I have always liked the idea of a combination microwave oven.
It sounds like the very best of both worlds, the speed of microwave cooking and the flavour of oven roasted. Whats not to like.
The only drawback as far as I could see was the size of the things!
I intended to sit the microwave on the worktop under a cupboard where my old one had been but most of the ones I looked at were just too bulky. Eventually after researching the available products I found this slimline model by panasonic. My previous model was a Panasonic of some 20 years old, would you believe, and still going strong. It was however looking a bit dated and I was determined to upgrade to this shiny new combi.
The new one does indeed fit perfectly in the designated space and being stainless steel exterior as well as interior looks nice and contemporary. If I am honest I would have preferred not to have the stainless steel exterior and all the polishing that comes with it but the easy clean stainless steel inside is a must for me.
The power output of the NN574-S is 1000w and maybe it's me but I don't think that it cooks or reheats any faster than my old 700w. I would have expected a noticeable difference here but hey what do I know.
The heating category for reheating is "E"which is "very efficient".
The oven is supplied with a glass turntable, a metal plate and a chrome rack (for use with the convection oven and grill).
A small display window shows all your options and help during the operation of the oven.
The metal plate must be used on top of the glass turntable to protect it when using the convection oven or grill. Trouble is where to put the darn things when you're just microwaving. My kitchen isn't particularly small but when I'm preparing food and cooking I tend to need all the space I can get and these bits of kit seem to get in my way and get shifted from pillar to post.
There is an automatic defrost option on this model which uses a random sequence of pulsing microwave energy to ensure that the food defrosts evenly without beginning to cook. For this you need to select food type and weight.
Whilst this is far better at defrosting than my previous model, care still needs to be taken on larger or more dense items and you still have to turn and or stir the food- so not totally automatic eh?.
If you just want to bang it in without weighing and selecting food type you can just choose manual defrost.
There are six different power levels to microwave by, defrost. high, medium, low, warm and simmer. You can also select standing time before or during microwave cooking.
When the "combination" pad is pressed you are first asked to select the cooking mode (grill or convection oven) and then the microwave symbol will appear for you to select microwave power, set the cooking time and you are ready to go.
There are auto reheat programmes for curry dishes etc. and auto cook programmes to select where you key in the type of product and it's weight and trust the oven to do the rest. A whole chicken will cook through with that roasted taste and browned look in a fraction of the normal cooking time, but I found that I give mine a little extra time after the auto cook has finished.
Generally speaking I have been quite pleased with my new microwave, but it is a bit pricey and certainly no replacement for a standard oven. When cooking a family meal it is a very useful extra and maybe a good choice for someone living alone.
There are some downsides with combi cooking. It is not as easy or intuitive as I had hoped. My husband quickly gave up on it after it took him so long to work out how to cook a jacket potato that he could have cooked it in the convential oven! He now only uses it for reheating or keeping things warm. Not the most patient of men......
You do need to be committed and patient enough to read the operating instructions carefully and with hindsight I think I would probably have settled for a simpler model without all the auto options.
There are many do's and don'ts with the various cooking methods and the control panel could be a lot clearer. The pads are a bit fiddly and the display panel isn't that clear either but I did eventually get used to it and it is second nature now.
I do find that it quite a noisy appliance probably due to the fan which clicks in as soon as the oven starts and continues for some minutes after cooking has finished. In terms of reliability, no problems so far, but it is only six months old.
I wouldn't recommend this oven if you want quick, uncomplicated reheating and simple cooking. However if you are prepared to sit down, study the manual and practice then it may well be the combi oven for you.
P.S. Sorry about the wordiness of my review but it is that sort of cooker!
We have just bought this microwave so I can't really comment on the reliablity except to say it works! However I have been really pleased with it. We replaced a Sanyo and the new Panasonic has much more of a feeling of quality, the trays feel heavy duty and it is a lot less tinny.
I went for this model because it takes up less space on the work surface but it does still have plenty of space inside.
Some of the functions are really good; I particurly like the fact that when using the combi settings you can set the microwave power as well as the grill or oven temperature (my old one just did oven or grill with microwave but no option to set how much microwave to use). The chaos defrost settings seem good, meat seems to thaw out nicely without starting to cook. Jacket potatoes came out really well with lovely crispy skins on the automatic setting and I have found pies cook well and quickly on the oven/ micro combi settings. It also has automatic settings for reheating microwave dinners which has a curry, chinese, casserole and pasta; you just put in the weight and it does the rest.
The only downside is the buttons are a bit small and awkward to use, I prefered the dial on my old microwave for setting the time and weight.
Space in the modern kitchen is always at a premium, epsecially on the work surface / Microwave ovens compete with an ever increasing range of new appliances, designed to make life easier / Recognising this fact, Panasonic gave themselves to the challenge to reduce the size of one of their best selling microwaves / without sacrificing the capacity of the oven / Short name: Panasonic NN-A574S