How to Choose the Best Microwave For Your Kitchen

Thanks to their speed and ease of use, microwaves are must-have appliances. But with advancing technology, buying a microwave isn’t as simple as it once was. If you’re in the market for a microwave but need some help choosing the best microwave for your kitchen, we’re here to guide you. We’ll cover all the different types of microwaves available, including microwave installation types, microwave capacities, and microwave features.

Best Microwave Installation Types

Microwaves come in four main designs that are based on the type of installation they require: counter top, over-the-range, built-in, and drawer. With four popular designs to choose from, it’s easy to find an installation type that suits your kitchen. 

Countertenor: These standard microwaves are the go-to if you don’t have the space or desire to install one in your kitchen. All you need to do is place it on a counter top and plug it in! A counter top microwave’s freestanding nature allows you to position it wherever there’s ample space and a nearby electrical outlet. You can easily store a counter top microwave in the pantry or a cabinet when not in use. The only downside to this type of microwave is the loss of counter space, but if you have some to spare, it’s the perfect choice.

Over-the-Range: Over-the-range microwaves are designed to be installed just above your kitchen range. These microwaves have a bonus feature – they double as range hoods! A fan and ventilation system are located on the underside of these types of microwaves to eliminate smoke and odors from whatever you’re cooking below. Some models of over-the-range microwaves come with temperature sensors or task lighting to illuminate the cook space. An over-the-range microwave is the best microwave for you if you’re also interested in equipping your kitchen with a range hood.

Built-In: Built-in microwaves are designed to be installed in a cabinet space. The built-in style seamlessly incorporates a microwave into the design of any kitchen. Though they do require professional installation and may be a bit more expensive than other microwave types, built-in microwaves don’t take up any counter space and can really enhance the functional beauty of your kitchen.

Drawer: Sleek, modern, and loaded with user-friendly features, drawer microwaves are on the cutting edge of microwave technology. Instead of swinging open, these types of microwaves slide open like drawers. Typically installed under counter tops and closer to the floor, drawer microwaves are an accessible option for shorter people and wheelchair users.

Best Microwave Sizes & Interior Capacities

When searching for the right microwave, size is another key factor. Consider the type of installation you prefer, the size of your space, and what you plan on cooking to help determine the best size.


While most microwaves are 29″–30″wide, 15″–16″ deep, and 16″–18″ tall, it’s important to measure your space first.

Counter top models can take up quite a bit of space, so make sure to measure the length and width of your counter top as well as the height from the top of the counter to the bottom of the cabinet. For over-the-range styles, the distance from the floor to the bottom of the microwave should be no higher than 54″ to ensure safety and provide easy access. This height leaves 18″ of space between the microwave and the cook top so that you have adequate room to cook.

Many local building codes require a clearance of 30″ between the top of a cook top and the bottom of a combustible surface, such as a cabinet or shelves. However, most codes specify that over-the-range microwaves are allowed to have a smaller clearance. Just make sure to follow your manufacturer’s instructions when you install!


When shopping for a microwave, it’s best to choose the capacity size that suits your needs – whether you need a tiny microwave to fit in a compact kitchen, or a spacious one to feed a whole family. 

Compact/Small: The smallest microwaves (compact microwaves) have capacities under 1 cu. ft. and are perfect for small spaces. They can handle most single-serving tasks and won’t take up as much space on your counter top. Small microwaves are a great option for compact kitchens, apartments, or dorm rooms.

Midsize: With a capacity of 1–1.5 cu. ft., midsize microwaves can fit most items, such as dinner plates, without taking up too much counter space. This makes them a great option for most standard-size kitchens

Full-Size: Microwaves with a capacity of 1.6–2 cu. ft. are spacious enough to fit larger items like casserole dishes. If you have a busy household, a full-size microwave has enough room to handle plenty of reheating.

Extra-Large: Extra-large microwaves that measure more than 2 cu. ft. are best for reheating or defrosting oversized items like large cuts of meat or baking dishes. This size is well-suited for larger families or households that microwave meals frequently.

Power & Venting

Power and venting are two more considerations that can help you choose the right microwave for your home.

Power Wattage

A microwave’s electrical power capacity is measured in watts (W). To determine the right power wattage in your microwave, think about your heating priorities: Microwaves with lower wattage emit less power than those with higher wattage. They’re also more cost-effective and can help you cut down on your electrical power consumption. Small kitchen? Smaller microwaves tend to have lower wattage. Microwaves with higher wattage can heat food quicker and more thoroughly. Despite being a bit more expensive, microwaves with higher wattage have more cooking capabilities than microwaves with lower wattage, so they’re the best choice for reheating larger quantities at once.

Ventilation Type

Microwaves require extra space for ventilation. Proper ventilation helps the microwave expel hot air and operate efficiently. Ventilation can vary depending on the type of microwave, so it’s important to check which type of ventilation each microwave needs.

Counter top models feature vents on each side of the appliance, so you should leave at least 3″ on each side of the microwave. Built-in microwaves have vents on the back and are installed in cabinets designed to house microwaves. Drawer microwaves are designed to be self-contained units with built-in ventilation and don’t require any additional ventilation systems. 

Over-the-range microwaves serve as the hood vent above a stove top and have two venting options: external or recirculating. External vents require a duct that vents the air outside, while a recirculating vent passes the air through a filter before blowing the air back into the kitchen. If you don’t have access to an exterior wall from your kitchen, we recommend choosing a microwave with recirculating venting.