Nothing clears a kitchen full of guests faster than smoke or fish fumes. A range hood is the solution, especially over high-powered pro-style ranges and cooktops. The best range hoods look good and excel at containing and venting smells and smoke, according to past tests by Consumer Reports. Prices range from $150 to $3,000, with island hoods the priciest, but the most expensive weren't the best. Although over-the-range microwaves are multitasking space savers, even the best ones we tested can't eliminate smoke, fumes, and steam as well as a range hood. Here's what to consider:
Size matters. The hood should be at least as wide as the cooking surface below, and 6 or more inches wider if it's an island hood, which doesn't have a wall or cabinets next to it to help funnel fumes.
Vent it outside. Keep duct runs short and straight for best results. If an under-cabinet hood will be on an exterior wall, ductwork can be routed through the cabinet and outside, or directly through the back of the hood. Otherwise ductwork must be routed through the cabinet. Wall-chimney hoods are mounted with exposed vent stacks on the wall. Island hoods are mounted to and vented through ductwork in the ceiling.
Focus on features. Most hoods have three to six fan speeds; some have variable speeds. You'll want at least two speeds, high for when you have several burners going at once or when using the range top and oven simultaneously, and a very low, very quiet setting for removing lingering odors. An exhaust timer is handy because it automatically shuts off the fan when it's no longer needed.
Keep airflow claims in check. More airflow results in faster venting but doesn't guarantee better capture and removal of fumes and smoke—something to keep in mind when manufacturers' airflow claims tout cubic feet per minute.
Best over-the-range microwaves
None of the over-the-range microwaves in Consumer Reports' tests got top marks for venting although the three models we recommend, which are all made by GE, got very good venting scores in addition to acing cooking tasks. The GE Profile PVM9215SFSS, $550, was excellent at defrosting and impressive at evenly heating food. It's one of the quieter microwaves we've tested and better at venting than most, but it's not the fastest at heating.
For $300 less you can buy the GE JVM3160RFSS, which performed almost as well and is a CR Best Buy. While you don't give up much in performance, this model does lack a sensor that detects when food is done. The mid-priced GE JVM7195SFSS, $400, was equally good and the fastest at heating of the bunch, but it wasn't as quiet as the other two.