best low profile microwave

Microwaves have historically come in two basic categories: standard over the range microwaves and counter top microwaves.  Over the range microwaves are designed to fit nicely above your range and have standard 30″ widths. Height-wise, they are typically between 16″ and 18″ and they generally offer a capacity in the 1.7 to 2.0 cubic foot range. Over the range microwaves are practically standard issue in most modern kitchens and the cabinetry and layout in modern homes generally work well for these products. So what is the best low profile microwave, best low profile microwave over the range and best low profile countertop microwave for you?

best low profile countertop microwave

The dilemma comes when you don’t have a cabinet layout that will accommodate a standard over the range microwave, or don’t have the counter space for a countertop microwave but hate the “visual bulk” of OTR microwaves. Whirlpool and KitchenAid have a solution: their low profile microwave models are just what you need to solve this problem!

Installation Shot Whirlpool Low Profile Microwave WML55011HB

What is a Low Profile Microwave?

A low profile microwave is a revolutionary product introduced in 2018 designed for consumers that are constrained for space above their range that still want all the advantages of an over the range microwave. A low profile microwave will measure approximately 10.25 inches in height, a full 6 inches less than the average over the range microwave. The exciting news is that a low profile microwave can still provide you with all the features of a standard over the range microwave, including:

  • Powerful and versatile microwave cooking capabilities
  • Ventilation capabilities (both internal recirculating and external venting)
  • High quality surface lighting for your range top or cook top surface

Is a Low Profile Microwave Right for You?

While a low profile microwave can be installed just about anywhere a normal over the range microwave can be installed, certain consumers will find it most appealing. The product was developed mainly for consumers that have an existing range hood over their cooking surface and have cabinetry built to accommodate a hood but not a standard over the range microwave. It is ideal for consumers that don’t have enough height clearance between their cooking surface and the bottom of a standard over the range model. (For reference, you typically need around 18″ of minimum clearance, but this can make using your stovetop a pain.)

The new Whirlpool and KitchenAid models we review below are designed as the perfect replacement product in this case. They allow you to kill two birds with one stone: replacing your old hood and getting that undesirable countertop microwave off your counter. Low profile microwaves are two appliances in one!

best low profile microwave

Now we’ll take a closer look at three awesome low profile microwave models. Whirlpool has introduced models under their popular Whirlpool Brand and their premium brand KitchenAid. As of this writing, Whirlpool is the only brand offering low profile microwaves.

1. Whirlpool WML55011HS – $499

Whirlpool offers two low profile microwave models. The base model, the Whirlpool WML5501HS, is a 1.1 cubic foot microwave with a powerful 400 CFM fan and 1,000 watts of cooking power.

See this Whirlpool low profile microwave in action in our video below!

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This Whirlpool model comes in black, white and stainless steel. It has concealed touch controls that are only visible when the door is open for a modern look, and an easy tap to open door rather than a handle or button. It can even be installed next to a wall if necessary thanks to the 90-degree hinge door. You can turn the turntable rotation off for heating large dishes, and use a variety of microwave presets to quickly heat and defrost things.

The ventilation system offers three speeds and can be converted to ductless/recirculating installation or vented to the outside. 

Whirlpool WML55011HS – $499

Whirlpool Low Profile Microwave WML55011HS

2. Whirlpool WML75011HZ – $549

For just $50 more, you can upgrade to the Whirlpool WML75011HZ. This model is available in a wider variety of color choices. For starters, the stainless steel model ending in the letter “Z” is Whirlpool’s fingerprint resistant stainless steel. It’s also available in black, white, and black stainless steel. 

This model comes with all of the features of the basic Whirlpool model but also comes with the following enhanced features:

  • CleanRelease® non-stick interior
  • Sensor cooking
  • Fingerprint resistant (stainless steel model)
  • LED cooktop lighting 
  • Steam cooking

Whirlpool WML75011HZ – $549

Whirlpool Low Profile Microwave WML75011HZ

3. KitchenAid KMLS311HSS – $849

If you are looking for a low profile microwave in the flagship KitchenAid line, you’re in luck. Whirlpool has recently introduced the KitchenAid KMLS311HSS. It is available in four great color options, including white, stainless steel and the premium black stainless steel. Read more about black stainless in our article – Black Stainless Steel – Pros & Cons. This great 1,000W model has the highly recognizable KitchenAid badge.

Like the Whirlpool models, it has hidden controls, but has touch metal power buttons instead of plain buttons. You’ll find a 4-speed 500 CFM Whisper Quiet® ventilation system (100 CFM more than the Whirlpool models), and two LED task lights. It has similar microwave options, with a range of preset controls.

KitchenAid KMLS311HSS – $849

KitchenAid Low Profile Microwave KMLS311HSS

We hope this article helped give you a quick overview of what low profile microwaves are, how they compare to conventional over the range microwaves, and which features you need to know about. The low profile microwave design really makes you think about whether you actually use all of the vertical space in your microwave. 

How to buy a microwave

This buying guide is what you need if you’re looking for a new microwave.

Your Pizza Rolls deserve a good microwave. This countertop wonder, whose origins date back to the 1940s, is probably one of the most frequently used appliances in your kitchen thanks to its ability to reheat food fast (and cook a mug cake or two). There are a variety of options when it’s time to select a microwave, so we’ve broken down the options you have when you’re ready for a new microwave.

Location

The first decision you need to make about a new microwave is where in your kitchen you want to put it. The location affects the price, features, size and installation of the appliance. You have three main options:

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Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Countertop

This is the most common type of microwave. They generally cost less and are significantly easier to install than other models. Just find a spot on the counter for it to sit, plug it into an outlet and you can use it right away.

The biggest issue with the countertop microwave is how much space it needs. If you have limited room on your countertop, you may either want to look at the smaller countertop models available, look into placing your microwave on a small cart, or consider another style of microwave.

Price: $40 to $700

External dimensions: From roughly 10 by 18 by 14 inches for compact models to roughly 14 by 24 by 20 inches for larger models

Internal capacity: Less than 1 cubic foot to more than 2 cubic feet

Wattage: Typically 600 to 1,200 watts

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Some of GE’s stoves and over-the-range microwaves are connected via Bluetooth.Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Over-the-range

You install this style of microwave above your range, which will save you some counter space. These models have vent systems that take the place of the oven hood and lights to illuminate your cooktop.

Price: $190 to $1,300

External dimensions: Usually wider than countertop models, about 16 by 30 by 15 inches

Internal capacity: Less than 1 cubic foot to more than 2 cubic feet

Wattage: Typically 600 to 1,200 watts

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Sharp

Built-in

Built-in models that you place among custom cabinets or paired with built-in, full-sized wall ovens are the most high-end (aka expensive) types of microwaves. Some microwaves in this category are even designed specifically as drawers with a compartment you pull out for your food.

Price: $500 to $5,000 and up

External dimensions: This varies widely depending on type, and drawers tend to have more depth than countertop or over-the-range models, hitting about 15 by 30 by 26 inches

Internal capacity: Less than 1 cubic foot to more than 2 cubic feet

Wattage: Typically 600 to 1,200 watts

Size

It’s important to find the right-sized microwave that will meet your food needs and fit in the space you have for it. First, you want to measure the counter or other space where you plan to put your microwave. Then, measure the height, width and depth of any model you’re considering to find out if it will fit on your counter top, over your range or in a custom spot. The external dimensions can vary a lot, from 10 by 18 by 14 inches on the smaller side to 14 by 24 by 20 inches on the larger side.

Then there’s also the internal capacity, which can range from less than 1 cubic foot to 2 cubic feet or more. There doesn’t seem to be any set rule for how internal capacity correlates to size (like 1 cubic foot = small, 1.5 cubic feet = medium, etc.), but here’s an attempt to break it down:

Compact: Under 1 cubic foot

Midsize: 1 to 1.5 cubic feet

Full-size: 1.6 to 2 cubic feet

Extra-large: More than 2 cubic feet

Most microwaves are somewhere around 1.4 to 1.8 cubic feet. Still not sure which size you need? If you’re out shopping, bring in a plate or bowl from home that you plan to use often to make sure that it fits inside the microwave.

Still in doubt? Measure everything, take notes and check with your appliance retailer for help deciding what would work best. For over-the-range and other built-in models, you most likely won’t be the one installing your new microwave, so you can always avail yourself of their expertise.

Wattage

Microwave wattage equals power. In general, the higher the wattage, the faster and more evenly your food will cook. Most microwaves sit somewhere between 600 to 1,200 watts. Larger, more expensive microwaves tend to have a higher wattage, so this is a price and size consideration that can strongly influence microwave cooking performance.

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This GE microwave has scan-to-cook tech via a related app.Chris Monroe/CNET

Features

Many microwaves share common functions. Here are some microwave cooking essentials: cook time, defrost, power level and timer. Each one requires your direct input, but they are usually very easy to set. Most microwaves have touch panel controls and a rotating carousel to spin your food for more even cooking.

Default settings

Many microwaves come with preset cooking modes so you only have to press one button to automatically cook a dish. For example, many microwaves have a “popcorn” button that will cook your bag based on factory settings. This can be handy for common dishes you heat in the microwave, but you’ll have to figure out if the microwave’s default cook times work for your own food. Other common presets include: baked potato, pizza, beverage, frozen dinner and reheat.

Broil

Manufacturers are increasingly including features in microwaves that mimic what we see in full-size ovens, such as a broiler. This is a good addition for finishing off a dish or cooking something for which you’d prefer more direct heat.

Convection

A convection fan that’s built into the back of a microwave oven circulates the heat around the food to cook things more quickly and evenly. (Many new full-size ovens come with at least one convection fan.) However, microwaves with convection fans are generally more expensive than those without.

Inverter technology

Inverter heating is another option available on some high-end models. If you want to heat something at a 50 percent power level, most microwaves actually switch between 100 percent power and 0 percent power to average in at 50 percent power. This doesn’t yield great results if you want to heat something on a lower heat and achieve an even result. So, some models now use inverter technology, which maintains a consistent 50 percent power. That way, you can poach salmon, make a fluffy omelet, etc.

Other advanced features

In addition to new heating technologies, higher-end models usually have more presets than just the basic pizza, popcorn and baked potato standard. Some use moisture sensors to detect food doneness. And we’ve started to see models include LED lighting on the interior.

“Smart” technology, i.e. options that connect microwaves to the internet and other products, aren’t as widespread in microwaves as we’ve seen in other kitchen appliances. However, we’ve seen GE Appliances include Bluetooth technology in some of its over-the-range microwaves. This connection, which GE calls “Chef Connect,” pairs the microwave with compatible GE ranges so the light and fan beneath the microwave automatically turns on when you turn on a burner.

More options

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Will the June Intelligent Oven become the next microwave?Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Other small appliances have started to make a case for forgoing the microwave, such as steam ovens that use water to cook for more moist heating or the basic toaster oven that mimics a full-size stove. These options promise to cook more effectively than a microwave, but it might take longer to reheat your food.

Smart countertop ovens have also started to become an option. The June Intelligent Oven uses facial recognition technology to identify food and cook it automatically, and the Tovala Smart Oven will scan packaged meals for automatic cooking, including frozen meals from Trader Joe’s. These options are promising, but the technology is too new to determine whether or not these will become kitchen staples.

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