My biggest kitchen regret-The built-in microwave

rookie_2010November 6, 2010

I chose an expensive built-in microwave (anything over $200 is expensive for a MW IMO) for my kitchen. I haven't even been using it for 2 months and I burned the &^%% out of a bag of popcorn last night. It was awful. I had to open windows, turn on fans to air out the house. The MW was a mess. It smelled so bad. The smell was in the vents, most people buy a new one when that happens. I took it out to the garage and left it open overnight. It was still awful. I boiled a bowl of baking soda and water, no joy. I boiled a bowl of vinegar until it exploded which stunk up the garage really bad. I opened the MW door an hour later and wiped it out really well. The smell seemed to be gone so I took it back in the house and boiled some fresh coffee in a cup of water. The smell is gone and I'm so relieved.

My MW sits in a cutout in my island with a trim kit around it so this whole thing was a big PITA. And if it didn't work, I'd have to buy a replacement. So, the point of this is that I really wish I'd planned a big appliance garage with the flip up door to house a cheap MW in. The only thing I use mine for is popcorn and heating up luke-warm cups of coffee!

I'd feel a lot better knowing that if I made a mistake, I could go grab a new one for a few bucks. I just thought I'd share my experience just in case it helps someone else decide between the pretty and the practical.

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Rookie 2010 -- I'm so sorry to hear about your microwave experience. But thanks so much for sharing your experience with the rest of us who are still planning our kitchens. I've been trying to decide if I should spend lots extra for a built-in microwave drawer. They are so sleek and stylish. Your story has made my decision for me: a cheap little MW that isn't built in will be just fine.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2010 at 4:18PM
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Fori is not pleased

Do people really buy new microwaves when they get the old one stinky?

I knew I was frugal, but wow. :)

    Bookmark   November 6, 2010 at 4:19PM
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Rookie, thanks so much for sharing your mistake. I've been tempted by the microwave drawer, but have always felt that the most practical way for me is to put in an appliance garage with a lift door for my little cheap GE microwave. The thing is, I like this microwave. It does popcorn great, frozen veggies just right, defrosts nicely, and of course, tea or hot cocoa most nights (depending on the season and mood). The micro we had at work was horrible--turned popcorn to cinders or else most of the popcorn was unpopped but at least what had popped wasn't cinders. This experience made me leary of investing so much $$ in a MW that I may end up not liking (MW drawer). Thanks to your input I'm going to stick with my plan to keep my little GE and make it very easy & inexpensive to replace it in the future. Thanks again, and I'm so sorry you're unhappy but so thankful you shared this!

    Bookmark   November 6, 2010 at 4:31PM
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Hi Rooky. Wow sounds like a stinky mess, but I'm confused, you removed your built to get rid of the stench? I don't have an undercounter one, but I have a built in above counter one. I've burned the crap out of many bags of popcorn and it usually stunk things up for awhile, but no worse than a countertop one. We use ours to reheat all kinds of stuff and and even making bacon which to me is even a bigger stinky lingerer than popcorn, but the smell lingered in built in and counter top micro equally.

Do you think the microwave drawer type is the issue? I've never heard this before, but I also don't know anyone who has one. Would like to hear if others have experienced this cuz depending on layout we may have to consider a microwave drawer.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2010 at 4:38PM
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Fori, I'm not as frugal as you, but I've never thought of that either. My first MW, from the mid '80's is still at work at my brother's house, and the one from the early '90's is still fine, and going to my studio for zapping dyes.

Rookie, I'm sorry you've discovered a big regret, but at least you were able to make it better, even though it was a PITA. It's much better for the environment to reuse, so I thank you for putting all that energy into cleaning it!!!

    Bookmark   November 6, 2010 at 4:40PM
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wow rookie, i'm really sorry for the trouble. i fell in love with the built in microwave when i saw it and then as i began planning and really thinking it through, i decided to nix it. i have a two large appliance garages which will house the micro, coffee maker, toaster, etc...

again, i'm sorry you regret your choice but also happy you were able to clean it out so well. thanks for letting me know i chose wisely!

    Bookmark   November 6, 2010 at 4:48PM
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Hi, I didn't mean to turn everyone against the built-ins, just wanted to share so that others who are rough on things might think twice or always attend their popcorn! I'm sure their are others who use theirs more and are really happy with them.
I assumed that there was some easy clean up method for this because I've burned popcorn tons of times in my old Sharp microwave but I'd never burned it this bad. From what I gathered, once it gets all up in the MW vents, it's really hard to get rid of the smell so a lot of people get rid of theirs.

Because I'd bought the only MW I could find to fit the cut-out I somehow ended up with, another GW member suggested I buy a spare. But these new MWs are SO expensive!
I don't have the drawer MW, it's just a Kitchenaid with a trim kit, so it could have been worse to remove. It was still over $500 I think, compared to my old $99, bullet-proof Sharp, I'm just feeling sort of foolish right now.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2010 at 5:18PM
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I had a built in my old place (it was there when I bought the house) and fried the thing when I mistakenly "cooked" nothing when I thought I had the timer on (while simultaneously talking on the phone, watching kids, etc.)

It was a real bummer to have to spend several hundred dollars to replace my food warmer/popcorn maker.

The just finished kitchen in our current place has a counter depth shelf for a microwave/convection oven. For now we have our $99 little GE microwave, until we get around to purchasing the micro/convection oven, and functionally it is perfect. I only want to get the micro/convection oven because of the few times a year we need a 2nd oven.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2010 at 5:59PM
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Rookie, Same darned thing happened to me the first month of having the microwave. It took a few weeks to get the smell out. Like you I was stressed if it would function normally. Phew! It did. However, I haven't made microwave popcorn since. The Crazy Popper makes way better corn anyway!

    Bookmark   November 6, 2010 at 7:38PM
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The best way to do MWOs is to put them on a shelf in the base cabinet.

When it burns/stops working, just head over to costco and get a bigger, cheaper and more powerful one :)

although i love build in appliances MWOs and coffee makers should be stand alone in my opinion. They are cheapy items that dont deserve the expense of built in.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2010 at 8:23PM
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Rookie - that validated our decision to get the cheapo Panasonic MW from Costco, and put it on a shelf (behind a cabinet, for our version of an appliance garage). I think that may be the only decision I made at the start of our remodel that I actually stuck to!! And it drove our GC mad. We designed our kitchen, but he drew up the actual plans. We knew exactly what we wanted/how our lives work, and that guy put a built-in MW into the plans 3 x before we said to just get over it -- I was spending my money on other, much nicer, much more important things. I don't regret it for a minute. (We burned the heck out of a bag of popcorn while using it in our temp kitchen, and smoke was everywhere...but the MW came through fine and the smell didn't linger...probably cuz dh literally grabbed the burning bag and ran outside with it before the smoke infused the MW. Needless to say, the new MW is much more powerful than the 20-yr built-in that it replaced, which did still work by some miracle, but I don't think they make 'em like that anymore!)

    Bookmark   November 6, 2010 at 11:26PM
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Well our microwave oven is used extensively, and is built in right at eye level which is very convenient....can't imagine it taking up counter space.

Thanks for the tips on getting out the odor though. Everyone hits too many number once in a while and makes cinders out of their soup.

We replaced the first one after 20 yrs; not that it quit working, just the wrong color when we someone said bigger more powerful and cheaper than the first. A trim kit easily customized it too.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2010 at 11:40PM
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Sorry Pharaoh, but to me, the worst location for a "regular" MW is in a base cabinet on a shelf! Way too low and impossible to see into when attempting to stir or place/remove items in/from it. (Well, maybe it's in a tie for worst w/an OTR MW....)

I've burnt popcorn in a MW before, but I would never consider buying a new one just b/c it "stinks"...regardless of how cheap/expensive it was!! I've never known anyone else who's done it either...

We have a MW drawer (no place for a MW above counter height). We use it extensively as well and it has been working fine for well over two years now. I don't know the longevity of the drawers yet, but so far I've been happy with mine and as of now have no regrets!

    Bookmark   November 7, 2010 at 1:09AM
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We are a no microwave popcorn house

The smell of it makes me want to barf!
What do they put in that stuff

I purchase the good ol fashioned type & cook it on the stove-top which takes about the same time.

A bowl of dilute lemon juice turn micro on high for a minute or 2 is an excellent cleaner & deodorizer.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2010 at 9:19AM
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This actually just happened to me too, except it was some frozen food. Somehow the plate got burned. I think it was a defect in the plate or something unusual about the frozen food.

The microwave sat outside for a week since the smoke smell was overpowering. We would run an electric cord to cook something.

We kept cleaning it with various cleaners and cooking various things to mask the smell such as apples etc. And we would leave one of those things you buy to scent the house in it while not cooking.

Eventually it came back in the house but near the door and the door stayed open, the house scent stayed inside the microwave and the cleaning and cooking various things continued.

Finally it moved back into it's original space and the cleaning and scenting continued.

It lasted weeks.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2011 at 4:59PM
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Our son just burnt a small amount of chili when he heated it for 15 mins instead of the 15 seconds I had suggested. I caught it at the 10 min mark, but the damage was done. I have been trying to clean it for over a week and boiled at least 50 bowls of vinegar "tea" and lemons in water after that. It still stinks so badly that I ordered a new one. I am hoping that if I leave it alone for a while it can be our back up one in case of emergency. It really stinks that I have not had a micro to use in over a week and we are stuck in the bsmt with only a table top convection oven, toaster oven and toaster.
The one we ordered was the same model again but a little bigger, so I feel I got some upgrade for the expense, lol. The funny thing is our old one is 1300 watts and the new, bigger one is 1250 and both are by Panasonic.

BTW - the problem with nuking mixed vegetables is there is some material in carrots that will catch on fire. I think it is some sort of mineral, so carrots are a no go for the mw. The boys like the Science channel and we saw some show about carrots in the mw with a detailed explanation, but my head is too fried to recall exact details.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2011 at 5:10PM
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When I did my kitchen about 7 yrs ago, the KD wanted me to put in some fancy m/w for like $1000.

I wanted a cheapo m/w but I wanted a garage for it, over my wall oven ( i had a second oven in my range). I was worried it might be too high but ti wasnt --- i dont want my kids in the m/w anyway

It worked great. A lot of the time, the door was open, which looked fine. When I had company, i kept it closed, which looked great.

I dont understand why someone would want to limit flexibility with a big fancy m/w ... or waste the money!

In our new house, the m/w will once again go in a cabinet, with pocket doors.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2011 at 5:24PM
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I set a couple of muffins almost on fire in our new countertop microwave--I must have pushed 20 min instead of 20 sec. The paper was smoking when I caught the problem. The smoke in the room was almost overwhelming after I opened the door of the MW.

After the excitement was over, it was clear that there was smoke in the guts of the machine. I washed the exposed surfaces many times. I spent some time figuring out where the ventilation path within the machine led. I would set it to boil water and laid wetted tea towels to overhang the vents so that the humid exhaust drove smoke molecules from the fan to the vents to the towels. It was clear that this was helping--the towels would smell of smoke and I'd wash them and start again. Took a couple weeks or more to make the smell stop when I ran the machine.

We've killed a number of counter-sitting microwaves over the years, albeit I can blame lightning for one. Each replacement one was a different shape than a previous one. That's why I refuse to design a kitchen around a MW model.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2011 at 5:49PM
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We decided to put a standard counter-top microwave on a shelf in an upper cabinet (no doors). I have some anxiety about adequacy of ventilation but we built in some room around it and small circular vents at the rear top and bottom of the compartment. I couldn't see spending for a built-in and then having more expensive replacement issues and sizing issues over and over.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2011 at 6:12PM
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My built-in MW sits on a shelf above the oven. The only thing that makes it built in is the trim kit. It cost more than a counter model, but an inexpensive MW of any size could fit there without the trim kit just as easily.

The OTR MW it replaced was sold on Craigslist to a couple who needed it.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2011 at 10:27PM
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Because of space issues and because I hate counter clutter , we went with a drawer mw (3 years ago). No complaints here! We love it! Just use a mw specific cover on your dishes when you use it and clean up is not an issue. We use it for steaming, reheating, defrosting and as a warming drawer. Worth every penny in my opinion.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2011 at 11:32AM
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I did go with a built-in MW on this build although I too have a stinky MW story! My son cooked Raman noodles in our countertop MW that I will be passing on to my brother after this house is done. The only problem with the noodles was that he forgot to add the water. Really bad smoke pouring out of the MW and the smell. nasty! Baking soda then lemon juice then vanilla throughout two days finally made it usable again. I've burnt popcorn before and this was 10 times worse! If you ran the MW you really wanted to run outside and throw up! I was thinking...Crap! The new house won't be done for 2 months! I do NOT want to have to buy a CMW just to use for 2 months.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2011 at 9:02PM
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It's not necessarily an either/or situation, either in terms of initial cost or cabinet usage. We bought our miicrodrawer for under $400 at the Sears Outlet, and the cabinet that the microdrawer sits in is the same size and shape of cabinet that would be needed for an undercounter placement of a standard microwave. Going into this, our thinking was that if it turned out to be a short-lived or problematic appliance we would replace it with a standard microwave. Turns out we like the improvements in the microdrawer design enough that if it should fail we'd probably replace it with another one --- whether we could find one on sale or not.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2011 at 6:41AM
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I am with Mary in NC. I put in the built in Kitchenaid Ultimacook micro/convection undercounter with a trim kit. I cook in it everyday--perfect size for 2 people. I try to minimize counter clutter and I like the finished look of the trim kit. I think the Advantium is the equivalent and Kitchenaid doesn't make Ultimacooks anymore. Roasted veggies, reheating pizza, baked potatoes are perfect. I also vote for popcorn on the stovetop in a regular lidded pan. Turns out perfect and doesn't stink up the joint.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2011 at 10:55AM
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I have to do a built in microwave because the home we bought 1: has cabinetry designed that way and 2: insufficient counter top for all the space a microwave takes.

We are going with a counter top and trim kit. Has anyone used the Kenmore microwave which Consumer Reports give such high marks to?

    Bookmark   April 13, 2013 at 3:05PM
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Sorry, but even when I had a countertop micro in my last kitchen and had a really stinky mess in it, I cleaned it in place. I did not take it outside and did not get another one. I didn't want to spend what a micro drawer costs, but it solved so many issues for us that it would have been worth twice the price. It has also turned out to be a great working appliance. And guess what? It has an automatic popcorn setting for either regular or snack size bags. (To be honest, most of our popcorn is cooked on the stove, even so.)

    Bookmark   April 13, 2013 at 3:14PM
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I'm confused, do you think the stink lingers because it's built in or do you think it would have happened with any microwave, but you'd just get rid of it if it was a cheapo on the counter?

I've only had ones that sat on the counter and ones that were built in over the range with the fan for the range. Hated the location of both because I don't like appliances on the counter and want a hood rather than over range micro. However I never noticed one being more stinky that the other and we use ours a lot, almost daily for heating water, steaming veggies and reheating.

I've made popcorn and it lingers and bacon which is even worse (banned hubby from that), but it eventually wet away without any major clean up.

I've scorched popcorn, but never torched anything so I'm just trying to figure out is the problem due to the degree of torching or the style of micro?

I planned to find a spot for a built in in my remodel, but if it's something about the style that makes the stink linger I wouldn't want that.
Please enlighten me! Thanks.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2013 at 3:36PM
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My MW lives in a purpose-built MW shelf in an upper cabinet. It is a cheapo countertop model. I've already replaced it once, not because it stunk (I don't do popcorn), but because I did something equally stoopid that damaged its interior. Maybe I could have got some further use out of it, but really didn't know what might result from using an obviously damaged unit. It was cheap enough that it didn't hurt much to toss it and replace it with an identical cheapie, and all was accomplished within hours.

From the get-go on my renovation, I decided to avoid built-ins, for the very reason that standard appliances tend to be cheaper and easier to replace when the time comes. I've had a few friends who have had to renovate totally, because a cook top or wall oven died, and NOTHING was available to fit the orig hole.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2013 at 11:13PM
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