Microwaves have never been so complicated. It’s not enough to know simply if you want yours in black or white any more.
Now, many have built-in grills, steamers or air-fryers and can work out the optimum cooking time for almost anything at the touch of a button.
The trade-off is these do-everything appliances come with hefty price tags and giant footprints that swamp smaller kitchens.
Luckily, if you don’t have the space, budget or need for an all-singing, all-dancing model, the Russell Hobbs Scandi compact white manual microwave promises to take care of the basics without taking over your worktop.
We tested it in our own kitchen to see just how useful it could be without any additional (expensive) extras.
We cooked, reheated and defrosted various types of food to discover whether keeping things simple makes this microwave a go-to gadget for every home. Here’s our verdict on whether it was up to the job.
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Russell Hobbs Scandi compact white manual microwave
Buy now £72.99, Russellhobbs.com
Dimensions: 45.1 x 35.3 x 25.8cm
Capacity: 17 litres
Convection oven/grill: No/no
Call us shallow but this microwave is all about worktop appeal. Its simple style, curved edges and white side panel give it a chic, clean look that would work well in any kitchen, but particularly suits modern decor. The wooden handle and dials really set it apart from the average microwave and make it look a lot more expensive than it is.
We also loved how easy the chunky handle was to use during busy meal times and felt it would work well for anyone who struggles with the heavy push buttons which often operate the door on other microwaves. It comes in a digital version if preferred (£64.97, Amazon.co.uk), but we were surprised to find we liked the simplicity of the two chunky dials on the front and didn’t miss a digital display at all.
The microwave’s compact size was particularly noticeable and makes a definite difference on the worktop. It fits neatly under overhead units without dominating the space and would be ideal for anyone with a smaller kitchen. There’s also a decent one metre long power cable so it doesn’t need to be right next to a plug.
The downside is this means the turntable is slightly smaller than in some microwaves measuring a compact 24.5cm, although we found we could still squeeze in a 27cm plate.
Though the digital version of this microwave offers various pre-set functions, the manual model keeps things simple. It’s so easy to use straight from the box, there’s no need to even consult the instructions as it’s immediately obvious how to get it working, and there’s no clock to set either. Simply turn the dial to select the level of power, then turn the second dial to choose the cooking time. It’s worth glancing over the directions if you prefer to know exactly how much wattage is used for each cooking level but we found we tended to keep the power on its maximum level (700W) unless defrosting.
Cooking and reheating were both top-notch. The microwave warmed all our ready meals evenly and didn’t lose power after repeated use while leftovers had no cold patches after reheating. Food didn’t dry out while cooking either. Vegetables were similarly well-cooked and didn’t go soggy when steamed in a little water.
However with 700 watts of power, we did find the microwave took a little longer to cook items than expected and we had to adjust the cooking instructions for some ready meals that only specified times for more powerful models. Bigger households may also prefer a larger capacity but 17l would certainly be enough for occasional users who aren’t hoping to regularly whip up three course meals in their microwave. Be aware this model is on the noisy side if you have an open plan kitchen though.
The defrost setting is a little more hit and miss. It thawed our bread rapidly but very quickly started to make it overheat and go soggy, while frozen mince defrosted on the outside long before it was ready in the middle. However, we’ve found this is a common problem with most microwaves we’ve tested.
Buy now £72.99, Russellhobbs.com
The verdict: Russell Hobbs Scandi compact white manual microwave
If you need a good-looking microwave to heat ready meals and baked beans, you can’t go far wrong with this Russell Hobbs microwave. It cooks well and reliably, doesn’t cost the earth and won’t take over your worktop. Its Scandi-chic wooden accents mean it won’t be an eyesore either. Choose the digital version if you really want extra auto-cook settings but we think most households will have everything they need on this straightforward manual model.
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