.
With a capacity of 2.2 cubic feet, the Panasonic NN-SN966S has a decent amount of space to accommodate dishes of almost any size. You can use the oven to defrost a small frozen turkey whole (less than 14 pounds) or 4-6 small chicken breasts.
With a selection of 14 auto cook options, this microwave offers an efficient way for you to quickly prepare some common foods like popcorn, pizza, oatmeal, pasta, soup, and more. When food is ready but you don’t want to serve it right away, the keep warm function will keep food at serving temperature for up to 30 minutes after cooking. For many users, this is a very useful feature.
When food is cooking and needs a little extra cooking time, you can add to the time in 30-second increments by pressing an Add 30 Seconds button. This microwave also has the ability to delay the cooking start time by up to 99 minutes, 99 seconds. Thanks to this function, you can set the time that you want the oven to start microwaving, which allows for flexibility when there are other things to be done.
The Child Lock function is a useful feature too. It helps prevent the risk of serious injury to make your kitchen a safe place for you and your family.
The microwave’s door doesn’t have a handle so it can only be opened when you press the button underneath the control panel. However, the door is quite awkward to open, since the release button is a bit hard to press, especially for those who have less strength in their fingers.
2. FRIGIDAIRE FGMO226NUF – Best Built-in Microwave
The Frigidaire FGMO226NUF performs almost identically to our top pick, but it looks better and feels more solid. However, it comes at a pretty high price, costing nearly twice as much as a good standard countertop microwave. That being said, it is definitely worth the investment, given its spacious capacity, high power rating, and consistent performance.
Note: The microwave doesn’t come with the trim kit as shown in a picture. You have to buy this add-on separately instead. The best trim kit to fit this model can be purchased here.
The Frigidaire FGMO226NUF is a pretty basic microwave oven. It comes with less features than the top pick, but what it can do, it does really well, heating and cooking food in a very short period of time. Not only this, compared with the Panasonic NN-SN966S, the microwave has a much more stylish design that would match well with almost any kitchen’s decor.
The Frigidaire FGMO226NUF is a user-friendly microwave oven. The temperature, power level, and cooking time can be easily controlled through the operation buttons on the control panel.
The Frigidaire FGMO226NUF is also an exceptionally powerful microwave with 1200 watts of power. It enables you to switch between nine different temperature settings so you can find the most suitable one for your particular treat.
For optimum heating, the microwave is built with an auto cooking sensor which allows the oven to constantly detect the humidity level of some of the most popular foods (popcorn, potatoes, snacks, and veggies), and then adjust the temperature and cooking time accordingly. Thanks to this possibility, you can efficiently handle a variety of recipes without having to rely on guesswork to find the best setting.
The Frigidaire FGMO226NUF has a capacity of 2.2 cubic feet. This is enough to accommodate a large dinner plate or square casserole with handles. The extra-large capacity also makes it easier for you to prepare large meals or cook a whole chicken, duck, or small to medium-sized turkey.
Like the Panasonic NN-SN966S, this stainless steel microwave oven also comes with a Start/Add 30 seconds button that allows for quick “shortcut” cooking. It also includes a Melt/Soften button, giving you the option to quickly and easily melt butter, cheese, chocolate, ice cream, or marshmallows.
That said, it doesn’t have a Child Lock function. If you have kids and want to protect them from microwave-related injuries, never leave the oven unattended when it’s in use.
We found that the door open button that’s made of plastic is quite poorly constructed. If you press it more on the side than the center, it wiggles a lot. Some users said that they felt like the button was going to break every time they pressed it. Plus, the door shuts very loudly when you close it. To lessen this you can close the door very gently, but it will still make a noise.
3. FRIGIDAIRE FPMO3077TF – Best Convection Microwave Oven
The Frigidaire FPMO3077TF is a perfect option for those who want to get the home-cooked taste of oven-cooked food, or like to bake, roast, and make toast in large batches. This model blends a modern look with built-to-last quality. Compared with the two models above, it has a bigger footprint, stronger motor, and sleeker design. It also costs more, takes up more space and is more difficult to install. However, it is a dependable workhorse that should deliver on its promises for years to come.
Whether you use microwave or convection cooking, this oven heats up faster and is a bit more energy efficient than a conventional model. With the Frigidaire FPMO3077TF, things like making your own deli-style roast beef at home seems to be easier than you ever thought before.
The Frigidaire FPMO3077TF is a versatile appliance. It can play the role of the common microwave oven to quickly reheat leftovers or use the convection technology to deliver the baking, browning, or crisping of food you’d expect from a conventional oven.
This 30-inch microwave comes with a higher rated motor than any other oven on our list. Powering the whole machine is a 1750-watt motor, which allows you to switch between nine power settings. As mentioned, ovens with higher rated motors deliver faster cooking time and consume less energy than ones with a lower wattage.
Except for the convection setting, the Frigidaire FPMO3077TF has no more features than the top pick. Its useful keypad offers many convenient cooking options to let you easily make popcorn, reheat leftovers, melt cheese, and defrost meats or veggies. It also includes a keep warm function to keep your food warm for up to 30 minutes until you are ready to serve.
We’re very impressed by the unique look of the Frigidaire FPMO3077TF. It has a prominent LED display front and center and a convenient drop down door, helping to give your kitchen an even more elegant appearance. Compared with a side opening door, the drop down door makes it easier to insert or remove food. It is also more practical since it won’t swing back on you and isn’t in the way when you’re taking out large, hot dishes.
While its capacity isn’t as large as the top pick, with 1.6 cubic feet, it offers plenty of cooking space for a 4-quart casserole dish or a 20-ounce beverage. It has enough room for you to prepare at least nine bread slices, a 14- to 16-pound turkey, or two sheets of cookies at a time.
As a great bonus, when preparing cookies with this convection oven, your baked goods will be cooked to perfection every time without the need to be rotated halfway through the baking process.
Because this microwave does such a good job of distributing heat evenly around the food, it allows larger dishes or multiple dishes to cook more effectively than its conventional counterparts. For instance, if you use the Panasonic NN-SN966S to cook large multiple dishes, you might find that the dish placed on the top rack blocks heat from fully reaching the dish on the lower racks, causing the temperature inside the oven to not be uniform. As a result, the top dishes will be cooked or burned before the bottom dish is ready.
Be advised that most recipes you get from food blogs are particularly written for cooking in a conventional oven. So if you buy this convection model, you’ll need to make precise adjustments to the temperatures and cooking times so as to turn a conventional-oven recipe into a convection-oven recipe. This seems to require a bit of experimentation at first, with some trial and error to find the right alterations.
The Frigidaire FPMO3077TF doesn’t excel at cooking dishes that require a moist environment, like pudding or flan. Typically, the cooking environment of a convection oven is slightly drier, as a result, your flan is less likely to be as creamy and smooth, with a soft silky texture as one cooked in a regular oven.
4. RecPro – Best Small Built-in Microwave
Compact yet powerful, the RecPro microwave could be a great addition to your RV, camper, fifth-wheel, or other recreational living space. It’s also great to use if you’re living in a tiny house or a cramped apartment. Compared with its small-size counterparts, this built-in microwave is more practical, durable, and energy efficient. It cooks fast and evenly without heating up the entire kitchen— a nice bonus for those living in a hot climate.
The RecPro is equipped with a 900-watt motor. Though it’s not as powerful as most other ovens on our list, it’s still versatile enough to cover all your basic cooking needs, like reheating leftovers, defrosting frozen food, heating beverages, and more. It even excels at making popcorn. While it might be slower than its higher-wattage competitors, it works and ensures the heat necessary for a corn kernel to expand and pop. Depending on the popcorn quality and bag size, it usually takes between 5 and 10 minutes to turn your corn kernels into a fluffy treat.
At 0.9 cubic feet, it can only handle a standard dish, medium family-sized meal, or a small square casserole pan with a handle. That’s a bit less than most other microwaves on this list, but remember it’s built to be more compact.
And because this capacity is quite small, for proper results, it’s best to cook popcorn bag sizes of less than 3 oz. Larger than this recommended size, your kernels will have no room to breathe. As a result, the bag may get stuck while rotating, once they have expanded and begin touching the inner walls.
Like many of today’s microwaves, the RecPro comes with an LED display, a child lock mode, multi-section cooking, and an Add 30 seconds button. All features work well and are significantly useful. While the door doesn’t have a handle, it’s easy to release with the push of a button.
The RecPro is shipped with a 20.6-inch wide by 15-inches high trim kit, removing the need to find and buy this add-on separately. The trim kit is designed to make sure your oven will perfectly blend in with the interior of your RV.
The microwave doesn’t have sensor reheat modes. If you have a tendency to overcook food, this model may not be the best choice for you.
Top-Rated Built-In Microwave Ovens Comparison Chart
|Panasonic NN-SN966S||19.44 x 23.88 x 14.00||1250||2.2||1|
|Frigidaire FGMO226NUF||19.63 x 24.44 x 13.63||1200||2.2||1|
|Frigidaire FPMO3077TF||20.8 x 23 x 19||1750||1.6||1|
|RecPro||14.5 x 19.06 x 11.6||900||0.9||1|
When finding the best built-in microwave oven, one of the most important choices you’ll make during the process is choosing between a conventional or a convection microwave. While conventional microwaves are more practical, inexpensive, and easier to use, convection microwaves heat food up faster and provide you with more even outcomes. The one that is best for you will depend on your available space and what you most often cook. No matter what type of microwave you prefer, or what your budget is, we hope our reviews have been useful for you.