Locating the microwave


Long gone are the days when the microwave primarily occupied the most valuable real estate in the kitchen – the countertop.  Now, the most common location for the microwave,  is over the cooktop, which raises issues of safety and ergonomics. 

To determine where the microwave should be located in your kitchen, first consider how you use or might use a microwave and then try to locate it close to the point of use.  Here are some examples:

Part of cooking zone/bake center – over an existing oven, bake center counter, or near  cooktop

        Used as a spare oven (convection or speed cook oven) to bake/cook small batches of items or when an extra oven at a different temperature may be needed to cook extra items.

        Soften or melt butter, chocolate chips, etc…

Part of cooking zone, but near the fridge/freezer

        Cook veggie steamer pouches

        Reheat leftovers

        Soften ice cream

        Defrost frozen food

        Cook frozen food

        Heat up syrup

Near sink or beverage storage

        Used  for making hot beverages such as tea, hot chocolate, or  instant package drinks

        Used to make instant foods that need water added  such as  instant oatmeal

Periphery of kitchen/near table

        Make popcorn

        Rewarm food that has gone cold or needs extra cooking

        Warming up pastry

Find the categories where you use the microwave the most and try to locate it close to the most frequent point of use.  You could also consider multiple locations.  In my kitchen I have an OTR  Advantium located over the bake center counter next to the double ovens (not over the cooktop), and also in the snack area next to the fridge/freezer and near the eating area.  In the snack area which is near the fridge/freezer and eating area it keeps traffic out of the kitchen, and makes it convenient to fix leftovers or rewarming  things.  The microwave for this area could be a small microwave.  If you primarily use the microwave for hot water (beverages and instant foods), consider an instant hot water dispenser instead  and locate the beverage storage near the sink so they are near the point of use.

Ok, now that you have a general location based on the point of use, make sure that you have a landing zone of at least 15” above, below or next to the microwave  (NBKA guidelines).  When you pick up something really hot, you’ll understand why.

 I also use the guideline of making sure that the microwave is not higher than your shoulder and not under the counter, unless you will be using a microwave drawer.  This is both a safety and an ergonomic issue.  The higher the microwave the better  your chances of spilling hot food on yourself or others.   This includes the popular over the range location (which also can have hot items under you as you load and unload).   I am also not a fan of putting a microwave under the counter, unless it’s a microwave drawer.  This is because of the bending over to use the keypad, inspect the progress, remove hot contents, or clean the oven cavity.  Can you honestly read the keypad or display while standing at the counter?  Also, if you have small children that live or visit your home, you will find this an ideal height for them to play with. 

Never put the microwave in a location with a wall on the right side of the microwave.  Microwaves only have a hinge on the left side.  Even if you  open the microwave door all the way, you still  have a small opening in which to load/unload things.  Very irritating – at best.

In my opinion, the most ideal height  is above the counter height, either in the bottom of upper cabinet or installed in an enclosed cabinet at or below shoulder height.  Some microwaves also have optional hanging kits for mounting under an upper cabinet.  Always check the manufacturers requirements for adequate ventilation if mounted in an enclosed cabinet.   If the microwave must be installed in an island, then consider a microwave drawer instead of a microwave on a shelf.    If you have no upper cabinet space to spare, then consider putting the microwave in the pantry, on the counter in the corner, or on a roll around cart. 

Microwaves are generally 19”, 24”, or 30” in width.  Therefore, the cabinets they are in should be that width or larger(if on a shelf).  Found something a different size?  Just remember, you will have to replace it someday, and probably sooner than you replace the cabinets….




Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.