Best Over-the-Range Microwaves of 2021

Save space on the counter with a cabinet-mounted model that stands out in CR's tests

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Computer screen with testing data in lab with bowl of popcorn on scale and over the range microwaves in the background.
In CR's ease-of-use test, we assess the results of a microwave's quick keys, including the one for popcorn.
Photo: Stephen Yang

Over-the-range microwave ovens are a good choice if you have limited counter space and/or prefer a built-in appliance that matches the rest of your kitchen appliance suite.

And you can get a new OTR microwave for as little as $200, but that doesn’t include installation costs, which vary. Some retailers, such as Home Depot, offer free installation if the purchase price exceeds a certain amount.

There are some drawbacks worth noting. Although OTRs have a built-in exhaust fan, they don’t vent as well as range hoods. And if you’re short, you might find it challenging to remove a piping-hot bowl of soup from a microwave mounted at least 18 inches above your range.

“Some newer over-the-range microwaves are very squat and might be difficult to reach when you open the door or press buttons,” says Ginny Lui, who oversees Consumer Reports’ microwave testing. “Make sure to consider the size and placement of the microwave in your kitchen before you buy one.”

In the lab, we assess how fast and how evenly microwaves heat. A microwave’s speed score is based on how fast it heats a 1-liter bowl of room-temperature water. For evenness, we put a bowl of cold mashed potatoes in a microwave, heat it for 10 minutes, then take temperature readings of the food in 20 spots. We also incorporate ratings for predicted reliability and owner satisfaction using survey results from members who purchased almost 77,000 over-the-range microwaves over the past 10 years.

There are about 70 over-the-range microwave ovens in our ratings (and a similar number of countertop models). Here, listed in alphabetical order, are eight OTR picks that deliver outstanding performance in our tests.

CR’s take: The snazzy Café CVM721M2NS5 has a recessed handle and hidden digital controls that run along the bottom. When you tap on the glass touch screen, the options for time and cooking modes pop into view. In addition to looking good, it cooks well, earning an Excellent rating in our heating evenness test. It’s also first-rate at defrosting and operates quietly. A sensor prevents you from overheating your food. In our member survey, Café earned middling scores for predicted reliability and owner satisfaction.

CR’s take: This Frigidaire Professional model receives Very Good ratings in our tests for speed of heating, noise, and venting. It’s one of the better models we’ve tested for ease of use, and we found it easy to program straight out of the box without consulting the owner’s manual. Its ability to heat things evenly is so-so. Don’t get this model if you tend to heat up large plates of food.

CR’s take: The GE JVM3160RFSS is a solid performer, earning Very Good ratings on all our major tests from heating evenness to defrosting. It operates quietly and the controls are easy to understand without consulting the manual. But like many over-the-range models, the venting isn’t the best because OTR exhaust fans don’t compare to a range hood. Still, GE is a reliable brand and worth a look.

CR’s take: This GE PVM9005SJSS is a good choice for a busy household. It earns an Excellent rating in our heating evenness test, in which we reheat a dish of cold mashed potatoes. Speed of heating is also top-notch, and this microwave operates quietly. Our testers found the GE easy to program, and it vents well, something not all OTRs can accomplish. GE ranked in the middle of the pack for predicted reliability in our member survey.

CR’s take: If you’re not a planner and you tend to take something out of the freezer to make for dinner when you get home from work, the KitchenAid KMHS120ESS is a good choice. It earns an Excellent rating on our defrosting test, in which we defrost 1 pound of ground chuck. The KitchenAid also aces the heating evenness test and is very quiet. It has a cooking sensor and comes with a rack in case you want to cook two dishes at once.

CR’s take: The LG LMH2235ST is a good choice if you often find yourself having to defrost something straight out of the freezer; it earns an Excellent rating in our defrost test. It’s impressive at heating foods quickly and evenly, too. Plus, this microwave is one of the quietest over-the-range models in our tests. But like most OTRs, venting is only so-so. It has a sensor to prevent you from overheating your food and a rack in case you want to cook more than one dish at the same time. LG ranked in the middle of the pack for predicted reliability in our member survey, but it received a Very Good rating for owner satisfaction.

CR’s take: The LG LMV2031ST is a good choice if you use your microwave to cook and not just for reheating and defrosting. It fits a 9x15-inch baking dish and has a wire rack, allowing you to cook two dishes at once. It’s equipped with a sensor that turns the microwave off to keep you from overheating your food. This model earns Very Good ratings for speed of heating and heating evenness, and it vents well, although—like most OTRs—not as well as a dedicated range hood. LG received average marks for predicted reliability but a Very Good score for owner satisfaction.

CR’s take: A top performer from Whirlpool, the WMH53521H earns an Excellent rating in our heating evenness test, meaning a dish of cold mashed potatoes had few or no cold spots after microwaving. It has a cooking sensor that stops the appliance when your meal is done, and it fits a 9x15-inch dish, allowing you to cook a casserole. Our testers found this microwave very easy to use. Whirlpool was one of the most reliable over-the-range microwave brands in our latest reliability survey, with few CR members reporting breakages before five years of use.

Mary H.J. Farrell

Knowing that I wanted to be a journalist from a young age, I decided to spiff up my byline by adding the middle initials "H.J." A veteran of online and print journalism, I've worked at People, MSNBC, Ladies’ Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, and an online Consumer Reports wannabe. But the real thing is so much better. Follow me on Twitter.