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Review: 3 combi-microwave ovens you'll love

We reviewed three combi-microwave ovens so you don't pick the wrong one. Steam, grill, bake, and reheat food all in one machine! Take your pick, according these reviews:

HITACHI SUPERHEATED STEAM MICROWAVE OVEN MRO-AV200E 

$1,699, from major electrical stores. 33 litres. Includes a microwave-safe ceramic tray, two metal trays, and a height-adjustable grill tray.

FUNCTIONS

  • It was the most user-friendly of the three. The dial knob was intuitive and the oven door has a table of cooking programmes. The display even indicated which tray to use and at which rung in the oven – very helpful.
  • It has a handy built-in weighing mechanism. I didn’t have to weigh my food or figure out how long to defrost or cook it – the smart oven did it all. The “tare” function subtracts the weight of crockery.
  • I loved how roomy the oven is – it could fit a midsize fish or a whole chicken.
  • The manual was thorough and there were many recipes with detailed instructions on cooking and setting the correct programme, plus illustrations on which tray to use and how high to place it for each recipe.

USING IT
Steaming 

The water tank was easy to use, and my steamed fish came out perfectly. However, the rim of the ceramic tray dips into a low lip in the centre, and there’s a risk of spills when steaming (or defrosting, and when the dish has a sauce).
Grilling 
To grill chicken wings, the manual advised me to fully extend the grill tray so it was in the top rack. The skin came out crispy and the meat, fairly moist, but some wing tips were burnt.
Baking 
I loved how I could skip the oven-preheating step and still turn out muffins with a golden crust and moist centre.
Microwaving The weight sensor didn’t work as well with defrosting and reheating. My frozen, raw wings came out slightly cooked at the edges, and when reheating porridge, I had to run the automatic reheat function three times before the porridge was hot enough.

VERDICT 
8.5. An appliance that’s a breeze to use, even with its hiccups.

FUNCTIONS

  • The small digital display was my biggest gripe. It was easy to swipe left or right to scroll through the long list of programmes, but that made it hard to tell at a glance which one I was looking at. The icons were also confusing.
  • With similar-sounding programmes such as Fried Chicken Standard and Fried Chicken Healthy, it took deliberate effort to select the right one.
  • Cleaning around the top grill’s heating elements took a little more time than just wiping down the Hitachi unit.

PANASONIC ECONAVI INVERTER STEAM OVEN NN-CS894

$1,599, from major electrical stores. 32 litres. Includes a glass tray, grill tray, metal tray, and a plastic trivet for steaming.

USING IT
Steaming 

I set the weight of the fish (in 100g increments, from 200g to 600g) for the oven to calculate steaming time and my dish came out succulent and moist.
Grilling 
The oven asked if I wanted Grill 1, 2 or 3 but there was no information on the oven door, so I had to dig deep into the manual. My chicken wings were the best of the lot – incredibly juicy with crispy skin.
Baking 
I considered using the Muffin programme but beat a hasty retreat when I was asked to key in weight – of each cup of muffin batter? The whole tray? I switched to the Convection mode as it let me set the temperature and time. My muffins turned out fine.
Microwaving 
The oven does away with round turntables, so I could use crockery of different shapes and sizes. I only had to flick my finger across the screen to set the time, and press – so easy if you have to reheat several dishes.

VERDICT 
7.5. A fairly good performer, if only the display and programmes were less confusing.

SAMSUNG MC35J7055HT/SP OVEN [Great Find]

$649, from Gain City, Harvey Norman and other authorised dealers. 32 litres. Includes a glass turntable, a high metal rack, a low metal rack, and a steamer set.

FUNCTIONS

  • I liked the clean interface, with its minimal yet clearly worded buttons.
  • The recipes in the manual were not as detailed as the Hitachi’s, but it had handy guides on cooking duration and recommended power settings based on food weight.

USING IT
Steaming 

This is the only oven with a steamer set but its size was limiting – it fits just a small fish.
Grilling 
The manual advised placing a wire rack over the glass turntable. But when the wings were done, I pulled out the rack and marinade dripped all over the floor. The alternative was to lift the glass turntable with the rack of wings, but they would have been really heavy. Thankfully, the wings turned out crispy and juicy.
Baking 
The maximum temperature on the convection setting is 200 deg C. My recipe called for 220 deg C, so I made do with 200 deg C and extended the baking time by two minutes. My chocolate chip muffins were still beautifully baked.
Microwaving 
The table in the manual was spot-on, so I didn’t have to guess or troubleshoot.

VERDICT 
8. A good workhorse that holds its own across all cooking modes.

This article was first published on Simply Her.

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