Microwave Drawers – Pros, Cons & Options Explored
The popularity of microwave drawers is growing. The convenience and efficiency of these products make them a favourite for smaller kitchens or those looking to maximise their kitchen’s functionality and create more clear counter space.
In this post, I’ll explain what a microwave drawer is, its pros and cons as well as answer some popular questions about the topic.
Let’s get into it!
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What Is A Microwave Drawer?
A microwave drawer is simply a microwave oven that opens like a drawer and is built-in under your countertop surface or in a tall cabinet (usually under a wall oven). Instead of opening a door to the side, you pull out its door to expose the cooking drawer.
Place your plate of food in the bottom and slide it closed. It uses the same wattage as a conventional microwave to zap your lunch or heat up a cup of coffee.
The drawer is usually finished out in trending stainless steel or black, to blend in with the rest of your kitchen appliances. It does not arrive ready to plug into the wall but requires an electrician to add an appropriate box behind the cabinetry.
Like your standard microwave, it is fairly heavy. The cabinet may need to be reinforced in order to provide sufficient support for its mounting points.
Microwave drawers are becoming more popular in luxury kitchen designs and will often feature built into a kitchen island. They don’t take up valuable worktop real estate like traditional microwaves. You also don’t end up with an inaccessible and ugly appliance hanging over your hob as you would do with an OTR microwave.
It is a much safer choice for young families, people with mobility challenges, and seniors. Everyone can reach into the drawer, read the control panel and operate it with the touch of a button. The interior does not have the strange bumps and corners often found in tabletop units, so cleaning is easier.
Finally, the design allowed for the repositioning of the cooking element. You no longer have to cope with the turntable as the food is evenly cooked without needing to turn it.
While the patented design limits the number of manufacturers that are producing microwave drawers, you can find a good selection of microwave drawer models. Look for units produced by Thermador, ZLine, Wolf, KitchenAid, Bosch and Sharp. Prices range between $1000 to $2500.
Pros Of Microwave Drawers
- Additional Countertop Space: If you have an old countertop microwave, just imagine how much room you get back by installing a microwave drawer beneath your worktop. The average microwave takes up two to three square feet of space.
- Easier to Use for Everybody: The drawer design means you never need to lift heavy dishes into the over-the-hob microwave. Even your kids can reach the controls, which makes after school snacks so easy. It doesn’t have a door that only swings to the left, providing both lefties and righties equal access. If you use a wheelchair, you can prepare your meal without assistance.
- Contemporary and Sleek Design: Today’s kitchen decor often puts the spotlight on wide-open counters, minimal cabinetry, and matching appliances. A microwave drawer complements your modern design while maintaining function.
- Bigger than Expected: While the 1.2 cubic foot interior sounds small compared to other microwaves on the market, the drawer design actually maximises useable space. You don’t have a turntable eating up space and the walls are sleek and straight. You can fit a full dinner plate or baking dish inside with ease.
Cons Of Microwave Drawers
- High Price: You can pick up a tabletop microwave for less than £100. For a drawer microwave, expect to spend £700 to £1,200. Plus, you will need to have it professionally installed.
- Installation Challenges: Not only do you need to call an electrician to have the drawer microwave hardwired, but you also need a cabinet cut to support the new unit. For a new kitchen, this is less of a concern. But for a retrofit, you will spend another few hundred pounds for labour.
- Is it safe?: The earliest models of the drawer microwave suffered from arcing in its magnetron unit. In some cases, this led to the shorting out of the unit. On others, it burst into flame. It happened to enough people that Sharp settled a class-action lawsuit in 2020 that awarded cash to the owners of the defective microwave. So, we are left wondering, did Sharp really fix the problem?
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Why are microwave drawers so expensive?
Microwave drawers were patented and originally sold only by Sharp. While other companies do manufacture them today, they still must pay Sharp for the design plans. So, the price reflects that exclusive market.
Also, the magnetron is mounted inside the top of the unit, instead of the side like on a traditional microwave. The cost associated with producing the special magnetron and mounting it inside the cabinet adds to the cost.
When the patent expires–typically 20 years after its issuance–you should see a dramatic drop in the cost of microwave drawers. The first ones were sold in 2005, so look forward to 2025 for cheaper options.
Are all microwave drawers the same size?
No, the most popular size is the 1.2 cu-ft interior that provides plenty of room to reheat a meal or even cook a roast. A few 2.0 cu-ft. versions are on the market as well. They are also available in two widths. 24 inches and 30 inches (outside width).
The smaller one is much more common as it has a more approachable price due to the availability of parts for that size.
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How Do You Clean A Microwave Drawer?
You clean a microwave drawer the same as you would any regular countertop microwave. You can wipe it down with soap and warm water to remove any grease or food splashes.
Some may find it a little tricky to reach inside to clean with the drawer sticking out. However, as there is no turntable inside it can actually be easier to clean than a regular microwave.
Why is there no turntable in a microwave drawer?
A microwave drawer has its magnetron positioned inside the top of the unit, so the entire dish receives the microwaves at the same time. There is no need for a turntable.
In a traditional microwave, the magnetron that produces the microwaves to cook the food is located on one side of the unit. In order for the food to be evenly cooked a turntable constantly rotates to expose all parts of the food to the microwaves.
Are there any microwave drawers with convection cooking?
Yes! Sharp released its first microwave drawer with convection ability (SMD2499FS) in 2021. It is a premium model and retails at about $2,200 and includes a hands-free open option. Just wave your hand in front of it, and it pops open.
Keep your eye out for other manufacturers to start producing convection microwave drawers in the future.
Can You Get A Microwave Drawer In The UK?
No. Currently, there are no manufacturers producing microwave drawers for the UK market.
You may be able to purchase one from the US but the electrics (wattage/electrical load) will be different to the UK and may not be able to be adapted to work. Also, the shipping costs will probably be very high!
Once the patent on the design has expired, we might start to see some UK manufacturers adding the appliances to their line-up. Only time will tell.
Can You Put A Regular Microwave In A Drawer?
Yes. You can put a regular countertop microwave in a cabinet or drawer as long as you follow the necessary safety precautions.
Countertop microwaves have vents built into the back of the appliance. These vents must be kept clear to ensure adequate ventilation. If they are blocked, or there isn’t enough space for the proper ventilation, then you run the risk of overheating and causing a fire.
You will also need to ensure the cabinet shelf or drawer is strong enough to hold the weight of the appliance and that there is proper cable (wire) management inside the cabinet or drawer when you pull the appliance out. You don’t want to put any strain or tension on the cables or get them damaged when accessing the microwave.
So, while technically, you can have a countertop microwave in a cabinet, I don’t really recommend it. I’d always advise getting a dedicated built-in microwave or a microwave drawer. These are designed to be in cabinets with ventilation and cable management in mind.
There you have it! Everything you need to know about microwave drawers and whether getting one is the right choice for you.
If you’re looking for an easily accessible built-in microwave then a microwave drawer is a fantastic option. It frees up more countertop space in your kitchen while still giving you a functional appliance.
However, this all comes at a price. With a drawer microwave costing considerably more than a countertop microwave, you have to carefully weigh up the pros and cons and decide if it’s the best choice for you and your kitchen.
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Michael is a kitchen designer from the UK. He's been designing and project managing new kitchen installations for around 10 years. Before that, he was an electrician and part of a team that fitted kitchens. He created Kitchinsider in early 2019 to help give people advice when it comes to getting a new kitchen.