If kitchen space is a squeeze, a combination microwave could replace your regular oven.
Combination microwaves (also known as combi ovens or convection ovens) can be used as an oven to bake, roast and grill.
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A combination microwave combines two appliances in one. They can be used as a microwave, an oven, and in combination mode (combining microwave, bake and grill functions). They are more versatile than a benchtop oven – a benchtop oven can bake, roast and grill, but can’t microwave.
Combis don’t perform as well as a built-in or freestanding oven . There’s no bottom element so there’s limited browning and crisping of foods that require base cooking, such as pizza, pies and pastry.
A combi may suit you if you have a studio apartment, caravan or holiday home with limited space for a microwave and an oven. It can also be useful in a full kitchen if you often use more than one oven at a time.
Combination microwaves can be benchtop or built-in. Some can be installed either way.
Built-in ovens are great for smaller kitchens as they save on bench space. They can be integrated within a kitchen to fit in with other appliances and usually sit flush with cupboard units. These models need a “trim kit” but this may need to be bought separately. Built-in microwaves should be installed by an electrician.
Benchtop models must be freestanding – they can’t be placed in a cabinet. They also shouldn’t be put where heat and steam are produced (for example, next to a conventional oven).
In convection and combination modes, combination microwaves get hotter than standard microwaves, so make sure all minimum recommended clearances are followed. You’ll find these measurements in the installation instructions.
It should be easy to open and stay in position without swinging open or slamming shut, especially as it can get very hot.
Check the usable space – actual capacity can be less than what manufacturers claim. Make sure it will fit your dishes.
Will your dishes have enough room to rotate? On both the microwave and combination settings the dish will need to do this.
Should be easy to use and read.
If you like to see what’s cooking, or to catch unintended spills, make sure the window is large and gives a clear view.
Check it gives good illumination of the turntable.
Lets you deactivate the microwave so children can’t use it.
Lets you time other tasks – such as boiling an egg – without operating the microwave.
Inverter models deliver continuous heating at reduced power. For example, if you select 50%power the microwave delivers a true 50%power, not a “pulsed” delivery of full power half the time (like most microwaves do). Manufacturers claim inverter models cook more evenly, but we found this claim doesn’t stack up in our testing. If you have a Bluetooth connection there’s also a risk your inverter microwave will interfere with it.
Most people don’t get the most out of their microwave and only use a few functions. Reading your manual, and some trial and error, will give you a new perspective on what it can do.
These make defrosting, cooking and heating more convenient. Automatic defrost usually prompts you to enter the weight and type of food, and calculates the defrosting time. Common automatic programmes are for potatoes, fresh vegetables, rice, drinks, meat, soups and frozen dinners.
These measure vapours emitted during cooking to control cooking time. You don’t have to estimate cooking times and food quantities.
This starts the microwave, usually by pressing one button. With most models, the cooking times increases in 30-second or one-minute increments. It’s handy for reheating.
The microwave performs a sequence of functions, such as defrost then cook.
Lets you increase or decrease cooking time without stopping the microwave.
For the microwave setting use glassware, such as Pyrex, and heat-resistant plastic containers that are microwave-safe. China, pottery, earthenware and ceramic containers are also suitable if they are non-porous and don’t have a metal trim.
For the convection or grill setting, the cookware you’d use in a regular oven is fine.
It’s the combination setting where things get tricky. You can’t use metal, non-heat-resistant plastic, or anything that’s not microwave-safe. Stick to Pyrex-style glassware, and microwave- and oven-safe china, pottery earthenware or ceramic cookware.
Water can heat past its boiling point without bubbles forming. This is called “superheating”. When you move the cup or add coffee, the water can explode into steam and cause scalding.
To reduce the risk of superheating:
Eggs can also superheat and explode in their shells or during poaching. It’s best to not cook eggs in the shell, or prick yolks before cooking.