8 best microwaves 2018 to fast cook your food

Yes, the best microwaves and combi ovens ARE good for more than just ready meals and reheating soup

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Microwaves used to have a terrible reputation, but these squat little boxes can actually do a lot more than simply heat up pizza, cook meat while leaving it looking raw, and performing the general food texture and taste-ruining duties they traditionally fulfilled.

We tested a range of microwaves and combi ovens – which combine the arcane power of radioactive food bombardment with more traditional convection and grill cooking –  to bring you the best the market has to offer.

So which is the best? Usually at this point, we go with a device from Sage by Heston Blumenthal – it'd be the Quick Touch Crisp in this case. 

Not only is it very sharply styled, feature-packed and efficient, we're sure if we keep bigging up the gastronomic slaphead's home wares, eventually we'll get free meals at his restaurants. Fair's fair, right? 

However, even Heston can't hold a candle to Panasonic's truly stellar range of microwave/combi ovens, and so our winner is the somewhat less catchily entitled Panasonic NN-CS894.

How to choose the best microwave for you

The egg timer style dial which many microwaves employ to allow you to set the amount of time your food will be heated for is both a blessing and a curse. They're very easy to use, and allow you to easily add more time to your meal if you feel it needs it, but on the other hand they tend to lack the exactness of their digital counterparts.

On balance we valued the convenience they offered over the digital alternatives, but if you're someone who prefers to follow microwaving instructions to the letter then we'd advise you to stick with a digital timer.

Meanwhile programme modes, which allow you to automate your microwaving by inputting the type of food and the weight, remain divisive. A quick straw poll of the office revealed that only one person used the functionality on their microwave at home, with most opting to rely completely on just power and time settings.

Not worrying about automatic programs will take a lot of the stress out of a microwave purchase, since this is a big point of differentiation between the different models. Ignoring them allows you to focus on features such as controls, aesthetics, and capacity.

Finally, on the issue of dial vs button controls, we found dials to be overall much more responsive, but buttons are undeniably easier to clean since they're often completely flush with the front surface of the unit.

Anyway, you can ignore all the above, as we're about to TELL you what the best microwave for you is. Have your credit card and M&S beef stroganoff at hand, and read on.

The best microwave and combi ovens

Panasonic NN-CS894

1. Panasonic NN-CS894

Best microwave/combi overall – one for the discerning frequent microwave user

Specifications
Type: Combi
Capacity: 32 litres
Reasons to buy
+Ample 32-litre capacity+It microwaves, it steams, it bakes, it grills
Reasons to avoid
-Complicated interface-High price

This classy 32-litre box of tricks is a microwave, convection oven, grill and steamer. 

In fact it performs so many cooking duties you might not even need a separate oven, and it's an ideal choice for those who are short of kitchen space.

Panasonic's inverter technology means it can microwave continuously at half power rather than switching on and off during the cooking process. 

The steamer function is especially handy that produces wonderfully moist, succulent results, especially with fish. Granted, you will need to swot up on what the interface’s titchy cooking icons mean but once grasped it’s all relatively straightforward. 

It also does a great job of combi-cooking – combining grill/convection and microwave to produce dinner at microwave speeds, but which looks and tastes like it's from a real oven. Roasts, in particular, are The Bomb.

Samsung MS28J5215AS

2. Samsung MS28J5215AS

Best pure microwave

Specifications
Type: Microwave
Capacity: 28 litres
Reasons to buy
+ A right looker+Great value+Scratch-resisting enamel interior
Reasons to avoid
-Black glass door is tricky to see through

This family-sized 1,000 Watter sports a raft of cool design flourishes, including a dark fascia that was possibly inspired by Samsung’s Galaxy S7 edge mobile phone.

Let’s take a quick tour of the specs. Its 28-litre interior is clad in ceramic enamel which is easy to clean and shouldn’t scratch. 

Its deodorisation setting is handy since it purges the interior of smells left by the curry that went in shortly before. And who wouldn’t use the easy plate warming function? 

The Samsung also comes with 16 pre-programmed settings for a fairly wide variety of foodstuffs, including rice, chicken breast, pasta and fish. Given its modest asking price, this handsome kitchen devil is damn fine value

Sage by Heston Blumenthal Quick Touch Crisp

3. Sage by Heston Blumenthal Quick Touch Crisp

Best microwave for pastry and pizza

Specifications
Type: Microwave with crisping plate
Capacity: 25 litres
Reasons to buy
+Extremely intuitive controls+Makes crispy-based pizza
Reasons to avoid
-Using the crisper is a tad long winded-Quite pricey

There are two Sage Quick Touch models on the market, one with a special crisper pan and one without. This, obviously, is the former incarnation. 

It's an exquisitely intuitive and generously sized 25-litre, 1,000 watt microwave designed to cook or heat a wide variety of foodstuffs from a full-blown lasagne to a crispy-base pizza with as little fuss as possible.  

The Sage’s intuitive interface couldn’t be more self-explanatory. Simply select one of the unit’s three Smart keys (cook/grill, reheat, defrost) and up pops a selection of tried-and-tested heating options covering a wide variety of different foods. 

Microwave ovens are great for heating moist stewy foods but usually struggle  with pastries, quiches and pizza, which is why we'd usually recommend a combi. 

With this microwave, however, you just preheat the supplied crisper pan and slap on the pizza/quiche/tartlet. After several minutes, it comes out deliciously melty on top with a dry, crispy base. 

Hotly recommended. 

BOSCH SERIE 2 HMT72M450B

4. BOSCH SERIE 2 HMT72M450B

Best easy-to-use microwave

Specifications
Type: Standalone Microwave
Capacity: 17 litres
Reasons to buy
+Super easy to use+Keenly priced
Reasons to avoid
-No digital timer-Basic features

This small, budget-priced Bosch doesn’t feature a digital readout and the timing control is in minutes, which means it can be a bit hit and miss when selecting a time scale, especially if you just want to warm up a cup of coffee for a few seconds without it boiling over. Nevertheless, a system this simple has huge advantages for those who aren’t very tech savvy. It’s also an excellent – and very cheap option – for Air BnB owners fed up with having to write instructions for every gizmo on the property.

To use, simply bung in the food (it comes with a 24.5cm turntable and 17-litres of interior estate), select the required power output – it’s always labelled on off-the-shelf ready meal – and the time scale. And that’s all there is to it. 

If you’re after a small, ridiculously easy-to-use standalone microwave that doesn’t cost much and comes with a good brand name attached, then make this an early port of call.

AEG MBE2658S-M

5. AEG MBE2658S-M

Best stylish built-in microwave

Specifications
Type: Built-in microwave
Capacity: 25 litres
Reasons to buy
+Stainless steel construction+Intuitive touch-screen interface
Reasons to avoid
-Limited functions

This handsome black stainless-steel integrated model is a snazzy complement to AEG’s highly rated built-in oven systems.

Despite the minimalist design of its touchscreen interface (usually a sign that the manual will need to be close to hand), users report that it’s a doddle to use. They have also praised its ventilation system that allows the unit to be installed pretty much anywhere with minimum fuss. 

Aside from the expected defrost, cook and warm functions, the AEG also allows you to input weight details and the food type you want cooking and then automatically sets the correct duration for a perfect result. 

The AEG boasts five power levels (up to 900 watts), a decent sized 32.5cm turntable, a digital timer-cum-clock and a child lock for parents with inquisitive sprogs.

Miele M 6032 SC

6. Miele M 6032 SC

Best high-end option

Specifications
Type: Built-in combi
Capacity: 17 litres
Reasons to buy
+Excellent specs+Well built and quite sexy+Likely to prove highly reliable
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-Slightly pokey capacity

This classy 17-litre integrated combi model combines microwaves with a quartz grill for browning and it’s a breeze to use: just select the power output (from 80 to 900 watts) and the required cooking time and hit the start button. 

Alternatively, you can input the weight of the food being cooked and the appliance will automatically determine the cooking period and the amount of power required. 

The controls and lettering on the side panel of this model are clear enough to see even if you haven’t been to Specsavers and in typical Miele style the look is dark, sexy and expensive.

Russell Hobbs RHM3003B

7. Russell Hobbs RHM3003B

Best budget combi oven

Specifications
Type: Combi
Capacity: 30 litres
Reasons to buy
+Decent capacity+Integral grill and fan-assisted oven+Great value
Reasons to avoid
-Under-powered convection oven is slow

Dark, not-very-sexy-at-all and inexpensive, this family-sized combination model is almost the exact opposite of the Miele. Even so, it looks good enough on any large worktop and features a 900w microwave with five power settings, a 1100w grill and a 2500w fan-assisted convection oven.    

The 31.5cm glass turntable is large enough to accommodate most oven-proof dishes, 12-inch dinner plates and large Pyrex bowls. 

The dual function doesn’t allow for individual power and time settings but, in the pantheon of mid-priced all-in-one cookers, that can be considered par for the course. Also available in white. 

SMEG FMI020X

8. SMEG FMI020X

Best built-in microwave for smaller kitchens

Specifications
Type: Built in microwave
Capacity: 20 litres
Reasons to buy
+Integral grill+Stainless steel construction
Reasons to avoid
-Complex interface

Aside from the microwave element, this smallish, built-in 20-litre model also features a 1kW grill element for browning foods like cheese on toast or pizza (it actually has a specific pizza setting). The interface is the antithesis of the Sage model so you may need to have the manual to hand until you learn what all the symbols mean. 

That said, its 800 watt power output is good enough for any nosh-based eventualities. The Smeg provides five levels of power and will calculate the right level of defrosting by the weight of an item. It looks swish, too, in all that lush brushed stainless steel.