The best combination microwaves will not only defrost and microwave your food, but will also grill and bake as well as a conventional oven - and much more quickly, too.
They tend to come with a wide range of features – some even have auto programs for roasting a whole chicken or baking meringues. But they can be bulkier and more expensive than regular microwaves.
Our expert guide will help you decide if you really need a combination microwave, and take you through the key things to consider, including how much to spend and which features to look out for.
Combination microwaves offer more cooking flexibility than a basic microwave. They combine microwave energy, a grill and convection heating (fanned hot air) functions so they can heat, roast, crisp and brown in the same way as a conventional oven.
As the cavity is usually smaller than a full-sized oven, they can be quicker too. And you can combine cooking functions to save time – for example microwaving food then finishing off with the grill to crisp it up.
Combi microwaves tend to come with a range of auto-cook settings, including multi-stage cooking – so you can defrost, microwave and then grill a lasagne for example. Some even come with settings for making yoghurt, air frying or steam cooking.
Combination microwaves can be used in place of a separate oven and microwave, so could be a good space-saving option for smaller kitchens. Or, if you’ve got the room to spare, they can also come in handy as a second mini oven when cooking big roasts or more elaborate meals.
However, if you’re just looking for something to zap ready meals and leftovers, or have limited space and already have a traditional oven, you’re probably better off with a more basic microwave.
Combination microwaves are generally more expensive than ordinary microwaves, as they come with a wider range of functions and cooking options.
More expensive models costing more than £500 tend to be extra-spacious, similar to having a second oven, have fancy features like true steam cooking, or be built-in appliances that fit into a wall cavity.
Here's what to look for when choosing a combination microwave:
Capacity – manufacturers often state the capacity in litres, but this doesn’t tell you what you’ll actually be able to fit inside. We measure the widest dish we can fit through the door without tilting, and found while some combis are only big enough for a 29cm dish, the largest have room for dishes of up to 46cm wide.
Flatbed or turntable – flatbed microwaves give you extra cooking space. As there's no turntable, you can fit longer rectangular or oval dishes inside without having to leave them space to rotate.
Accessories – some combis come with accessories to help you achieve the best results. Popular accessories include vegetable and rice steamers, browning shelves, and ‘crisper plates’ to crisp up the bottom of your pizzas and pies.
Auto-cook programs – these come in handy when cooking certain meals, as they automatically cook food for the correct time and with correct combination of microwave, convection and grill. Just enter the weight and type of food and it’ll do the rest. Most combis have at least a couple of auto programs, but we've seen some with more than 30 programs to cook anything from a croque monsieur to meringues.
Multi-step programming – allows you to program different cooking modes to begin one after the other. So you can set it to automatically defrost your cottage pie, then cook it, and even give the top a blast with the grill at the end – all without having to come back and reset it.
Auto sensor – some Panasonic and Samsung combis have an auto sensor setting that’ll automatically cook or reheat your food, without you even having to enter the weight. Instead, these combis monitor the steam coming out of your food to automatically calculate the time and power needed.
We've tested all the latest Panasonic, Samsung, Sharp, Daewoo and Kenwood combination microwaves.
Here's a quick summary of how some the more popular key models measure up on specs – including capacity, price and features.
This Hoover is pretty modestly priced but still comes with a whopping 32 auto-programs designed to cover everything from soup to swordfish. It's a little smaller inside than most combi microwaves but that means it won't take up too much room on your kitchen counter.
This cheap combi comes with a crisper plate designed to crisp up the bottom of your pizzas and pies. However, it’ll have to be a small one as it’s pretty cramped inside. We could only fit a 29cm dish through the door.
If you’re looking for a combi with all the bells and whistles, this Panasonic comes with 24 auto programs to do anything from roasting beef (well done, medium or rare), rustling up a quick bowl of porridge to reheating flapjacks. There's even a handy metric-to-imperial converter to help when entering weights. You can fit a huge 35cm plate inside – so it could be an ideal option for bigger households.
This pricey John Lewis combi microwave comes with a powerful Quartz grill and 14 different auto programs to help you prepare simple dishes at the touch of a button. It's one of the bigger microwaves we've seen, so it'll take up a lot of space on your worktop, but this does also mean you'll be able to squeeze in large or awkwardly-shaped dinner plates.
Whether you want a premium combi bursting with extra features and functions, or are just looking for a basic, cheap model, we’ve found Best Buys for every budget.