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Range Hood vs OTR Microwave

Dear Chowhounds,

I am in the process of the doing a kitchen update and am pondering the the trade-offs between the extra counter space an Over-the-range (OTR) microwave yield and the superior venting we would get from a dedicated range hood.

Until now, we have only had a recirculating/filtering vent hood. (For this update we will be doing the work to add external ducting.) Considering that, and assuming I don't do a lot of deep frying or other highly odoriferous cooking, would an OTR Microwave with a 300 or 400 CFM vent make me happy or should I go with dedicated hood??

From a budgetary point of view, I am considering lower end gas ranges with convection ovens. I would like to keep the range / hood or microwave combo under $2000 or so.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts. Any recs on specific brands models in my price range would be welcome too.

Dale

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  1. If you are adding external ducting go with the range hood. I have a recirculating OTR and while it is better than nothing it doesn't really handle even simple frying well; even if ducted out the capture area is small.

    1. Absolutely go with vent with external ductwork imo. Maybe use a microwave cabinet (if you have room) to free up some counter space.

      1. I"m another one suggesting a traditional hood if you can manage it. Even if you don't do a lot of frying, you'd be surprised how you need it for sauteing even in minimal amounts of fat. And don't forget about stove top grilling - which makes quite a bit of smoke. I use my Le Cruiset grill pan quite a bit.

        It is also good for catching the condensation which rises up from boiling pots of water. I remember in my last home, I had a micro hood and it just could not handle when I'd be cooking pasta; it would have water dripping from above onto the stove top - and that one was vented to the outside even. The range hood sucks that up and out efficiently.

        2 Replies
        1. re: sivyaleah

          We just got rid of our OTR microwave and replaced it with a Kobi hood vented outside. Our microwave was also previously vented outside as well.

          Absolutely no comparison. Kobi at its lowest (silent) speed) moves more air than the noisy microwave ever did.

          Jim

        2. Well, this is the first house I've lived in with an OTR micro and frankly I'm not really a fan of it. But I do a decent amount of canning and use 20 quart pots. I prefer to have as much free space above the stove as possible.

          1. We've got a 30 inch range but chose to get the 36 inch Venezia Zephyr vent. It wasg a combination of planning for the future (larger range) and I thought the physics involved would make for a better draw. We've had it now for 6 years and we've never had a problem with it (I'm sure I just jinxed it now). External venting is wonderful, just remember that it is an uninsulated hole in your house and if you live in a VERY cold climate....wel.... Here in NJ, no big deal.

            3 Replies
            1. re: jnk

              I just ordered a 30" Zephyr Range hood today. I am not that worried about the uninsulated whole in the wall but at 680CFM it could sure suck all the warm air out of our house in a hurry. (It's about 0F in MN at the moment.)

              1. re: dalewest

                I think you'll really appreciate the way this hood works. We've had ours for 6 yrs now and the biggest problem we've has is that one of the 4 halogen bulbs just burned out. Best of luck with it.

                1. re: dalewest

                  Good choice. There is usually a recommended clearance from rangetop depending on the output of the gas range. That usually doesn't put a microwave in easy reach safely.

              2. I never comment feel compelled, maybe to relieve my own frustration. We've had 2 OTR microwaves in 15 years and the second one just bit the dust after we've lived with a broken handle for about a year and a broken vent cover for about 6 months. Plastic parts that degrade can be replaced (mostly) but now the magnetron is toast.

                We bought a better G(enerally) E(xpensive) microwave 4 years and 4 days ago to replace the prior GE that had too many crumbling parts and a cheezy fan; we wanted the higher rated exhaust fan so we went with the better MW. The vent is to the outside and the fan works kinda good but not great -- probably as good as a cheap hood vent.

                Since we've had the MW apart, I can tell you there is A LOT of grease build up inside the thing even though I regularly clean the filters. Literally dripping.

                While I have no science to back it up, I think the heat from the cooktop degrades the plastic and I've had it. I will sacrifice counter space if I do not have to replace a MW again in five years. But that is a problem...

                Our cabinets were made around the OTR MW. The wood panel that covers the side of the MW is also part of an upper cab which is attached to a crown moulding -- you get the idea. Our tile backsplash ends where the MW began and the Italian tile was not to be found when I looked in 2009, 2010 and now 2013. A hood fan will move more air but it will not cover the same footprint (wallprint??) that the microwave did.

                If I can somehow get tile to fill in the gap, then I have to deal with the cabinets. Then I will find a hood that moves some air because while the MW fan is kinda good, it is not good and I am appalled at how much grease ends up in the air in my kitchen that sees fried food maybe twice a year in eggplant season, based on what I can see dripping in the bowels of the dead MW.

                If I had it to do over again, I would NEVER do an OTR microwave. I would appreciate more space on the cooktop for big pots and better ventilation.

                If I was gonna do an OTR microwave even though I know I shouldn't, I would design everything around it so that it would not be a major pain when I finally gave up on the thing and went vent hood-countertop MW. Basically, install it in a way that will let you easily remove it down the road. And I would definitely go with the very best fan you can muster and vent it outside.

                3 Replies
                1. re: keyjey

                  If you can't find matching tile to cover the extra wall space that a hood wouldn't cover, you can use a sheet of stainless steel and cut it to fit the space and make it end up just behind your hood (so there is no join to see). Looks very professional (if you have a stainless hood), and nobody will ever know it. I did it in the past when replacing a hood that wasn't the same footprint. Since the hood was white, I used a piece of white painted steel, but it looked so much part of the hood, even I did not see it after a few months.

                  For the cabinet, a talented woodworker (aka not any carpenter) should be able to help you find a creative solution. I know my DH did miracles in some friends' kitchens. It's hard to picture it without seeing it thought.

                  1. re: rewok

                    Thank you rewok. You've got me thinking about options I'd not considered. And I now realize the OP already bought a fan!

                    1. re: keyjey

                      Yes, and I am quite happy with the Zephyr. I hardly ever need to turn it up past low to keep the air clean. Nice Halogen lights give great illumination on the range top when I am cooking.

                2. DW.....
                  Go with a direct vent , stainless steel hood, and make sure the fan components are accesible. Even with good maintence, grease does sneak up into the fan components. Additionally when I bought my unit, I purchased two extra sets of filters, which get soaked and cleaned every month.

                  Have had DCS , and a GE profile....both top of the line, but a reasonably good product.
                  +1 about the other suggestions for locating the micro away from the stove. You might also want to examine the size of the unit, based on your actual needs.

                  1. I'm vertically challenged, so I never liked the idea of reaching over active burners to retrieve something from a OTR microwave. I wouldn't do it. Also, the lack of space between the burners and tall pots are a concern. I have a small microwave on a dedicated cart for it. I can replace the micro as needed, and the cart has a drawer and storage cabinet below - added bonus.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: breadchick

                      Another short chowhound who hates OTR microwaves.
                      We went for the big externally vented hood (1200 cfm) in our remodel. I am a big believer in small, cheap, on-the-counter microwave ovens. I mostly use mine for re-heating my coffee.

                      1. re: pedalfaster

                        I know what you mean. I don't cook with it, it's not even in my "work triangle." I use it to melt butter, heat water for tea, etc. so it doesn't need to be close by.

                    2. http://www.samsung.com/us/appliances/...

                      I have this OTR MW/convection oven but I have it on one of those tall stainless steel shelving units that Costco sells. We have a little space under the adjacent stairs where this fits perfectly. As others have said I don't like reaching up over the range to use the MW. And the convection part gives me the advantage of a second oven without the expense or having to lost cabinet space. I've used it for several yearss and love it.

                      Here's my range:

                      http://www.samsung.com/us/appliances/...

                      Induction cooktop, convection oven and well under $2k.

                      I like both these appliances SO much that I bought the exact same things for a second home. Best of luck to you.

                      16 Replies
                      1. re: c oliver

                        c oliver -- you are saying you have an OTR MW but it is sitting on a shelf, correct? I'm curious, why the OTR model then? And no problem with stability of the MW?

                        1. re: keyjey

                          IIRC, that was the option offered. The important part is that it's a MW/Convectioin which was the selling point. I wanted a second oven but don't need one very often. To accommodate it in the usual way, I'd have had to move appliances around and lose cabinet space. This space was already here. And this sucker is HUGE and weighs a ton and, no, on that big, solid shelving unit it doesn't budge. A friend recommended this solution to me and it has worked perfectly.

                        2. re: c oliver

                          c oliver - How long have you had your range? Samsung's got a new model out with what they call a "Flexcook Zone". It's 2 square burners that combine to 10" x 17" and the claim is you only need a pan size 60% of the burner space. I was previously set on the GE slide-in, but this has me VERY interested. Here's a link. Click on "features", then "Flexcook Zone" for a quick voice-over slide show.

                          http://webapps.easy2.com/cm_mvc/Gener...

                          No reviews on it yet, so I'd like to know what you love, hate, etc... about yours.

                          1. re: DuffyH

                            I adore the range(s). The first one is three or four years old and I've had zero problems. Only the highest praise. I like it so much that when we remodeled a second home's kitchen a year ago, I bought the exact same range. HOWEVER, I've longed for what you're calling the "Flexcook Zone." In a perfect world, the entire top would be one big zone. But this would be a really big step up IMO. There have been times (not a whole lot but some) where the ability to have a second really big burner would have helped. For instance a really big skillet of pasta sauce and a really big pot of pasta water. I can fudge by moving the sauce to the second biggest burner but having the aforementioned feature would be a dealmaker for me. I'm super and seriously jealous. Again, I have nothing but praise for my Samsung appliances. I also have the big MW/convection and fridge, all bought at the same time. If you have any questions, let me know and I'll be glad to answer. I'm leaving the country on Thurs. and won't be online much the following two weeks if that matters. Happy shopping. PS: I REALLY want that range.

                            1. re: c oliver

                              I'm seriously leaning towards it. I was planning to get the GE slide-in for the convenience of front controls, but I've lived with a POS freestanding for the last 2 years with no real hassles. I think it's because here in Tampa we grill eat so light, I mostly use it for quick stuff, sauté and the like. I never have more than one tall pot going at a time. Rarely more than one pan at a time, for that matter. It's only on the coldest days (rare) that I cook a big pot of soup. So I don't see rear controls as a deal-breaker.

                              Love the price, too, about $800 less than the GE.

                              1. re: DuffyH

                                I was having trouble with that Best Buy link so went to Samsung's. My ranges have the controls at the front, right on the cooktop and I've wish they weren't. I lose that space. Are you using induction currently? If not, you're going to find that the whole cooktop can be used. But with my controls where they are I steer away from putting anything there. I think this is another enhancement. I also really like that boil-over alert. Just had that happen with some potatoes yesterday. 'Course with induction it's just a matter of taking a towel and mopping it up.

                                And, you betcha, that price savings meant A LOT to me. My husband rolled his eyes when I said "oooooohhhhh, I want the new model" :)

                                1. re: c oliver

                                  c oliver - <Are you using induction currently?>

                                  No, I'm not. I've cooked most of my life on gas and the switch to electric has been an interesting learning curve.

                                  <My ranges have the controls at the front, right on the cooktop and I've wish they weren't.>

                                  I'd rather the cooktop controls were out front, but I'm now a girl on a budget, so compromise is something I live with. But like I said, it's not a deal-breaker. And yes, that boil-over alert is an item that I KNOW I'll enjoy. I can't be the only person who uses a boil-over as a timer for potatoes.

                                  < My husband rolled his eyes when I said "oooooohhhhh, I want the new model">

                                  I know that eye-roll! :)

                                  1. re: DuffyH

                                    IMneverHO, you're going to be bowled over by induction. I sure have been. All the pluses of gas and electric and none of the minuses. And in hot weather, that cooktop is going to generate A LOT less heat.

                                    1. re: c oliver

                                      <And in hot weather, that cooktop is going to generate A LOT less heat.>

                                      That's a huge factor in my decision. Plus, not long after moving in here, one of my cats got spooked and jumped up onto the range when it was still hot and burned her tiny toes. Seriously, 2nd-degree burns on her pads! Poor thing, I felt terrible. They've never been allowed on the counters, but now I worry. Well, another year and I won't have too. I imagine the glass will cool down as quickly as a gas burner grate does, maybe faster.

                                      1. re: DuffyH

                                        MUCH faster. Plus the surrounding area has NO heat. I can put my hand down right beside the burner and there's no heat.

                                        1. re: c oliver

                                          I so wish I could pull the trigger right now. But first, the entire home needs new flooring. So, next year. :)

                                          1. re: DuffyH

                                            As Daddy used to say, "I wish I'd been born rich instead of so doggone goodlooking!" :)

                                            1. re: c oliver

                                              <As Daddy used to say, "I wish I'd been born rich instead of so doggone goodlooking!" :)>

                                              Truer words. Retirement's taken all the fun out of kitchen remodels.

                                              1. re: DuffyH

                                                We just did an Ikea DIY kitchen last year. Very pocketbook friendly.

                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                  I just ordered cabs and a maple top for island expansion (it was a puny 36" base cab with bigger formica top) because we realized we wanted the new island in before we lay new tile. So island first. Later, we'll paint our remaining cabs, because they're not butt-ugly.

                                                  I did consider Ikea, before I decided to just paint. We've got nothing but time, after all. :)

                                                  1. re: DuffyH

                                                    If painting had been an option, we'd definitely have done that.

                        3. Go for the hood. I lived for years without a hood and grilled and cooked most everything outside. Just remodeled and installed a Vent A Hood. Keeps the smells down like nobody's business.

                          We dropped a plug into the pantry and that is where the microwave lives.

                          1. I would get the range hood and figure out someplace else for the microwave. We've lived in houses with the dedicated hood with external ducting and currently have an OTR microwave with the recirculating fan (almost useless...rarely gets used). You've already go some good advice on brands and models and I don't have anything to add that would be helpful.

                            However, I will add something that might be useful for others reading this thread. The light on his OTR microwave that shines down on the stovetop burned out. I replaced it for him and it burned out within a couple of weeks. I replaced it again and it burned out the second time he turned it on. The microwave is only a couple of years old, but he got in the habit of leaving the light on during the nights. (I still don't know why.) I went to the full-service appliance store where he buys all his appliances to see if they knew what was going on. (I knew that fixing it really is not an option, too costly when compared to replacement.) They had zero suggestions for me. I went to my dad and handed him a small flashlight and told him that was the replacement for his OTR microwave light. A couple of days later, I thought of something. The light bulbs. I bought a different brand of light bulb and the thing has been working just fine. Why didn't the guy at the appliance store suggest a different brand of light bulb?

                            1. I'm resurrecting this thread because I, too, will be remodeling my kitchen this fall/winter. I was considering the OTR microwave with hood, but after reading the thread, I'm leaning toward a dedicated range hood.

                              FYI, I have electric for my range/oven, which will be replaced. My kitchen is small, hence the OTR microwave--it would save space. But I'd rather lose the counter space if it means compromised venting.

                              I'd appreciate anyone's thoughts here.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: nofunlatte

                                In a small kitchen with limited counter space, sometimes it's better to make a trade-off. Any decent windows you can open? How's your climate, will it make it hard to open a window in winter or summer?

                                Further, how much high heat, smoky, greasy cooking do you do? If you're blackening steaks and chicken, you're going to want the most ventilation you can get. If you're pretty gentle when it comes to generating steam, grease and smoke, and you've got a window, then a micro/hood may work fine for you.

                                Bottom line? If you don't have good room ventilation, then you're going to want a range hood. Period, Because you'll regret it when the smoke alarm goes off, as it inevitably will. Beyond that, well, there are options.

                                1. re: DuffyH

                                  Thanks, DuffyH. I've been leaning toward the dedicated range hood and you've given me some good points to consider. My climate (Indiana) can be pretty challenging--opening my kitchen window may work in the spring/summer/fall, but a winter like this past one, with regular below-zero Fahrenheit readings, means I'm throwing too much money out the window via heating costs. Plus the window is 180° from the range.

                                  I think I've figured out a way to move the microwave from the counter to a new place. But if I don't like the look, I'd rather give up the counter space.

                                  1. re: nofunlatte

                                    nofunlatte,

                                    Sounds like you'll be able to make it all work out. We shifted a coffee maker over to the sink area, which is less than ideal, but it let me put the new MW in a more out-of-sight spot next to the Brevile oven, with a cast iron trivet in between.

                                    I'm not thrilled to have the coffee maker where it is, but it beats placing a big-ass MW or the Breville next to my range. Not so convenient where they are, but visually better, and we're getting used to it.