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Do you wish for more from your microwave?

Microwaves are a gadget found in almost all kitchens. While they’re meant to be a convenient way to get the cooking done, are they really as good as we all think?

Most of us use our microwaves either for heating up meals or defrosting. But do you find your microwave sometimes doesn’t quite deliver on these relatively simple tasks?

Maybe when you defrost, some food remains frozen while some starts cooking. Or when you heat up a meal, some parts are burning hot while others are still cold. Perhaps, rather than gently melting, your butter turns to liquid. Or maybe your scrambled eggs turn grey.

Don’t try this at home

A couple of years ago my oven conked out and left me trying to cook a roast with just my microwave (I wouldn’t recommend it!).

I always find that with a conventional oven, knowing when things are done comes with experience – it’s easy to see your roast turning brown and crisping up. But with a microwave, it’s just not as easy. And when you’ve got a solid piece of food, there’s no option of stirring to help distribute the heat.

I ended up cooking my chicken for too long, as I definitely didn’t want it underdone – especially after reading our campaign on Campylobacter in chicken. I’ve since learned that cooking on a lower setting for longer would probably have resulted in a more enjoyable dinner. But, like with any kind of cooking, practice, experience of your microwave and trial and error count for a lot.

Your microwave irritations

For an upcoming feature in Which? magazine, I’d like to know what irritations and annoyances you regularly come across when cooking with your microwave. I’d especially like to know if you’ve worked out how to get round these problems.

Do you have any great tips for microwave cooking that you can pass on to us?

Comments
Profile photo of wavechange
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It is hard work stirring a Christmas cake or other heavy fruit cake, but if the cake mixture is warmed on low power, the job is very much easier.

My second tip is to use the lower power settings, especially when re-heating or warming food. That makes the timing far less critical and food does not splatter over the inside of the oven.

My annoyance is that it is often necessary to dismantle a microwave ovens just change the lamp. Hopefully new microwaves will have LED lighting that will outlast the appliance.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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We bought a Panasonic that included a grill only because it was a “Best Buy” , but have never used the grill / conventional oven feature. An insurance in case the main cooker fails.

So it gets used for cooking some vegetables (in very little water), appropriate ready meals (good for Indian and Chinese plus rice), making night-time milky drinks (no mess left in a pan), reheating a cup of tea, softening butter if we’ve forgotten to take it out of the fridge, quick-ish at real porridge – again without the mess sticking to a saucepan. Defrosting of course.

Wouldn’t use it for potatoes (they soften too quickly on the outside).

So we make limited use of it for a small range of tasks. Is it essential – no. Is it convenient – yes I’ll be interested to see what we could be doing better from others.

I wonder if Patrick ever got one?

Profile photo of wavechange
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It is generally agreed that a conventional microwave oven is not the best way to ‘bake’ potatoes but if you microwave them at low power, the outside does not become overdone before the centre is cooked.

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
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No, still microwave-less. Don’t miss it in the slightest.

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Brian J says:
9 February 2015

Use our combination microwave a lot – baked potatoes with crisp skins in 15-20 mins microwave & grill/oven, pizzas cook OK too although have to be done one at a time and just on grill + oven. Otherwise used daily for heating/reheating various liquids and steaming vegetables. Didn’t half miss it when it needed a part and we were without for a few days!

BTW We use a 3 tier microwave steamer so all is ready at the same time as the layers are added with those needing less steaming added in stages, and you can even put any vegetable infused water left after steaming in your gravy to add to the flavour.

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Carrie says:
26 May 2015

Has anyone had problems with Panasonic microwaves. I have always put a jacket potato in the microwave for 5 mins before putting in the oven. I put it in the middle of the plate. It has now started to leave an overlooked hard spot underneath the potato at the centre of the plate. I have put the potato on another plate on top of the microwave plate and it still does it. I have been cooking the potatoes like this for years and never had this problem. Also put a container of mash in and had the same result.

Profile photo of Beryl
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I hat cleaning conventional ovens so invested in a Panasonic Micro/Convector/Combi oven which I couldn’t live without. I cooks lovely chicken on the combi setting, casseroles and spaghetti bolognaise, scrambled eggs, baked potatoes, vegetables, pizza, instant coffee, ready meals when I am too tired to cook, on the microwave setting. It also saves on energy and time and is comparatively easy to clean.

On the downside I do have trouble replacing the glass plate when it becomes dislodged and as the light has now stopped working and is difficult to replace I have to keep opening the door to make sure the porridge doesn’t boil over. Also I have to remember to insert the metal plate when cooking on the combi/convector setting and removing it again for microwave cooking.

Profile photo of Beryl
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.
Oops!……and I hate cleaning it and it cooks not me!

Profile photo of malcolm r
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Beryl, is it finger trouble, speed of typing (I can use 2 fingers) or too quick to press reply without proper reviewing that gives rise to all the mistakes we make? Same as emails. At least the text usually makes sense – nothing wrong with “I cooks” really. Better than language used in text messaging.

Oh! for an editing button.

Pop round and give us lessons – we seem to have a similar model. The previous (similar) one lasted years until the turntable stopped rotating and I couldn’t fix it.

Profile photo of wavechange
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If you take the porridge to the boil and then turn down low it should continue to cook without boiling over. The shape of the container can make a difference. It had never cooked a casserole in a microwave oven but will give it a go.

Before I got round to replacing my faulty lamp, I used battery LED work light to inspect what was happening in the microwave. Less convenient but better than the internal lamp.

Profile photo of wavechange
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What’s a turntable? My old Philips microwave has some sort of rotating stirrer fan device above the chamber to bounce the microwaves around the oven. That’s why I chose it. It’s probably not up to Which? standards for even heating but using a lower power setting easily overcomes that problem.

I have used many microwave ovens with turntables but they can be a nuisance.

Profile photo of Jane Darling
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Hi Beryl,

Do you find your pizza crisps up ok when you cook it on the microwave setting? Does it brown at all?

I made crisps in a microwave last night (healthy option I know) and I was impressed with the results: pretty well indistinguishable from shop-bought ones. A bit fiddly as you can only make a few at a time, but still…

Jane

Profile photo of Jane Darling
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Wavechange, I’d be interested to hear how the shape of the container you’ve used has affected your microwave cooking. J

Profile photo of wavechange
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Jane – A kitchen is a science lab where you can do experiments and get to eat the results. 🙂

Take a plate or bowl with sloping sides, add some soup and pop it in the microwave. The soup round the edges will boil and stick to the plate before the soup in the centre is hot. Tomato soup would demonstrate this well because you will have a bright red ring round the plate.

A standard mug or a soup mug that narrows at the neck is better because the sides don’t slope out.

Profile photo of Beryl
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Jane, I have just carried out a spot check and pressed the Pizza icon and the window is saying “Press Start to Reheat” so its obviously going into automatic convection mode. It is a Panasonic combi/convection/micro which I think is well worth paying the extra for as they are so much more versatile than just a micro. The pizzas always come out browned on top and lovely and crispy in about 10 mins max. Hope that helps.

Profile photo of wavechange
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Jane – Have a look at the post by MsSupertech, further down this page. As she points out, food in a rectangular container tends to over-cook in the corners, so round containers are better for cooking and re-heating food.

Profile photo of Beryl
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I did learn to touch type many years ago on the old plod plod typewriters so still have trouble with the light touch key pads on modern computers typing too speedily. That coupled with alternating between my tablet (which I use one finger) and laptop, and the addition of a headache is my excuse for todays mishaps. Glad you got the gist of it!

Thanks for the tips wavechange, remember to cook your casserole on medium setting for about 25 mins, remove to thicken the gravy, I use cornflour, and pop it back for about 5 mins on high. Obviously cooking time depends on your wattage.

Profile photo of wavechange
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Thanks Beryl. What I don’t know is whether meat should be browned before continuing to cook in the microwave. I have unearthed a 1989 copy of a St Michael book of microwave cooking that makes no mention of a need for this. It is roughly contemporary with my oven, which is handy because modern recipes tend to assume more a power rating of more than 500W. One beef casserole coming up.

Profile photo of Beryl
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Wavechange – first you chop the onions and cook them in a microwaveable bowl for 4 mins and then you add the meat and brown for another 4 mins minus the lid on high setting – no fat needed! Then remove from the oven and add whatever takes your fancy in the way of vegetables and seasoning and stock. Pop the lid on and cook. You will have to make a few adjustments to suit your own tastes so good luck and enjoy! Its casserole weather at the moment!

I think we have strayed a bit off topic!

Profile photo of wavechange
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Thanks again. The casserole was on the menu anyway, so I will do research with a view to making future comments that are on-topic. In view of the fact that you introduced the nutritional preferences of a couple of nursery rhyme characters (Mr & Mrs J Spratt) recently, you are a fine one to say that we are off-topic. 🙂 Anyway, I blame Malcolm, though he started off well.

I see that this is Jane’s first Conversation, so welcome Jane and hopefully we will come up with some useful tips and relevant experiences.

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………………and who knows, we may persuade Patrick to change his mind about microwaves.

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
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Not a chance… you’ve more made me think about investing in a slow cooker to be honest.

Profile photo of wavechange
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Courtesy of a Mr Jamie Oliver comes a recipe for Marmite Popcorn: http://www.jamieoliver.com/magazine/recipes-view.php?title=marmite-popcorn

I would try it but I don’t seem to have a couple of key ingredients.

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Any food containing Marmite = x_x (not a fan, I’m afraid!).

Profile photo of wavechange
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It was suggested for the benefit of Patrick, and does not need a microwave oven, though a combination microwave would do the trick, if he had one. 🙂

Profile photo of malcolm r
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Sounds to me like round Twiglets. Now if it used Bovril………….. But remember Patrick is thinking of a slow cooker – the opposite of a microwave.

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
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Love twiglets. Marmite popcorn could be a goer

Profile photo of wavechange
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I often use my microwave as a slow cooker, Malcolm. I often bring food to the boil and then let it simmer at low power. I’m experimenting with casseroles at the moment and set the microwave to 99 minutes and 99 seconds, the maximum time setting.

I will stick to fast cooking for steaks.

My slow cooker has a removable pot so I start that off in the microwave.

Profile photo of Alex Toplis
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Surely that consumes quite a bit of energy, Wavechange? 😮 Have you bought a special energy-saving microwave?

Profile photo of wavechange
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I expect it does, Alex. It’s not something I do regularly and I do enjoy experimenting. I expect that the slow cooker is most economical. I suppose I could do a couple of casseroles and compare the amount of power used.

Profile photo of Alex Toplis
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That would be a good test. I can’t do the same as, like Patrick, I got rid of my microwave last year. I did it mainly to save space – London flats seem to be getting smaller and smaller. But I then realised I don’t really need one. Turns out the only time I miss them is when I see those chocolate sponge puddings on the supermarket shelf. But holding back on the sponge puddings mean I can save on the gym membership 😉

Profile photo of wavechange
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Oh my goodness. Alex, Jane and Patrick have all given up on the microwave. What is the world coming to?

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I realised that’s not entirely true, Wavechange. I used the work microwave to heat up my lunch today. So while I don’t own a microwave, I do still use one…

Profile photo of Jane Darling
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Thanks for the welcome wavechange, and to all for their comments. Keep them coming!

I must confess that I also do not own a microwave, though unlike Patrick I used to. Do I miss it? A bit – I now defrost on the hob and jacket potatoes have to go in the oven for a full hour, rather than 5 mins in the microwave followed by half an hour in the oven for that nice crunchy skin.

My tip is about poppadums – the uncooked ones you can buy in some shops. I microwave two at a time: one on top of the other. About a minute, no oil and the added bonus that you can watch them curl and crackle through the window.

Profile photo of Jane Darling
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Sorry Patrick, realize now that you did used to own a microwave. Question is, did you ever microwave poppadums? You don’t know what you’re missing…

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
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I used to microwave prawn crackers. It was fun watching seemingly plastic discs transform. They need a little bit of oil on them, and if you left them a second too long, the burning smell was very difficult to remove from the microwave and the kitchen.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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On holiday in a rented home a few years ago we cooked shredded duck pancakes. The pancakes were in a clear plastic pack in which they were to be microwaved for 30 seconds – except the unfamiliar timer was set for 3 minutes by mistake. We then found the kitchen filled with yellow smoke and the inside of the (white) microwave had acquired a pale yellow tint. Despite vigorous cleaning we never restored it.

Profile photo of alfa
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We microwaved popcorn once and I can’t remember why but they created the most unbearable, disgusting smell that resulted in the oven being put outside.

It was the excuse we needed to buy a new microwave oven.

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Is there anything worse than burnt popcorn? Just a little bit burnt and it spoils the whole pack. Eurgh.

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You have a challenging diet Patrick. No wonder you opt for an electric toothbrush and have eschewed the microwave.

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My advice is buy an all-dancing one that gives you an additional oven and grill. Most people are short of space in the kitchen so maximise the capability of what you have.

Because of the 5 year Ikea guarantees both our combi microwave , and the oven came from there. They are actually Electrolux and of course Ikea make sure the brand name is not sullied.

The in-built baked potatoe programme is excellent ….. and I would need my wife to comment on other features. I do know it is used more than the main oven as for most things the smaller volume heats more rapidly and it is big enough for most tasks.

As to problems we have had two mended under guarantee in the five years. Design wise they are difficult to clean – or more likely we do not clean them soon enough after cooking, or often enough..
Lighting can be a problem in many microwaves – I particularly remember the raft of complaints about the Next Red Microwave a featured Best Buy which has no disappeared.

Durability of product being the other common complaint and I see the at which.co.uk/home-and-garden/home-appliances/reviews/microwaves/daewoo-kor6a0r/review/ is annoying some users for that and build quality.

Profile photo of alfa
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We have a Panasonic combi oven and use it much the same way as Malcolm and Beryl except we don’t microwave meat except for defrosting. The oven gets used a lot more than I thought it would as it heats up much quicker than the conventional oven.

Jacket potatoes seem to do better in a microwave container. Vegetables like carrots, cauliflower and broccoli retain their flavour.

We did use the chicken setting a couple of times and it came out really succulent. The downside was it made one heck of a mess and spat all over the inside. Other than that we don’t use the various food settings.

Plastic melts on the oven setting so we found a couple of china dishes the right size. Ready meals like lasagne and moussaka don’t microwave well so are frozen then transferred to the china dishes when they are required. To speed up the process, defrost before using the oven setting.

My best tip is for cheese sauce that takes forever in a saucepan. Grate a little cheese into a cup, stir in a teaspoon of bearnaise sauce and a little french mustard then microwave it on low for 20 seconds, stir and give another 20 seconds and hey presto a lovely cheese sauce for your cauliflower. Just be careful not to cook it too long or the fats separate.

My microwave oven gripe is the lights. They go far too quickly and you can’t get at them to change them unless you dismantle the oven. Why don’t manufacturers put them inside a separate external door so they can easily be changed? Maybe as Wavechange said, LED lights will solve that problem.

Profile photo of wavechange
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The shape of what we are trying to cook or re-heat is important, as can be shape of the container.

For example, fresh salmon is easy to overcook at the thin end before it is adequately cooked at the thicker end, and that ruins salmon. The solution is to select salmon that is reasonably uniform in thickness. Using low power will help avoid spitting and is essential when trying to cook a single piece.

A shallow plate is hopeless for heating soup in a microwave since it will be boiling at the edges when it is still cold in the middle. I find that soup mugs with a neck that is narrower work best.

Profile photo of wavechange
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Thanks to Dieseltaylor for telling us that Ikea microwave ovens have a five year warranty.

This important information is missing from Which? reviews. Which? lists Ikea microwaves on the website and no doubt in the magazine, but we don’t know anything about the length of the warranty. Anyone who has tried to get a product repaired or replaced after say a one year warranty will be well aware that retailers are not very good about helping us over consumer rights. We may have to fight, get an independent report and possibly go to court. With a faulty microwave, the vast majority will be scrapped if they fail outside warranty, notwithstanding our legal rights.

WE NEED INFORMATION ABOUT WARRANTIES FOR ALL PRODUCTS TESTED. Which? has been telling us that it’s not usually worth paying for extended warranties. One complication is that manufacturers and retailers sometimes have promotions offering free extended warranties, but I see that as a bonus and is not a reason for not telling us about the standard warranty period.

An article promoting manufacturers and retailers that offer longer warranties would be welcome..For example John Lewis gives a two year warranty on electrical goods and five years on TVs. I have now discovered that Ikea have a five year warranty on a lot more than microwave ovens.

As I see it, durability is much harder to assess beyond what Which? does in routine product testing. If testing is extended, products may be discontinued before the test results are available. Accelerated testing might be useful in some cases but it would not necessarily reveal some of the design faults. for example, plastic components can be weak and deteriorate with age. I caught a sleeve on the little plastic peg on the door of my microwave and broke it off, over ten years ago. Since this was part of the door interlock, the oven would not operate. I replaced the part with a stainless steel peg that will easily withstand minor abuse. Having long warranties gives the manufacturer the option of paying for repairs or looking for weaknesses in their product designs, so should should help product quality improve. Which? does tell us about major problems with products and briefly explains a product is classed as a Don’t Buy. I would like to see comments such as ‘flimsy construction’ because there are plenty of examples on sale.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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We agree on the need for longer warranties. These should represent a reasonable “minimum fault free working life” given the price paid. However, few retailers are offering these and I see no signs of a mass change to introduce them. So in the meantime we must have other help to protect our rights.

The Sale of Goods Act requires products to be “durable” – lasting what an impartial person would see as a reasonable time. I want to see what ” durability (reasonable life )” should be fairly assessed as, for a range of key products – again given price – so we don’t have to each start from scratch We need this information to better support our case when negotiating a problem with a retailer out of the guarantee period. Given the testing that has been carried out by European consumer organisations for years and their survey of members’ experiences I would have thought sufficient data should exist by now to make a good start.

Profile photo of Beryl
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That is a valid point you make Malcolm. The Sale of Goods Act should define ‘durable and reasonable time’ according to the product in question, which can vary substantially and which I made reference to in my New Year post when I alluded to the need for more clarity in the SoG Act.

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Beryl, the Sale of Goods Act lays down the legal framework, but I don’t think it could possibly specify reasonable durability for particular products. There is a huge number within its scope. I see that as the job of those who interpret the law, who will need facts to support their case. This is where we need the expertise from consumer groups who can provide evidence of product durability and customer experience to show what is achievable. They could set benchmarks against which an “impartial person” could make a judgement.

Alternatively the EU could lay down minimum working lives for groups of products – they already specify energy requirements, maximum wattages, mnimum efficiencies – but I fear their involvement would be heavily influenced by the vested interests of manufacturers.

On the other hand, it might well be in EU manufacturers’ interests to give fair views on durability, to keep control of cheap and nasty (short-lived) imports from outside the EU. LEDs perhaps a current example?

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Which? Sorry – this has strayed totally off topic and should, perhaps, be in another conversation!

Profile photo of wavechange
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If a microwave oven with a one or two year warranty fails after four years, it’s likely to be a real struggle to get the retailer to take action. As many of us have experienced, when the manufacturer’s warranty has expired we are usually referred to the manufacturer or told there is nothing that the retailer can do. I would like to see retailers prosecuted for denying us our legal rights, but that does not seem to happen. If we do fight our case, then it is likely that no spare parts are available. We might be lucky and get a replacement item, but more often it will be something like a discount on a new model. The retailer is within their right to make a deduction for the fact that the microwave is four years old, thus making an allowance for the use we have had. If the consumer has paid for an independent report to provide evidence that the fault existed at the time of manufacture, that could cost more than the discount on the new product.

On the other hand, if we have a five year warranty and our four year old microwave breaks down, customers should have less hassle. There is no need to argue that you have legal rights and there is no need to provide evidence that the problem existed at the time of manufacture.

Perhaps the most convincing argument is that most people would try to get a repair/replacement if they have a five year warranty, whereas few pursue their rights under the Sale of Goods Act, and fewer are successful.

I would love to see something more definite about what is meant by durability but perhaps the legislation is deliberately vague because it is something difficult to define.

The virtue of the Sale of Goods Act is that it is current legislation. At one time the standard warranty for household goods was generally one year, as it was for cars. Car warranties are a real success story for consumers and we are starting to see many products with longer warranties. John Lewis led the way with its 2 year warranties on electrical goods. It looks as if it has competition from Ikea.

I profusely apologise to Jane for banging on about Which? not telling us about the length of warranties and then going on to discuss the failings of the Sale of Goods Act. In defence, I’ve deliberately used microwaves as an example.

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I forgot to mention jams and chutneys cooked in smaller amounts but never[!] catches and is also easier to control when reaching setting point. Sterilising jars by boiling and steaming is a doddle.

The mention of how good cheese sauce is when made via microwave reminded me to recommend roasted cauliflower which is really delicious way to serve it.

We have cooked it whole and the more common way as florets and cauliflower really takes on another dimension when roasted. Curiously it is a relatively new way to cook it not appearing in my 1938 [1961 English trans.] or 2000 Larousse Gastronomique.

The earliest on-line date for a recipe so far is 2007.

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That reminds me of cauliflower rice when visiting one of my family recently. I’d never had it or even heard of it. Just grate cauliflower until it resembles rice in size, microwave for 3 mins, and add spices if you wish, but no need. Fluff up and cook 2 minutes more.
Have I led a sheltered life?

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MsSupertech says:
7 February 2015

I can recommend a microwave for making the world’s easiest apple sauce. Peel, core and slice a baking apple. Microwave on high for 2-3 minutes depending on size. When it’s nicely softvand mushy add a generous pinch of mixed spice plus a little extra ground cloves. Give a good stir and there you have it 🙂

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Thanks for your comments about warranties. Slightly off topic but… we do actually gather this information but we don’t post it on our online reviews of microwaves. I shall ask about the history of this, and whether there’s a particular reason.

Back to microwave cooking: Does anyone recall the reputation that microwaves had in the early days for ‘cooking from the inside out?’ Does this have any grounding in reality? Most people grumble about the opposite: outer layers overdone, inner parts uncooked. Would be interested in your thoughts.

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Hello Jane – sorry about the diversion as I commented above. Welcome to the conversation.
My understanding was that the outer water molecules are energised by the microwaves and the heat created is gradually conducted to the inside.

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Welcome Jane.

There are definite cold spots when microwaving. Our Panasonic has a static bottom with invisible waves (or something, can’t quite remember what) that are supposed to promote even cooking. Our previous microwaves always had a turntable and I think they cooked more evenly if you didn’t centre the item on the plate.

When in the USA, the microwave oven in the holiday rental had a bottom plate that moved from side to side. It did seem quite a good idea to avoid coldspots. We didn’t really use it enough to get a real appreciation of it though and not sure if this is a feature in UK models.

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The penetration of heat into food in a microwave oven depends on what the food contains. As Malcolm says, water absorbs microwave radiation, so something like a potato can be overcooked on the outside by the time the centre is cooked.

Fat and sugar also absorb microwave energy to some extent. A Christmas pud contains fat and sugar but little water, and the penetration of microwaves is much more effective than with most of what we put in microwaves. It’s a great way to reheat Christmas pud, but many are destroyed by overdoing the microwaving. Without water to provide evaporative cooling, the temperature can get far to high, leading to a burnt taste.

I was amazed to find that an experimental King Edward reached a temperature of 60°C after zapping it for only a minute, so it looks like microwaves penetrate to a much greater extent than I had believed. It would certainly help account for the short cooking times we are familiar with.

A microwave with built in temperature probe (from memory, Beryl has one) would be helpful to compare how quickly different foods cook on the inside.

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” .. we do actually gather this information but we don’t post it on our online reviews of microwaves.”

??!!!! ..?

I have made this point before – with the internet the restrictions of space that affects the magazine do not apply. Granted warranties may change with time but at the time of purchase by Which? that information should be posted.

Daewoo at 1 year or Ikea at 5 years or John Lewis at 2 years.
As it happens the Ikea 5 years IS mentioned in the review of the one Ikea Best Buy microwave tested but not in the tables.

Perhaps we could institute stars for years warranty and include it that way : )

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As Alfa says, microwaves can have cold spaces. Turntables are the usual solution but some models, like Alfa’s and mine, have something outside the chamber to help avoid the problem.

I sometimes raise the cooking dish off the floor of my microwave to improve access for microwaves. It helps avoid cold spots at the bottom. A broad glass container such as a casserole dish is ideal for the purpose.

The uneven heating created by a microwave oven is evident from YouTube videos where people have microwaved a bunch of Christmas lights. Obviously don’t try this at home.

Perhaps it is timely to mention that microwave ovens can be quite dangerous, especially with kids around. A cup of water can overheat and spray boiling water around without warning, even after turning off the power. Any closed container, even a whole egg, can explode. Severely overcooked food can even catch fire. It’s well worth reading the warnings in the instruction booklet.

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Going back to the title of this convo, what genius thought it was a good idea to put the Panasonic microwave power settings in this order:
High . . . .1000W
Defrost . . 270W
Medium . 600W
Low . . . . 440W
Simmer . . 250W
Warm . . . 100W

Maybe it is because defrost is the second most used setting, but my brain tends to work in high to low. We rarely use the 1000W setting and end up going round in circles with the button.

Food packaging tends to give directions for an 800W oven and this oven has a big gap between 600W and 1000W. 1000W is too high for most things.

We also don’t use the grill as it can’t be used with the door open. We did try using it once but the grill turning itself off every time you opened the door to check what was going on made grilling useless.

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Useful info on the grill functionality.

I agree the numbering is odd but believe they put it out of sequence because it is actually a program where it pulses intermittently rather than attempts to cook.

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On the defrost setting, my microwave starts on a medium power and then decreases the power in stages. I sometimes use this for cooking too, to automatically turn down the power as cooking progresses. In fact the old recipe book that I have it refers to starting off at high and then switching to defrost to complete the cooking.

Nowadays we have temperature probes, microprocessors and weight sensors to help guarantee success.

Member
Gretal says:
5 February 2015

I adore my Whirlpool combi microwave & use it for almost everything & not just reheating but regularly cooking meals from scratch. My main oven rarely gets used. Any item I inadvertently buy that I subsequently realise says “not suitable for microwave cooking” is just a challenge to prove them wrong! There’s usually a way…

I can cook a 3.5lb chicken on microwave only in 35 mins & it’s the juiciest, tastiest chicken imaginable. Been doing it for years & I’m still alive!

I agree about jacket potatoes not being great, so I give the potato 2-3 mins each side in the microwave to ensure the centre is cooked before putting them in my dry-pan on the gas ring which crisps the skin in a lot less time than doing this from scratch.

I’ve also got a fab microwave chocolate cake recipe which is the most impressive sponge I’ve ever made.

I think the manufacturer’s instruction books could be loads better though. My last Whirlpool combi microwave had a book that seemed to have been written by the Muppets’ Swedish Chef! It is still going strong after 15 years – despite failing a PAT test following a flood.

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Gretal, I love chocolate cake. I wonder if Which? would mind if you decided to give us the recipe – I’ll pass it on to Mrs H.
Just a note on chicken. Have you used a meat thermometer to make sure it has all reached at least 70C? I’ve no idea how well the inner meat gets heated in a microwave.

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Everyone feel free to share your microwave recipes here! I shall try not to be tempted…

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Fiona P says:
5 February 2015

I have had a microwave since 1983, so im used to how they work ,how fast etc I know my microwaves. I had a Neff microwave combination oven,a Which! recommendation. When i got it the stainless steel was rusting where the rubber met the door. Neff refused to change it and said it wasnt rust i must have used a brillo on it – its brushed brushed stainless steel !. I also got told in a condecending manner “stainless steel doesnt rust thats why it called stainless steel” i did tell him inferior steel will rust but the person just said “we dont use inferior stainless steel” again in a condecending manner. So Neff were totally Naff when it came to that problem. Even though they had been sent photos of the rust.I was given some cleaning cream to use weekly to get the “non rust” off. Free of charg, . Lucky me .The microwave takes 2 1/2 -3 minutes to heat up a normal mug of milk i complained at how slow the microwave was, the engineer said there wasnt a problem. One side of the oven is vastly slower than the other so food is raw on one side and partly cooked on the other. I have had to have 7 visits (thats seven days off work) with all the problems, everything has been replaced that could be Oh and it carries on squeeking for 2 minutes after its finished-thats the rusting fan.. This appliance cost me £650 and Neff from the start have just completely refused to replace it. When i complained about the microwave they said well you shouldnt have had an oven /microwave you should have had microwave/oven. The microwaves dont work that well in the ovens. Even though they had stated a 1000watt microwave. I also did order a microwave/ oven and i was sent the wrong one! but i didnt think it would matter too much. Well the end of the story is i use my panasonic £80 dogs room one and it heats things 2-3 times quicker.
I will never touch Naff (i mean Neff) again. Maybe the after sales assistance should be featured into how many stars these items get? To have a rusty microwave costing £650 in my new kitchen is very upsetting. My mum has suggested i send it back and tell them to keep the trashy thing!

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Fiona – The rusting problem is almost certainly caused by salt. That could be from spilt food or a cleaning product that contains salt. Washing-up liquid can contain salt.

I suggest you use the minimum amount of cleaning products and dry the stainless steel. You are right about the stainless steel being inferior but that’s not uncommon. If you remove the rust and rub in a very small amount of silicone grease to the affected area you might have no further problem. It would not need to be used weekly.

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Fiona, “stainless steel” is not all the same; it is made in different grades and some will show staining like rust – the poorer quality ones. It is pretty unlikely that Neff have used such a grade, unless by accident. More likely to be something that has stained the surface.

Salt, as wavechange suggests, could be a cause – the highest grade of stainless is a so-called marine grade for use near and on the sea to resist salt corrosion – but other contaminants may be to blame. But where from? If the cleaning cream gave a permanent clean result then that part of your problem should be sorted.

As for your other problems, seems like a not particularly good design, or just badly-built.

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Fiona- Could you advise model and date bought please. It would be helpful to see if this is a common problem for Neff. Whilst the salt is possible as you say it existed on installation …

The customer service side sounds disgraceful. I assume a retailer was involved – did they take any useful part in the process?

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Another relevant factor is that Fiona mentioned that the rust is on brushed stainless steel. This is a relatively rough surface and more likely to corrode than polished stainless steel.

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Fiona, if you really want to pursue the “rust ” issue, find out from Neff what grade of stainless steel is used. It is likely to be 410S, 430 or 446. or 304 or 316. The 4** grades have more limited corrosion resistance than the 3**. They are susceptible to chlorides as part of the corrosion process – e.g. salt. They are also susceptible to corrosion at a weld. If the “rust” cleaned off and has not returned then it may have been initial contamination causing staining – maybe from where it was stored.
I do not think brushing is relevant unless something like ordinary steel has left traces in the “scratches”. This is why steel wool abrasive pads should not be used to clean stainless steel.

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Fiona – You have attracted a bunch of regulars who look can sometimes start to discuss things in rather too much depth. 🙂

Please could you let us know if a magnet sticks to the corroded stainless steel. My guess is that will, though maybe not strongly.

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Malcolm – From the Wikipedia entry on brushed metal: “In the case of stainless steel the grooves of the finish can accumulate chloride ions which break down the chromium oxide passivation layer, enabling rusting to occur.”

Many years ago I suggested brushed stainless steel plate for a piece of lab equipment an engineer was building for me. He gave me a similar explanation.

As you say, welding and contamination can encourage corrosion.

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It seems like corrosion along the door seal is the least of Fiona’s problems with her Neff appliance from customer service upwards. If ever there was a blindingly obvious SOGA [Sale of Goods Act] case of not being fit for purpose this looks like it. It would mean going back to the retailer, though, and would take a fair bit of persistence and still ending up with a Neff I expect. At least the dogs get a Panasonic dinner.

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I agree John. It’s a pity that Which? Conversation does not have a ‘chat room’ facility where two or more people could discuss issues in greater depth.

Faced with an unhelpful person in a shop or on the phone, I have sometimes had success by starting again and dealing with another person. For example, I have gone back to a shop at a different time of day, when another manager is on duty.

It is helpful to be well prepared, making it clear that you are conversant with your legal rights and have some printed evidence to support what you are saying.

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Thanks for your suggestion about including “chat rooms” on the Which? website, wavechange. Definitely a great idea and I’m sure Patrick’s aware of your comment. 🙂

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Bag of toffees and about three ounces of butter in a big glass bowl. Glass plate on top to stop spitting and into the micro for two and a half to three minutes full power. Stir and add a bag of marshmallows. Stir and return to the microwave (without the plate) on full power for around two minutes, perhaps a shade less. Stir again until well mixed. Add Rice Krispies until the mixture is well absorbed and then press into oblong glass shallow dishes. Carve into slices and leave to cool. These can be made in a quarter of an hour and are wickedly delicious. My microwave came from Sharp and was bought in 1979. It still boils, defrosts, melts, and even fries bacon using a heat plate that attracts microwaves and gets very hot. It cooks a perfectly acceptable jacket potato, though not as well as a conventional oven. It’s a useful tool in the kitchen and thus has a place on the work surface. Originally these were cook anything magic machines but now folk use them within their limitations and appreciate them for what they are.

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Vynor – that sounds delicious. What do you call these creations?

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In small quantities they could be called part of a balanced diet. 🙂

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No more than five a day I suggest. Best not to add honey or dessicated coconut or chocolate sprinkle toppings.

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I had a spell of using desiccated coconut in my culinary creations but it had the same high fat content.

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Thanks WC – the little bits get between the teeth which makes the spelling difficult.

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That recipe sound’s unhealthily delicious Vynor – I might give it a shot this weekend. Although, I’ve been told that I’m not the best chef in the kitchen…

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In the absence of any other suggestions, I would call Mr Hill’s toothsome titbits : “Vynor’s Ambrosian Sensations”. By Jove, they’re scrumptious.

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Not for the calorie conscious so I don’t make them too often. They don’t have a name. I should mention that the power of the micro should be considered, it also has to be big enough to take a good sized bowl. It’s only when the marshmallows are added and cooked that the mixture resembles anything eatable. Butter content is approximate.
My ancient micro has a jackplug socket in the roof. There is a temperature probe to plug in to this. One is supposed to plunge this into the centre of the meat and set the temperature that the probe has to reach before cooking stops. It also has a card reader to prepare a dozen or so set menus. It’s a real boy’s toy and like many, It’s just the basic functions that get used. The best thing about it is that I can get a giant bread bowl inside to preheat the flour before kneading. .

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“1979 R-5000W Microwave Oven with Microcomputer Sensor

Sharp developed the world’s first microwave oven equipped with a microcomputer that automatically controlled food cooking.
Users thus got perfectly microwaved food every time thanks to a sensor that detected vaporized substances (odors, smoke, steam, etc.) and cooked the food accordingly.
This product started a new trend in microwave ovens; rather than simply setting a cooking time, users could now depend on the oven to do this for them and to automatically adjust the temperature, too”

You bought well. Reliability is such a useful attribute in an appliance.

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michael says:
7 February 2015

Scrambled egg comes out a treat with a couple of stirs part way through.
Porridge is a 2 minute job (850w mcirowave) with no lumps in the bowl you eat from

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Is it a daft question to ask why power settings vary so much from one microwave to another?

Food packaging seems to have a standard of 800W for cooking instructions. Michael above has an 850W, my Panasonic is 600W or 1000W.

It just seems sensible that manufacturers would produce microwaves with a setting of 800W if that is the food industry standard.

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MsSupertech says:
7 February 2015

Many supermarkets clearly prefer to pack ready meals in rectangular container because it’s a space-efficient way to transport them. Unfortunately this tends to cause food in the corners to overcook. It can happen in conventional ovens but the effect is much more pronounced in a microwave oven. Round containers are preferable for microwave cooking.
I gave up scrambling eggs in the microwave, it’s just easy too overcook then, the timing varies so much with size and number. On the hob I’m much more in control!

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I keep several round dishes beside my microwave for this reason, so anything in a rectangular container is transferred before cooking or re-heating.

I also freeze food in Pyrex bowls, which is inconvenient for storage in the freezer and I have to use several layers of cling film to cover them. Only once have I managed to buy a bowl with a plastic lid. Defrosting and heating are easy and the bowls stack easily for storage when not in use.

Glass jars and bottles often break when frozen but I have never had a glass bowl crack. The reason is that the bowls have sloping sides.

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Bobb says:
7 February 2015

We have a Samsung combi microwave, and the thing that I find most irritating is that it sports two thermostats which’re nowhere in agreement! It’s far too late to do anything about it, and I’ve adapted to the thing’s oddities, but surely the manufacturers should check the devices over before delivering them to the market? Oh, and many items are to be cooked from frozen, but I’ve learned that the oven is quite unable to maintain the required temperature for long. It’s better to dump the frozen item in the microwave for a while & then bring the oven up to the required temperature again – in the hope that it’ll then cook the meal!

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David Russell says:
7 February 2015

We’ve had a perfectly satisfactory microwave oven (John Lewis brand, around £200) for 4 years. The door release push-bar has always been a bit “edgy” in use. Now it has failed completely with a problem that appears to be broken plastic something inside a completely sealed unit. The something stops the push-bar going far enough to open the door. Thus a sophisticated, otherwise fully-working, machine is rendered useless by a simple mechanical fault the local mender doesn’t want to know about (in terms of time to fix, thus cost, and difficulty of getting replacement parts).
Solution? A cheap and cheerful from Sainsbury for £40.