Man pointing at a KitchenAid® Built-In Microwave

Microwave Buying Guide: How to Choose a Microwave Oven

Whether you’re looking to cook a quick meal or warm up last night’s dinner, the microwave oven can be one of the most useful appliances in the kitchen. If you’re buying a microwave for the first time or upgrading your old model, use this guide to compare KitchenAid® microwave options to be sure you’re getting the right fit for your kitchen.

What Should I Look for When Buying a Microwave?

To find the right microwave for your home, consider the size, style, installation type and feature options. Explore these considerations in detail below to help you on your microwave shopping journey.

A kitchen with a KitchenAid® Built-In Microwave and a KitchenAid® range A kitchen with a KitchenAid® Built-In Microwave and a KitchenAid® range

1. Kitchen Size and Layout

The first step in selecting a microwave is understanding which model and style will best fit your kitchen’s layout. Some microwaves fit best in kitchens with ample counter space, while others fit in homes with cabinets to spare for built-in or over-the-range models.

Nachos inside a KitchenAid® Built-In Microwave Nachos inside a KitchenAid® Built-In Microwave

2. Microwave Types 

There are three general microwave types: built-in, countertop and microwave hood combinations. Discover the differences between these types of microwaves and their benefits to help you choose a microwave that’s right for the unique way you create.

KitchenAid® Built-In Microwave built into a countertop KitchenAid® Built-In Microwave built into a countertop

Should I Choose a Built-in Microwave?

Built-in microwaves can either be installed directly into your cabinets or into a fixed wall to give your kitchen a sleek and integrated look. In some built-in models, the microwave doors open from the front like an oven, rather than swinging open like a traditional microwave. Some KitchenAid® built-in microwaves are designed to function like a kitchen drawer, where the microwave cavity opens like a drawer and food is placed inside from above. This option typically ranges between 24–30 inches in width and 17–22 inches in height, with a depth between 30–35 inches including the opened door. Built-ins typically have a wattage of 950-1,100 watts, offering a higher powered performance.

Other benefits of built-in microwaves include:

  • Enhanced kitchen aesthetics

  • Flush with cabinets and other appliances

  • Free up countertops for more prep and cooking space

  • Can be installed at a lower height for more accessibility

If a built-in microwave sounds like it might be the perfect fit for your kitchen, discover the best built-in model for you with the KitchenAid® Built-In Microwave Buying Guide.


Woman about to place food in a KitchenAid® Over-the-Range Microwave Woman about to place food in a KitchenAid® Over-the-Range Microwave

Should I Choose an Over-the-Range Microwave?

Over-the-range microwaves, or microwave hood combinations, are similar to built-in microwaves as they remove the appliance from your countertop and into the cabinets. The main difference is that over-the-range microwaves are typically installed above a stovetop because they double as a vent hood to clear smoke and odor from the kitchen when you cook. These models are typically about 30 inches in width, 17 inches in height and have an open-door depth of 42–45 inches. To ensure you have the right sized model for your cooktop, learn how to match your hood to your stovetop.

More reasons to consider an over-the-range microwave include:

  • Frees up counter space

  • Centralizes cooking tasks to one area of kitchen

  • Doubles as a vent hood

  • Modern and integrated design


KitchenAid® Countertop Microwave KitchenAid® Countertop Microwave

Should I Choose a Countertop Microwave?

Countertop microwaves provide quick access to your appliance right on your kitchen’s prep station. KitchenAid® countertop microwaves come in multiple sizes to best fit your counters and a variety of styles and finishes to match the flow of your kitchen’s style. Countertop models range from 21–24 inches in width and about 13 inches in height, with an open-door depth ranging between 27–39 inches.

Other benefits of countertop microwaves include:

  • Can be placed anywhere within reach of a grounded outlet
  • Portability is great for renters 

  • Easy installation

  • Classic and timeless design


KitchenAid® Low Profile Over-the-Range Microwave KitchenAid® Low Profile Over-the-Range Microwave


There are two microwave measurements to consider when you’re shopping for a new model: the external dimensions and the internal dimensions. Understanding your microwave’s external dimensions can help you find an appliance that will fit in the size and layout of your kitchen, while the interior dimensions help you understand the cooking space the microwave provides. 

To prepare for a smooth installation process for built-in or over-the-range microwaves, remove your current microwave and measure the microwave cutout width, depth and height before shopping for a new model. You can optimize the placement of a countertop microwave by taking into account ventilation space, space between appliances and your prospective microwave’s door swing radius.

KitchenAid® microwaves have a range of model sizes to best fit your kitchen, including low-profile microwaves that can fit above your stove in the space of an existing vent hood. Learn more about measuring for a new microwave with this Microwave Sizes Guide from KitchenAid brand.   


The best microwave for your space will strike the perfect balance between capacity and functionality. If you primarily plan to use your microwave for personal use, a model with at least 0.7 cubic feet should be able to accommodate most dinner plates for reheating or cooking single meals. A larger microwave with closer to 2.2 cu. ft. capacity may be more suitable if you entertain frequently or often need space to prepare food in larger cookware.

Finger touching microwave control panel Finger touching microwave control panel

4. Features to Consider When Choosing a Microwave

Once you’ve decided which microwave size and type you need, consider which microwave features will benefit the way you create or review our best microwaves of 2023 guide.


Microwaves with more wattage may cook your food more quickly. Typically, microwave wattage ranges from 900–1,200 watts. Most microwave recipes call for 1,000 watts of power for the best results, so you may want to consider a microwave model with high wattage when shopping. Learn more about how to choose the right microwave for your cooking needs with our guide.

Microwave Finish and Design

The design of your microwave can complement your style and decor, because your kitchen is more than just a prep and cook station. Whether your home has a contemporary or eclectic motif, KitchenAid brand offers microwaves with finishes like stainless steel and black stainless steel to fit your personal aesthetic. You can also protect your appliances from fingerprints and smudges with PrintShieldstainless steel finish. 

Convection Cooking and Broiler Element

You can unlock new culinary possibilities and use your microwave as a second oven, with some models including features like convection cooking and the broiler element. Convection cooking settings on select KitchenAid® microwaves circulate heat around the cavity to reach baking temperatures above 400° F, while the broiler element combines high power and even coverage needed to achieve results similar to a grill.



Convection microwaves can open the door to new and exciting culinary opportunities. If you often find yourself in need of more oven space, you can take advantage of the convection heating element found in these microwaves to roast, bake or add a delicate crisp to a variety of your favorite dishes. Plus, convection microwaves often come equipped with multiple racks that allow you to cook several dishes at once. Learn more about convection microwaves and discover ways that convection microwave cooking can supplement a standard sized oven.    


Steam Cooking

KitchenAid brand offers microwaves with Sensor Steam/Simmer Cooking in select models that precisely steam food when you add water to the steaming container. 


Sensor Functions

Some microwave models can automatically adjust the time needed to reheat and cook your food using sensors so you can take the guesswork out of your making. Learn more about microwave settings and features.

Turntables and Trays

The turntable or tray inside a microwave keeps food moving for an even heat. Most models have a turntable that rotates food in a circle, but some have trays that move side to side to heat large and dense dishes. Learn how to clean a microwave turntable in this guide.


Microwaves represent the ultimate convenience in the kitchen, and quick key functions are critical to streamlining the cooking process even further. Microwave models like the KitchenAid® 21 3/4" Countertop Convection Microwave Oven with PrintShield Finish include Soup, Potato and Popcorn Quick-Touch Cycles that begin reheating or cooking for a preprogrammed amount of time with the simple press of a button. You can remove the guesswork even further with Quick-Touch Cycles that sense a food’s doneness and automatically adjust cooking times, including the Dinner Plate, Fresh Vegetable and Frozen Vegetables presets on select KitchenAid® microwaves. 


Keeping your microwave clean inside and out can be a simple task when done regularly. Clean your microwave’s interior by steaming water inside of a microwave-safe cup for 3 to 5 minutes, then wiping down the steamed interior with a soft cloth dipped in soapy water. To clean the outside, enable a control lock function then wipe the microwave exterior down with a soft cloth dipped in warm, soapy water. Be sure to rub in the direction of the metal’s grain when cleaning a stainless steel microwave.  

Some microwaves include features that make it even easier to keep your microwave clean. Select models from KitchenAid brand feature a Steam Cleaning function that releases spills and stains, making it easier to wipe them away. Others feature a PrintShield Finish that resists smudges and can be quickly wiped down with water and a soft cloth.  

Man opening microwave door to place food inside Woman opening microwave door to place food inside


Keeping relevant considerations at the top of your mind will help you choose the best microwave for your kitchen’s aesthetic and cooking habits. Find a model that compliments the flow of your kitchen by considering the colors and finishes of your other kitchen appliances, as well as more nuanced details like handle designs. Be selective about your microwave’s functions and choose a model with wattage, shortcuts and functionality suited to the foods you make the most. When it’s time for installation, open the microwave’s packaging carefully and be sure to triple check your opening’s measurements before you start the process.