Last Updated Jan 2020 – Not everyone has space over their range for a microwave. For some people, this is because of a small, cramped kitchen. For others, however, it’s not so much an issue of total kitchen area as much as it is an issue of what goes where. If you use your range a lot, you might find yourself putting a standalone range hood where the microwave usually goes.
Microwave drawers are a recent trend that gives you another weapon to wield against the overcrowding monster in your kitchen. They allow you to place a microwave under the counter instead of on top of it.
You don’t need an air vent or fancy wiring, either. You just need a normal AC outlet.
Microwave drawers heat food the same way as traditional microwaves, so they’re just as effective at cooking. There are two big difference between these petite devices and their over-the-range counterparts.
First, microwave drawers don’t have range hoods, so you’ll definitely want to get a range hood if you choose a microwave drawer. Second, microwave drawers are designed to be used from the top. This means that they literally feature drawers that slide out so you can insert and retrieve food, rather than the traditional swinging door you’d find on a regular microwave.
The inclusion of this feature is what makes these microwave drawers a better spacing saving option than regular countertop microwaves that happen to be nestled between your cupboards. Unlike microwaves with a swinging drawer, you can put microwave drawers under your counter and still comfortably use them. The buttons and display are all located at the top for easy top-down access.
Regarding Microwave Drawer Manufacturers
Before we delve into individual reviews too deeply, it’s worth mentioning that there are very few companies that manufacture microwave parts in the United States. By “very few” I mean that Sharp is literally the only company that makes microwave guts. If you buy any “high end” microwave, you’re getting Sharp internals.
Dacor and Viking make the rest of the microwave — the exterior, the buttons, the door, and a few other parts. The part of the microwave that does the microwaving is always made by Sharp, however.
This means that you can’t really escape Sharp‘s inconsistent quality control and design issues. While Sharp makes excellent microwaves most of the time, there are definitely more than a few bad apples that get thrown into the mix. No matter what brand of microwave you choose, there’s a chance that you’ll get a shoddy Sharp part that will cause a massive headache.
For that reason, I strongly recommend that you consider purchasing an additional warranty, especially if that warranty is fulfilled by a third party like Amazon.
The Top Three Microwave Drawers as of 2019
This petite 24-inch microwave is set up for compact convenience. It’s fairly powerful, with a full 1000 watts of cooking strength, and it has a full 1.5 cubic feet of space inside the drawer. This is pretty impressive given the small size of the entire unit — Sharp has to fit a drawer mechanism, a microwave, and a control board into an incredibly tiny space.
One feature that’s commonly debated among microwave drawer owners is the inclusion of a button that opens the drawer for you. Sharp has decided to split the difference and give consumers two options with this model.
You can pull on the towel bar directly to set the motorized drawer in motion or simply press a button to allow it to spring out. The towel bar is far more intuitive for guests, although the motor might not like it when they actually tug on it to make the drawer open faster.
The sensor cooking and programmable modes offered by this microwave are more than adequate. You’re not going to have your mind blown by Bluetooth integration or anything.
Instead, you’ll receive sensible sensor cooking presets, 11 power levels, an easy-to-use kitchen timer, and a slew of shortcut options that let you cook our favorite meals much more quickly.
If you want a powerful microwave with a slew of convenience features, this Sharp is a great option. It’s one of the best ways to save lots of space in your kitchen without sacrificing any cooking power.
This petite 30″ Bosch offers nearly the same amount of power as a full sized microwave. Although the 950 watts it outputs is just shy of a full thousand, you’ll hardly notice any increase in cooking times. Instead, you’ll notice the roomy drawer, intuitive operation, and even cooking throughout the whole interior.
One of the big downsides of microwave drawers is that it’s pretty hard to fit a full-sized turntable in the limited amount of interior space that’s available. This Bosch doesn’t seem to suffer because of this.
If you fill the drawer with mugs of water and turn it on for a few minutes, you’ll open the drawer to find all of the mugs boiling with nearly equal intensity. For anyone who cooks large or awkward shaped dishes often, this is a godsend.
An interesting upside of this arrangement is that you’re free to use literally every square inch of the 1.2 cubic foot drawer. In practice, this microwave actually has more usable cooking space than many over-the-range models.
The controls on this microwave are tastefully placed at the top for easy access from above. It’s got a generous handful of sensor cooking modes, power levels, and time-saving features that you’ll enjoy using.
While this microwave drawer opens exclusively via a button, the drawer moves at a fairly speedy pace. In order to keep your food from spilling, however, it slows down right at the end. This smooth acceleration means that you can have a reasonably fast drawer without any of the normal Newtonian downsides.
For many people, however, the biggest upside of this microwave is the simple fact that you don’t have to deal with Sharp customer service. While Bosch buys their microwave innards from Sharp, it’s Bosch who you’ll talk to if you experience any problems with this microwave. I’m not personally an expert on which company is more pleasant to deal with, but I’ve certainly heard a few nasty stories about Sharp.
If you want a well-designed drawer microwave with plenty of useful cooking space, this Bosch offers an excellent way to escape the Sharp brand. The intuitive cooking modes and fairly fast drawer give it a pretty noticeable edge over many competing units.
This 30″ sharp model is extra short, allowing it to fit into even more places than usual. It’s got just over a cubic foot of drawer space and powerful internals that output 1000 watts of cooking power.
Unlike the options above, this unit has a hidden control pad that springs out at an angle when the drawer opens. I can’t stress enough how cool this feature is. Since you’re going to be using this microwave drawer from above, the fact that the control pad is at an angle is incredibly helpful.
It’s also just plain cool that you can open up a mysterious appliance and a control pad springs out from the top. If you want to feel like you’re living in a high-tech kitchen, this microwave will certainly help you fulfill that fantasy.
Rather than a bulky traditional turntable, this microwave features a bit of tech called a virtual carousel. This enables it to cook food evenly without you having to rotate the food. It also makes cleaning up the drawer much easier. Since there’s no turntable, you don’t have to worry about cleaning up under it.
The biggest downside of this unit is the automatic glide of the drawer. Rather than trust you to open and close your microwave yourself, Sharp has installed an automatic system that drives the drawer forwards and backward for you. This is ostensibly to keep liquid dishes from spilling. While this seems like a good idea on paper, in practice it quickly starts to feel like it’s just a little bit too slow. Still, you’re usually microwaving food for a couple minutes anyway. A few seconds to wait for the drawer to go in and out isn’t really that big of a deal.
The sensor cooking modes and programmable functionality offered by this microwave are adequate. Again, you’re not going to have your socks knocked off by fancy integration. Instead, you get some sensor cooking presets, some automatic reheat programs, and a few settings for defrosting food. Everything is functional and fairly simple.
Overall, this microwave is a great option for anyone who wants an under-the-counter microwave with extra accessible controls. You’ll feel like a secret agent every time you reveal the hidden control panel, and you’ll feel like a master chef with this powerful microwave tucked away under your kitchen counter.
Truthfully, the biggest factor when it comes to buying a microwave drawer is size. You’re not going to choose between a 24″ Sharp and a 30″ Bosch because of features like drawer speed or brand loyalty. Instead, you’re going to choose the one that fits your kitchen.
With that in mind, I do recommend two different 30″ microwaves. While the Bosch is slightly nicer to use in some respects, I’m personally a big fan of the hidden control panel offered by the Sharp.
If you prefer usability over nifty features, pick the Bosch. If you want to feel cool when you cook, pick the Sharp. If you’re not too keen on either, go with whichever one is on sale. You can use the money you save to buy a whole lot of microwave popcorn instead.
Credit Images: chickadeesolutions.com, sharpusa.com, bosch-home.com