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Hot Drawers

Microwaves take cover under the counter.

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First it was drawer dishwashers. Then it was the return of the bottom-drawer freezer -- an updated homage to your grandmother's Frigidaire. And now, people are pulling out their microwaves, too. Actually, with the push of a button, the Sharp Insight Pro Microwave Drawer slides out on its own.

A sleek space-saver, the microwave drawer doesn't take up counter space or upper cabinet space, making it ideal for islands and open kitchen plans. It's also a smart addition to a wet bar, family room or home theater.

"In 2005, it picked up the best new kitchen product award at K/BIS (the Kitchen/Bath Industry Expo) in Las Vegas," says Randy Shaw of Nordic Kitchens and Bath. "Immediately after that, we got one for our showroom, and it really took off."

"Of course there are people who prefer a microwave at eye level, but with some kitchen designs, that's not practical or just not feasible," explains Shaw. "And if you put a regular microwave under the counter, you'd have to bend down or lean your head over to see inside and to work the controls."

The microwave drawer -- which comes in 24- and 30-inch widths and is available in black, white or stainless steel -- is the perfect solution because there's no need to remove the dish from the oven to check, stir or turn the food. You just reach right in from above. The touch controls on top are angled upward so they are easier to see and use.

It also has a keep-warm feature that lets it act as a warming drawer for up to 30 minutes.

"We ... try to keep a dozen of each size in stock," Shaw says of the Sharp Insight Pro, which retails for about $800 and comes built-in ready for easy installation in standard cabinets without the need for an additional kit.

"When you think about it, the price point is pretty reasonable," he says. "It's comparable to what you'd pay for a high-quality microwave, plus a trim kit and the cost to build it in."

There's more. This year, Sharp introduced another space-saving solution, the Insight Pro Cooktop+Microwave Drawer, a microwave drawer fitted beneath a glass ceramic electric cooktop in only 30 inches of space. Great for a small kitchen or kitchenette, the cooktop features four heating elements and a warming zone. This highly evolved two-in-one cooking zone includes an active, backlit touch screen that guides you through the microwave cooking process with dozens of automatic options, on-screen microwave recipes, step-by-step directions and helpful tips.

Whether or not we have entered a new era in the microwave age remains to be seen, but when you slide something into a drawer and it comes out cooked, your guests are bound to have a few questions. Dinner, conversation and convenience on the slide.

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