Everyone loves microwaves or at least the concept behind them. With a couple of caveats, you can cook nearly anything at the push of a button. This makes this metal cooking box is known for its convenience, versatility, and affordability when push comes to shove.
With that in mind, what is an over-the-range or OTR microwave? Let’s learn more about OTR microwaves and the unique way they go about saving kitchen space.
What is an OTR Microwave?
Did you know over-the-range (OTR) microwaves differ from freestanding microwaves in terms of doubling as ventilation hoods? They’re also placed on top of the stove, hence its name.
While a countertop freestanding microwave doesn’t require special installation or mounting, the opposite could be said of the over-the-range microwave. An OTR microwave oven requires you to remove the hood vent of your gas range so that you can place that oven up there.
Range Hood vs. OTR Microwave Oven
You need a stovetop to use the hood-mounted OTR microwave with its own ventilation fan and filters because that’s where it’s placed to save space, whether it’s a recreational vehicle at a trailer park or a one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment with limited kitchen space.
Aside from doubling as a hood vent, the drop-down doors of OTR units can hold hot dishes when you open them up (just like with a conventional oven).
- 1 What is an OTR Microwave?
- 2 Range Hood vs. OTR Microwave Oven
- 3 What is CFM? Why is 400 CFM preferable?
- 4 OTR Microwaves Do Double Duty
- 5 OTR Microwaves Have Ventilation Abilities
- 6 High CFM is 200 to 400 CFM
- 7 What is the Typical Power Level of an OTR Microwave?
- 8 How Big Should the OTR Microwave Be?
- 9 OTR Microwave Buying Guide 101
- 9.1 The Importance of OTR Microwave Capacity
- 9.2 More Space and Power Equals a Bigger Investment
- 9.3 LED Cooktop Lighting
- 9.4 Easy-to-Clean Coated Interiors
- 9.5 Ducted or Externally Vented Models and Ductless Models
- 9.6 OTR Microwave Filtration Maintenance
- 9.7 The Size of the OTR Microwave
- 9.8 Automatic or Humidity Sensors
- 9.9 Child Lock and Safety Features
- 10 Product Recommendation OTR
What is CFM? Why is 400 CFM preferable?
An OTR microwave is placed above or over the range (hence the term) in order to make better use of the hood vent space.
OTR Microwaves Do Double Duty
Unlike a normal hood vent, an OTR microwave can do double-duty by covering venting duties as well as working as another heating and cooking kitchen oven.
That range hood space should allow you to have a bigger microwave without wasting precious countertop real estate.
OTR Microwaves Have Ventilation Abilities
With that said, in order to accomplish its venting duties, OTR microwaves have more powerful ventilation or exhaust fans compared to their freestanding counterparts.
They’re also judged by their exhaust fan’s ability to exhaust air every minute, measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM).
High CFM is 200 to 400 CFM
The best OTR microwaves have high CFM ranging from 200 CFM to 400 CFM. You can go beyond up to 600 CFM, but those are rare and hard to find.
A good enough OTR should have 400 CFM. That rate offers superior ventilation of steam, grease, and toxic chemical vapors.
What is the Typical Power Level of an OTR Microwave?
OTR microwaves have power capacities ranging from 850 watts (light duty) and beyond for reheating purposes to all the way to 1.2 kilowatts (medium duty) for full meal cooking. In order to save on electricity in case you’re using a car battery to power the appliance, go with the 600-700 watt package.
Ditto with people who live in tiny apartments and can’t afford a high electric bill. However, it might seem like it takes forever to cook your food on a 700-watt mini or solo microwave. Besides which, the majority of OTR microwaves have high power due to the deepness of their interior capacities.
How Big Should the OTR Microwave Be?
In size terms, the average OTR microwave tends to be slightly bigger than or as big as a medium-duty microwave. There are mini microwave OTR microwaves out there, but since most hood vents are huge and deep, OTRs also tend to be huge and deep themselves.
That’s the beauty of an OTR microwave oven, actually. It saves you as much as or even more than the space a freestanding countertop microwave would without sacrificing too much on the capacity.
Thusly, instead of dealing with a 0.7 cubic feet microwave, you can get a 1.7 to 1.9 cubic feet capacity microwave instead. Bigger is better. You want more space in that deep hood-sized interior.
OTR Microwave Buying Guide 101
Here are the things you need to keep in mind when shopping for an OTR microwave for your home or apartment needs. Some are absolutely essential features and specifications you can’t do without. Others are nice bonuses that maximize your OTR investment.
Reminder, an OTR microwave exhaust fan is considered high CFM already at 200 CFM to 400 CFM. If you can find a 600 CFM OTR microwave out there, then that’s even better. It’s not a requirement though.
The Importance of OTR Microwave Capacity
Microwave capacity refers to the amount of space in the interior of the appliance. It’s measured in cubic feet. This is not to be confused with cubic feet per minute or CFM, which is a unit of measurement for air vented per minute via the OTR microwave’s exhaust fan.
As mentioned above, the microwave capacity of your average OTR microwave is much higher than your average countertop microwave exactly because it replaces your gas range stove’s hood vent. This is also the reason why many OTR microwaves are medium-duty or above 1-kilowatt power.
More Space and Power Equals a Bigger Investment
OTR microwaves are more expensive than RV microwaves due to that extra largeness and power you have to pay for. However, on the plus side, you’re likelier to heat up or cook family-sized meals in such units versus your typical countertop RV microwave.
In short, the average OTR microwave saves as much as if not more space than RV microwaves but delivers so much more specs-wise and capacity-wise. Yes, there are times when bigger is better, and this is one of those times.
LED Cooktop Lighting
When shopping for the right OTR microwave for you then you should go for one with LED cooktop or task lighting. This is because if you have a dim kitchen while your OTR microwave is placed in a dark or shaded part of the area, it pays to have LED lighting to see its interior.
The light in your microwave serves the same purpose as the light in your fridge. It allows you to see inside the deep cavernous interior of your overhead microwave for dish placement and cleaning purposes.
Make sure it’s LED lighting too. Many OTR microwaves use halogen bulbs for their lighting, which gets hot only after a few minutes of use. Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs), in contrast, stay cool even after extended use. They’re also well-known for their prolonged lifespan stretching out to years at a time.
Easy-to-Clean Coated Interiors
Baked-on splatters and tomato sauce stains can be avoided by availing of coated OTR microwave interiors. The special coating on the interior helps out in preventing food from sticking and staining your microwave interior like Teflon.
The material is easier to clean up as well, especially when you pair it up with LED lighting. The interiors of microwaves get infamously filthy. Having coated interiors for your deep OTR microwave interior should save you time and effort in terms of maintenance.
You simply need a wet cloth to wipe the food residue off. For those crusted remnants, you can always depend on dishwashing soap, baking soda, vinegar, and paper towels to remove them.
Ducted or Externally Vented Models and Ductless Models
Even an exhaust fan that delivers 400 to 600 CFM will end up working harder than required if you have clogged filters. Filtration is a necessity when it comes to installing OTRs above your stove. With that said, both OTR types offer mesh filters that require cleaning in a regular manner.
- Ducted (Externally Vented): Ducted or externally vented hood filtration system is what’s used with OTR microwaves to give way for the microwave part of your vent hood replacement. They can use charcoal or mesh filters.
- Ductless: Ductless vent hood filtration is more effective at filtration than OTR microwaves. This is because they’re designed specifically for contaminant filtration in the kitchen right out of the stove air. Vents might not heat your food but at least they’re better at ventilation.
You don’t have to worry about these mesh filters. You can clean the mesh filters for these OTR types in the dishwasher. Check the user manual if your filter is detachable and dishwasher-safe or replaceable charcoal filters.
OTR Microwave Filtration Maintenance
Regularly changing filters is a must because they tend to be clogged by particulates from when you cook on the stove below the OTR. Therefore, their effectiveness tends to be compromised over time. There are two types to avail of.
- Charcoal Filters: Go shop specifically for recirculating OTR microwave ovens. They use charcoal filters. These filters require changing every half a year but they keep that stove and kitchen space rather clean air-wise or atmosphere-wise.
- Mesh Filters: You can also avail of OTR microwave ovens with mesh filters. In contrast to charcoal filters, these filters can be removed then cleaned instead of outright replaced every 6 months or so. They’re more affordable than their charcoal filter counterpart.
Long story short, mesh filters require cleaning (which is cheaper) and charcoal filters require replacement (which saves you cleaning effort).
The Size of the OTR Microwave
Countertop microwaves come in multiple sizes and so do OTR microwaves. Just as there are mini countertop models along with commercial-grade units, there are also OTR microwaves that vary in size and capacity.
You should check the size of the door as well. It’s possible to have a huge capacity microwave yet have a small door for it. Get a bigger and wider-opening door in order to maximize the capacity of your OTR. You want to easily put in and remove those hot and heavy plates.
Thankfully, the oven-style drop-down doors of your typical OTR allow you to hold the hot dishes on the door like a tray. This is a huge benefit for those with arthritis or mobility and strength issues with their arms.
Automatic or Humidity Sensors
An automatic or humidity sensor is of the utmost importance when you’re shopping for an OTR microwave. Why? It’s as important as saving money on power, interior space, and so forth. The sensor detects whether your food is done or not.
It’s able to give you a quick alert that your food is sufficiently cooked. It detects the vapors or humidity of the interior. If it gets too steamy or hot, it automatically shuts off the microwave.
Whether you have an OTR or countertop microwave, it’s always a welcome relief to have a sensor to prevent you from burning your meal.
Child Lock and Safety Features
A child lock on your OTR microwave can save your microwave from being mishandled by rowdy children. Kids tend to play with anything when they’re bored or restless. A child lock works like a phone lock screen—it won’t open unless you put in the numerical password,
This lock also prevents strangers from operating the device. This also prevents accidental activation. You don’t want the OTR microwave to turn on without food inside of it. This could damage the glass turntable or the rotating antenna.
An overheated OTR microwave can also damage the microwave itself like any overheated appliance. That’s the importance of having a child lock for your OTR.
Product Recommendation OTR
Although the countertop freestanding microwave is more affordable than its OTR counterpart—with them costing under $100 and special ones costing about $300 instead—the extra cash investment for an OTR microwave is worth the money in more ways than one.
You make better use of the space that the hood vent occupies by placing a microwave oven there. It also doubles as a hood vent itself while giving you additional benefits that the hood vent couldn’t provide.
Samsung and Frigidaire OTR Microwaves
We love Frigidaire because of its 13.6 inches diameter turntable, its respectably cavernous capacity of 1.7 cubic feet, and its 1-kilowatt power level. The interior is also quite easy to clean thanks to its special coating that repels the grease and resists staining. It has a 300 CFM exhaust fan.
As for Samsung, it’s a durable OTR with a fingerprint-resistant exterior made of stainless steel. It has 1 kilowatt of power and has a capacity of 1.9 cubic feet, allowing you deep access into its interior for your large family-sized platters and meals. It also has a 400 CFM exhaust fan.