How Does An Over The Range Microwave Work?

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When you hear the words over the range microwave, you may think that it is an overpriced microwave that will only be able to reheat pre-made meals rather than cooking a full meal yourself. 

However, this is not the case at all, and an over the range microwave can cook just about anything. It is not unusual to find these microwaves to prepare food in one minute or less.

Check out our best OTR convection microwaves here.

What’s in a Name?

These microwaves are called “over the range” because they are smaller than the standard microwave oven and can often be installed inside a cabinet. They have a much smaller diameter, but this has been offset by their larger surface area, making it possible for them to cook foods quickly and easily. 

The microwave is so useful that it can even reheat leftover foods from last night’s dinner, meaning that you will not have to bother with reheating things as often as you might if you were using a larger sized oven. With that said, when installing this type of device, you should make sure that you have the correct bolt patterns to fit it correctly.

How do They Operate?

Most over the range microwaves come with an electronic timer and will operate automatically when it detects that you are ready to use it. Most models also come with a special tray, allowing food to slide out from underneath the food during cooking.

To understand this, it is essential to know how a typical microwave oven works. 

As you might expect, the microwave oven is built up of several chambers lined with a metal oxide layer. 

The microwave energy enters the chamber and heats the gas inside, which then expands and causes the heat energy to travel through the microwave walls and reach the metal oxide layer, which is covering the food.

How Does An Over The Range Microwave Work?

When looking to choose one, you should understand that an over the range microwave oven uses microwaves that are shorter than those used in standard microwaves and can create a greater amount of heat. 

The energy travels faster through the microwave walls, creating more heat, which means that you can cook a lot more food than you would be able to with a standard microwave oven.

One of the advantages of the over the range microwave is that it can cook food in one minute or less, meaning that you can quickly and easily prepare dishes such as rice and beans. 

This means that you must check the correct voltage for the device you will ultimately install.

This is especially useful if you prepare a large family meal and do not want to spend ages preparing the dishes. 

The fact that the microwaves are smaller means that there is less waste, which means that you will not have to keep opening and closing the microwave doors to prepare food.

An OTR microwave does not need any additional electrical power to work, and so it is more environmentally friendly. 

Although you have to plug it in if it has an outlet installed into your existing electrical socket (remember to check if 110 or 240 V), it is necessary to keep it plugged in for the cooking time duration.

Most over the range microwaves come with a special adapter kit, which means you can plug it straight into a power socket if your current outlet is dead or damaged.

To learn how an over the range microwave works, all you have to do is read the user instructions that come with the microwave and then follow the simple steps on how it operates.

After that, you will have to adjust the high-temperature settings, and once this is done, you should wait a few minutes and then turn the microwave back off. 

The microwave has to be turned off to ensure that the food is cooked thoroughly; otherwise, it would start to burn, and there is nothing worse than having burnt food!

When cooking food using an over the range microwave, you will have a choice of two modes – the first is called the ‘standard’ mode, which allows you to cook a relatively large quantity of food, while the second is called ‘slow cooker’ mode. 

This is ideal for cooking tiny pieces of food such as rice and beans, as it means that the microwave does not waste energy cooking food that you don’t need.

With both these modes, you will be able to cook different kinds of foods, including some over the range microwave recipes you can find online. 

By just entering the ingredients that you want to cook and the cooking times, you can make different kinds of foods at the touch of a button, rather than having to cook each dish separately.

Pros and Cons

Over the range microwaves offer plenty of conveniences that traditional units offer. They also afford special advantages over traditional units that are worth looking into.


The greatest advantage the over the range units have is assisting you to save precious counter space. Small kitchens need as many space savers as they can get. A small over the range microwave is installed under a cabinet instead of on a countertop at a comfortable height.

Installing it over a full-sized oven range will not keep it from operating properly. This is because the microwave also acts as a range hood that eliminates odors, smoke, and steam. A fan in the unit improves its functionality, so it is like having two appliances in one.


The unit must be installed overhead but only at a height that is reachable. Depending on how high the cabinets are, this can make using an above range microwave a hassle. Be sure that anyone who needs to use it can comfortably reach all the buttons on the machine without causing a safety hazard. If it is not possible to install it at a safe height, it is best to opt for a countertop model.

Another drawback is not being able to view the contents of the oven while something is cooking. Unless you are tall, it might make keeping an eye on microwave meals difficult or unsafe. You could burn yourself if the contents spill out as you remove the pot. If something is cooking on the stove beneath the microwave, you must be mindful of that when placing food into the microwave or taking it out. Be especially careful if the range oven has gas burners.

Do a simple check and measure the length from the bottom of the cabinet to the top of the oven range. Are you and anyone else who will use both ovens safely able to reach them? If not, opt for a countertop model.

Can you connect the fan that goes to the over range unit to an external source? It must be capable of moving smoke and air outside to get rid of it rather than simply moving it around. Many of these units also only have the power of 300 cfms. This is weak when compared to the power of oven range hoods which offer more than twice that power.