Convection microwaves do two things: They use radio waves to excite water molecules in the food to heat your meal (like a microwave), but also circulate hot air to bake or roast food (like a convection oven). One is fast, the other is not, though it is faster than a traditional convection oven, because it’s smaller and takes less time to heat up.
The Sharp Carousel 900-Watt Countertop Convection Oven actually requires a bit of patience, as it takes a while to get a hang of its idiosyncrasies.
Time and space
Dressed in black and stainless steel, the microwave would look at home in just about any kitchen. With just 0.9 cubic feet of interior space, it would fit in any kitchen, too. Our control microwave was had more than twice the capacity (2.0 cubic feet), but eats four more inches of counter space. Still, our large Ikea plates fit in the Sharp just fine.
Because the appliance essentially takes the place of two appliances, the control panel design is important. You want to be able to find the features you need without getting overwhelmed with information.
The Sharp succeeds somewhat: The presets are clearly labeled, and the number buttons double as the temperatures for the convection oven. You’ll need to look inside the inner door panel for some information, which has been stashed there to avoid overstuffing the control panel. Because it’s more than just a microwave, there are a lot of buttons, though, and there isn’t a clear distinction between which are for convection cooking and which are for the microwave functions. But none of the many DT staffers who used the microwave, whether it was for popcorn or porridge, seemed to have a problem figuring things out.
Doing the microwave
Since Sharp’s microwave is rated a modest 900 watts, it often takes longer than a full-size machine to do the same task. Some testers used to higher-power machines were having to add more time when warming up a leftover slice of pizza. Others found it right on the money when heating a bowl of soup or popping popcorn. Due to that lower wattage, it took three minutes to boil water, compared to about two-and-a-half for our 1,200-watt microwave.
It’s not a huge difference; it just takes some getting used to, and it’s easy enough to add an extra 30 seconds. (There’s even a button for it.)
The presets for the different foods mostly left us disappointed. The preset button for popcorn left us with half a bag of kernels, while our control microwave took the same amount of time with its preset (2:20) and popped every single piece in the bag. Similar problems happened with the frozen entree preset, which left some parts lukewarm and turned others into molten cheese and sauce. When we followed the lasagna package’s instructions, it came out just fine.
Somethin’ in the oven
The Sharp convection microwave oven manual comes with about 30 recipes for everything from Hawaiian pork roast to grilled vegetables to fudge brownie pie. We found it really helpful to go through some of these recipes to help get a feel for how the convection oven works. We figured out how long it will typically take to bake cookies in there (about 14 minutes) and got a hang of some of the more complex operations, like automatic mix cooking, which combines the microwave and convection. Using it for a recipe gave us a little better idea of what 70 percent convection and 30 percent microwave looks like, which is important if you want to concoct your own recipes later.
There’s no doubt that the convection is an appealing feature. While everyone in the office was able to spot which cookies were made in the full-sized oven and which were done by the microwave’s convection, the verdict was fairly evenly split: Some people preferred the crispier cookies from the oven, while others liked the softer batch. The turntable fit about 12 cookies and was very easy to clean off, post cookies.
Recipes didn’t always come out as planned. Our honey mustard chicken, for instance, needed more time to reach a safe temperature than the directions indicated. The ingredients in our veggie mix turned out perfectly roasted, though, and after comparing crispy convection-cooked frozen pizza to the soggy microwaved version, we’ll never go back to the latter. As with any oven, it took a few trials to get the right combination of time and temperature, but its small interior made cooking very quick: Preheating took just under 8 minutes, compared to over 15 for our full-sized oven.
Sharp’s convection microwave oven has a lower wattage and smaller capacity than you might be used to, and learning to use the convection oven takes some trial and error. Many settings and functions aren’t clear just from the control panel (or additional instructions on the inside of the door), which isn’t shocking, considering you’re wrestling with machines in one. The presets aren’t very accurate at all, but when we trusted our judgment about time, microwaved foods came out just fine.
This is one manual you’ll want to not only keep, but keep at the top of the pile, because you’ll likely be reaching for it often. If you can deal with that learning curve, the finished product is worth the effort. As they say, the road to success is paved with unpopped popcorn.
- Many functions are easy to use
- Microwave heats evenly
- Convection oven heats quickly and cooks well
- Small capacity
- Presets don’t always work well
- Might be hard to remember all the functions without the manual