Best Over-the-Range Microwave (Jun.) 2017 – Buyer’s Guide and Review

By Walter J. Farrell | LIVING

We’ve spent 20 hours in research, speaking to users and some product testing as well as closely examining over 30 OTC microwave ovens. Among the products in our shortlist, the Kenmore Elite 80379 stood out in terms of functionality, flexibility and design. We liked its powerful convection feature which allows you to broil, bake and roast. Aside from being a powerful and attractive cooking tool, it’s also a reliable venting hood [read more].

The microwave oven is considered to be a staple kitchen appliance that is extremely useful in cooking different types of meals.

The over-the range microwave oven, also known as an ‘above the range’ or over-the counter (OTC), is one of the most popular type of microwave oven commonly seen in the kitchen. It’s most salient difference with the countertop microwave oven, is that over-the range ovens need to be installed in a cabinet so it’s positioned right above a range.

While it’s apparent that installing over-the range microwave ovens require a great deal of effort, you can however, save some a significant amount of counter space.

Due to the popularity and the huge demand for over-the range microwave ovens, various appliance units from different brands have mushroomed in the market. There’s an overwhelming roster of microwave ovens you can choose from which is why it is very hard to separate the good ones from the litter.

This article will guide you thoroughly in selecting the right microwave oven for your cooking style, budget and other concerns. In this article, you’ll be able to read a buyer’s guide in choosing an over-the-range microwave oven, a series of product reviews on the ten best OTC microwave ovens and a brief discussion on our top picks and why we picked them.

​"What Should I Consider Before Buying?"

Your building or perhaps renovating your own kitchen. The fridge, the stove and the cabinets are all set in place. Plus, you have finally decided that you’re placing an over-the range microwave oven on top of the stove instead of a range hood. All seems set except for one thing: how do you pick the right over-the-range microwave oven that will complete your dream kitchen? This article outlines the features you need to scrutinize in a microwave oven so you can avail yourself the best deal you can make from your hard earned money.

1. Wattage

Wattage simply indicates the power of your microwave oven in cooking food. The higher the wattage is, the faster and more efficient the microwave oven is in cooking food. Ideally, your microwave oven should have a wattage of at least 1000 watts.​

2. Venting/Exhaust Fan Feature

Some over-the range microwaves offer a venting feature which basically means that such microwaves can also function as venting hoods. If you want to clear up the greasy smell in the air as soon as possible, you’d probably want an over-the range microwave that offers a venting feature. A caveat though when it comes to microwaves with venting features is that some of them may not be as powerful as your regular venting hood. You can actually gauge how powerful a microwave’s venting feature is by looking at its CPM. The higher the CPM (cubic feet per minute), the better it is at clearing the air in your kitchen. The ideal CPM rate should not be lower than 250.​

3.​ Size

When deciding the size of the microwave you’re buying, you’d ideally want something that has a large capacity. However, your choices will eventually depend upon your situation. If you have set-up already a spot where you will be installing your microwave, you’ll have to pick a microwave that will fit to the spot you have selected. However, if you have all the freedom in the world to adjust the cabinet space for your microwave, I would suggest that you go for the bigger one. The greater a microwave oven’s capacity is, the more food you can cook in it.​

4. Sensors

This feature comes handy for anyone who does not want an overcooked food. Sensors automatically adjust the cooking time and the temperature based on the humidity produced by your food in the microwave oven. This feature saves you the trouble of guessing the time and the cooking temperature (which you’d more likely guess incorrectly!).

5. Convection

The Convection option ensures that your food is evenly cooked through a fan that spreads heat all over your food. An OTC microwave oven with a convection option simply means that you can bake, broil or roast food using the microwave oven. It’s important to note that only a few OTC microwave ovens have this feature so those that do have the convection features are considerably special. If you’re looking for a versatile and a highly functional over-the range microwave oven, pick one that has this feature.

6. Common Task Buttons

Anyone who has used a microwave oven before knows that the trickiest task in using it is the part where you have to guess the cooking time and temperature setting for the food you’re preparing. Fortunately, most microwave ovens are already designed to spare you from the guesswork. There are task buttons which automatically sets the exact time and temperature needed for cooking popular food items such pizza, popcorn and among others. There are also pre-set cycles for reheating, melting, defrosting and other cooking options. It saves time and it spares you from the agony of choosing arbitrary time and temperature settings.

7. Child Lock

This is an extra option which I think is unnecessary. The child lock ensures that your children can’t open the oven using a password. It’s a great extra safety precaution but you might not actually need it since over-the range microwave ovens are usually placed in a position that is high enough not to be reached by your children.

8. Design

Lastly, it’s pretty obvious that it should look good. Look for a sophisticated and stylish design. You may consider picking a color that matches with the color scheme of your entire kitchen. However, make sure that you balance aesthetics with functionality. Remember, looks aren’t exactly everything.

Ultimately, these are the things you basically have to consider in buying an over-the range microwave oven. Depending on your budget, make sure to pick the microwave oven that balances aesthetics and functionality.

To guide you better in choosing the right over-the range microwave oven for your kitchen, here’s a comparison table which summarizes the most important specification of ten of the best over-the range microwave ovens in the appliance market.​

How We Assessed and Evaluated These Over-the-top Microwaves?

We’ve spent hours and days in researching and testing the best over-the range microwave ovens out in the market. Our ranking process began with a thorough research on the available products in the appliance market. We’ve took note of various reviews and comments from actual test users. Based on the initial research we have done, we came up with a shortlist of products.

After our initial research, we’ve reached out to actual users of the over-the-range microwave ovens that are in our shortlist. We personally observed and tested the over-the-range microwave ovens on the homes of the actual test users of the products. We evaluated the products based on their cooking features, venting fan/hood power and other extras.

After  rigorously considering the pros and cons of the individual over-the-range microwave ovens, we then picked the top ten products and our top picks.

1. Sharp R1875T – Reliable Entry Level Convection Microwave Oven

Sharp R1875 is a reliable over-the range microwave ovens out there. Its greatest selling point is its functionality.

This over-the range microwave oven has 25 automatic settings that you can access whenever you defrost, melt or perform any other food preparation.

It also has CompuBroil, CompuRoast and CompuBake options which automatically sets the cooking time and temperature settings for popular dishes. More importantly, the Sharp R1875T functions largely as a convection oven. As explained in the buyer's guide, the convection feature distributes hot air all over the surface which allows your food to be cooked evenly. It's worth noting that convection ovens cook food 25% faster than non-convection ovens.

Size wise, the Sharp R1875’s 1.1 cubic feet capacity is quite small when compared to other OTC microwave ovens. While this over-the range microwave oven presents a strong case when it comes to cooking functionality, there is however, a downside with its external size and weight. Users of the Sharp R1875T often complained about its bulkiness and it excessive weight. Considering the fact that it is heavy, you will need a few extra hands in installing it.

The Sharp R-1875T isn't exactly attractive or at least sophisticated to look at when compared to other over-the range microwave ovens that have a modern and chic design. However, this microwave oven is still notably powerful and ultra-functional this microwave oven is when it comes to cooking tasks.

The great thing about the Samsung ME 16K3000AS is that it works both as a venting hood and a microwave oven.

It has a 300 CFM venting capacity, a rate that's quite lower than standalone venting hoods. However, its 300 CFM venting capacity sits just at the average CFM rate for most over the range microwave ovens.It also works silently so you would not have to worry about any noise while it clears up fumes and obnoxious odors in your kitchen air.

When it comes to its cooking features, it's highly functional but not as good as its high-end competitors. It has several preset settings for cooking beans, boneless chicken and other common meals. When defrosting meat, its auto defrost feature automatically sets the time and the temperature based on the weight of the meat you're defrosting. All is well with this over-the range microwave oven, except for its apparent absence of the convection and sensor cook options that are available with other units. 

 The GE PVM9215SKSS features a dependable venting feature, an above average cooking capacity and a decent cooking power.

This over-the range microwave oven is relatively more spacious than other over-the range microwave ovens in the market.

It claims to have a capacity of 2.1 cubic feet which makes it a good choice for those who are looking for a microwave oven that can be used for cooking large meal sets. If you’re wondering about its dimensions, the GE PVM9215SkSS is about 29 ¾ inches wide, 16 ½ inches tall and 15 ½ inches deep.

Compared to other microwave ovens, this GE unit has decent cooking features but not as plentiful as its other competitors. It has sensor cooking option, which automatically adjust the temperature and time settings based on humidity inside your microwave oven. It also has an auto-defrost feature. However, other than these two pre-set features, you’ll have to do the rest manually. 

When it comes to its venting feature, this over-the range microwave oven has a 400 CFM venting capacity which is enough to vent away smoke, fumes and other unwanted odors in your kitchen. The illuminated cooking surface which allows you to see what you’re cooking through the oven’s window is one interesting extra. It also has a clock so you can directly manage your time in the kitchen.

Overall, this oven is reliable and functional enough, but lacks pre-set features that other oven units are abundant of. 

If you’re wondering why the brand name rings a bell, it’s because it is a company that was founded 99 years ago and it’s the same company that founded the very first refrigerator.

Make no mistake, this oven is not a thing of the past. It's a modern oven. 

 This Frigidaire oven has over 30 preset options you can choose from. There’s a pre-set option for cooking chicken nuggets, popcorn and other food items. It also has nine levels of cooking power and a sensor mode feature which mandates the microwave oven to automatically choose the cooking power and temperature so you don’t end up overcooking or burning your food. Also it has a 1.7 cubic feet cooking capacity which is further optimized by its Spacewise Rack which allows you to cook multiple dishes in one cooking. 

In addition, its venting power is quite decent with a 300 CFM rate. It’s definitely not an exemplary number but insofar as CFM rates of over-the range microwave is concerned, you can’t really expect a very powerful CFM rate that can compete with stand-alone venting hoods.

This LG over-the range microwave oven harmoniously combines convenience and power in cooking.

It’s impressively spacious with a 2.0 cubic feet capacity which can further optimized with a bi-level cooking rack which allows you to cook two dishes in once cooking.

The cooking power also can’t be neglected, given its powerful 10-level cooking capacity. You can also choose from the eight sensor cooking options this oven offers. Like most other ovens, the LG LMV20131ST has a one-button cooking option which allows you to defrost, reheat, melt and cook popcorn in just a single button press. The pre-set buttons are not extravagantly as plentiful as other units (like the 30 present buttons of Frigidaire). Nevertheless, this OTC microwave oven will still be useful even without the excess buttons. 

In addition, this over the range microwave oven also has a charcoal filter venting system that clears up your kitchen air. It has a 400 CFM rate, which is considerably average. The good thing about its venting system as well is that it works silently so you would not have to worry about your microwave oven sounding like a noisy vacuum cleaner.

Other usual added features that this oven has are a clock, a kitchen timer, a completion beeper. Its interior is also built with materials that make it ultra-easy to clean without the necessity of using heavy detergents and cleaning materials to clear up the grease in it.

The Kenmore Elite 80379 offers a generous feature set: premium design, premium cooking power, premium capacity, premium venting hood and the list goes on.

Firstly, and most importantly, I’m very impressed with the cooking power of this over-the-range microwave oven.

It can heat things up to a maximum temperature of about 450 degrees Celsius. This microwave oven has a proprietary Diamond Evenness technology, which allows it to cook food evenly at the shortest amount of time possible. Also, I’m a big fan of microwave ovens that have convection features and this one has it. It can roast, bake and do a lot of other things that you can only do supposedly with an oven. This over-the-range microwave oven has a powerful and versatile cooking capacity.

Lastly, the venting capacity of this microwave oven is also good. It’s great at sucking all the fumes, odor and warmness all over the air in my kitchen, thanks to its 400 CFM venting capacity. As for the other specs, it is also very spacious, offering up to 1.8 cubic feet for cooking. The design is also very chic and sophisticated.

The GE JVM3160RFSS is basically GE PVM9215SKSS’s younger microwave oven brother. Compared to the 2.1 cubic feet capacity of GE JVM’s big bro, this over-the range microwave oven has a capacity of 1.6 cubic feet.

The venting fan of the GE JVM is also slightly weaker (300 CFM) when compared to the GE PVM’s 400 CFM rate. However, apart from those two things, they more or less share the same microwave oven DNA.

This over-the range microwave oven offers basic cooking features which makes cooking easier and more convenient. It includes shortcut buttons for popcorn, beverage, potato, reheat and defrost. It also has an auto defrost option which automatically sets the temperature and the time for defrosting your fresh meat. If you’re in a hurry, the 1- 6 minute express comes very useful, which is basically a feature which expedites the cooking process. Lastly, its surface is also lighted which means that you can witness the progress of whatever it is you’re cooking in your microwave oven.

In terms of its venting fan, I can say that its 300 CFM venting fan is more or less capable of doing the job. There are two options you can choose from when it comes to the way you want it to work. You can choose an outside exhaust which essentially release all exhaust outside your house or you can choose the recirculate option which employs a recirculating charcoal filter kit which comes with the oven.

Built wise, this over-the range microwave oven is durable enough. There’s nothing much to be excited about with this oven but at least its reliable. 

This over-the range microwave oven has a 1.9 cubic feet capacity, which is slightly above average.

It also has several basic pre-set button for cooking common food items such as vegetable, potato, popcorn etc.

It also has a soften/melt, steam and a reheat shortcut button. One interesting feature this oven has is the Crisp function which ensures that your food is cooked as crunchy as possible in the shortest amount of time.

A ferrite crisp plate, where you can place your uncooked pizza or your roasted chicken, comes with this microwave oven. This crisp plate aids in cooking your food up to 250 degrees Celsius which basically what gives your food its crispy texture after cooking. In addition, this microwave oven has a 1000 W wattage. It also has 10 cooking power levels you can choose from.

In terms of its capacity to absorb fumes and odours, its 3-fanned venting system is decently functional. There’s a caveat though when it comes to the product’s completion beep and its kitchen timer. It’s useless to the extent that it’s pretty much non-existent. It’s totally silent so you can’t rely on its beeper telling you that your food is ready. Nevertheless, other than the timer/beeper caveat, the Whirlpool 119165 is a dependable and a durable over the range microwave oven.

This over-the range microwave oven has an impressively sleek and sophisticated silver appearance that would make your kitchen look better.

Size wise, this Farberware microwave oven measures 13.8 inches x 15.2 inches x 9. 8 inches (Depth x Width x Height).

It’s sufficiently sized and your plates, baking dishes and other kitchen utensils can fit just right to its 1.3 cubic feet surface.

The Farberware 13AHBKE also has a modicum amount of features that can aid you in cooking. There are six pre-set cooking options you can choose from for cooking potatoes, pizza, vegetables and other food items. There’s also an Express Cook option that allows you to cook your food within 1-6 minutes and you can also press the Add 30 Seconds button without interrupting the process of cooking. The auto defrost option wherein the microwave decides the time and the temperature for cooking based on the weight of what you’re defrosting is also available in this over the range microwave oven.

By and large, the Farberware 13AHBKE is a decent microwave oven that will make cooking easier and faster. However, one noticeable disadvantage with this oven is that it doesn’t have a venting fan. 

If you’re a big fan of Sharp microwave ovens but you are looking for something bigger than Sharp’s R1875T unit, the Sharp R-1214 would be a great choice.

Compared to Sharp R1875T’s 1.1 cubic feet capacity, the Sharp R1214’s capacity is larger with a 1.5 cubic feet capacity.

Apart from the capacity of both OTC microwave ovens, it’s really hard to differentiate the two ovens thoroughly particularly because there’s not much difference between them to begin with.

Feature wise, they’re both abundant with pre-set modes you can choose from to eliminate the tedious and often disastrous guesswork with the cooking time and temperature. The Sharp R-1214 has 11 sensor cook options which allows you to cook any of your favorite microwave treats in just a single button press. It also has 4 defrost functions, 4 reheat functions. There’s also a keep warm option which allows you to keep your cooked food hot for up to 30 minutes. Plus, there’s also a hot water button which you can singlehandedly press if you want to heat cups of water for your coffee, tea of whatever hot beverage you’re planning to prepare. There’s a handful of pre-set and cooking options you can choose from which saves you from the horror of an overcooked or burned food.

With a 1,100 W wattage, a 1.5 cubic feet capacity and 24 pre-set cooking options, the Sharp R-1214 is a solid over the range microwave oven that can make cooking  easier and faster. Sadly, this Sharp OTC oven is nothing but just a microwave oven. If you still don’t get where I’m heading at, I’m talking about the fact that it doesn’t have a venting fan. 

Our Recommendations:

Editor's Pick: Kenmore Elite 80379

Its low 950-watt power may be an apparent drawback but there’s just so much to love about the Kenmore Elite 80379. The greatest quality that this OTC microwave oven has is its versatility. More than the usual things a microwave does such as reheating, defrosting and cooking common food items, this over-the-range microwave oven is also capable of roasting and baking, thanks to its convection feature. Convection cooking is rare to come by among OTC microwave ovens, so this microwave oven having it, simply deserves a recognition.

While the Kenmore Elite 80379 saves you the trouble of getting a separate oven that can actually roast and bake, this microwave oven is also great at its job as a venting hood. Although not as powerful as stand-alone venting hoods, its 400 CFM venting fan still can do the job of clearing the fumes and odor from your kitchen air.

Runners Up: Sharp 1875T & Frigidaire FGMV175QB

Almost all OTC microwave ovens share the same basic features such as sensor cooking, timer and venting feature. Some units have venting fans while others solely work as a microwave oven. Moreover, what makes some OTC microwave ovens stand out is their ability to cook specific food items that others cannot.

The Sharp 1875T is a good example of what a versatile OTC oven is. Apart from the reheat, keep warm, defrost, or cook option, you can also broil, roast and bake in this over-the range microwave oven. That’s a huge plus, along with the 25 pre-set cooking options you can choose from which saves you the trouble of guessing the right cooking time and temperature. However, its capacity (1.1 cubic feet) is at a disadvantage when compared to other over-the range microwave ovens. 

The Frigidaire FGMV175QB is also a good OTC choice for something that covers the basics at a budget price. For starters, it’s spacious enough with a 1.7 cubic feet capacity. The venting feature also decently works, thanks to its 300 CFM fans. Lastly, the 30 pre-set features this OTC microwave oven has is also notably helpful in eliminating any guesswork related to cooking. 

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About the Author

Walter J. Farrell is an accountant who is very passionate about sharing his knowledge on high tech gadgets. He started AuthorityAdviser to help people know more about the products that are currently a hit in the market.

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