What is the Best small combination microwave? One reason microwaves have a bad reputation is their penchant for cooking and reheating food unevenly, with some parts of a dish noticeably better done than others. This isn’t entirely the fault of the microwave – some foods will absorb heat more rapidly than others.
The vast majority of microwaves use a turntable to try to counteract this – it automatically rotates your food, attempting to ensure that it’s as evenly heated as possible by the oven’s fixed heating element. Alternatively, some microwaves have a flatbed design, which eschews a turntable in favour of a rotating heating element. This is supposed to cook and heat food more evenly, but this isn’t necessarily the case as our tests show.
What wattage should I go for?
Manufacturers list the output power of their microwaves with a wattage. In theory, a higher wattage means the microwave should cook your food more quickly and efficiently. In practice, no microwave will reach its stated output wattage as inherent inefficiencies result in input power wasted as excess heat.
It’s also worth noting that various standards for measuring output wattage have been used over the years, so the stated wattage of the trusty 1980s model still limping along in your gran’s kitchen can’t be easily and directly compared to new models on sale today.
What difference does internal volume make?
One advantage that flatbeds do have is that the absence of a turntable that allows you to fit bigger or awkwardly shaped dishes inside the microwave compared to a turntable model. All manufacturers quote the internal usable volume of their microwaves in litres – we’ve listed a more relatable height by width by depth figure in millimetres in the reviews.
Greater internal volume obviously means a bigger microwave taking up more space on your kitchen counter – a potential problem in smaller kitchens. We’ve listed the dimensions of each microwave, including a figure with their doors open. Bear in mind that you’ll also need to leave some clearance space around the vents for expelling excess heat.
How does fan type make a difference?
The fan or fans used in a microwave to both expel excess heat and circulate hot air around food in convection mode also generate noise. This can be bothersome and intrusive, especially in homes with combined kitchen/living room areas, so we also measure the noise generated by each microwave in decibels.
The testing lab isn’t perfectly silent, due to air conditioning, but the decibel (dB) figures should give you a good idea of what to expect. Normal conversation usually takes place at 60 to 65dB, while heavy traffic and most vacuum cleaners clock in at around 70 to 85dB. The lower the dB figure, the better.
What accessories should I look out for?
We haven’t reviewed enough microwaves with features such as steamers to make any meaningful comparisons, but we do note the accessories included with each microwave. For a combi microwave, a metal grill is the least we’d expect. Anything more, from browning pans to utensils, are nice to have but shouldn’t be your primary deciding factor as third-party accessories are cheap and widely available.
How important is ease of use?
Microwave controls range from push buttons and dials to touch-sensitive buttons, sliders and even screens with menus. Those controls might be clearly labelled in English or have cryptic icons. A combi microwave might have all the features you want and be efficient, but if it’s difficult to use without reaching for the manual, it’s all for nought.
The best small combination microwave options you can buy
1. Russell Hobbs RHM2031: The best compact microwave with a grill
Price: £70 | Buy now from Currys
It’s not the most compact microwave on the market but what this neat model does well is that it’s about the same size as most solos, but includes a grill. It’s perfect if you want a golden-brown topping on a cottage pie or a crisp baked potato – easily achieved by combinations of microwaves and grilling.
Features we found especially useful included its auto cook menus, which include reheating, fish, and rice, as well as automatic defrost settings that use the weight (but not type) of the food to work out how long it needs to defrost. There’s even the option to delay-start one of the programmes, so dinner can be ready when you are.
In testing, we found that some of the programmes, such as the defrost, worked faster than expected, while others, such as reheat, didn’t work as well for dense foods and needed more time than the programme allowed. Considering that the price is equivalent to a solo as well, this makes it great value.
Key specs – Type: Turntable; Dimensions: 262 x 452 x 396mm; Stated volume: 20l; Turntable diameter: 245mm; Stated power output: 1,000W; Convection oven/grill: No/yes
Buy now from Currys
2. Samsung Easy View MC28M6075CS/EU: The best mid-range microwave
Price: £149 | Buy now from AO
Samsung’s sleek, attractive Easy View MC28M6075CS is a brilliant combi microwave – and, at £229, the best bit is that it’s affordable, too.
The Easy View moniker refers to the fine mesh in the front door: unlike rivals, you can keep a close eye on the cooking process without having to constantly open the door and interrupt it. And thanks to Samsung’s Hot Blast technology, this microwave can do more than just heat up leftovers. You can fry potato wedges, roast a whole chicken or cook pizzas straight from the freezer, and the huge array of cooking styles mean that the Samsung’s culinary repertoire is unusually broad, even for a combi microwave.
The results speak for themselves. Potato wedges come out crispy on the outside, yet pleasingly fluffy within, and even a whole roast chicken came out moist and crispy in all the right places – and in less than 45 minutes. Simple reheating duties are dispatched efficiently, and quietly, and the controls are quick and easy to get to grips with.
Key specs – Type: Turntable; Dimensions: 310 x 517 x 463mm; Stated volume: 28l; Turntable diameter: 310mm; Stated power output: 900W; Convection oven/grill: Yes/yes
Buy now from AO
3. Sage by Heston Blumenthal Quick Touch Crisp: The best combi microwave under £300
Price: £229 | Buy now from John Lewis
Don’t roll your eyes and tut at this celebrity chef-endorsed microwave. Believe it or not, it’s one of the best combination microwaves we’ve seen. It handled all our tasks with aplomb, from defrosting to grilling and microwave cooking. It was also quick, consistently scoring short cooking and heating times in most of our tests.
One of the best features of the Quick Touch Crisp is its ease of use. Its buttons and dials are clearly labelled with text – something that shouldn’t be so remarkable – and paired with a clear and immediately understandable onscreen menu system. The catch is that the Quick Touch Crisp is expensive – almost three times the price of the cheapest model here. Still, if you want the best and money is no object, we can wholeheartedly recommend this splendid microwave.
Key specs – Type: Turntable; Dimensions: 305 x 515 x 445mm; Stated volume: 34l; Turntable diameter: 313mm; Stated power output: 900W; Convection oven/grill: Yes/yes
Buy now from John Lewis
4. Sharp R82STMA: Not pretty, but affordable and effective
Price: £144 | Buy now from Robert Dyas
It’s not the fastest microwave for everyday duties, but the Sharp’s results were uniformly great. This may be a rebranded version of a Vestel microwave, but you shouldn’t let that put you off: it’s an excellent microwave that Sharp can be happy to put its name to.
It’s quiet and cooks things evenly, making it something of a bargain, even if the price has fluctuated a fair bit since we reviewed it. If we’re being critical, it could cook a bit quicker, but the results are worth waiting for.
Read our full Sharp R82STMA review
Key specs – Type: Turntable; Dimensions: 305 x 513 x 470mm; Stated volume: 25l; Turntable diameter: 314mm; Stated power output: 1,000W; Convection oven/grill: Yes/yes
Buy now from Robert Dyas
5. Hotpoint MWH 1311 B: The best mini microwave
Price: £96 | Buy now from Currys
If you’ve got a small kitchen or you’re just tight on space, the Hotpoint Curve MWH 1311 B is an ideal candidate for the job. This small, yet tall microwave sits perfectly in the corner – that’s thanks to its curved and stocky design. The dials around the front are simple to use; the left-dial controls the power (Keep warm, Defrost, 400W, 600W and Max), while the right-dial is your timer.
Despite its compact size, the MWH 1311 B has a 280mm turntable and has a total capacity of 13l, which should suffice for most. However, due to its size, don’t expect to fit a large-sized plate or a tall bottle of baby milk.
It performs well in our tests, though, there’s no oven or grill to be seen – it’s a conventional microwave.
Key specs – Type: Turntable; Dimensions: 360 x 353 x 392mm; Stated volume: 13l; Turntable diameter: 280mm; Stated power output: 700W; Convection oven/grill: No/no