The days when a microwave was just for heating up a slice of leftover pizza or a quick ready meal are long gone.
Unfortunately, these great kitchen appliances have a bit of a stigma attached to them. Often thought of as the cooker of the “lazy” with an appetite for quick “TV Dinners”.
Microwaves have come a long way since their inception into home cooking. Now offering much more than basic blasting of foods with “microwaves” – some can grill, and combination microwaves can bake and roast.
Now with a much wider range of features, when looking to buy yourself a new one, you’ll need to decide on whether you prefer a standard microwave or a combination microwave. Let’s dial in on the differences between these two options to see which one is right for you.
What Are the Differences Between Standard and Combination Microwaves?
You’re probably familiar with the way a traditional microwave works if you’ve ever used one. Of course, things like power, precision and special features are going to vary by brand and model. A traditional microwave generally offers self-timing and preset cooking options with some defrosting options mixed in.
Many people find that this is fully adequate for reheating foods and making simple recipes like “mug” cakes. People looking for a microwave that functions a little more like a multipurpose cooking machine might be interested in exploring combination microwaves.
How they Cook
The big benefit to a combination microwave is that you’re getting a lot more flexibility than you’d get with a standard microwave. Exactly how much flexibility you’re getting will vary by brand and model. The big thing to know about combination microwaves is that they combine the traditional microwave energy that we’ve all probably used before with alternative heating methods.
This typically means a grill and fanned convection heating. Generally, a combination microwave gives you options to brown, roast, fry and crisp the foods you’re preparing. Some people use combination microwaves as replacements for their ovens for smaller meals.
Yes, a combination microwave is like a miniature oven substitute. However, it’s not a completely even comparison. It will typically take you much less time to prepare something in a combo microwave than it would if you were using a standard-sized oven. Another perk of a combo microwave is that you can combo cook.
That means you can switch between cooking methods when preparing food to get a really custom, thorough cooking experience. What’s more, multistage cooking features that are offered on some models actually allow you to begin in a defrost setting before transitioning to a cook setting. You’re getting a full-cycle cooking experience with one tool!
How They Look
You’ll generally find that combination microwaves take up a lot more space than standard microwaves. It’s simply necessary to be willing to deal with a bulkier appliance in your kitchen if you want to take advantage of so many features in one place.
Many people aren’t bothered by the larger sizes of combo microwaves because they actually feel that they are saving space because they’re essentially getting three or four cooking appliances in one. By contrast, standard microwaves are ideal for small kitchens because of their compact size, and are just as powerful as larger standard models. Plenty of people is more than content with compact designs that offer basic functions for heating and defrosting.
How Much They Cost
If you want a great combination microwave you’ll notice right away that are more expensive than traditional microwaves. That higher price is obviously justified when you factor in just how many extra features you’re getting. Generally, you can get away with finding a quality standard microwave in the £100 range. Combination microwaves typically run at least double that.
There’s definitely room for shopping around for different brands to take or leave certain features when trying to get to a tighter price point. It’s just important to know that you’ll almost certainly be entering at a higher price point when going with a combination option.
What They Have in Common
Standard microwaves and combination microwaves have plenty in common. For instance, both come in a wide range of capacities. You can also find standing and built-in models for both options. It’s going to be important to be very precise about dimensions and weight if you’re shopping for any microwave that you plan to set inside a cabinetry configuration.
Today’s best microwaves all pretty much have preset functions and defrost features. In addition, you’ll also find that both standard and combination microwaves come with attractive finishes and features that allow you to match existing appliances in your kitchen.
How to Choose
The bottom line on choosing between standard and combination microwaves is that your personal usage is really the determining factor. The reality is that a combination microwave that offers options for grilling and cooking can either be the best thing that ever happened to your kitchen or a colossal waste of space.
Do your best to be realistic when it comes to determining which features you’re actually likely to use on a regular basis instead of focusing on features that simply sound exciting. A microwave of any kind is only a good fit if it offers relevant features that allow you to cook the foods you regularly enjoy using fewer steps and less time!