The Panasonic CS89 review in a sentence: you'll love this combi appliance that can microwave, steam, grill and cook by convection… as long as you can make room for it.
Most people own a microwave and there are many, many models out there, including the really good ones in our best microwaves line-up. But what's even more useful than a microwave? Why, a microwave combi oven, such as the Panasonic CS89 – or Panasonic NN-CS89LBBPQ to give it the full works. It does a similar job to the KitchenAid KMQFX33910, which we reviewed recently, and which is like the CS89's posher, more stylish cousin.
A combination microwave does a 'combination' of things. In this case, microwaving, grilling, convection cooking like a standard oven, steaming, plus various 'combinations' of the above.
So it can not only bring day-old curry back to life, it can create brand new dishes as well.
Like most combi ovens, the CS89 is more expensive than most standard microwaves – and somewhat larger, too. However, its capabilities more than make up for that, as we shall now explore in my Panasonic CS89 review!
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Panasonic CS89 combination microwave: price and availability
Panasonic's CS89 combination microwave (or, 4-in-1 combination steam oven NN-CS89LBBPQ as you might see it listed) costs £469.99 in the UK and is available from all the usual electrical retailers. In Australia it's called the NN-CS89L and has a price tag of AUS$1,299.00. However, it doesn't currently appear to be available in the US.
Panasonic CS89 combination microwave: Design
A long history of designing great things means that you can generally expect Panasonic to be right on the money with its products. The Panasonic CS89 is no exception and while it’s nigh on impossible to make a microwave look interesting Panny has had a decent stab on the exterior styling front.
The first thing that grabs your attention, once you’ve manhandled all 21.5kg of it out of the very large box it’s packed into, is the lustrous quality of the black finish. However, that’s only on the front-facing side, which does make the CS89 look almost as though it has been designed to be a fully-fitted unit due to the rest of it being greyish in colour. No matter, once in situ the 39.1 x 50 x 43.7cm Panasonic cuts a real dash on your countertop. Give it a first-use wipe over, plug it in and you’re good to go.
There are some bits and bobs inside the box to aid cooking duties. These include an enamel shelf, wire shelf, glass tray and a plastic trivet, all of which are useful depending on the mode you’re using. There’s no turntable inside this microwave, which means there’s plenty of space to fit very large plates, plus square and rectangular containers too. You also get a built-in 800ml water tank that needs to be filled if you’re steaming food.
Panasonic has done a very decent job with the control options, all of which can be selected from the panel on the front of the unit. This includes 12 combi cooking options plus a whopping 36 auto programmes. There’s a drop-down door to gain access to the cavernous 31 litre innards, which is more akin to a conventional oven than a standard microwave. All in all, the overall design comes together very nicely indeed.
Panasonic CS89 combination microwave: Features
Being a combination microwave you’ve got a feast of features that allow you to cook food ingredients, along with entire meals using the one appliance. Naturally, the Panasonic can microwave, but it’s also capable of so much more. Initial setup is straightforward, with setting the clock a simple task. There’s a child safety lock on-board too.
From there, you’ve got the display to pick over, which includes a digital readout at the top indicating your chosen function. Touch options underneath are Steam, Convection, Micro Power, Grill, Combination, along with Timer/Clock. Underneath that is a Chaos Defrost option along with an Auto Cook feature. Stop and Start function buttons sit beneath all that.
Panasonic’s Quick Start guide kicks off with instructions on steam cooking, which almost makes it seem like Panny wants you to use this option over regular microwaving. We tried a jacket potato in the microwave instead however, as this is always a good way of finding out just how well those waves work. The microwave features work well enough actually, with the auto-reheat option proving particularly good for chilled leftovers. Ditto for defrost too.
The feature set is filled out by the convection mode while there’s a grill function for toasting and, er, grilling.
Another bonus with the Panasonic CS89 is that you can use modes in tandem. The combination cooking feature allows you to produce a diverse selection of meals. The Quick Start manual makes a handy consultation guide in order to get this right, especially when you’re trying the appliance the first few times. The same can be said for its combination cooking controls.
Panasonic CS89 combination microwave: Performance
Giving the Panasonic CS89 a go for the first time I was suitably impressed by the space offered by that larger interior. The fact that there’s no turntable, which can often be a hurdle to overcome if you’re using large plates or non-circular containers is a real blessing. Likewise, the controls of the Panny are a breeze to master, with nothing that really gets in the way of meal-time productivity. In fact, the way that the unit has two shelves means that you can cook multiple items in one go. Therefore, the combi aspect of this model makes it really appealing.
I found that using the combi settings, along with the Auto Cook options, was hugely practical. For example, you can call on the convection, grill and microwave functions to cook all the ingredients for a meal in one fell swoop. That said, the Panasonic CS89 is also dazzling when it comes to plain old microwave chores, with my first shot at a jacket spud turning out a perfect potato. Meanwhile, Auto Cook does a fine job of heating pizzas, also to perfection though some drying around the edges was apparent on one or two slices.
This machine comes with ‘Inverter Technology’ logos emblazoned on the box and it’s that tech which also seems to make the Panasonic quicker than many of its ilk.
I’d seen reports elsewhere though that the grill was a less satisfactory aspect of this model. I found that to be a fair criticism – it’s fine, but don't set your expectations too high. Use less bread for toasting and you’ll get away with it. Pile in too many slices and you’ll end up with flaccid toast examples around the edges where the heat doesn't quite hit.
Panasonic CS89 combination microwave: Verdict
There’s a lot to like about the Panasonic CS89 combination microwave, from its classy external styling through to the fuss-free interior, minus a rotating plate holder. You therefore get plenty of space for cooking all sorts of ingredients and, indeed, entire meals. There’s also the luxury of being able to place just about any sort of shaped plate, dish or bowl into the machine, just as long as it’s microwave-friendly of course.
There are minor quibbles, like the way you can't track progress through the darkness of the door compared to many lesser microwaves. The Panasonic CS89 is also big and bulky; it’s quite tall too, so you may struggle getting it into a suitable spot in your kitchen, if you lack space. Nevertheless, the combination aspect of the appliance is brilliant, with the Panny being adept at everyday microwave and reheating tasks. But it’s also pretty natty when it comes to baking stuff too, which turns out to be a real bonus once you get used to the settings and what not.
This really is a beefy all-rounder that can handle just about any cooking task. We’ve taken to steaming a lot more of our dishes as this is so good at getting the job done. It also seems great at keeping most of the steam inside the unit as opposed to doing the same thing on a hob, which frequently ends up with condensation running down the kitchen walls. Yup, this combi cooker is quick, convenient and worth the entry price.