Over the range Hoods trump microwaves
Convection and other added features help make over-the-range microwave ovens an enticing choice over space-stealing countertop models. But if you care about venting smoke and fumes, you’re better off with a range hood, especially with a higher-powered stove.
None of the over-the-range microwave ovens we tested could match most range hoods’ smoke-capturing ability. Two, the $750 Whirlpool Velos GH6208XR and the $870 Whirlpool Velos GH7208XR, cooked well, extend farther than most over front burners, and were better at venting. But they vented only slightly better than our least-effective hoods, and their high price kept them off our list of top picks. What’s more, heat from the stove below can keep an over-the-range oven’s fan running noisily to cool its internal parts.
Range hoods are becoming as fashionable as they are practical. Most now offer the commercial look of stainless steel. Two of our top picks, one from Broan and one from Whirlpool, have a 2-inch-tall hood that slides out of the cabinet when you need it, though it robs space within.
You don’t have to pay a pro-style price to get a pro-style hood. While you can spend around $1,000 for some Viking and Wolf models we tested, several that made our Quick Picks deliver fine venting performance for hundreds of dollars less.
HOW TO CHOOSE
Decide whether the space savings and convenience of an over-the-range microwave oven are worth subpar smoke and steam removal. Then check our Ratings for top-scoring ovens (available to ConsumerReports.org subscribers) and range hoods (available to ConsumerReports.org subscribers) that blend performance and value. Here’s what else to consider at the store:
For ovens, pick the right features. Over-the-range microwave ovens with a sensor (about $40 more) adjust cooking time according to the steam produced as the food heats. For browned chicken and crispier pizza, opt for speed-cook features such as convection, which have provided both benefits acceptably in our tests.
Check the size. Our measurements showed that models averaged more than 40 percent less usable space than claimed. That’s because manufacturers typically count corner space even for models with round turntables, which you’d have to turn off to approximate those figures. We measure capacity with the turntable on. Models with a rectangular tray that moves side-to-side can handle large items without having to turn off the tray. Our advice: Bring along a favorite dish or platter to check the fit.
For range hoods, get the right type. Under-cabinet hoods mount to the bottom of a wall cabinet through which ductwork can route to the outside via an adjoining wall, chase, soffit, or ceiling. Wall-chimney hoods work where there are no cabinets and mount with exposed vent stacks on the wall. Island models are mounted to and vented through ductwork in the ceiling. These lack a wall or cabinets alongside them to help funnel fumes, so consider buying one wider than the cooktop.
To choose the right size range hood, be sure any model you consider is at least as wide as the cooking surface it goes over.
Avoid downdraft hoods. These try to reverse the direction of rising smoke and fumes and exhaust them through ducts running beneath the floor. Testing showed these to be among the least effective at removing smoke and steam.
A final caveat concerns manufacturers’ airflow claims, which tout the cubic feet per minute (cfm) of air exhausted. More airflow means faster ventilation but it doesn’t guarantee better smoke capture and removal in your kitchen. Indeed, many hoods we tested vented smoke and steam as well as others that delivered twice as much airflow in our testing.
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