I never thought I'd see the day when I'd be writing a review of a microwave, but after a year of daily use I think it's earned some words of praise. When I moved in with LegendaryMsDude (as she was then) several years ago, we had a beaten up old microwave. It did the job, at 450W, eventually cooking stuff. It was a lovely tobacco-stained off-white even thought neither of us smoked. After a number of years of service, it was a bit worse for wear. The inside had a perpetual stink of re-heated curry that tainted everything we cooked in it. The outside was indellibly stained with something and above all, it was MASSIVE. So when we moved house, from an old converted Victorian flat to a modern 3-bed house, and found ourselves with a significantly smaller kitchen it seemed the ideal opportunity/excuse (delete as appropriate) to upgrade the microwave. I took it upon myself to perform this task, being the one who does 95% of the cooking (or 100% if you don't count boiling the kettle as cooking). On reflection, this may not have been the best approach to take, what with me being a confirmed sucker for "extra features". A wander around the local Currys superstore one Saturday saw me leaving with a brand new Panasonic Microwave of the type this review is about. Boasting a neat and tidy form that fitted into our new, compact kitchen and clad in trendy stainless steel, this looked like the puppy for us. With a wipe-clean control panel and no obvious dials/switches/knobs for food to congeal in/around, it seemed easy enough to keep clean. The inside being a similar material to the outside, it should resist the buildup of the same smells/tasts that befell out last one too. Throw in a whopping 1000W, category "E" power rating, a conventional, fan-assisted convection oven and a doozie of a grill and you've got one compelling story for someone that likes "extra features". So why this particular oven?
Especially when it cost the best part of £200, when there are others at much lower prices that do much the same job? First off is the aforementioned size. The whizzy Panasonic "Inverter" technology means that the power-supply needed for a 1000W microwave is significantly smaller than the competition, which means they can make the oven smaller, which means that it fits in our limited space with greater ease. Plus the stainless steel finish matched the already installed appliances. It's not just about the appearance though. One of the problems with our old oven was the weedy power-rating. As technology has progressed, the older power-bands have dropped off the cooking instructions for most microwaveable foods, so we weren't always sure how long things should be cooked for. Going for a 1000W oven meant that we could safely take the times for an 850W oven without risk of undercooking (I've had food-poisoning more times than I care to remeber so am a bit fussy about that sort of thing these days). Then there's the conventional oven. Because the oven istelf is only 27litres big, it heats up a lot quicker and takes significantly less energy to do so. So it's much cheaper to run than the big, under-the hob oven. Especially when there's only 2 to cook for. The grill makes it even better value as this too is far more effective than the under-the-hob arrangement, reaching cooking temperature in a matter of seconds rather than minutes. The one thing you do have to watch out for is leaving stuff (especially plastic stuff!) on top of the oven. It gets VERY hot and stuff WILL melt. All over your oven and (worst-case) through the ventilation grill on the top of it and into the internal workings, which could get very nasty. At this point I should probably point out (although most of you will have figured it out already) that the outside of the oven can get hot to the touch, so you should be sure to have it out of the reach of
toddl ers. Roll all of these into the combi-oven that the Panasonic is and you find yourself able to do some pretty neat things. Microwave assistance to the convection oven, with a burst of the grill to put a crispy top on what you're cooking makes it extremely versatile. This versatility is increased by a number of programmed settings for all manner of foodstuffs, ranging from frozen pizza to cold chinese takeaway. Just select the appropriate setting by pressing the right button (there's a different button for each of the major categories), then enter the weight of the food you're cooking and press the start button (once you've put the food in the oven!) and you're away. What could be simpler?!?!? So we've been living with this hunk of brushed stainless steel for the last 12 months, how have we found it? In all truth, it's been great. Easily the most frequently used appliance in the kitchen (or at least on a par with the washing machine). It' most commonly used, surprisingly enough, on the convection setting as I find traditionally baked foods to be more tasty than their microwave-blasted equivalent. The combination of oven and grill for crisping up things like pie crusts etc is great, giving it a real edge over regular ovens or microwaves. The microwave itself is also fine, with defrosting working particularly well. The chaos defrost mode varies the power during the defrost cycle, giving a much more even defrost and I'm convinced that it's quicker because of it too. The combi-feature is neat, making short work of a Pizza Express from Sainsburys (taking about 8minutes to cook just like they do in the restaurant). The microwave does the majority of the cooking, while the grill comes on at varying power throughout to ensurte that the cheese melts and the toppings are crisped to perfection during the process. It's also pretty good at making bread, the convection oven providing the m <
br>ajority of the heat with the grill turning up towards the end to give a wonderful, golden crust. The fact that it is a combi-oven also means that you can use metal dishes etc when microwaving, which while not a huge advantage, does make things a little easier. We have had a couple of problems and LegendaryMrsDude is still a bit wary of it... the default mode of operation, if you just enter a time and press "start", is to microwave on full power. Mrs Dude wasn't aware of this and thought that it would default to the convection oven. So when she attempted to cook a Frey Bentos pie for 35 minutes and it defaulted to full Microwave power (rather than 230deg in the convetional oven), she was a little surprised, disappointed and hungry. The fire alarm was none too pleased either. And as for the pie, I was worried that it could have been the start of the China Syndrome!!! I considered sending it off to the Royal Geological Survey for analysis, so convinced was I that it was a lump of Basalt. Another minor niggle is that when you press the 10 minute button to set a time, it untruthfully displays "10h" rather than "10m" which has caused some panic before now as well. My final gripe is about the insides. Despite the internal walls being made of "stainless" steel, don't be fooled. they WILL stain. Especially if you use the convection oven a lot. This is mainly because on the convection setting, the inside of the oven is simply too hot to clean while any mess may still be in a "cleanable" state. By the time it's cooled down, it's too late and whatever was there will have turned into a monomolecular layer with an impossibly tenacious affinity for the inside of the oven. No amount of scrubbing will make any significant impression and I haven't dared use any caustic oven cleaners for fear of damaging some of the more delicate components. That said, it hasn't tainted the taste of anythin
g cooked in the oven and, unless the door's wide open, you can't see it so it's not exactly a problem. So has it been worth the extra moey over a cheap £40 microwave? Easily, yes. The amount of use we've made of the grill and convection features have meant that it's been worth every penny and it has probably helped us realise some of the £500 (!!!!) overpayment on the electricity bill that I've just had refunded. If you are looking for a new combi microwave/gril/oven then I can heartily recommend this one as a good choice.
Short name: Panasonic NN-A772S