microwave on top of stove

How close can a microwave be to the stove? Putting your microwave microwave on top of stove saves space on your counters without eating up your cabinet space. It also means that you can’t have a range hood above your stove top. This isn’t a huge concern with a standard electric or induction oven, but it can cause problems with a gas stove top, especially if yours has more powerful pro-strength burners. Today, we review where to put a microwave in a tiny kitchen and where to put microwave in apartment.

Microwave On Top Of Stove

Proper Placement of Your Microwave

Most microwaves set above a stove top require a total clearance of 66 inches from the floor to the top of the microwave. This can leave as little as 13 inches from the top of the burners to the bottom of the microwave, depending on the size of the microwave. This is the same whether you’re placing the microwave above an electric range, an induction cooker or a gas stove top.

Not all microwaves are designed to go above a stove top. Microwaves that are designed to fit beneath or between cabinets or over a wall oven don’t have vents built into the bottom. A vent is absolutely necessary if you’re going to install your microwave over your stove top, so read the specifications on a new microwave carefully before purchasing it.

Main Differences Between Stove Tops

The main difference between types of stove tops lies in how they heat your food. An electric stove has ring-shaped burners that are heated by electricity. The hotter they are, the more brightly they glow, with a red burner indicating that it’s set on its highest setting. These burners don’t cool down immediately. Some electric stove tops have a sheet of tempered glass on top of the burners.

Induction stove tops work with magnets, and they actually heat the pot or pan rather than a burner. You can only use metal cookware with an induction stove top.

Gas stoves are fueled by natural gas or propane that’s mixed with air and ignited by a small spark when you turn the burners on. Most home gas ranges vary in power from about 12,000 to 50,000 British thermal units (BTUs), which measure how much heat the burners put out. It takes 1 BTU to raise the temperature of 1 pound of water by 1 degree, measured in Fahrenheit. The higher the BTU of your stove top, the more powerful a venting system is needed above it.

The Question of Venting

Venting is necessary to remove heat, smoke and cooking odors from your kitchen. A powerful vent also helps keep grease and oils from mixing with moisture and dust, which can coat the area around your cooktop with a thin layer of grime. Venting also removes nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide from the air, both of which are known pollutants.

Standard practice is to have a vent that can clean 100 cubic feet of air per minute for every 10,000 BTUs. The more cubic feet of air per minute you need to clean, the larger the surface area of the vent needs to be and the more powerful the fan.

Most microwaves are only about 15 inches deep and their fans aren’t all that powerful as compared to a range hood, which is generally 18 to 24 inches deep with a fan designed to suck up the air and cooking particles and release them outside of your home.

Concerns About Safety

There are several safety concerns to consider before deciding whether having a microwave above your cooktop is best for you. The most obvious one is if you have to use the microwave and the stove top at the same time, you’ll be reaching over open flames to get to the microwave. This is a definite hazard if you have long hair or tend to favor loose, flowing clothing.

Another is the issue of height. As with most home furnishings, stove tops are set at a more or less standard height of 3 feet. In order to leave enough room for tall pots, a microwave set above the stove will leave at least another 2 feet of clearance between the top of the stove and the bottom of the microwave. If you’re shorter than 5 feet 5 inches tall, you may have a difficult time seeing into the microwave and will have to reach over the stove top to bring down hot food, which increases your chance of spilling things.

4 Reasons Not to Install Your Microwave above the Stove

 We design one kitchen per week here at KTJ Design Co, and we try to NOT put the microwave over the range (also known as an over-the-range microwave or OTR) in any of them.

There are many reasons why we try to avoid this design:

  1. It’s ugly. It became the popular location for the microwave in the 1980’s as a way to remove it from the counter top. It seemed liked an efficient use of space, but with today’s large kitchens that is not an issue anymore.
  2. It must double as your primary ventilation for your range or cooktop. OTR’s aren’t that good at venting grease, smoke, and smells. Since the kitchen creates the most air pollution in your home, it needs a vent that does its job well.  With today’s more robust ranges and cooktops, OTR’s don’t provide the proper CFM (cubes of air exhausted per minute).
  3. It isn’t safe. Lifting a hot boiling item up and over your head for obvious reasons isn’t a good idea. This is especially dangerous for the elderly and for children.
  4. It limits the type of cooking you CAN do on the top of your stove. Because they are specified to be about 24” above the range, this eliminates cooking with any large pots.

Now that I’ve got you convinced to reconsider an OTR in your kitchen remodel, what should you do?

4 Appliance Alternatives to Putting a Microwave above the Stove

The Best Kitchen Appliance I Ever Purchased MICROWAVE DRAWER.png

MICROWAVE DRAWER

Microwave drawers are tucked under the counter and slid out with a push button. You then can easily set your food inside and lift out. Microwave drawers look great in islands and peninsulas, increasing the functionality and workflow of your kitchen when placed in your food preparation area. Some people think they will not like it because they will have to bend down, but because it opens like a drawer and not a door, it is generally not a problem.

The Best Kitchen Appliance I Ever Purchased IN CABINET MICROWAVE.png

IN-CABINET MICROWAVE

A more affordable option is to place a countertop microwave and in a cabinet, either at the end of an island or in an upper cabinet.

The Best Kitchen Appliance I Ever Purchased WALL MICROWAVE.png

WALL MICROWAVE

A wall microwave will give your kitchen that built-in, seamless look. You can install the microwave in your cabinetry or above a wall oven.

The Best Kitchen Appliance I Ever Purchased SPPED OVEN.png

SPEED OVEN

This is the best appliance I’ve ever purchased.

When I remodeled my own modern kitchen several years ago, I installed a GE Advantium Speed Oven. The speed oven cooks similarly to both an oven and a microwave (and can be used as both), ensuring that your food is warmed evenly. Speed ovens can be placed anywhere because the door folds down (like an oven) and does not slide out (like a drawer) or open out (like a microwave).  However, the more powerful 220 volt models can only be installed in a wall cabinet.

I love my speed oven because I can cook a whole chicken in 20 minutes, rendering the chicken crispy brown on the outside and tender and moist on the inside. While the chicken cooks, I prepare vegetables for roasting. While the fully cooked chicken rests, I roast the vegetables in the speed oven in only 10 minutes.  Viola, a healthy dinner is prepared in 30 minutes!

Also, I can bake other things, like cookies, without preheating the big oven. This is great in the summer because I don’t heat up the whole house with a hot oven.

4-reasons-not-to-install-microwave-above-stove-range-interior-design-OTR.png

WHEN SHOULD YOU USE AN OVER-THE-RANGE MICROWAVE?

There are occasions where the OTR is a good solution, such as if there is limited space in a tiny kitchen or you don’t cook often. However, if you want an attractive kitchen, remember that you have other options. If you plan on getting a professional range that boasts high BTU’s (measure of heat output), an OTR is not an option. 

How to buy a 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:

Whirlpool_Microwave.png
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

ge-pb911sjss-oven-product-photos-2.jpg
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

Sharp_builtin_microwave.jpg
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.

ge-smart-microwave-7
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

june-oven-product-photos-2.jpg
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.

Leave a Comment