Whether for reheating, cooking, or thawing food, a microwave can become an essential kitchen appliance. Unlike microwaves that sit on a countertop, built-in microwaves are designed to be mounted onto a wall or surrounded by cabinetry. These sleek microwaves blend in seamlessly with their surroundings without taking up any counter space.
Built-in microwaves can be powerful and can quickly and evenly reheat and cook food. Among the considerations are having the range of cooking settings you plan to use and being the right size and aesthetic to suit your kitchen.
Read on to learn more about important features to consider when shopping for the best built-in microwave, and find out why these models are some of the best on the market.
- BEST OVERALL: KitchenAid 1.4 cu. ft. Built-In Microwave
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Panasonic Built-In Microwave Oven
- UPGRADE PICK: Panasonic Home Chef 4-in-1 Microwave Oven
- BEST SMALL: RecPro RV Stainless-Steel Microwave
- BEST LARGE: Frigidaire Gallery 2.2 cu. ft. Built-In Microwave
- BEST CONVECTION: KitchenAid 1.4 cu. ft. Built-In Convection Microwave
- ALSO CONSIDER: Panasonic Microwave Oven with Cyclonic Wave
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Built-In Microwave
Unlike countertop microwaves, built-in microwaves need to be the right fit for a kitchen. Among the many features to consider, the most important may be the installation space, cooking needs, microwave design, cooking settings, and size specifications when choosing the best built-in microwave for a kitchen.
There are a few different types of microwaves to consider: conventional, convection, and oven-microwave combos.
- Conventional microwaves are the most common type of microwave. They work by heating up the water molecules in food via electromagnetic radiation. They are ideal for reheating, cooking, and thawing food, but these microwaves cannot brown or bake recipes.
- Convection microwaves have a convection feature that operates similarly to an oven. Beyond the typical microwave settings like simple reheating and cooking, these microwaves can roast, bake, brown, and crisp foods. Their convection feature has a heating element and a fan to circulate hot air. This operation works similarly to an oven to brown, crisp, and bake instead of only heating up the water molecules in food.
- Oven-microwave combos combine a standard-size oven and microwave into one handy appliance, often with the microwave stacked on top of the oven. This allows for a uniform look and the full functionality of the two separate appliances.
A higher wattage typically means higher cooking power, as well as faster and more even heating. A microwave that has more than 800 watts is usually adequate heating power for most needs. Lower-wattage microwaves tend to be slower and may not heat evenly. If it has more than 1,000 watts, it is more powerful and has faster cooking times. However, higher wattage can come with a higher price tag, but these models usually have a higher wattage, too. Some run at around 1,200 watts for consistent and even cooking and heating.
Depending on their wattage and power consumption, some built-in microwaves require their own dedicated circuit. Sharing the same circuit as another major kitchen appliance can affect performance. Consult the user guide or a professional installer to check if this is the case with a chosen model.
Size and Capacity
A microwave size refers to the entire dimension of the unit, while the capacity describes the interior cooking space. Ensuring the right size is very important when choosing a built-in microwave. It needs to fit into the cabinet space with enough ventilation space for safe operation.
Many built-in microwaves come in 24-, 27-, or 30-inch widths to align with standard cabinet widths. Depth and height can vary, with many ranging from 17 to 22 inches in height and 20 to 25 inches in depth.
Microwave capacity can range from 0.5 cubic feet to 2 cubic feet, with some extra-large microwaves more than 2 cubic feet. The right size for a kitchen depends on the available space and intended use. For heating occasional leftovers, a smaller capacity might be plenty. For cooking casseroles or larger recipes, a larger capacity may be ideal.
Microwave size can vary widely depending on the capacity. The first step to finding the ideal built-in microwave is to measure the intended space. Make sure to take ventilation space into account when measuring. The required ventilation space will depend on the microwave model. Check the user guide for recommended cabinet dimensions to ensure the microwave will safely fit in a space.
Built-in microwaves serve many of the same functions as countertop microwaves: reheat, cook, bake, broil, roast, crisp, or thaw food. They can include a range of settings to make them easier to use.
While all microwaves will have manual timed cook settings, most also have a range of convenient shortcut buttons. These settings can prepare popcorn, potatoes, frozen dinners, and more at the touch of a button.
Smart microwaves can connect to Wi-Fi, allowing control from apps and smart-home voice devices. These microwaves can fit in nicely with an existing smart kitchen or smart-home system.
Built-in microwaves can include a variety of settings and control options. All built-in microwaves will have manual timed cook controls so the cooking time can be set. They also can have a range of preprogrammed settings and shortcut buttons, which will vary from model to model.
Common controls include automatic settings and preprogrammed buttons. Automatic defrost settings allow users to set food type and weight, and the microwave can automatically set the ideal settings. Preprogrammed shortcuts can include settings for cooking popcorn or heating pizza. These programs often use sensors to help heat or cook food. Sensor cooking settings assess the moisture level in food to adjust cooking power and time.
Smart microwaves enable users to control cooking settings and turn on the microwave through a smart device or voice commands, a convenient feature for those with smart-home systems.
It may be important to find a built-in microwave that provides a sleek and seamless aesthetic. Built-in microwaves are designed to blend right in with the kitchen cabinets or walls. They can be placed in the upper cabinets, lower cabinets, or in a drawer configuration.
The ideal pick for many may sit flush with kitchen surfaces so it doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb. Besides freeing up counter space, a built-in microwave doesn’t look clunky or contribute to cluttered kitchen surfaces.
For a cohesive look, consider a built-in microwave that matches the kitchen aesthetic. For example, if your kitchen is filled with stainless steel appliances, a stainless steel microwave will be a fitting pick. Most built-in microwaves come in neutral colors, like gray, black, and white. For a more high-end look, some models feature a drop-down door.
Some microwaves combine the functions of other kitchen appliances. For example, convection microwaves can operate like an oven to roast and bake foods. Microwaves also can include broiler and air fryer features to crisp and fry certain foods.
These microwaves can include extra trays to take advantage of these features, like grill racks and air-fryer baskets. Tiered racks allow heating of multiple plates at once.
For homes with children, a child lock is an additional safety feature to consider. A child lock prevents accidental use by locking the control keypad unless a code is entered.
Unlike countertop models, a built-in microwave requires installation. Depending on the model, some options require professional installation. Before buying a built-in microwave, it’s best to check the user guide to ensure you have a suitable outlet. Some models require the outlet to be in a certain location in relation to the microwave, like in the top right or left corner. In these cases, the ideal outlet area can be found in the microwave’s installation guide.
To ensure the microwave is safe, it needs to be properly bracketed into the wall or cupboard. When installing, it is important to ensure that the microwave has adequate ventilation space. Built-in microwave trim kits allow for a more seamless look, covering any gaps while also allowing ventilation. Once installed, the microwave location is permanent and will need to be uninstalled to be moved or repaired.
Some countertop microwaves can convert to built-in microwaves. Check the manufacturer’s directions on safe conversion for suitable placement and ventilation requirements. These options can be easier to install, and they usually just need a built-in microwave trim kit and an outlet.
Our Top Picks
A built-in microwave brings all the convenience of a microwave into the kitchen without sacrificing valuable counter space. Beyond fitting into a kitchen, the best built-in microwaves are powerful and provide the functions needed for quick and even heating. With the above considerations in mind, the following are some of the best built-in microwaves for a kitchen.
This high-powered 1,000-watt microwave from KitchenAid quickly and thoroughly heats, cooks, and thaws food. The midsize 1.4-cubic-foot capacity includes a 15.75-inch turntable inside, large enough to fit most microwaveable dishes.
The front of the microwave features a stylish satin cross-hatched handle and digital display with touch-screen controls. A range of convenient sensor-cooking settings make it easy to use, including baked potato, popcorn, and meal reheat shortcut buttons. The Keep Warm setting can keep heated food warm for up to an hour.
With a sleek stainless steel finish and a drop-down door, this microwave blends right in to modern kitchens. It includes a 27-inch and 30-inch trim kit to ensure a seamless look.
With a 1.6-cubic-foot capacity, this medium-size microwave from Panasonic is an affordable pick for the family. The high-powered microwave runs at 1,250 watts for quick heating and shorter cook times. It features Panasonic’s patented Inverter Technology, which creates a stream of microwave power for consistent and even heating.
Along with popcorn, turbo defrost, and keep warm settings, this microwave features smart cooking settings using the Genius Sensor. The sensor Reheating and Cook settings automatically adjust the power and cook time by measuring the amount of steam inside.
This affordable and versatile microwave is both countertop and built-in compatible. The stainless steel body makes it a stylish pick for both applications. For built-in use, pair it with a trim kit for installation in a 27-inch cabinet opening that’s sold separately.
The Panasonic Home Chef 4-in1 Microwave is more than just a microwave. This versatile appliance combines a microwave, broiler, air fryer, and convection oven in one compact unit. It can bake, roast, broil, reheat, air-fry, and more to create a variety of tasty recipes. Beyond reheating leftovers, this microwave can bake cookies, roast chicken, and air-fry crispy french fries. To take advantage of all these features, this microwave has a 1.2-cubic-foot capacity and comes with a 14.2-inch turntable that fits an included enamel tray and air-fryer basket.
When used as a microwave, it features Panasonic’s Inverter Technology and Genius Sensor to automatically adjust settings to evenly reheat food. The 1,000-watt microwave can be installed as a countertop or built-in unit with an optional trim kit that’s sold separately.
Very small kitchens can have limited cabinet and counter space. For those who don’t want to sacrifice either, consider the compact built-in microwave from RecPro. This 1-cubic-foot capacity microwave was originally created for RVs. It fits a range of features in a compact design, including eight express cook options, 10 power levels, time and weight defrost settings, and a child safety lock.
Even though it’s small with a 900-watt power output, it offers quick cooking. The 10.5-inch- diameter turntable can fit most standard dinner plates. With a stainless steel build and included stainless steel trim, this small microwave fits seamlessly into home kitchens.
With an extra-large 2.2-cubic-foot capacity, this microwave from Frigidaire has ample space for cooking and reheating. The wide 16.5-inch-diameter turntable can hold large plates or several bowls.
This 1,200-watt microwave has more than 30 setting options and a variety of quick one-touch shortcuts, including options to cook baked potatoes, popcorn, or vegetables. Its sensor cooking options automatically adjust the power level and cooking times to cook a variety of items. The smudge-proof black stainless steel finish is an elevated take on classic stainless steel, bringing practicality and style to this roomy microwave.
This convection microwave from KitchenAid combines the convenience of a microwave with the functionality of an oven. The convection cooking setting can reach baking temperatures of 450 degrees Fahrenheit to bake, grill, crisp, broil, and roast food. The convection and grill features operate with a 1,600-watt convection element. To help create a variety of recipes, this microwave comes with a convection rack, crisper pan, baking tray, and steamer vessel.
The microwave features a 1.4-cubic-foot capacity and 900 watts of microwaving power. A variety of shortcuts, including popcorn, soften/melt, and crisp features, make this microwave a versatile choice. The clean stainless steel finish and a drop-down door give this multiuse microwave a modern look.
With 1,250-watts of cooking power, a large 2.2-cubic-foot capacity, 16.5-inch turntable, and 20 auto-cook options, this convenient microwave may be ideal for frequent users. Convenient one-touch buttons include popcorn, coffee/milk, turbo defrost, sensor cook, and keep-warm settings. The intelligent sensor cook and reheat setting automatically sets power levels and cooking time to take the guesswork out of microwaving.
This microwave from Panasonic features Cyclonic Wave technology, which evenly cooks food throughout and eliminates cold and hot spots. Designed for both countertop and built-in applications, this microwave has a polished stainless steel build.
FAQs About Built-In Microwaves
Unlike countertop models, built-in microwaves sleekly fit into a kitchen and save counter space, while offering all the convenient settings of countertop units. If you are still unsure about the best built-in microwave for your kitchen, the following answers to some popular questions may help.
Q. Are built-in microwaves safe?
Yes, with adequate ventilation and proper installation, built-in microwaves are safe. Consider professional installation to ensure the microwave meets all safety requirements.
Q. Do built-in microwaves need ventilation?
Yes, it is important to make sure the microwave has enough ventilation space. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations to ensure adequate ventilation.
Q. How long do built-in microwaves last?
Microwaves typically last around 10 years in most kitchens. Clean the microwave frequently and close the door gently to keep it in good shape.