Recommendations - Over-the-Range Microwave

jwm211January 7, 2009

I know over-the-range microwaves aren't particularly favored on this forum, but it seems to be what would work best in our small kitchen.

I'd appreciate any recommendations or warnings about particular models, as well as any sites that have helpful consumer reviews or good prices.

Thank you!

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I know I'll be apologizing for our OTR MW when I finally post finished kitchen pics, but I like it and it's my kitchen. We have a Sharp OTR MW w/ convection. It is the only thing I kept from my old kitchen so that should speak to how much I like it. It has several automatic features and I like that I can fit a jellyroll pan in. You can turn the turntable off for larger items. It came with a couple of racks for convection cooking and has several auto cycles. The vent is very noisy on high and only slightly less so on low, but does a relatively good job of venting for an OTR.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 10:52AM
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We have one too - it is a GE brand.

I wish I had a "real" vent over the range (that actually vents outside). In hindsight that's something I should have done during my renovation. The microwave just takes the air and vents it to the ceiling (which is creating a greasy patch on my ceiling.)

I will keep it and use it anyway!

My vent is pretty noisy too - but better on low.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 11:23AM
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I have a GE Spacemaker which I must say, I do like, but I have had problems with it. I purchased it because it was one of only two--the other was JennAire--that I found that came 36 inches wide. It has a lot of nice features, but I was amazed when the magnetron died when it was a little over a year old. I did an internet search and found that this is indeed a problem with the GEs. Apparently it is not only a GE problem since there are only a couple companies who make magnetrons, but it does seem to be a common problem with them. I had my Whirlpool for many years with no problems whatsoever, but I was much happier with the speed and features on the GE. That happened almost a year ago so I'm holding my breath hoping it doesn't happen again. The magnetron has a 5 year warranty, but the service call is not covered, and it was expensive.

As for the strength of the fan---I do have mine vented to the outside. It is noisy. It is not very strong, but for the kind of cooking I do, it is adequate. If I did a lot of frying or had an indoor grill that I used for meats, I probably wouldn't be satisfied.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 2:41PM
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I have a GE Spacemaker. It's five (maybe six?) years old. I have never had a problem with it. Of course the vent fan is pretty puny, but that was expected. It does vent to the outside. Like Deep, it's adequate for my kind of cooking. If something really gets smokey, I stick it out the back door! It isn't like the "olden days" when people fried almost everything.

The microwave part is very good and I like it better than anything else I owned. It also "speaks" English, Franch and SPanish, which is kind of fun.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 3:06PM
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Most people like the Sensor cook features of the GE models that have that. It basically uses the "instant action" keys and has a infrared sensor that won't overheat your coffee, or meal plate (or whatever). Some models have available internal racking that lets you warm more than one plate at a time. And, GE usually has 300 cfm fans versus the barely 200 that most of the other brands have. If you frequently are jammed for time for dinner, you might really like the functionality of the Advantium, which has a quartz halogen speedcooker and convection cooking as well. You can do crispy chicken nuggets, or roast chicken, or wondeful real baked potatoes in much less time than a conventional oven, but with the browning of a conventional oven.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 3:21PM
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We have the Panasonic Genius Prestige and it works great. We've had it for 3 years. My MIL and SIL have the same model for 4 years without any problems.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 3:59PM
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I have a GE Cafe and it's great so far.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 5:47PM
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Have you checked the Appliances Forum? You may be in for some rather intensive "persuading" to get you to change to a separate range hood, but you should be able to get some valuable information as well.

I don't have one to recommend based on experience, but it seems to me that many people like their OTR Advantiums and GE Spacemakers.

Here is a link that might be useful: Appliance Forum

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 6:06PM
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As a kitchen designer I do a lot of small kitchens in the San Francisco Bay Area.

I have to say that I NEVER put in an over-the-range microwave, no matter how difficult it might be to fit in a microwave elsewhere.

1. It is not safe to microwave over a cooking surface. Surface burners can ignite clothing.

2. The microwave is the first cooking appliance children can safely use. Not when it is out of reach over the range though.

3. The recommended mounting height for all models makes the microwave too low to see into pots on the back burners.

4. OTR microwaves make lousy hoods. The lack of a capture canopy means grease laden steam and smoke rolls right up the front of the microwave and to the ceiling. This is a constant cleaning problem.

5. GE (Spacemaker II) and Sharp make great microwaves that can be hung underneath a shortened wall cabinet, preferably next to the refrigerator where most items that go into the microwave come from.

6. Several manufacturers (Sharp, Dacor) make great microwave drawers that can be installed in a base cabinet.

7. A good hood, properly vented, is the best way to exhaust grease-laden steam and smoke from your kitchen.

For all these reasons, please, please consider other options.

Peggy Deras, CKD, CID

Here is a link that might be useful: My web site

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 6:17PM
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jwm - I have a smallish kitchen as well and the cabinets were already in place before I saw the bias against the OTR microwave. I got the frigidare convection. The fan is loud on high setting as it's 300CFm and vents directly to outside. It's nice that you can stop the turntable for large dishes.

Peggy - you list a lot of reasons, but money and space dosen't seem to factor in to any of them.

1. Trust me if burned clothing were an issue, I would have done it! I've burned my hands on our regular oven numerous times and when pouring out hot bacon grease into a container managed to pour it all over my hand. It seem like when the burners areo n and I want to use the MW also the pots that are on them cooking provide a break.

2.You obviously haven't met my children. My 11 y/o old would just as likely cook her barbie doll in the MW as any food item. I'm hoping with age comes wisdom and height.

3. I must not have the recommended height of MW. We have a huge pot that we boil Corned beef in. I have no trouble seeing it.

4. Mine vents to the outside. Your right about the canopy. But before I knew the cost of creating a MW cabinet and changing the others to make it work, I looked at cabinet hoods. They were higher than the MW is and I still don't think the canopy up that high could capture grease fumes if I was cooking on the front burner.

5.& 6. The 2 MW that could have fit with my small cabinet depth were 3 times the cost of the OTR. I can not afford that. My DH refused to consider tying up counter space with a counter model.

7. I guess it all depends on how you use your burners. We fry very little on them. Mostly make rice, boil vegitables, etc. We use the MW for bacon (after the hand incident) and most grill the meat, or bake a roast.

The benefits I would have liked to have of them apart. Is that we we are both cooking dinner in our small kitchen, I could put MW stuff in without making DH move from his stance guarding the boiling water.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 7:15PM
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What nutbunch said. Our kitchen is small and there is absolutely nowhere to put a microwave except OTR or stuck in the corner taking up valuable prep space. About the onl time I deep fry anything, I'm borrowing SIL's electric deep fryer (and doing it outside). Smoky/messy cooking is, for the most part, done outside on the grill. Also, I have no kids and will never have them.

nutbunch: Try using your oven for bacon - it works really well.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 7:29PM
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We don't have it yet so I can't speak from experience, just reviews. I decided on the Whirlpool Velos for our OTR microhood.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 7:31PM
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Ditto what nutbunch said with a special emphasis on #2. After an incident with a countertop model, that included sparks & flames, the rule at our house became - you need to be tall enough to ride the tallest of the big, scary roller coasters to use the MW. You may not have any children intent on blowing up your home, but your friends might.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 7:49PM
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I've been using OTR microwaves for about twenty years and have to say I haven't found them to be "unsafe". I'm okay with taking responsibility for my own actions though and don't feel the need to be protected from myself by not having an OTR microwave.

That said I do have a VAH in my new kitchen at home and that does suck things out better than an OTR microwave. I did recently replace an old OTR microwave at my weekend lake place with a new low cost Whirlpool model that vents outside. Microwave works great - vent is marginal.

What I don't like is that is hangs lower than my old one and though I can use my back burners just fine and see into my pots, I don't like it so low. I naively thought dimensions of all OTR microwaves were the same - well not exactly. I would recommend checking the dimensions carefully to make sure whatever you get provides maximum clearance above the cooktop.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 10:32PM
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My Mom went with Panasonic's Genius Prestige Over-the-Range Stainless Steel Microwave (NNSD297S) which has up to 420cfm. Pretty new but she has tried out the fan for noise and it was pretty quiet. She has an electric stove with a ceramic top and this unit seems more than adequate to clear steam and smells. She bought it on the recommendation of a friend who has one and is really pleased with the exhaust fan.

I have read NKBA guidelines and materials and I have never seen anything to suggest that they are a hazard. I was just thumbing through the latest issue of "Kitchen and Bath Ideas" which features a gorgeous small kitchen reno with soapstone counters and custom curved cabinetry and yes an OTR microwave. I also saw one in the Before and After section of the current "Kitchens and Baths" (in an "After" no less). They aren't for everybody but they are certainly not a harbinger of design failure (or certain injury) either.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2009 at 1:26AM
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I was going to do one for my small kitchen, but got a hood at the last minute(DH is a chef). I'll have to get a new small micro to keep in the pantry. I know they are not ideal, but sometimes you just don't have any other options. Just moved to the burbs from the city and practically every apt has an OTR micro.

Design wise check out Mrslimestone's kitchen. One of the most beautiful with an OTR micro smack dab in the middle. Hope she doesn't mind me posting her pic.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2009 at 5:47AM
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The clearance above the stove issue can be helped by choosing the right sized cabinet for above the MW. In a kitchenwith 30" cabinets, most people have been using a 15" cabinet. With the added height of most OTRs these days, you should be using a 12" cabinet. That gets the MW about 1" to 1 1/2" above the bottom of the surrounding cabinetry. Since the recommended distance above the range is usually 18"-24", that works out well.

However, this is a situation often encountered in remodels/refits with existing cabinetry, where a previous vent hood was installed. The cabinet above just isn't short enough to safely install an OTR MW in many cases. If an 18" cabinet was used with a vent hood (or in a new design) then the MW is dangerously low over the cooktop, hanging down 3"-5" below the surrounding cabinetry.

My point being: if you are considering using an OTR in your remodel, be sure to let the KD know so the proper sized cabinet can be ordered!

    Bookmark   January 8, 2009 at 9:18AM
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Another post agreeing with nutbunch. I have a tiny 7x10 galley kitchen. Based on the info I read here and on the appliances forum, I thought long and hard about hood + countertop microwave on a shelf vs. OTR microwave. I finally decided I was unwilling to give up precious eye-height upper cabinet space to make room for the m/w shelf. I wouldn't have been able to vent to the outside in either case; I don't cook very greasy/smokey things; I actually don't cook that much at all, and when I do, I only have one or two burners going; and I seldom (if ever) use the m/w and the stove at the some time. It just wasn't a good trade-off for *my* needs.

I don't think there are any hard-and-fast rules here. An OTR microwave is a compromise, as is everything else in a kitchen (esp. a tiny apartment kitchen!).

BTW, I got a GE JNM1851SMSS. No fancy features (other than sensor cooking), but 300CFM recirculating fan (for whatever good that will do) and supposed to be fairly quiet. We'll see - my kitchen's not finished so I haven't been able to use it yet. Looks nice though. :-)

I was considering one of the more elaborate ones like the Whirlpool with speed cooking, but decided I had to save money *somewhere*. ;-)

    Bookmark   January 8, 2009 at 9:57AM
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I have a maytag which can be vented to the outside or not. What is called the turn table does not turn at all. It's oblong like the microwave and it's a tray that glides back and forth. Can put in a large container with no problems and he heats just as well as my old one that rotated.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2009 at 10:00AM
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Just to echo LWO, manufacturers specs required just
13" 5\8's between the cooktop and the bottom of the microwave (for an electric stove) - which seems low. KD's at HD originally had a 12" over the stove and I had them change it to 15" because my Mom was concerned with ease of access, we also had some concerns about the break in the cabinetry and tha appearance of the lightrail if the microwave was recessed between the wall cabinets on either side.

Distance between the countertops and the bottom of the upper is 18.5", which becomes 16.5" with the addition of the 2 inch lightrail. Bottom of the microwave is about a half inch higher than the bottom of the lightrail or 1.5" below the cabinetry (lightrail is missing on the left side in the photo I posted) so about 17" from the cooktop. It was something we paid close attention to and we did go against the reccomendation of the KD somewhat and we have cut an inch from the general guideline of having a minimum of 18" above the stove top. My Mom is 5'5" ish and it is working out great but it was a very deliberate decision on her part. Unit is vented to the outside through the soffets so we didn't have a lot of height to work with.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2009 at 10:25AM
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I have a very basic GE (I linked to it below) and it works fine! I don't know if OTR needs any more defenders but everything Charlikin said about tiny galley kitchens, eye-height cabinetry, and not being able to vent in either case stands for me too. And forget counter space; I'm not giving any of that up.

I am mostly vegetarian but occasionally cook fish. No problems at all with dirt or smoke or grease.

Not only can I see what's cooking in the back but it actually has a light that can shine below so I can see better. And I have found that I use the timer on it a lot to time food baking in the oven below. It's great to have it right there.

Here is a link that might be useful: GE OTR MW

    Bookmark   January 8, 2009 at 10:36AM
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I've received a lot of helpful input here. Thanks to you all of you who took the time to respond!

    Bookmark   January 8, 2009 at 10:53AM
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I used to have to go out to the garage where DH set up a spot for my old microwave. We just didn't have room for it anywhere. When we redid the kitchen I wasn't about to use up cabinet or counter space. I sure as hell wasn't going to keep going into the garage. We love our OTR micro. It sucks at 300cfms and vents outside. it is huge inside and the turn table holds my largest handle glass pot and still turns!

GE Cafe

    Bookmark   January 8, 2009 at 11:27AM
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Kitchenaid version of the Velos. This M/W rocks! Ours is a small galley kitchen so it doubles as an extra oven also. We even baked our Christmas ham in it.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   January 8, 2009 at 4:21PM
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jeffrow: How does the price compare to the Velos? Does it have all the same features?

I think I like the looks of it better than the Velos.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2009 at 4:25PM
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It was around $900 I think. Has the same features as far as I know. We have the 120v Advantium on our boat and I much prefer the KA. Its a very large oven, vents either out or recircs. Its pretty smart too, lots of presets all in english. Vent fan comes on automatically if you are cooking a lot of stuff on high heat on the rangetop.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2009 at 5:00PM
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We recently purchased all new appliances. Got a GE OTR and love it. Very spacious inside and has two racks in addition to the turntable so it can fit a lot. The fan is loud on High but not so bad on the Low setting.

Before installing, I'm looking at the new MW and it looks larger (height-wise) than our old one. It was. I didn't want to install it at the current cabinet height so we moved the cabinets up. We actually decided we liked this look better! (And of course, had to replace the tile backsplash as it didn't extend all the way to the bottom of the new MW.) My old OTR was fine at that height but I would have lost 1 - 1 1/2" of space above the cooktop.

Now to convince DH that these new appliances would look SO much nicer on a granite countertop =)

    Bookmark   January 8, 2009 at 8:46PM
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My last kitchen had an OTR MW and I always said it was okay but I'd do it differently if I'd had the option. I was mostly worried about dropping something on my smooth-top range! Actually, I was worried about someone else doing that.

Having said that, in our very large new kitchen I tried and tried to find a better place for it. We considered the drawers but really didn't want to do that. So I have another OTR. I'll be okay with it . . . it's where it is because I didn't want it anywhere else!


    Bookmark   January 8, 2009 at 9:07PM
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jeffrow: This one: Architect® Series II KHHC2090SSS?

Does it steam? Is the "High-Speed cooking" the quartz/halogen like the Velos has? Does it "grill"?

Here is a link that might be useful: Is it this one?

    Bookmark   January 9, 2009 at 1:52AM
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* Posted by pbrisjar (My Page) on
Fri, Jan 9, 09 at 1:52

jeffrow: This one: Architect® Series II KHHC2090SSS?

Does it steam? Is the "High-Speed cooking" the quartz/halogen like the Velos has? Does it "grill"?

Yes thats the unit. It uses quartz / halogen to grill. Also has convection and of course microwave. Comes with a steamer dish and with the kit to convert to recirculate vs. exterior vent. AFAIK it is identical in function to the Velos.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2009 at 1:34PM
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We put in a JennAire OTR and it has a CFM of 300. It is vented straight out the back directly to the outside and I must say that I get about 85-90% capture when I am using my grill pan. I think that makes a big difference.Still in progress totally DIY.
Would I rather have a powerful vent with a gorgeous hood. You bet. Do I have the space for it? Nope. No apologies here.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2009 at 5:07PM
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Several of the photos of the otr look as if the mw is large, as in the VELOS model. How many inches above the range are yours? I know 18 inches is the norm, but with such a large MW, I worry that isn't quite enough. My KD allowed 17 inches and I am insisting on 19 inches, but I need some verification that more is best. I am the short one in our family at 5'10'' so accessibility isn't an issue, as far as height is concerned. I am concerned about my ability to use all of my large pots and pans without having to bury my head under the hood.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2009 at 12:40PM
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We were planning to get one from the Whirlpool Velos Gold series, but it seems they aren't available in Canada/Ontario?

Anyway, we decided on the Panasonic Genius Prestige (the pompous name still makes me laugh). We will be venting it to outside (not done yet due to snow on the roof and very low temps) so I'm hoping it will do a good job of that. It does go up to 420 CFM which is better than many of them.

So far we have only used the microwave function and while we don't microwave much, I'm happy with it. I have heard much about the safety issues with lifting things up and out of it, etc. Perhaps it's because I'm tall, but I can see right into the dishes that are cooking in there, so this is not an issue for me at all. Actually, I'm finding it much easier, ergonomically, to use than the countertop one that required me to bed down and lean on the counter!

    Bookmark   January 14, 2009 at 1:10PM
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We have a Whirlpool Velos @ our mountain house and an Advantium 240 at our full-time house which both vent outside. When it comes to speed cooking, the Advantium beats the Velos hands down, but the Velos has the teflon coating for easier cleanup.

Footballmom, my husband installed our Velos so that we have the full 18" under the back part of it and I'm only 5'4" and I have no trouble getting things in or out of it. Here's a picture of the Velos right after our counter top and backsplash installation weekend, which is why the drawers are missing. We just replaced the old range 2 weeks ago, thank goodness ;)

Whirlpool Velos in Black

    Bookmark   January 14, 2009 at 2:33PM
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I went over for dinner last Saturday and the sensor cooking in the Panasonic Genius Prestige (it is an absurd name) got a big rave.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2009 at 12:39AM
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For those of you who mentioned the exhaust fans of particular models being either noisy or quiet, how did you get that information?

    Bookmark   January 15, 2009 at 1:45PM
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Ziggy, thanks for the photo. It looks good. You kitchen is lovely too. Do you notice any problems at all with using the cooktop? Thanks again.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2009 at 2:26PM
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Footballmom, thank you. No problems at all using the cooktop. We've even had large stockpots on the back burners with big batches of chili and stew with no issues. We just replaced the range in the photo with a freestanding smooth top radiant range a couple weekends ago, but I forgot to take pictures. I would have really liked a slide-in range to keep the controls up front, but couldn't justify the cost since it's a vacation home.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2009 at 5:00PM
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We have a full-size microwave over the cooktop. The cabinets are 15" deep with a 3-1/2" deep recess in the wall behind. The unit sits on a simple shelf secured between the cabinets. What makes it work, however, is a custom fabricated hood with ductwork concealed in the wall and joist space below the kitchen. This is probably not a practical solution for many, but it is worth a thought if you can manage it.

Please see for photos. (Cut and paste into new browser window.)

    Bookmark   January 15, 2009 at 5:29PM
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