microwave buying guide

Are you looking for the ideal microwave for your kitchen? Have you already started your search? You may be wondering what to look for in a microwave, what types of microwaves are available, or what the average microwave wattage is. Maybe you’d like some microwave placement ideas or to understand the best place for a microwave in kitchen setups. 


Read this microwave buying guide to answer all your microwave questions and narrow down your choices.


In this article, we’ll cover:


Types of Microwaves

There are 3 main types of microwaves that you can place in your kitchen. Which one works for you depends on the configuration of your current kitchen, available space and personal preference. If you’re undergoing a remodel, this is a perfect time to learn more about your options and get a microwave that fits best for you, your kitchen, and your family.


Over-the-Range Microwaves

Over the range microwaves

As the name implies, over-the-range microwaves are microwaves that fit over your cooktop range. They work well in kitchens where you want to maximize space and keep a close eye on cook times for multiple items so you can ensure every part of the meal finishes simultaneously. The size of these microwaves is limited to align with the size of the rangetop.


Countertop Microwaves

Countertop Microwaves

Countertop microwaves offer the most flexibility in size and location. While the name implies that it has to sit on a countertop, in reality, countertop microwaves can be placed anywhere near a power source. Many people choose to expand the footprint of their kitchen by placing a countertop microwave on a freestanding cart. You’re not limited by available space unless you need it to fit a particular spot.


Built-in/Drawer Microwaves

Built-in Microwaves

If you’re looking to create a compelling, clean aesthetic in your kitchen, you may want to consider choosing a built-in/drawer microwave that blends into your overall kitchen look. Built-in microwaves typically fit into an upper cabinet space, while drawer microwaves fit under the counter. Both save precious and valuable countertop space.

Microwave Sizes/Dimensions

There is no standard microwave size. Microwave measurements vary by type. For instance, built-in microwaves are built to fit standard cabinet sizes, whereas countertop microwaves have greater flexibility but include smaller sizes to accommodate compact spaces. 

Review the microwave sizes guide and microwave size chart below to help answer the question, "what size microwave do I need?"

Over the Range Microwave Sizes

Over-the-range microwave sizes align with the standard Ranges it will be installed on top of.

  • Capacity: The capacity for over-the-range microwaves runs from 0.8 - 2.1 cubic feet.
  • Width: The standard over-the-range microwave width is 30 inches, although you may be able to find a less common compact microwave at 24 inches.
  • Height: 17 inches is the standard over-the-range microwave height; less common low-profile microwaves are 10 inches high.
  • Depth: “Closed-door” depth varies from 15 - 18 inches, while the “open-door” depth runs 42 - 45 inches.

Countertop Microwave Sizes

Countertop microwave sizes fall into two main categories: compact or small and standard or large dimensions.

 

  • Capacity: The smallest microwave offers 0.5 cubic feet of interior space, while the largest measures at 2.2 cubic feet.
  • Width: Countertop microwave width varies  from 15 - 25 inches.
  • Height: The standard height for countertop microwaves is between 10 - 15 inches.
  • Depth: “Closed-door” depth varies from 12 - 20 inches, while the “open-door depth” runs from 23 - 39 inches.

Built-in/Drawer Microwave Sizes

Built-in/drawer microwave dimensions align with the standard sizes of kitchen cabinets.

  • Capacity: The standard capacity for built-in/drawer microwaves varies from 1.0 - 2.2 cubic feet.
  • Width: The width for built-in/drawer microwaves aligns with standard cabinet widths and is usually available at 24, 27, and 30 inches.
  • Height: Most built-in / drawer microwaves vary from 17 - 22 inches high.
  • Depth: The “closed-depth”  size for built-in/drawer microwaves is 20 - 25 inches, while the “open-depth” runs from 30 - 35 inches.

Microwave Size Chart


Microwave Type

Capacity, cu. ft.

Width, in.

Height, in.

Depth, in. (closed)

Over-the-range

0.8 - 2.1

24, 30

10, 17

15 - 18

Countertop

0.5 - 2.2

15 - 25

10 - 15

12 - 20

Built-in

1.0 - 2.2

24, 27, 30

17 - 22

20 - 25



How to Measure a Microwave

How do you measure a microwave? Measuring your space for a microwave is a different endeavour depending on the type of microwave you’re planning to use in your kitchen. You must carefully measure your available space, especially with over-the-range and built-in/drawer microwave units.

Steps to Measure an Over-the-Range Microwave


  1. Measure the height: Use a measuring tape or app to measure the vertical length above your rangetop. Then subtract 30 inches. You will need at least 30 inches for safety and ventilation above your existing cooktop.
  2. Measure the width: Measure the horizontal length across your rangetop or between the cabinets above.
  3. Measure the depth: Measure the horizontal length from the front to the back of your rangetop.

Use these measurements to shop for your over-the-range microwave

Steps to Measure a Countertop Microwave


  1. Measure the height: Use a measuring tape or app to measure its vertical length on the outside edge.
  2. Measure the width: Measure the horizontal length across the front face.
  3. Measure the depth: Measure the horizontal distance from the front to the back by measuring across one side.

Compare these measurements to the space where you’d like to put your countertop microwave.

Steps to Measure a Built-in / Drawer Microwave


  1. Measure the height: Use a measuring tape or app to measure the internal vertical length of your available cabinet space.
  2. Measure the width: Measure the internal horizontal length across the front of your cabinet space.
  3. Measure the depth: Measure the internal horizontal length from the front to the back of your cabinet space.

Your cabinet should fit snugly but not be forced into the cabinet. Remember to leave room for the power outlet in your depth calculation.

Microwave Wattage

The cooking power of your microwave is measured in watts. Your average microwave wattage will determine how fast food items will heat. Microwaves typically range from 600 - 1200 watts. The price of a microwave typically increases with the wattage. Most microwave food prep instructions are based on specific wattage. Lower wattage microwaves cook slower; while higher wattage microwaves will cook faster.

600 - 800 Watts

The least expensive microwaves on the market typically run between 600 - 800 watts. With this power, you can reheat beverages, cook frozen meals, and heat small foods in a reasonable period.

800 - 1,000 Watts

Microwaves in the 800 - 1000 watt range deliver reasonably quick results. Expect to boil water, cook raw foods thoroughly quickly, and make fresh popcorn in a couple of minutes.

1,000 - 1,200 Watts

These microwave ovens in the 1000 - 1200 watt range cook the quickest and offer the greatest breadth of cooking techniques and power. You can boil water in about 3 minutes in a 600-watt microwave, but in half the time in a 1200-watt microwave.

Microwave Features

So far, we’ve covered microwave types, microwave sizes, and microwave wattage. But the choices don’t end there. You also want to consider some of the most popular microwave features. As you review this list, think about your must-haves vs. like-to-haves, especially if budget is a concern – this will help you finalize your microwave choice.

  • Turntables, trays, and racks: These internal items allow you to warm up multiple items and heat them more evenly (turntables).
  • Smart technology: Connected devices allow you to monitor your microwave remotely to better multitask in the kitchen.
  • Sensors: These settings are optimized for specific foods, adjusting power to prevent overcooking.
  • Convenience control: Like sensors, these shortcut keys create one-touch usage for everyday items like popcorn, pizza, and hot beverages
  • Convection: A fan circulates hot air around your dish to help cook more evenly.
  • Energy efficiency: While there is currently no Energy Star microwave, you can still seek out an energy efficient microwave.

Which are the Best Microwave Brands?

Which microwave oven is best? If you're north of the border, you may even wonder what is the best microwave to buy in Canada. The choice often comes down to personal preferences based on style or need. 

For some, it's about choosing the brand that best fits the look and feel of the other appliances in the kitchen. Others are drawn to a particular cool design or a brand-specific feature. If you have a specific size/wattage requirement, you may find that one brand offers you the perfect choice.

The following brands consistently rank high as customer favourites and are worth checking out as options for your next microwave:

  • LG
  • Bosch
  • Frigidaire
  • Wolf 

  • LG - 2.2 cu. Ft Over the Range Microwave in Matte Black - LMV2257BM

    Features that everyone in the kitchen will love make this over-the-range option a prime choice. Favourite value points include slide-out extendavent for optimal ventilation, an EASYCLEAN interior that’s both stain and odour resistant, and a huge-capacity interior. 


    • Largest capacity at 2.2 cu. ft. 
    • Sensor cooking technology that monitors humidity levels and automatically alters cook time
    • No-chemical, no-scrub cleaning – simply wipe interior with a damp, soft cloth

    Bosch - 1.2 cu. Ft Built-In Microwave in Stainless - HMD8451UC 

    Bosch is known for its convenience and performance, and this microwave lives up to the hype. Convenient drawer functionality makes this microwave a true part of the kitchen and offers a clean, seamless look. Auto open and close with just the push of one button, and automatic sensor programs cook food perfectly, every time you use it. 


    • White touch control LDC panel
    • Can be installed flush with cabinets for a flawless look
    • Sensor programs for optimal results

    Frigidaire - 1.7 cu. Ft Over the Range Microwave in Stainless - FFMV1846VS

    Frigidaire is known throughout the appliance world for durability and convenience. This over-the-range microwave makes meal prep fun and easy. LED interior lights give you a clear view of the food you’re preparing. 


    • One-touch buttons let you cook everything from popcorn to potatoes in one quick tap
    • Oversized glass turntable holds the largest bowls and casserole dishes
    • Zero-clearance door, opens to a full 90-degree angle, so you can fit this microwave anywhere

     

    Wolf - 1.2 cu. Ft Built-In Microwave in Stainless - MD24TE/S 

    For the most finicky of chefs – the Wolf microwave outperforms and over delivers, every meal, every reheat. The most gourmet appliance in your kitchen, you may just head to this microwave before you do your range. With the ability to detect moisture levels and auto-adjust time and temperature, you’ll love this microwave. 


    • Quick-start options to defrost, melt, and soften
    • Keep-warm mode takes appliance from microwave to warming drawer for up to 90-minutes
    • Gourmet mode monitors humidity and moisture levels

    Microwave FAQs

    Where should I put my microwave?

    Where you put your microwave ultimately depends on what best suits your needs. There are three primary considerations for where to put your microwave. First, it needs to be near a power plug. Secondly, a microwave oven should be easily accessible, especially if you and your family use it regularly. Third, your microwave oven needs to have enough space for the door to open fully.

    Which microwave is best for me?

    The best microwave for you is the one that best suits your needs and appeals to you aesthetically. Some people use their microwaves daily for heating small portions, defrosting leftovers, or cooking frozen meals; others warm up larger family servings. The best way to choose a microwave is to prioritize your needs.

    How does a microwave work?

    If you've ever wondered, "what is a microwave oven," you're not alone. Microwaves are kitchen appliances that cook food by generating friction between the molecules of your food – that increased friction results in heat, which warms up food items quickly.

    How long should a microwave last?

    Microwaves typically last approximately seven years with everyday use.

    What are the signs that a microwave is going bad?

    There are a few subtle and not-so-subtle signs your microwave is going bad. If food isn’t cooking correctly, the microwave makes loud noises, or the door doesn’t seal properly, it’s likely going bad. If it smokes, sparks, or burns, it’s time for a microwave replacement.

    The information on this article is not a promise of service. While we present the most accurate information we can, customers must check each brand and model for the manufacturers' information. Each model has their individual care and maintenance guidelines, normal expected use and lifespan with proper maintenance and care. Customers are responsible for checking information for their appliance, the user manual, manufacturer guidelines as well as using professional services.