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Microwave oven buying guide Speed is being joined by smarts as the big brands heat up their microwave oven lines

The major brands are adding more automation of various cooking chores to their microwaves. They're also increasing capacity without increasing overall size by using recessed turntables and smaller electronic components and by moving controls to the door. As you'll learn in this microwave oven guide, some manufacturers are exaggerating capacity by counting wasted space in the corners. Usable space may be 50 to 60 percent less than claimed, so bring a large platter to the store to see whether it fits inside an oven you're considering.

Pick a type and size

Countertop models cost the least and are best for kitchens with lots of counter space. Compact models can cost very little. Midsized and large models add capacity and features, but they typically eat up 2.8 to 3.2 square feet of space. You can hang some countertop models below a cabinet, though that often leaves little working space below the oven. Over-the-range models are often bought as replacements or when remodeling a kitchen. But venting isn't very good, and installation might require an electrician.

Be realistic about extras

Decide whether you'll really use grilling and browning features, convection cooking, and other added functions before paying extra for them. None consistently provided the results you'd get in a regular oven. A sensor is a convenient feature, but think twice about shortcut and defrost settings for foods you don't eat. Use this microwave oven guide to help with your purchase.

There are two types of microwave ovens. Most microwaves still sit on the countertop, but more and more are being mounted over the range, especially in kitchens where counter space is at a premium.

Countertop microwaves

Countertop microwave
Countertop microwave

They're best for kitchens with lots of counter space. You can hang some below a cabinet, though that often leaves little working space below.

Pros:Countertop microwaves tend to cost less than over-the-range models.
Cons:The midsized and large models we tested take 2.8 to 3.2 square feet of counter space.


Over-the-range microwaves

Over-the-range microwave
Over-the-range microwave

These are often bought as replacements or when a kitchen is remodeled. They can be vented to the outsideóbut don't expect an over-the-range microwave to vent as well as a range hood that extends over the front burner.

Pros:Over-the-range microwaves leave the counter workspace clear.
Cons:Installation might require an electrician.

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