Even the best microwaves used to have a terrible reputation, but these squat little boxes have a lot of uses beyond preparing ready meals for depressed singletons. These microwaves can do a lot more than just heating up pizza, cooking meat while leaving it looking raw, and performing the general food texture- and taste-ruining duties they have traditionally fulfilled. That's because these are the best microwave ovens and combi ovens.
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.
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
The Panasonic NN-SF464MBPQ is a great option if you’ve decided that the turntable found in many other models is hampering your cooking. Yep, this particular model comes with a flatbed interior, without the round bit that you normally plonk your meals on. That, in effect, means you get extra space and if you have a family, or just a big appetite, that’ll be worth it’s weight in gold.
It’ll take on square and rectangular-shaped plates and dishes too, which many turntable models can’t.
Being a Panasonic means you get a well thought out exterior too, with sensible styling that’ll suit pretty much any kitchen area. Controls are laid out in a no-nonsense way and operating the 27 litre capacity microwave is gloriously simple. Those touch controls offer access to the likes of 18 auto-cook functions while the manual defrost is hugely impressive. A highlight, in fact.
The Panasonic NN-SF464MBPQ has 5 different power levels and delivers 1,000 watts when you really need it. Meanwhile, a feature like the auto-reheat button offers a workmanlike way of sorting out your grub when you’re too tired to think too much about it. There are other little things that add value too, with a child lock being handy if there are little ones about and that easy to wipe down interior makes it a must-have if you baulk at the thought of kitchen cleaning days.
Panasonic appliances are generally very reliable and the NN-SF464MBPQ doesn’t look to be any different. It’s been around a little while now but continues to be hugely popular for all of the reasons outlined above. Add on that rugged dependability and you can see why spending a little more on your next microwave actually makes a lot of sense.
This muscular looking box of tricks may well turn you into something of a show-off with its many and varied charms. This, you see, is no ordinary microwave. That’s pretty obvious from the exterior, with touches that make you think it’s been lifted straight from a professional chef’s kitchen, such as the enjoyably hefty grab handle that runs the full width of the door.
Packed into this high-end appliance is a set of features and functions that will allow you to cook just about anything, and indeed any kind of dish, using either one of over 50 pre-programmed recipes or good old-fashioned manual intervention. It's a microwave, grill and 'forced air' (fan) oven, which can also use various combinations of the above.
The big knob on the front of the machine implies this is a microwave without finesse, but in reality the appliance is able to cook food in a mind-boggling array of different ways. Of course, if you simply want to heat up last night’s curry or warm some milk for your cocoa then the Kitchenaid KMQFX 33910 will do that, no problem at all. However, take a deep dive into the features and you’ll find that the microwave will do way more than that too.
The Kitchenaid KMQFX 33910 can crisp fry using minimal oil, with bacon being a prime target for the appliance. It's also very adept at baking, and can handle delicate cooking challenges like buns and cakes with vigour. At the same time it lets you get your pre-bake time ingredients spot-on thanks to a soft melt function.
Always had trouble with your dough? Fear not, as the appliance loves nothing more than helping you out thanks to an excellent Dough Rising function. Topping it all off is the Precision Bake feature, which ensures optimal cooking temperatures and no nasty uneven hotspots that normally help to cremate fragile sponges.
Oh, and it's also self-cleaning. We're sold.
Nothing is perfect, and we do have a few issues. The continuous bleeping when finished is bloody annoying, and further unwanted bleeping tends to happen when you open and close the door, because the touch buttons are positioned too near that very pleasing handle. The turntable that the microwave heating plate sits on is also surprisingly flimsy, which is not what we expect from KitchenAid at all.
If you like your microwave to look like a 1950’s black and white TV, try this popular retro offering from the house of Daewoo. Available in five different colours – including red, celeste, dusty blue and beige – the Daewoo has a capacity of 20 litres and boasts an impressive 800 watts of microwave power. It uses a concave reflector system that allegedly ensures even cooking results.
The Daewoo is a cinch to use, and comes with five power levels, defrost, auto-cook and popcorn functions, plus a simple but efficient digital timing dial. A cheap and very cheerful option for studios, flats and lodgings.
The Daewoo is available in both the UK and US though it comes with a different model number Stateside – KOR07R3ZEL.
This is 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 crispy ingredients like 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.
This classy 32-litre box of tricks is a flatbed microwave, convection oven and grill in one.
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.
Granted, you will need to swot up on what the interface’s titchy cooking icons mean but once grasped it’s all relatively straightforward.
This model 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.
This simply-styled 26-litre table-top 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 it cooks evenly and is built to a high standard for long-term reliability.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Many microwaves are just plain old white or silver boxes with little in the way of character. However, the Bosch Serie 4 BFL523MB0B Built-In Microwave is the exact opposite, thanks to a design that goes heavy on the black. While there are a few less black touches in evidence, it's the overwhelming darkness of this 800W offering that makes it so appealing. An integrated model, the Bosch looks a real treat if you’ve got room to add it to your fitted kitchen.
Capacity is pretty good too, with 20 litres available within the integrated design. Of course, being a Bosch means a rock-solid build quality and the appliance also scores highly with us for its user-friendliness. Similarly, the German manufacturer has gone heavy on the premium touches, but it’s also the feature specification that dazzles here.
For example, we’re big fans of the AutoPilot 7, which is just that; a collection of 7 different preset programs that let you heat up all kinds of food even if you’re on auto pilot yourself. It’s simplicity itself. As you’d expect, the appliance is also great for defrosting food items along with offering a full reheating and cooking capacity that covers all bases.
There are a few fancy touches that add more convenience, most notably from the electronic door opening. You also get a crisp and clear LED display, which stands out a mile in red against the blackness of the casing. The dials and controls are nicely highlighted too, so you can quickly scoot around the menu options and other settings. The fact that the control knob also retracts to allow cleaning duties to be carried out adds a touch of flair too.
While the Bosch Serie 4 BFL523MB0B Built-In Microwave is only 800W it's still a smooth operator, although you’ll need to check its dimensions to be sure it’ll fit your kitchen layout.
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.
Thirteen is often considered an unlucky number, but not in this instance. Miele’s M7140TC 46L Built-In Microwave oozes class from all angles and is perfect if you’re looking for something a little bit different. And integrated, of course. Better still, this model comes with no less that 46 litres of capacity, which means that it’s ideal for larger families or anyone who prefers to use the microwave over any other cooking appliance in the house.
Functionality-wise the Miele comes packed to the rafters with cool options, with an array of buttons along the top of the appliance that let you make your preferred selection quickly and easily. While this model is only rated at 800W it’s still an impressive performer and opening the door reveals stainless steel innards that are more than ready to take on your desired dish. We rather like the soft-close door too.
As you’d expect from Miele, this microwave does everything you need, from auto defrosting and auto reheating through to offering seven different power levels. The dazzling interior light lets you track progress. Meanwhile, the programmable timer is a handy feature to have if you’re a little more particular about just how microwaved your food needs to be.
Given that the Miele is a bit larger than some models out there, which is why you get to enjoy such a beefy capacity, you’ll need to be sure your fitted kitchen can handle its size. Dimensions-wise it clocks in with a height of 45cm, a width of 56.2 and a depth of 55cm. Nevertheless, if your units can take it, then the Miele will dazzle once it’s in situ.