When my dream kitchen was built we replaced all the major appliances and the new ones were built into the units. For the most part we've been delighted with the replacements, but I suppose it was inevitable that there would be something in there that didn't work out as well as its predecessor. It's the microwave. Previously I'd had a Panasonic combination oven and it worked well. The controls were easy to understand and simple to use. Its interior was roomy and all the functions (microwave, convection oven and grill, or combinations of those three) worked effectively. It had, though, two drawbacks. It couldn't be built in to the new kitchen but more importantly, it had no handle. I've only limited use in one hand so it was essential that the new microwave had an easy-to-grab handle which I could use with either hand should the need arise. I don't use the microwave extensively. It's used to heat a can of baked beans for lunch or make some porridge for breakfast. I mostly cook everything from scratch, so I don't use it to cook pre-prepared meals or to reheat. I wouldn't like to be without the choice of being able to use it though and as a combination oven is not a great deal more expensive than a simple microwave it seemed sensible to spend the extra and have a fall-back in case the main oven ever failed. My choice of the main oven was dictated by the fact that few offered the main oven at a suitable height (I'm falling to bits - I've got a back problem too!) and had the handles that I needed. I settled for a De Dietrich. As the microwave was to be built in next to the main oven I settled on the De Dietrich Multi-Function Microwave Oven DME 101. It offered all the functions which I required, had large handles which matched the large handles on the cooker and could be built in at a suitable height. Looks **** The picture above is a very fair representation of the oven. I have the model pictured, in white (DME 101W), but it is also available in black (DME 101B) and stainless steel (DME 101X). The control panel is small and neat and occupies the central part of the top of the oven. Below this the handle operates the drop-down door, which is dominated by a large safety-glass window. When the oven is not being used this appears to be black, but becomes clear when the interior light is lit during cooking. It's smart and unfussy. Size *** The overall dimensions are height 38cm (15"), width 56cm (22") and depth 45cm (17.7"), but the useable dimensions are 21cm (8.27") by 42cm (16.5") by 37cm (14.6"). This reduction in size is quite normal but because the control panel is across the top, with the "workings" behind it, the reduction in height is greater than in ovens where the control panel is at the side. Although it is perfectly useable there is not much clearance if you are using a taller jug or bowl. Extras ***** Also supplied are a metal rack which fits at either of two heights plus a glass tray which fits the bottom of the oven and catches any drips. This is attractive in its own right and I used it as a serving dish when I did a Christmas buffet. Use of the metal rack in cooking further reduces the height available. Functions ******** The oven provides fan cooking, a microwave and a grill. In all there are eight cooking functions - microwave, automatic defrost, microwave plus fan oven, fan oven, microwave plus grill, turbo grill and keep warm. Microwave Cooking The power is preset at 1000w, which is the maximum available but it can be reduced as low as 100w. In this function energy is supplied by the microwave system and then distributed by the upper and lower generators. There is no turntable and on shorter cooking times I have occasionally found that there have been some blind spots where the microwaves have failed to penetrate. Automatic Defrost This function uses microwave power on a pre-set reduced setting to defrost food up to ten times more quickly than if it was left in the open air. I had difficulty in coming to terms with this function but concluded that the problems were caused by the poor instructions given and the lack of examples appropriate to the UK. Whilst I'm sure that there are people whose freezers are stocked with small cockerel or pigeon, I'm afraid that I'm not one of them. Once mastered the function does work well, but I've had to gauge quite a few defrosting times by trial and error over the last 15 months mainly because I can't work out the level of power used. Microwave plus fan oven The microwave cooking is combined with fan heating with the result that the hot air cooks the outside of the food and the microwaves cook the inside. The fan cooking is preset to 190 degrees C but has a minimum of 40 and a maximum of 210. The microwave power is preset at 200w and has a minimum of 100w and maximum of 350w. This allows for quite a lot of flexibility but I did find setting the controls difficult to master - and I have used a combination cooker before. Once mastered though the cooking is fast and effective. Fan Oven The heat is provided by a resistor at the bottom of the oven and a centrally-placed fan redistributes it throughout the oven. Preheating is only necessary for very short cooking times - I generally preheat when I am cooking biscuits and the required temperature is achieved more quickly than in a larger oven. This function is preset at 200 degrees and has a minimum of 40 and maximum of 250 degrees. Microwave plus grill The 1500w grill in the top of the oven browns food on the outside whilst microwave (preset at 200w and with a minimum of 100w and maximum of 500w) cook the inside. I have cooked sausages using this method but I have to say that the result could no t compare with more traditional methods of cooking. The results were acceptable rather than good. Turbo Grill The grill (nominal power 1.50kW) is combined with the fan. Infrared rays from the grill have their effect moderated by the fan. The grill can be adjusted to give four different power levels, with the lowest being 50% power. Additionally the grilling rack can be placed in one of two positions, so this function is quite flexible. It took me some time to find the instructions for operating the grill - they are in fact contained in a footnote to another function. The grill is effective but does leave the oven rather messy. Grill Essentially this is the same function as the turbo grill, but without the intervention of the fan and it's recommended for toast, chops and the like. I have done fillet steaks using this function and the results were good but once again the oven was left messy. Keep Warm The fan is used to blow air around the food at 50 degrees. I had thought that this would dry food out but it doesn't seem to, but on the other hand I've found the temperature inadequate to warm plates. Well, do I like it? ************* I'm underwhelmed, I'm afraid and it's mostly down to two points. The first I should have realised before I bought the oven, but I didn't. If you are small (as I am) how do you adequately clean an oven placed at shoulder height which has a drop-down door? My arms are simply not long enough to reach far enough into the oven to do a thorough cleaning job. I've tried working from the side - but then I can't see what I'm cleaning. I've taken to sizing up visitors and providing those that come up to the mark with a damp cloth. The other problem I couldn't have foreseen. I hate the control panel with a vengeance. Too many of the symbols look just like another symbol for easy use and the timer is annoying in the extr eme. As an example, if you want to cook something for 3 minutes you have to hold the timer down whilst it clicks up in 5 second increments to 3 minutes - 36 display changes. At three minutes the increments change to one minute so if you accidentally hold the button down for too long (and this is easy to do as the display does change quickly) you will then have to reduce the cooking time, but this is done in five second increments. This has been the cause of more bad language in the kitchen in the last 15 months than we've had in more than twenty years. It is irritatingly fiddly. There is a further minor point and that is the instruction book. It's an obvious translation and not always a happy one. "We do not recommend using metal recipients, knives forks or spoons or metal staples used on defrosting sachets". Well I think I know what they mean! It's also poorly organised and even after this length of time I still have trouble locating the instructions for functions that I don't use all that regularly. Having said that this could substitute for an oven in a small kitchen if there was an independent hob. The current list price is £639, although I paid substantially less as I was buying several appliances. Frankly I don't think it's worth the list price. I passed my old combination oven to a friend whose microwave was dying. I went to see her last week. I swear I heard that oven sniggering.
Short name: De Dietrich DME 101