Types of Microwaves

Updated: Sep 12, 2022 1:16 PM
types of microwaves

If you are new to the world of convenience-forward cooking, you may want to learn about the various types of microwaves. The best microwaves, after all, are not created equal, and many boast unique designs to suit different consumers. So what are the types of microwaves, and which is best for you? Keep reading to find out.


  • Microwaves have come a long way since the 1960s, as there are many types of microwave ovens available for modern consumers.
  • As for placement, you have standard countertop microwaves, over-the-range designs, built-in microwaves, and low-profile designs.
  • As for cooking options, you have inverter microwaves, convection microwaves, grill microwaves, and more. All of these are available as countertop microwaves, built-in microwaves, and other types of microwave ovens.

Different Kinds of Microwaves

Before you answer why a metal rack rests in your microwave, you need to learn about the various oven types. There is your standard microwave oven if you are comparing an LG vs a Bosch microwave oven combo. There are also smart inverter microwaves, which is an interesting design. Some microwaves even go above the oven if you are comparing a Bosch vs Kitchenaid over-the-range convection microwave.

Insider Tip

No matter which type of microwave you choose, clean it regularly to ensure longevity.

Here are the many microwave types out there, so you can get going on conducting an LG vs a Panasonic inverter microwave review, among others.

Solo Microwave Ovens

This is your standard microwave oven of the type you have likely been using your whole life. They sit on a counter. There is a spinning plate inside. You put bowls of leftovers inside, push a few buttons, and voila. You know the drill.

There is a reason this standard design has remained so popular throughout the decades. These microwaves are easy-to-use, budget-friendly, and offer little-to-no difficulty when installing. They also excel with a large variety of ingredients and recipes, though they have some limitations compared to some of the more advanced combo units.

Reasons to Buy

  • This is a tried-and-true design dating back to the 1960s. They just work.
  • Variable heat settings allow for defrosting, reheating food, and even cooking recipes from the ground up.
  • They are easy to use and easy to install. Just lay it on a counter and plug it in.

Reasons Not to Buy

  • Though they feature variable heat settings, they do not feature additional bells and whistles, such as convection or grilling capabilities.
  • They require counter space, whereas other microwave types find unique installation locations.
  • Though budget-friendly, they can increase your energy bill, in addition to coming into conflict with certain Bluetooth devices.

Tips for Buying a Standard Microwave Oven

  • Measure your counter before making a purchase to ensure proper integration.
  • Look for models that are easy to clean, with dishwasher-safe interior components (like the spinning plate.)
  • Standard microwaves are available in so many designs and colors, so choose one to fit your aesthetic.

Over-the-Range Microwave Oven

This is essentially a solo microwave oven that is designed to fit atop your oven range. Beyond that, the features can differ wildly depending on how much money you spend. Your average OTR microwave offers a bare-bones feature set in line with a standard oven, but you can find grill microwaves, convection microwaves, and other types that fit atop the range.

Space saving is the obvious purpose of over-the-range microwaves, but they also offer increased ventilation to remove heated air from the home and move it outside.

Reasons to Buy

  • You don’t need a spare counter for an OTR microwave. They go directly above the oven range or in another low-profile area.
  • When installed with a ventilation hood, they help ventilate hot air from both the microwave and the oven.
  • They provide a bit of an artistic flourish to your kitchen, as the placement gives the design a bit more oomph.

Reasons Not to Buy

  • OTR microwaves are not the cheapest models on the block, even with bare-bones features.
  • As you can assume, these are not the easiest to install. You may need a professional or at least another set of hands.
  • Not all kitchens can handle an OTR microwave. It really depends on the shape and size of your actual oven and range.

Tips for Buying an Over-the-Range Microwave Oven

  • Measurements are key here to make sure that the oven will fit above your range.
  • Look for brands with universal mounting options to speed up the installation process.
  • Keep shopping until you find the right model. Once it is installed, you will likely not want to replace it.

Convection Microwave Ovens

As the name suggests, this type combines the functionalities of a standard microwave with that of a convection oven. The end result? A microwave that excels with basic cooking tasks and also convection-related cooking. Convection cooking involves moving ultra-heated air throughout the chamber to prepare ingredients quickly. You have heard of an air fryer, right? That is a convection oven.

This drastically increases the number of recipes you can cook, transforming your microwave from a simple leftover machine to something much more nuanced.


Some microwaves draw a lot of power and can short circuits. Perform research ahead of time.

Reasons to Buy

  • Heat, reheat, defrost, or cook stuff from scratch. A convection microwave can do it all.
  • You can cook many items in these ovens that are not appropriate for regular microwaves, such as pizza.
  • Convection microwaves are available in standard designs, models ideal for counter placement, convection designs, and low-profile designs.

Reasons Not to Buy

  • Prices here get rather exorbitant, especially when compared to regular microwave ovens.
  • You may not need the convection technology, particularly if you already have a convection oven or an air fryer.
  • They can get difficult to clean, especially when using the convection element.

Tips for Buying a Convection Microwave Oven

  • Look for models with a rack that allows you to cook more than one thing at once.
  • Measure counter space ahead of time, and do the same for the range with OTR models.
  • This type of combo unit can get expensive, so wait for a good sale.

Inverter Microwave Ovens

Inverter microwaves offer a significant refinement of the standard magnetron-based technology found with regular microwave ovens. Consider these a modern take on the 1960s design, as inverter technology provides even power for long periods of time. Regular microwaves, you see, constantly turn on and off during use, though you do not notice.

Why go for an inverter microwave? The technology is on the newer side and somewhat future-proof. Additionally, you will eliminate some of the negatives of traditional microwave cooking, such as unevenly prepared recipes.

Reasons to Buy

  • Cold spots are the bane of any microwave-based recipe, and inverter designs eliminate them.
  • This design adds more cooking options. For instance, you can access more nuanced temperature controls.
  • Inverter microwaves offer availability in nearly every sub-category, from OTR designs to built-in designs, low-profile designs, and more.

Reasons Not to Buy

  • This is a new technology, despite being based on traditional microwave magnetrons. In other words, you’ll pay more.
  • This type does not boast as much aesthetic variety as traditional microwaves due to being a new variety.
  • They are lighter (which is good) but can complicate OTR installations.

STAT: The most common types of microwaves include built-in, over-the-range, countertop, under-counter, wall oven, and microwave combination, smart and convection microwaves. (source)

Tips for Buying an Inverter Microwave

  • Look for a sale, particularly around the holidays. Inverter microwaves cost nearly twice as much as standard designs.
  • They are much lighter than regular microwaves, so put them somewhere stable. Measure ahead of time.
  • Read up on cooking instructions ahead of time so that you don’t overcook your favorite recipes.

Grill Microwave Ovens

This is another combo design, but instead of offering convection cooking, this type adds a grill to the mix. That’s right. Use this type of microwave to heat up leftovers and toast bread, cook oven pizza, and even grill meats. Anything you used to use a grill or even a toaster oven for, you can do with these.

Just like convection microwave ovens, this type ships in a variety of sub-categories, such as OTR ovens, low-profile ovens, built-in ovens, and more. Also, grill microwaves are relatively new, so look for many to include smart features.

Reasons to Buy

  • You can microwave and grill in the same appliance. What’s not to love?
  • Heat levels are adjustable, just as with regular microwaves, but so are grilling levels.
  • Many modern grill microwaves feature serious, smart controls so that you can change things up with your phone.

Reasons Not to Buy

  • The grilling components tend to add a bit of weight to this type. They are heavier than average and difficult to install as an OTR model.
  • OTR designs are pretty much out of the question for shorter people, as you won’t be able to see food as it is being grilled.
  • Grill microwaves are a relatively new design and, as such, tend to be on the expensive side.

Tips for Buying Grill Microwave Ovens

  • These tend to be heavier and larger than standard microwaves, so measure your space before purchasing.
  • They are also pretty expensive, so look for a good sale to keep your bank account happy.
  • Make sure the warranty covers all components, including standard microwave parts and grilling parts.

Microwave Type FAQs

Which microwave type is best for my kitchen?

This depends on your needs and your desire for increased power levels. Try a countertop microwave if you are looking for something simple and one of the other types of microwave ovens if you are looking for something more advanced.

Do you have a large kitchen?

If you have a large kitchen, you can use any of the types of microwave ovens available to cook frozen food, among other dishes, as you have plenty of cubic feet to spare. Counter microwaves are a good choice, as are range models and models with microwave drawers and other additional features.

Do you want really strong venting power?

If you want strong venting power and you have the cubic feet to spare, go with an OTR with a hood attachment. This will cut down on cooking times and ventilate the heating element during use.

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