Buy now, £ 519.99, Panasonic.com
- Convection oven / grill: Yes Yes
- Power: 1000 W
- Dimensions: 50 x 43.7 x 39.1 cm
- Capacity: 31 liters
This sleek black device looks more like a mini-oven than a microwave because it’s taller than most similar machines. It looks neat but tall, so it’s worth measuring carefully – including the available space under the wall cabinets – to make sure it won’t dominate your kitchen.
Once on the counter, the frameless black glass design looks great. The microwave oven is solidly built with a glossy black faceplate, drop-down door, and digital touchscreen control, making it easy to wipe down on the faceplate to avoid fingerprints.
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The interior is even easier to clean because the heated grill is built into the cavity so it can be wiped down easily. Best of all, there’s an automatic cleaning program that uses hot steam to keep everything sparkling effortlessly, invaluable if you plan on using the oven setting regularly.
It is also completely different from most indoor microwaves. There is no glass turntable but a flatbed oven-like design instead of two shelves for even more cooking at once. It’s great for squeezing even the most awkward shaped dishes. We could comfortably fit a 40cm plate inside, but we also liked that rectangular platters and dishes could be used. It works so well that it’s hard to see why not every microwave uses the same design.
There’s not much this Panasonic two-in-one can’t handle. It’s easy to use with obvious and intuitive controls, a good quick start guide, and even an easy-to-set clock. There is a useful child lock feature to ensure little hands are kept at bay as well.
While it’s obvious how to use all of the major functions, it’s still essential to keep the full manual handy just to make sure you get the most out of your microwave. There are all kinds of combo cooking modes available, including using the convection oven, grill and microwave at the same time, so it takes a bit of time before they become second nature. Bonuses include a timer to delay the start of cooking and a smart sensor that heats up a fresh, pre-cooked meal by measuring the moisture in the food and automatically calculating the cooking time.
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There are also 36 comprehensive preset programs if you prefer the microwave to do all the work. We especially liked that they focused on the everyday foods that we cook every day, such as frozen vegetables, jacket potatoes, casserole, and whole chicken. A useful junior menu is also included to automatically cook children’s dishes such as baby fruit puree and mug cake – of which there are recipes for the chocolate and lemon versions in the manual.
The oven turned out to be almost as good as a full size oven in our testing. The jacket potatoes were soft and chewy with a crispy skin, a well cooked whole chicken and even a Victoria sponge came out perfectly. Using combination cooking methods also made a noticeable difference, cooking a lasagna thoroughly but also browning the top instead of leaving it soggy.
Panasonic claims that the microwave’s inverter technology also cuts cooking time by 40%, and ready meals were certainly ready to eat much faster than the cooking time stated on the packaging. The technology also ensures continuous microwave emissions that preserve the flavor, nutrients and texture of food – and allow the device to operate almost silently.
Surprisingly, Panasonic’s auto defrost settings are just as excellent, which often leaves even the most expensive microwave down. Our ground meat was completely thawed in no time and didn’t brown at all on the outside.
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We were even more impressed with the steam technology in the microwave, which really sets it apart from the competition. It’s a doddle to use with a built-in 800ml water tank and two outlets to inject steam directly into the oven cavity for healthier cooking. The two shelves then allow you to steam vegetables over fish for a nutrient-dense all-in-one meal in minutes.
Our only complaint is that we would have liked a brighter light inside to check the progress of the cooking without opening the door but it’s a little quibble. The grill is also slow, but we have found it to work better if we don’t overload it.