Adding built-in microwaves in your home or office is a great benefit to those who wish to save precious countertop, restaurant, break room, or kitchen space. Built-in microwaves can be installed in your upper or lower cabinets and shelves for easy access and storage.
If you want to know more about microwave drawers in particular, then keep on reading. A microwave drawer in particular is a type of built-in microwave.
What is a Microwave Drawer?
A microwave drawer, drawer-style under-counter microwave, or under-counter microwave drawer refers to a type of built-in microwave that’s installed under-counter like a cabinet drawer instead of being a repurposed freestanding model turned built-in style appliance.
You may also like: What is Built-in Microwave? Things to Consider Before Buying
Exclusively a Built-In Microwave
It can’t be used as a freestanding microwave and can only be used under-the-counter, hence its name. This is in contrast to countertops that can be turned into built-in microwaves with the right shelf or cabinet.
A Microwave Version of Cabinet Drawers
The under-counter microwave drawer works like a cabinet drawer but with a microwave inside it instead of empty space. You can extend and retract it by pulling it from the base on slides. This gets your microwave out of the way when not in use.
What are the Benefits of a Microwave Drawer?
The microwave drawer makes it easy for you to check or stir meals because you can simply pull it out like a drawer to open it and see the state of what’s being microwaved.
Furthermore, the countertop above it is available for hot dish placement after it is done cooking. They’re also tucked out of your way, thus freeing up your countertop.
The Importance of the Auto Touch Feature
An under-counter microwave works best with an auto touch feature. This feature that’s found in built-in microwaves like the KitchenAid 24-Inch Under-Counter Microwave Drawer enables users to close and open the drawer at a button push rather than by pulling or pushing the microwave to gain access.
What’s the Difference Between an OTR Microwave and a Microwave Drawer?
An over-the-range microwave might require installation above the gas range in the space where a range hood is usually located, but it’s not necessarily a built-in microwave per se. A microwave drawer, in contrast, is a type of built-in microwave that requires minor remodeling and integration.
The other type of built-in microwave is usually installed on the lower or upper cabinets. It’s typically of the mini microwave or countertop microwave variety that can double as a built-in microwave as long as it fits the space and you have a trim kit handy.
Why Built-Ins and Drawers are Better than OTRs
Most people wish to upgrade their microwave into a built-in unit without much kitchen remodeling. OTRs are more suited for such wishes because they merely replace the range hood. However, built-in save you more space and offers you more convenience.
It’s for the simple fact that OTRs double as (ineffective) range hoods. A built-in might require a little effort (trim kit) or a lot of effort (microwave drawers) in order to install in your kitchen, but after installation, they tend to save you countertop space without sacrificing range hood ventilation.
The Microwave Drawer Buying Guide
Microwave drawers make your kitchen look more customized like it’s a showroom package and the appliance was included in the design of the room (even though it wasn’t). It enables your fixtures such as drawers, shelves, and cabinets to work together in harmony with your kitchen devices.
With that in mind, let’s discuss how the microwave drawer is the most space-saving of all the different built-in microwave types and how to shop for the best one of the bunch.
The Different Microwave Installation Styles Available
The under-counter microwave drawer is one of several built-in microwave installation styles available. The others are outlined below.
- Undercounter microwave drawers.
- Drop-down door models (they serve as a wall oven complement).
- Built-in style countertops placed inside a cabinet or shelf space (trim kits included).
- Upper cabinet built-in microwaves (overhead).
- Lower cabinet built-in microwaves (under the counter).
Built-In Microwave Door Options
The microwave drawer is one of 3 types of built-in microwave door options.
- Slide-Out Drawer: One of the more space-saving and less cumbersome built-in options. This door type slides out like a cabinet drawer then slides back into the cabinet without taking up space while not in use.
- Right-to-Left Swing Out Door: This is a common freestanding countertop and OTR microwave door type. They swing out from right-to-left like your typical room door. It swings that way instead of the other way to make way for the right control panel.
- Drop-Down Door: OTR microwaves and conventional ovens both typically employ this door type. They’re best used on overhead installations because the open door can serve as a temporary table to hold your hot dishes before placing them on the countertop.
Types of Microwave Drawers by Usage
Microwave drawers can also be categorized according to power and how much they’re used in a single day (particularly if they’re commercial-grade microwaves).
- Light-Duty Microwaves: This is usually a smaller microwave drawer that can be used up to 50 times daily and has a power consumption of 1 to 1.1 kilowatts and below.
- Medium-Duty Microwaves: This mid-sized microwave drawer takes better advantage of under-counter depth with its power of 1.2 kilowatts to 2 kilowatts. It can also be used up to 150 times daily.
- Heavy-Duty Microwaves: Busy restaurants, catering services, and cafeterias, as well as hotels and hospitals, make use of these heavy-duty, extra-large units that use up more than 2 kilowatts of power and can be used 200 times daily.
Sizes and Capacities of Microwave Drawers
The size and capacity of your microwave drawer should match the amount of space available on your shelf, cabinet, or drawer. You should also have a few inches of space for ventilation purposes.
- 3 Cubic Feet to 0.8 Cubic Feet: This microwave interior capacity is the smallest of the bunch. It mostly fits things like high-temperature food pans with ¼ and ⅙ sizes, small chinaware, measuring cups, mugs, plates, bowls, and ramekins.
- 8 Cubic Feet to 1.0 Cubic Feet: Most microwave drawers fall into this category of mid-sized microwaves. They can fit in high-temperature food pans with ½ and ⅓ sizes and plastic takeout containers.
It also fits in medium-sized bowls, plates, and microwavable containers made by the likes of Tupperware or Rubbermaid.
- 1 Cubic Feet to 1.6 Cubic Feet: You can maximize the deepest of cabinet or under-counter spaces by availing of heavy-duty microwaves with huge capacities. They can fit in family-sized bowls and platters as well as dishes, plates, food pans, and oven-safe muffin trays.
Does a Microwave Drawer Require Major Kitchen Remodeling?
Nothing major, but quite a lot still since you have to install the microwave by yourself or with the assistance of a professional. It’s more integrated into the cabinetry or shelf space compared to built-in style countertops.
A microwave drawer is supposed to be installed or built into the cabinetry. This is in contrast with a built-in style countertop that you can always remove and turn into a freestanding model anytime you wish.
A microwave drawer requires at least minor remodeling but at least you won’t have to custom-fit a whole cabinet over it. You could mind, but it’s okay if you don’t and use existing cabinets.
Taking the Microwave’s Exterior Features into Consideration
The exterior of the microwave can be adjusted to fit the cabinet via trim kit but even those kits can only do so much. For example, you should not use countertops with pull-out handles because they get in the way of the cabinet doors.
In contrast, a pull-out handle on a microwave drawer is acceptable because its façade is incorporated into the under-counter cabinetry after all. It depends on the situation, the model of microwave you have, and what makes the most sense in light of your unit placement.
What Do You Need to Watch Out for When Installing a Microwave Drawer?
Although countertops are mobile and can be added anywhere in your kitchen countertop or tables, they take up quite a lot of real estate. You can conserve space by mounting or installing them into a cabinet for a built-in look.
This goes double with the microwave drawer, which is designed to be installed rather than double as a countertop in case you find that the shelf or cabinet space you have is lacking. Once you invest in this one, you’ll have to make space for it.
Pay Attention to Your Installation Location Relative to Microwave Size
The location of where you install your microwave is of utmost importance. First of all, space should fit the size dimensions of your built-in style countertop or microwave drawer. The less remodeling is needed on your cabinet or its panels the better the fit.
Second, the door type should make sense with the placement of your microwave. A swing-out door microwave near the wall is awkward to handle. A drop-down door makes the most sense on upper cabinets or shelves. The sliding microwave drawer is best-installed under-counter.
How to Install a Built-In Microwave Drawer
Get a professional to install your microwave drawer unless you have carpentry skills or previous experience in the area. A countertop microwave is easier to install since you can just choose the right size of microwave to insert inside your existing cabinets or shelves.
Built-In Style vs. Microwave Drawer
You should use a trim kit to deal with the “seams” in order to seamlessly incorporate the appliance into the storage space as though it was custom-made for it. This results in a countertop microwave with a built-in look.
In contrast, installing an under-counter microwave drawer so that it works like a pull-out dishwasher typically means having some pros install it into your kitchen like a pull-out dishwasher. They might need to cut an opening here or replace a single section there to better fit the unit as well.
Regardless, there are also a number of flush installation styles you can use in order to mount or push the appliance into the cabinet as seamlessly as possible.
Trim Kits and How They Can Make Built-In Installations Seamless
A trim kit helps seamlessly incorporate your built-in style countertop microwave or under-counter microwave drawer into your shelf or cabinet.
- Trim Kit Benefits: It helps adjust your shelf space or cabinetry that fills in the gaps around the appliance, closing it off in a seamless way while enhancing its functionality and looks.
- Trim Kit Sizes: You can avail of trim kits in 24 inches, 27 inches, and 30 inches in width. Remember to match them to the width instead of the height and length of your microwave for a perfect fit.
- Trim Kit Finish: The finish of trim kit should match the finish of your microwave, whether it’s colored white, black, or stainless steel.
Trim kits are more for built-in style countertops than microwave drawers. They just feel redundant since you usually have to install the appliance from scratch with slight remodeling.
Now that you have a better idea of what microwave drawers bring to the table (or cabinet), it’s now time to talk about the best of the best of the cream of the crop when it comes to this type of built-in microwave installation.
The two best microwave drawers we could find off of Amazon.com are Sharp SMD3070ASY and ZLINE MWD-1. Obviously, the world-renowned Sharp has the best overall microwave drawer while ZLINE has the slightly more affordable option. Relatively affordable, mind you. Both cost more than $1,000.
Sharp and ZLINE Microwave Drawers
The Sharp Microwave Drawer is a light-duty mid-sized microwave with a 1.2 cubic feet capacity and 1-kilowatt power. It weighs 79 pounds and requires a 30-inch trim kit for best installation results. It includes features such as auto defrost, auto touch opening feature, and stainless steel construction.
The ZLINE Microwave Drawer offers the same light-duty mid-sized specs of 1 kilowatt of power and 1.2 cubic feet capacity. The microwave drawer is also made of stainless steel, has the human interface input of touchscreen and buttons, and it’s capable of a unique melt feature for chocolate and butter.
Comparatively, ZLINE is much heavier than Sharp by weighing 71.5 kilograms or 157.6 pounds instead of 35.8 kilograms or 79 pounds. Thusly, to open it, you have to pull the ZLINE microwave drawer manually instead of using an auto touch hands-free opener.
- “Built-In Microwave Buying Guide from KitchenAid“, KitchenAid.com, Retrieved June 9, 2021