There is no getting around that microwaves are convenient, but they also take up valuable counter space. And, then there is the aesthetic consideration: have you ever loved the looks of a microwave? Moving to a built-in microwave can open up your counter, clear visual blight, and create an integrated look.
In the microwave world, it turns out that the term "built-in" covers a lot of territory. Here are the three key variations and are our recommendations for each type.
1. The Countertop Microwave with Built-in Trim Kit
This is the most affordable option for a built-in microwave. Trim kits make it possible to install certain countertop microwaves into a cabinet opening and achieve a built-in look. Trim kits also enable built-in models to be fitted into existing cabinet openings that may not be perfectly matched to the microwave dimensions.
Above: The best budget choice? The LG Studio Series Microwave (Model #LSRM2010ST) is a countertop microwave that comes with an optional LG Studio Series Built-In Trim Kit for an integrated look; $199 at AJ Madison, trim kit $149.
Above: To complement your other Viking and SubZero appliances, the Viking 2.0 Cubic-Foot Professional Custom Series Microwave (Model #VMOS201X) is a countertop model that is available with a built-in trim kit.; $599 at Plessers, trim kit $380.
2. The Built-In Microwave
True built-in microwaves do not have finished sides (so you would not want them sitting on your countertop). They come in a range of prices. Generally the less expensive models sit flush with cabinetry; to get an integrated look, they require a corresponding trim kit (at an added cost). The higher-priced models often have a front that spreads over the cabinet opening. They also may offer drop-down doors or pull-out drawers, professional looks, and more cooking functions. Will you really use those extras? Research shows that microwaves are still most commonly used for reheating and defrosting. The final determining factor may come down to the look of the oven: Do you like it and does it work with your other appliances?
Above: The Frigidaire Professional 2.0 Cubic-Foot Built-In Microwave Oven (Model #FPMO209KF) is $373 at US Appliance. For added polish, the Frigidaire Microwave Trim Kit is offered for $147.
Above: The Bosch 500-Series Built-In Microwave (HMB5050) in stainless steel is a flush to cabinet style that can be used (as shown) with the Bosch 27-Inch Trim Kit. It's also available in white or black; $584 at Abt; trim kit $224.
Above: The Electrolux Icon Professional Built-In Microwave (Model #E30MO75HPS) with a drop-down door offers sensor and convection cooking modes; $1,699 at AJ Madison.
Above: The Miele Chef's Series 8260 Built-In Microwave is a 24-inch wide model; $999 at Plessers.
Above: The Jenn-Air Built-In Microwave (Model #JMC2127WS) is a 27-inch wide built-in model with sensor and steam cooking modes; $1,799 at Yale Appliance.
Above: KitchenAid Architect Series II Microwave Oven (Model #KBMS1454B) is $1,074 in stainless and $984 in black or white at Plessers.
3. The Built-in Microwave Drawer
Microwave drawers can be inconspicuously built-in under your counter or kitchen island, or integrated into your wall-oven setup. Sharp developed the first microwave drawer and, according to our industry connections, manufactures most of the ovens on the market sold by other brands (like Wolf and Thermador). The pull-out drawers are easy to use; one drawback is the interior space is smaller than most conventional microwaves.
Above: One of the more affordable built-in drawer models is the Sharp Insight Pro Series Microwave Drawer (Model # KB-6524). It offers an unusual push or pull opening option; $779 at Abt.
Above: The solid stainless front of the Dacor Discovery Built-in Microwave-in-a-Drawer is especially appealing. It measures 24-inches wide and is also available with a solid black glass front; $1,399 at AJ Madison.
(NB: We didn't include Over-the-Range Microwaves (OTR) in our round up. An appliance that functions as a combination microwave, range vent, and over-the-range light, they fall into a category all their own. They can be a good space-saving solution for some kitchens, but note that OTR microwaves don't have strong venting power and are not recommended for most high BTU ranges.
Not ready to commit to a built-in, but enticed by the notion of hiding away that countertop microwave? See Julie's 10 Strategies for Hiding the Microwave. Have a look at more of our small appliance posts here, and weigh in on The Great Vacuum Debate: Dyson vs. Miele.