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I’ve had my Panasonic microwave/convector oven now for around eighteen months, and I can honestly say I couldn’t do without it. The particular model I have is the NNA713 version, which combines a standard microwave oven with 1000 watts, together with a fan-assisted convection oven and grill function.
When I bought this particular model, I was told by the salesman that it also has something called an ‘Inverter System’ inside. I remember he tried to use this little fact as a good selling-point, stating that an ‘Inverter System’ is some new type of Japanese technology, used in Japanese microwave ovens for some time, but only recently been used in this country. Apparently, it improves the cooking performance of the oven and it also means that I can benefit from increased space inside the oven, without it having to take up more space on top of my workspace. To be honest, it went a bit over the top of my head, but to be polite, I pretended to be listening, all the time admiring the ‘lovely silver colour’, and thinking how well it would look on top of my new shiny work surfaces. I was also impressed with what looked like a vast array of knobs and buttons, and couldn’t wait to get started!
It was expensive – approximately £275.00 from Curry’s, but I figured that it had so many ‘little extra’s, that it was probably going to be worth it. Our previous model was Argos’ own brand, and was very basic. It was cheap, lasted well (I think we got it as a wedding present many years previously) but as I’d just had a new kitchen recently installed, I felt I wanted to ‘splash out’ and get something which not only looked good, but would allow me be able to cook a range of food in various ways, other than to just plain heat/defrost etc.
The control panel of the microwave did look a little daunting at first glance but once I got used to it I had real fun! There is a display window, which shows how long your food has still to go before it’s ready. Underneath this there is an hour and minute timer which allows you to set the time you require, using either the oven’s ordinary microwave function, or alternatively its grill or convection method, or, if you like, a combination of all three! Another useful function is the timer delay cooking programme, which allows you to delay the cooking of food for up to nine hours and ninety-nine minutes – I can’t imagine ever wanting to delay cooking my food for this long, however, but have delayed cooking for up to about an hour if I’ve been busy preparing something else in the kitchen at the same time.
My daughter tells me that she can taste the ‘difference’ between microwaved food and food I cook using the traditional method. She tells me microwaving food is bad for my health and has suggested on occasions that I don’t use it. For this reason, I decided to look into her comments more closely but I can’t find anything really concrete to back up her statements.
I have, however, discovered that microwave energy has been used in this country since World War 2 – primarily to cook and re-heat food. Interestingly, ‘microwaves’ are present in the earth’s atmosphere all of the time – both from man-made sources and as a natural process, including, for example, our everyday items such as TV’s, radios and telephones. The way in which any microwave cooks our food, is to convert electricity into microwaves by a ‘magnetron’ – fascinating stuff, but what does that mean, I hear you ask! Well, it means that microwaves actually bounce off the metal walls inside my microwave (and the metal door screen). They then pass through the cooking container (glass, bowl, jug etc), and are absorbed by the water molecules in our food. The microwave makes the water molecules in our food to vibrate by causing friction, which in turn creates heat. Microwaves also cook food from the outside, inwards (as in traditional cooking methods) and not the other way around, as some people believe. As I said, fascinating stuff, but to my mind, this method of cooking does not make my food taste any better or worse – just the same, but a lot quicker. I have still to convince my daughter, however!
My oven looks a lot like a standard microwave oven, but maybe a bit larger. It’s a lovely matt stainless steel and is very easy to keep clean, both inside and out. I use Hob Brite to clear any difficult to remove stains, although I have used products which are primarily designed specifically for cleaning just microwave ovens. It’s a free- standing model and fairly heavy – so it’s best to decide from the outset exactly where you want it placed in your kitchen – and then leave it! It has a see-through window on the outside, and inside it has a glass turntable on top of the roller ring (to make it rotate). It’s important to keep the roller ring and the oven floor cleaned regularly to prevent excessive noise – as a build up can apparently cause the microwave to sound louder upon usage, although I’d never let mine get to that stage! The top of the appliance has external air vents and a useful door-lock safety system. The microwave also comes with two racks for grilling, one high rack and a lower rack and it also comes with a metal tray for when using the convection oven. There is also a very useful oven light inside, which operates when in use, so you can see how your food is coming along.
A very helpful function of this oven, I find is the auto weight defrost. This allows me to defrost frozen foodstuffs according to their weight. It’s very simple and easy to just weigh the food beforehand, set the category on the control panel and hey presto! The weight can also be programmed in either pounds, ounces or grams!! I do find this programme very useful for defrosting things such as frozen chicken, meat joints or bread. The defrost programme works very well, I find, in defrosting food evenly throughout – this is due to the microwave’s ‘chaos’ defrost mechanism, which uses a random sequence of ‘pulsing’ microwave energy – it also makes the defrosting programme a lot quicker than the traditional method of microwave defrosting.
The microwave also has a handy grill function – I tend to use this a lot most evenings when preparing the family’s evening meal. This particular model has what’s termed a ‘Quartz Grill’ system – and can be used for grilling any of the usual foodstuff’s, including meat, toast, chips etc. There’s no need to pre-heat the grill beforehand and it’s very easy to use. It’s important though, to remember that the grill function will only operate when the microwave door is closed – this confused me for a long while when I first started to use this, and I thought it was broken, until my husband pointed out where I was going wrong! There are three grill settings, High, Medium and Low and food rotates on the wire rack during the grilling process.
The microwave also comes with a brilliant convection oven facility – and this has been a godsend in our house. This function combines a heating element with a fan. It’s important to pre-heat the oven beforehand, but this takes a very short time, and the metal tray must always be placed on the glass turntable whilst the pre-heating is taking place. Once pre-heated, the oven will maintain the selected temperature for approximately thirty minutes. If no food is placed inside the oven or if no cooking time has been set, then the oven will automatically cancel the programme and simply show the time of day! This has happened to me on a couple of occasions, when I’ve forgotten that I’ve pre-set the oven and then decided to do something else! A good safety feature though, I think if you are a bit absent-minded (as I am)! I’ve used the convection oven for cooking all manner of things, from cakes, bread and joints of meat, to last years Christmas cake and stews – it cooks to perfection every time and has never let me down.
Another fantastic feature of this model, is the turbo bake function. This allows me to programme the oven to cook or re-heat food by the grill and the convection oven simultaneously – this gives the food added colour or crispiness and at the same time can often reduce traditional oven cooking times. Again, the oven has to be pre-heated before using this function and the metal tray must be placed on the glass turntable before pre-heating has begun. I’ve used this function primarily when cooking chicken or pizza, and again they have come out perfectly cooked.
The last method of cooking this model allows is the convection/microwave combination. Again, this is a feature I use most days and is very effective in producing fabulously cooked food. I use this function primarily for cooking such things as joints of meat, pies and pastries - jacket potatoes work especially well using this method of cooking. Using this method, it isn’t actually necessary to pre-heat the oven apart from when you are cooking pastry – I do find pre-heating does actually give a better result in this case.
All in all, I certainly would not be without my Panasonic microwave. I use it just about every day and to be honest, that’s far more often than I use my traditional oven. It looks good, has been very reliable and is capable of turning out fantastically cooked food for my family. It also comes with a two-year manufacture’s guarantee, for peace of mind.
For more information, log onto www.panasonic.co.uk, or telephone 08705 357357.
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