A top-tier microwave should be fast, efficient, and powerful enough to bring your culinary dishes to life. That said, considerable power usually means big cooking appliances that take up valuable counter space. So, if you want additional countertop space without compromising on cooking power, you’ve probably considered a microwave drawer vs. a built-in microwave. Read our guide, and we’ll help you find the best microwave oven for you.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • A drawer microwave is installed at counter level and pulls out just like a standard kitchen drawer.
  • A built-in microwave oven sits at eye or chest level, and you install it in the wall or among your kitchen cabinets.
  • Both types of microwaves save on space and look modern. You cannot go wrong with either model if you can afford the installation process.

Comparing Microwave Drawers and Built-in Microwaves

Microwave drawers and built-in microwaves mainly differ on where they’re placed. Typically, a built-in drawer microwave will pull out from counter height. Built-in microwaves, however, are often installed at eye level with a drop-down door. The built-in installation will run you much more than typical countertop microwave ovens. Still, you get serious value for the extra cost.

If you’re considering a large stainless steel microwave but want to save counter space, check out our guide to bakers racks and microwave carts.

Insider Tip

If you store things in your built-in microwave oven, always ensure it is empty before preparing cooked dishes.

Space Saving

A traditional microwave gets in the way of valuable countertop space. Both built-in and drawer microwave ovens alleviate this issue. Not only will either type of microwave save cooking space, but both offer bigger cavity sizes than conventional microwaves. This lets you cook bigger dishes and have room for additional storage when you’re done.

Power

Both a microwave drawer and built-in microwave oven offer similar cook times and custom power levels. They also have different modes for reheating a hot dish or auto-defrost. Like counter microwaves, these models have digital displays that only require enough energy to keep the clock on. See our guide to energy use in microwaves vs. toaster ovens for a more detailed example of appliance power costs.

Build Quality

Since built-in microwaves and drawer microwave ovens are installed in your standard cabinetry, they have a higher build quality than a classic stainless steel microwave. Of course, either type of microwave should be well-built, but drawer microwaves are typically better made.

Expense

Both options are a step above a simple countertop microwave with a bulky trim kit. However, just like range microwaves, drawer and built-in models sometimes require professional installation to get your model flush with standard cabinetry. In addition, built-in and drawer microwave ovens have extra features like an angled control panel and child-proof control lock. One of the main cons of microwave drawers is the cost, but it may be worth it for serious chefs.

Warning

Never set your heavy dishes on the door of a built-in microwave drawer. You may get away with it once, but a typical built-in drawer microwave door isn’t built to hold heavy casserole dishes.

F.A.Q.S

Are microwave drawers worth it?

If you need extra cook space, a standard microwave just won’t cut it. Even with a compact size, a regular microwave will not offer built-in microwave drawer storage and convenience.


Why are microwave drawers so expensive?

The extra cost comes down to professional installation and build quality. In addition, these types of microwaves have different features that a freestanding microwave won’t have.


Is a built-in microwave the same as a microwave drawer?

While a built-in microwave oven and microwave drawer oven are close to the same thing, there are many differences. The most immediate difference is how they open. One is a drop-down door, and the other is like a cabinet drawer.



STAT: A US Department of Energy survey found that 67% of Americans own a countertop microwave. (source)

Christen Costa

Grew up back East, got sick of the cold and headed West. Since I was small I have been pushing buttons - both electronic and human. With an insatiable need for tech I thought "why not start a blog focusing on technology, and use my dislikes and likes to post on gadgets."

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