A $149 combi microwave outperforms models 10 times its price.
If you’re short on space, a combi microwave can be ideal. They’re versatile (they bake, roast and grill as well as microwave), but this often comes at a price.
The four recommended models in our test cost between $500 and $800. When the Anko 30L Convection Microwave Oven from Kmart – not quite good enough to recommend but a bargain at $149 – outperformed models 10 times its price in our lab test, we had to give it a whirl in the office. Morning teas were sorted!
We baked a chocolate cake and batches of scones, and cooked pizzas both made from scratch and with store-bought bases. We also reheated pizza and a pie.
We were impressed with its heat-up time – just over two minutes to get to 200℃. But overall the Anko didn’t stack up well compared with a regular oven.
A staff member’s tried-and-true chocolate cake recipe failed. The top started to burn while the inside still wasn’t cooked – we had to finish it off in the oven. With some trial and error we got a better result baking scones, although it was tricky to estimate how long to cook them for. It’s much simpler in an oven when you just pop them back in, rather than having to re-programme the convection microwave.
Cooking pizza was a bit hit-and-miss. We had to guess the weight of the home-made pizza, but after the programmed time it was pale and didn’t look cooked. After two cycles on pizza mode the cheese was golden brown and other ingredients cooked, but the base was a bit doughy and needed an extra five minutes on convection mode. The end result had undercooked patches. The Anko did a better job with ready-made bases, but it took twice the time it would take in a regular oven.
It did a reasonable job reheating. When we reheated half a pizza the base didn’t go soggy and the cheese bubbled on top – a better result than using a standard microwave. Our reheated pie wasn’t as crisp as you’d get in an oven, but the filling was hot throughout.
One of our staffers owns a more expensive combi, so she took the Anko home to cook the family meal. Roast chicken was on the menu and after 36 minutes the chook was cooked and got the taste test thumbs-up. She also tried out the grill to brown some steamed spuds with no luck – the convection mode had to finish the job. “I wouldn’t bother using the grill, because to get good results you need to lift whatever you are grilling close to the grill.”
The supplied instructions were useless. There was no guide and you had to guess weights when baking. It was a matter of giving it a go and hoping it turned out OK.
Overall, her pricier model is easier to use and the set-up inside the oven is better for grilling or baking.
Our expert lab tester said our mixed results weren’t surprising. Using a combi microwave, especially on combination mode, is tricky so you need to experiment to get it right. Also, you shouldn’t expect a combi to perform as well as a built-in or freestanding oven. There’s no bottom element, so it can only manage limited browning and crisping for foods that require the base to be cooked, such as pizza and pies.