Microwave oven types and prices

Below I set out all the Microwave oven types and prices you can choose from.  I split it up by location, combo features, size, power, features and colors. So which type of microwave oven is best for home use?

When microwaves first hit the scene, most people bought who bought one put it on their counter.  They had existing kitchens and there weren’t the location advancements there is today.

However, it didn’t take long for kitchen designers and builders to come up with more convenient locations where they wouldn’t take up counter space.  The result is that now you have many microwave location options which means there are several types of microwaves since not all can be placed in all locations.  For example, to mount a microwave below a cabinet, you’re best off buying a microwave designed for being mounted beneath a cabinet.

Microwave Oven Types And Prices

What I think is the best part about more convenient locations is that they are at better heights than on the counter.  When on the counter, you have to bend over to choose settings.  Ours, as an example, is built-into the wall above our wall oven and so it’s just below my chin which makes for a very easy level to use.  Personally, I much prefer microwaves to suspended, hung, or built in above the counter.

Nevertheless, these days there are all kinds, sizes, colors and styles of microwaves.  The one thing that doesn’t vary too much are the features.  Sure, the number of power levels may vary as well as the number of cooking presets (popcorn, pizza, potato, etc.), but those are the key features in addition to manually setting the cooking time.

The Different Types of Microwaves

Location

1. Countertop

The simplest microwave location placement is putting it on the counter.

Microwave cart is an alternative to placing your countertop microwave on the counter
Here’s a microwave cart which is an alternative location for your countertop microwave oven.

Con: However, it’s not the best placement because it’s fairly low and it takes up counter space.  That said, if you don’t have any other option, it’s better to put one on the counter than not have one at all.

Pros:  You can find inexpensive, yet quality microwaves that sit on a counter (many of these microwaves are under $100).  As soon as you want special placements, the price often goes up.  Another pro is you can move it around the kitchen if you need to change the location for whatever purpose.  You can’t do that with any built-in models.

TIP: If possible, place your countertop microwave in a location where you can’t use the counter space much.  The above photo example is good because the small microwave is places on counter space that’s not terribly useful because it’s small and hedged between the stove and fridge.

An alternative to placing your countertop microwave on the counter is to buy a microwave cart that stands freely wherever you want in your kitchen.

2. Above the Range

Microwaves as range hoods mounted above the stove is a great placement location because that’s often wasted space and the microwave ends up being eye-level.  Be sure to get a color or finish that matches the oven like it does in the photo example above.  Imagine if the microwave in the kitchen photo above was white.  That would look odd.

The downside to over-the-range microwaves is they cost more money… most above $100 and climb to several hundred dollars.  Also, you may need help installing the unit above the stove which adds to the cost.

3. Under Cabinet (Suspended)

Kitchen with microwave mounted under the upper cabinet

Another option is to get a microwave designed to mount below your upper cabinets so that it’s suspended or hangs or drops down from the upper cabinets.  The only real advantage here is it makes keeping the counter top clean easier.  Otherwise, usually the microwave drops down so low to the counter space that the counter space is practically useless anyway.

That said, if your upper cabinets have a decent amount of clearance above  the counter and/or you buy a compact microwave, you can still end up with enough usable counter space beneath it.  The kitchen photo example above illustrates that suspending the microwave below a cabinet works well because there’s decent clearance below it and the counter.

4. Under Counter

Kitchen with microwave placed under the counter as a built-in unit.

I’m not a huge fan of this location because you really need to bend down to use it.  Our former home had the microwave built-into the counter below the counter surface and it was a nuisance to use.  Nevertheless, if you have no other option, it’s better than nothing.

5. Built-In (Above-the-Counter)

Built-in microwave placed above the oven

A popular microwave location these days, which can only be achieved when renovating a kitchen or designing a new kitchen, is building it into the cabinets.  This is a great location because you can put it at any height you want and it takes up no countertop space.

Combo Functions

These days you can buy what are called combo microwaves that incorporate other functions.  The two most popular combo options are microwaves with a convection oven or a microwave and grill combo.  Below are examples of both.

6. Microwave Convection Oven Combo

The above Panasonic microwave (Amazon) is a very popular microwave convection oven unit that has a lot of great customer feedback.  It incorporates inverter technology which heats food evenly.  It’s also reasonably priced for a microwave and convection oven combo.

What is a convection oven? 

A convection oven cooks food faster because it blows hot air around the food.  It includes a vent to vent air in and out.  The air moving around the food speeds up cooking time (just like being in a cold wind makes you colder).  According to Fine Cooking, convection ovens can decrease cooking time by 25%.  However, this can be an issue if recipes stipulate a set cooking time based on a traditional oven… that leaves you guessing as to how much time you should chop off the cooking time.

7. Microwave with Grill Function

You can now buy microwaves that also grill food.  They come with a grill accessory.  Here’s an example (available at Amazon).

Microwave Sizes

Depending on where you’re placing your microwave and how you use your microwave, size will play an important part of the decision.  You may want a huge microwave because you cook large dishes in it.  Alternatively, you may prefer a compact microwave to take up as little space as possible.  And then you may need to buy a microwave to fit a built-in microwave spot in your kitchen and so overall dimensions are critically important.

When it comes to microwave sizing, there are 4 considerations.  

  • Overall Dimensions: If you need to fit your microwave in a particular spot, you should choose the size based on overall size which is height x width x depth.
  • Interior Dimensions: If you need to fit specific dish sizes or perhaps pizza size (as an example), you will want to choose a microwave based on interior dimensions (cooking space).  Another consideration is internal height if you place taller pots in your microwave.
  • By Cubic Feet: Many microwave categorize their size by cubic feet (cu. ft.), which refers to internal cooking area capacity.  The smaller microwaves have .7 cu. ft.  Larger models go up to 2.2 cu. ft.  1.4 cu. ft. is medium-sized microwave.  FYI, a larger cubic foot does not necessarily mean more surface area.  Cubic feet refers to the size of the entire internal space.
  • By Turntable Diameter: This is a very common size consideration because the turntable diameter tells how large of a plate or round dish you can place in the microwave.  Smaller microwave turntables are 9 inches in diameter.  A large microwave has 16 inch turntables.

Power

Mircowave power is measured by wattage and it refers to how much electricity it uses to operate.

Microwave wattage ranges from 700 to 1,500+.  Small microwaves are rated 700 to 800 watts and it goes up from there.  The higher the wattage, the faster and more even the cooking… but price goes up too.  One of the main complaints from low wattage microwaves is that they cook slow and can cook uneven.

Key Microwave Features

  • Cooking Presets:  Most microwaves come with at least 6 cooking presets.  Some offer more.  The common presets are for cooking popcorn, pizza, potatoes, frozen dishes, reheat and in some cases rice.  These make using a microwave convenient since cooking time varies from model-to-model.  This way you stand a better chance to cook or heat up properly.
  • Defrost Presets (by pound): Higher end models include more precise defrosting options which you can control by the weight of the food you’re defrosting.
  • 30 second instant cook button: This is the feature I use the most.  This handy button adds 30 seconds and starts cooking immediately for 30 seconds.  When done, hit it again and it runs for another 30 seconds.
  • Cooking time: Some microwaves have a cap on how long something will cook at one go.  Usually it’s 30 to 60 minutes.  Higher end models offer longer continuous cooking times.
  • Digital vs. Dial: Yes, you can still buy dial controlled microwaves.  They’re simpler.  Most people buy digitally controlled microwaves.
  • Sensor: The latest microwaves have built in sensor technology which senses when food is properly cooked.  This is a terrific feature which makes it possible to not have to constantly check the food.
  • Inversion Technology: Inversion technology improves cooking quality by cooking food more evenly.  Instead of the microwave injecting waves in a cyclical or on and off fashion, inverstion technology maintains cooking evenly throughout the cooking duration.
  • Door Opening Mechanism: You can buy a microwave with button-operated door or a door with a handle you pull.  This boils down to personal preference.

There are three types of microwave ovens: Solo, Grill, and Convection. Solo microwaves are considered basic or entry level, Grill microwaves are considered the next step up, and Convection microwaves are at the top. The main difference between the three are the included features, watts, and price. 

In this post I will discuss in depth the three types of microwaves. Continue reading to see use cases, watt and price range, oven capacity, and features. In addition, I will discuss places you can install the microwave and examples of each type. 

What is a Solo Microwave Oven?

A solo microwave is a basic/ entry level microwave designed to reheat food and beverages, cook noodles, and defrost frozen foods. Solo microwaves use electromagnetic radiation to cook food and drinks.  Solo microwave ovens can be used in both commercial and domestic kitchens. These microwave use watts to convert energy into heat, which then cooks the food.

Solo microwaves are the cheapest of the three microwaves listed in this post. These microwaves can be seen just about anywhere including office break rooms, small apartments, and restaurant kitchens. 

These microwaves cook food and drinks with a combination of a turntable and watts. The turntable is designed to create even cooking throughout the food or drink.

Solo microwaves are just labeled “microwaves,” and you can tell they are solo because of the lack of features and basic design.

In this section I will discuss possible use cases, watts, price range, oven capacity, and included features of the solo microwave oven. 

Uses

As I mentioned, the most common uses are for reheating yesterdays dinner, heating up coffee or tea, and defrosting meat. In addition, solo microwaves can be used to cook minute rice or pasta, and defrost tonights dinner. 

While you can cook bigger foods, you will not have the same flavor as you will with convection or grill microwaves. Also, solo microwaves at lower wattages may not cook food as evenly as convection or grill microwave ovens. 

Watts

As I mentioned, watts are used to convert energy into heat. This conversion happens when the energy comes in contact with the food or drink. In addition, the higher the watts, the faster the food will cook.

Solo microwaves have a watt range of 550 – 1500 for domestic microwaves. The most common wattage for this microwave is 1,000 watts. In most cases, the watts and oven capacity combine to help determine the price. The higher the watts usually means the bigger the oven capacity, and the higher the cost.  

In most cases, you should look for microwaves with the highest wattage. Usually, solo microwaves with the highest watts also have premium features.

Price Range

The price of a solo microwave van vary between $50 – $300. This range is based on the following factors: watts, oven capacity, features, finish, brand name.

As I mentioned in the last section, watts and oven capacity are tied together. For the most part, the higher the wattage, the higher the oven capacity. For example, the Westinghouse MCM660W has an oven capacity of 0.6 cubic feet and 600 watts. However, the Westinghouse WCM11100W microwave has an oven capacity of 1.1 cubic feet and 1,100 watts. 

Solo microwaves have three types of finishes: plastic, aluminum, and stainless steel. Plastic is the cheapest, followed by aluminum and stainless steel. Stainless steel will at least 5% to the cost of a microwave oven. For example, the Westinghouse WCM16100W has the same watts and oven capacity as the Westinghouse WCM16100SS but costs almost 15% less.  

The brand also plays an important part in the cost of the solo microwave oven. Like most consumer appliances, if the brand has a strong or well-known name in the industry, it will most likely cost more. 

Oven Capacity

Oven capacity is the amount of cooking space inside your microwave. Oven capacity is measured by multiplying the length, width, and height. This calculation, know as the cubic foot plays an important role in the cost and watts included with the microwave.

The oven capacity of solo microwaves ranges from 0.5 – 2.5 cubic feet. For reference, 0.5 cubic feet is a little more than a gallon of milk, which is not big enough to cook most things. Microwaves that have a cubic foot of 0.6 usually have less than 900 watts included. 

Features

Solo microwaves have the fewest features of the three types. In most cases, these microwaves may have express cooking (numbers 1 – 6 that is associated with the number of minutes to cook), quick start for the most cooked foods (popcorn, beverage, frozen dinner), and weighted defrost. These microwaves may also have timers and digital clocks.

Finally, some of these microwaves have child safety locks to prevent kids from getting burned by hot food.

Placement (Location)

Solo microwaves are mostly found on countertops but can be mounted underneath a cabinet to conserve space. These microwaves can be found in college dorm rooms, office break rooms, and small apartments. 

These microwaves are best for small and medium sized families that intend to use a microwave a few times per week.

Solo Microwave Examples

Here are a few examples of Solo microwave ovens:

  • Toshiba EM925A5A-BS Microwave Oven
  • Westinghouse WM009 Countertop Microwave
  • Magic Chef MCM1310W Microwave Oven
  • Faberware FMWO11AHTBKB Microwave Oven
  • Daewoo KOR-7LREM Countertop Microwave

What is a Grill Microwave Oven?

A grill microwave is a microwave that gives families the grill taste without needing to fire up an outdoor grill. A grill microwave oven can do everything a solo microwave can do plus grill pizza, chicken, and fish. 

Grill microwaves grill food with a special grill heater and additional accessories. These special grilling coils allow food to be grilled, toasted, and roasted. 

Grill microwaves can be slightly more expensive than solo microwaves, but must less expensive than convection microwaves. The grilling feature on these microwaves can be enabled with a simple push of a button. 

During my research, it seemed like grill microwaves are much less common than solo or convection microwaves. This could be because grill microwaves are simply a one button feature, or because consumers don’t consider a microwave a place to grill. 

Uses

Like the solo microwave, grill microwaves can be used for basic cooking of popcorn, heating drinks, leftovers, and defrost. In addition, grill microwaves allows you to cook steak, chicken, and fish in the same way you’d cook them on an outdoor grill. 

Grill microwaves are appropriate for just about any kind of food and any size of food. The only exception is these microwaves are the best at baking. 

Watts

Most grill microwaves in fall between 900 and 1,700 watts. Like solo microwaves, the higher the watts, the faster the cooking time. Also like solo microwaves, as the watts increase, so does the oven capacity and price.  

Higher watts are going to be important for grilling microwaves as they will be unable to create that grilling flavor and even cooking without it. 

Price Range

The price range of the grill microwaves varies much more widely than the solo microwaves. Like solo microwaves, the price of a grill microwave is based on physical location (countertop/ over the range, brand, features, finish, oven capacity, and watts). The price of grill microwaves can range between $85 – $600 depending on the previously mentioned factors. 

During my research, I found that most of the grill microwaves included a stainless steel finish. As I’ve mentioned stainless steel is considered a premium features which results in a substantial price increase. 

Oven Capacity

Like the watts, the oven capacity for grill microwaves is a little smaller than solo microwaves. The oven capacity for grill microwaves ranges between 1 and 2.5 cubic feet. The microwave with the 1.0 cubic feet included 1,000

Features

Gill microwaves have the same features as solo grills, plus combo grilling, power grill, turntable on/ off and eco mode. Combo grilling allows the cook to cook with both the grill and microwave at the same time. The benefit of combo grilling is cooking food in less time. 

The power grilling feature allows you to use the grill portion only. Using this feature only may cause the food to cook longer than other settings. Cooks should consider turning the turntable off if they are using any of the grilling features.

Finally, eco mode allow you to consume less power, save energy, and reduce your electric bill.

Placement (Location)

These microwaves can be place on a countertop, attached under a cabinet, or mounted over the range. Microwaves that are mounted over the range usually have additional features not included with countertop microwaves. These features include fans, vents, and lights. 

Because of the price and features, you will most likely find a grill microwave in commercial or residential kitchens. These microwaves are well suited for single families that intend to cook multiple times per week. Grill microwaves would be perfect for someone that lives in an apartment or condo that loves the taste of grilled food but doesn’t have access to a grill.

Grill Microwave Examples

Here are a few examples of Grill Microwave Ovens:

  • Samsung ME21K7010DG Grilling Microwave Oven
  • KitchenAid KMCC5015GSS Microwave Oven with Grilling
  • Farberware FMO12AHTBSG Microwave Oven with Grill
  • Cuisinart CMW-200 Microwave Oven with Grill
  • Emerson MWCG1584SB Microwave Oven with Grill
  • Sharp AX-100S Microwave Oven with Grill
  • RCA RMW1182 Microwave and Grill

What is a Convection Microwave Oven?

Convection microwave ovens include all of the cooking options of solo and grill microwaves and have the ability to bake foods. The convection microwave uses a different heater and fan combination to cook all of the foods listed plus more.

Solo and grill microwaves use metal boxes to direct watts toward the food to cook. Convection microwaves, on the other hand, pushes heat through the microwave using a fan which creates a better cooking environment. 

Convection microwaves are by far the most expensive of the three microwave types. 

Uses

In addition to cooking popcorn, making pizza and chicken, convection microwaves can be used to back cookies, cakes, and breads. Convection microwaves are basically little ovens that cook different foods faster. 

You will most often find these microwaves in commercial kitchens and high-end domestic kitchens. You will not find these microwaves at work (unless you work in a kitchen), in a dorm, or at your university. 

Watts

Convection microwave ovens range from 800 to 1,700 watts. While the watts is important, it may not be as important with convection ovens, because the cooking technology is different. Solo and grill microwaves bounce watts back and forth, which convection ovens push heat with a fan.

Also, there isn’t as tight of a correlation between price, oven capacity, and watts. In fact, the most expensive convection oven I’ve seen a convection oven capacity of 1.4 cubic feet and 1,600 watts.

Price Range

As I’ve mentioned, convection oven price isn’t based solely on oven capacity and watts. Also included in this price is installation location, finish, brand, and features. 

Currently, there are three main places you can install a convection microwave: countertop, over the range, and built in. The built-in option is the most expensive of the three options. The built-in option can cost 4 times the amount of the countertop version. 

Convection ovens begin at $180 and end at almost $2,000.

Oven Capacity

The oven capacity for convection microwaves is similar to the sizes of grill microwaves. Convection microwaves range from 1 cubic foot to over 2.0 cubic feet of cooking space. Like the solo and grill microwaves, the more oven capacity, the better. 

Features

The convection microwave has all of the features of solo and grill microwaves. In addition, convection microwaves may have the following features:

  • Sensor reheating
  • Inverter technology
  • Keep warm
  • Premium glass door
  • Easy cleaning
  • Smarter cooking 

Placement (Location)

As I’ve mentioned, there are three locations for convection ovens: countertop, over the range, and built-in. Unless you visit a very expensive house, the only time you will see a built-in convection microwave oven is when you visit a commercial kitchen. 

Convection Microwave Examples

Here are just a few examples of convection microwave ovens:

  • Whirlpool WMH78019HZ Convection Microwave Oven
  • Samsung MC17J8000CS Convection Microwave Oven
  • GE PSA9120SFSS Convection Microwave Oven
  • Bosch HMV8053U Convection Microwave Oven
  • KitchenAid KMHC319EBS Convection Microwave Oven
  • LG LMVH1711ST Convection Microwave Oven
  • Maytag MMV6190FZ Convection Microwave Oven

Solo VS Convection Microwaves

Convection microwaves are designed to cook anything you can think of. Because the heating source is different than solo microwaves, it doesn’t have any trouble cooking different meets. Convection microwaves can also cook popcorn, minute rice, and yesterdays leftovers in addition to baking cakes, cookies and brownies. 

Solo microwaves are your basic microwaves that most people have experience using. These microwaves have a wide variety of oven capacity, watts, and price. Solo microwaves are designed for people that do not expect to conduct heavy cooking with their microwave. 

If I was selecting a type based on food output, then I’d chose convection microwaves. Overall, these are the better microwaves. However, if I was selecting a microwave based on cost, then I would select solo microwaves.

Solo VS Grill Microwaves 

Solo and grill microwaves are a little closer competition wise. Grill microwaves are designed to give you that grill flavor and appearance without spending time in the elements. The gill microwave may require additional accessories (grill dish) and is slightly more expensive than solo microwaves. 

Grill microwaves biggest drawback is that there isn’t enough of a difference between solo and grill microwaves. Really the only difference between the two is the grill function. Personally, if I want that grill flavor, I’m going to turn on my grill. Usually, it doesn’t take that long to warm up a grill and cook the food. 

I would only buy a grill microwave if it was the exact same price as the microwave I wanted. All of the features, wattage, and oven capacity must the same before considering this product. 

Grill VS Convection Microwaves 

I think there is a pretty big difference between these two microwave types. Convection microwaves are basically mini-ovens, whereas grill microwaves are solo microwaves with an additional function. Convection microwaves offer more features, and have a premium look and feel.

Convection microwaves are much more expensive that grill microwaves. Convection microwaves can be more than 10 times higher than their grill counterparts. In almost all cases, I would select convection microwaves over grill microwaves. The one case where I would not take convection over grill: the price. 

Conclusion

What type of microwave do you own? Were you aware that there are 3 different types of microwaves? Do you have a positive experience with a grill or convection microwave?

Leave a comment below!

Additional Questions 

What wattage microwave should I get?

The wattage depends on the food you plan to cook, family size, and price. In general, the more watts the better. You should purchase the highest wattage you can afford. The lowest wattage you should consider for a family of 4 is 1,000 watts. 

What is the highest wattage for a microwave?

The highest microwave watt for domestic microwaves is 1,500. However, the largest commercial microwave I’ve seen is 3,500 watts. In general, the higher the wattage, the faster your food will cook. 

How many amps does a microwave oven use?

Amperage, or amps is the strength of electrical current. The number of amps depends on the microwave wattage. For example, a 1350-watt microwave uses about 14 amps. However, a 900-watt microwave uses 15 amps. 

The exact number of watts will vary based on the microwaves’ watt, oven capacity and features. Check the product manual for the amps used for your microwave.

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