Should You Get a Microwave Drawer?

published May 13, 2017
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(Image credit: Left: Sharp/Right: Viacheslav Lopatin/Shutterstock)

At Kitchn, we have a love-love relationship with our microwaves. Of course we love it for all the obvious reasons — like warming our coffee in the morning and delivering near-instant popcorn gratification on movie night — but also for mug cakes, single-girl suppers of mac-and-cheese, and the quickest and easiest answer to breakfast (eggs in the microwave!). We even lean on it when migraines strike.

It’s an important appliance, and buying the right one matters. There are quite a few factors to take into consideration (like size, wattage, and special features), but today we’re looking at a very specific question: Is it worth it to get a drawer microwave? Or should you opt for the regular countertop variety? To help you on your microwave-buying quest, we’ve broken down the pros and cons of each kind.

(Image credit: Sharp)

The Pros and Cons of Drawer Microwaves

The main reason to get a microwave drawer is countertop real estate (often scarce!), with aesthetics coming in a close second. Let’s be honest — regular microwaves aren’t all that attractive, but there are other reasons you might not have considered, plus a few major drawbacks. Here, we break it down for you.

Pro: They save you valuable counter space.

There are plenty of places to put a regular microwave, but if you’re planning to have it sit on top of your counter, you’ll easily lose four square-feet of precious prep space. Microwave drawers, on the other hand, fit seamlessly into lower cabinetry. Do you need the counter space more than the cabinet space? Or vice versa? That’s definitely something to consider.

Pro: The ergonomics are excellent.

A microwave on a shelf or on top of the fridge can be very dangerous. (Do you really want to reach up for something that is heavy and hot?) A lower drawer that you can see from above is always going to be easier and less dangerous.

Pro: They’re kid-proof.

You can make sure that kids can’t get in by locking the drawer and setting a passcode to open, which you can’t do in all countertop versions. Bonus: Because the drawer slides out (versus a swinging action), the opening doesn’t favor either right-handed or left-handed people.

Pro: They’re easy to clean.

Most microwave drawers come without the rotating plate that their standard counterparts use to spin the food as it’s heating. The insides of the drawers feature smooth surfaces with no extra crevices or nooks for food to stick to. You just have to wipe down the drawer and you’re done.

Con: They’re (a lot) more expensive.

You’re going to have to be willing to cough up at least $900 for a drawer microwave, with some models costing well over $1,000. Depending on how handy you are, you also might need to have it installed by a professional, which will cost more money. (Same goes for a mounted over-the-range microwave.) This is obviously very different than a plug-and-go microwave option for your counter, but if you’re deciding between a wall or over-the-range option, you’ll have the same issues.

Con: You might have to bend down to see the controls.

If you are used to having a countertop microwave or over-the-range version, there will definitely be an adjustment as you get used to your control panel being below your counters.

(Image credit: Leanne Bertram)

The Pros and Cons of Countertop Microwaves

The very best thing about regular countertop microwaves? They cost next to nothing. Of course you can pay more for larger, more professional models (typically around a few hundred dollars), but the smallest countertop versions can be $20 to $50. If money is tight, this option is always going to be the way to go, but if you’re on the fence, here are a few other pros and cons to consider.

Pro: You can put them anywhere.

Regular microwaves are more versatile than you might think. You can choose to put one in a cubby in your upper cabinets, on a counter, or in a pantry, if you have the space. Having that flexibility of design can come in really handy in small spaces!

Pro: You can get them in a variety of sizes.

Countertop versions start at .5-cubic-feet (such cute little guys!) and go up to 2.2 (a jumbo option!), with many options falling somewhere in between. You’ll find far more options in a countertop version, and for some home cooks being able to choose the size is a major selling point.

Con: They’re harder to clean.

We already talked about how easy a drawer microwave is to clean. So then compare it with a countertop microwave and you have more parts to scrub. Sure, it can be done — it’s just not as easy as a quick wipe-down. Plus, if you stash it high up, it’s even harder to reach.

Con: You have to plug them in.

That’s not to say you don’t have to plug in a drawer microwave, but usually, those are hardwired somewhere within your cabinetry. If you opt for a countertop version, it will most likely need to take up a valuable plug around your cook space. And sometimes, it can be hard enough getting your coffee maker and your toaster plugged in at the same time!

Con: That little turntable is almost always destined to break.

Everyone has their kitchen pet peeves, and this happens to be a common one. If the turntable comes off its runner, getting it back on track can feel like you’re dealing with a Rubik’s cube. Or the table can mysteriously stop spinning entirely — forever.

Some Shopping Advice

Which one would you choose? Or would you get your microwave mounted above your range? Or are you Team No Microwave?