It's cute but it doesn't cook.
September 26, 2011 10:34 PM   Subscribe

I'm considering renting a small apartment with a super-tiny kitchen. So tiny that it doesn't have an oven! Would a convection/microwave oven suit my needs? Also, do you have experience with induction cooktops?

The kitchen has burners set into the counter but no oven. I was thinking about getting a large toaster oven and a microwave, but my initial research leads me to think that a convection/microwave oven combo might be a good way to go. However, I've never known anyone with a convection oven and I'm a bit skeptical.

I am not a huge baker, but I do like to roast things (veggies, salmon, the occasional small chicken) and occasionally I do like to bake. I also make casseroles sometimes. I pretty much just use a microwave to heat up leftovers.

Also, something I haven't been able to determine - do these ovens work as toasters? ie, could I make toast with them?

Bonus question: the "range" is two induction cooktops on the counter. Have you used cooktops like this? How well did they work for things like sauteeing and stifrying?

I've seen this thread but it was pretty old and didn't have many replies.
posted by lunasol to Home & Garden (27 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I used a high-end convection toaster oven instead of a 'proper' oven when I moved into a small apartment. I loved it so much that I still use it now, even though I have a full-size stove and oven.
posted by Jairus at 10:38 PM on September 26, 2011

I never did use that convection oven for anything interesting.
posted by grouse at 10:39 PM on September 26, 2011

...and yes, I use it for baking, for roasting, and for actual toasting.
posted by Jairus at 10:39 PM on September 26, 2011

For many years our convection microwave was our only oven. Even though we've lived in a house with a full kitchen for a decade, we still have a convection microwave, and replaced the lat one when it finally gave up the ghost after a decade of heavy use. In all respects, a convection microwave is the same as having a regular oven and a microwave (although they really come into their own when you use combination cooking - using microwaves and convection heat to cook food quickly). A convection microwave is easily able to perform the cooking tasks you've listed. You could make toast by using the grill setting to cook bread placed on one of the racks.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 10:41 PM on September 26, 2011

I would consider whether you really need the microwave function and focus on getting a quality countertop convection oven. I haven't had a microwave since mine died about three years ago, and while I sometimes miss it (e.g melting butter, reheating coffee) it seemed foolish to have an appliance devoted to melting butter and reheating coffee. My kitchen space isn't cramped by any means, but I still can't justify having the microwave there when I used it so little. You can learn to live without it if you want.
posted by sanko at 10:51 PM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Induction cooktops are AMAZING. They heat up extremely quickly, the counter itself never gets hot, and they're great at temperature control. The ones we have at work (high end restaurant) are constantly fought over for rapidly bringing up giant pots of water to a boil, sauteeing, slow simmering, pretty much everything. The only thing you need to be aware of is that it only works on ferromagnetic cookware. Cast iron and steel pots work great. No copper pots, or pyrex containers, no pure aluminum pots, but aluminum pots that are sandwiched with steel work fine.

A convection oven is just a regular oven with a fan to allow for even heating. They are also essential at the restaurant. Unless there's something unusual about the ones that come packaged with a microwave, you should be able to use it exactly like a regular oven, but keep in mind that it shortens the cooking time.
posted by hindmost at 10:54 PM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Induction cooktops are awesome. Assuming it has the power (and most do) they will get the pan super hot and are cool to the touch as soon as you pull the pan. Sauteeing is easy as hell on induction. Stir-fry is more difficult because of the way they work. A lot of woks won't work with induction due to the small direct surface area with the induction stovetop.

There are a couple of limitations with induction. The first is that you have to use iron or steel pans: the cooktops use magnets and only ferromagnetic metals work. The smallest of pans may not trigger the induction coil as the cooktops have triggers to turn off if there is no pan on the cooktop, and small pans might not be big enough to trip that trigger. Copper is right out, along with aluminum. Also, steel plated aluminum pans don't typically have enough steel to make the cooktop work unless you get the good ones.

The other thing with the induction cooktops is that it may take you a couple of tries to figure out where the settings are for the temperature control. I burnt a couple of things when I switched from coils to induction because I wasn't prepared for how hot it gets and how quickly.

On preview: everything hindmost said.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 10:57 PM on September 26, 2011

We have an ancient convection toaster oven that gets us through the warm summers here. It fits a half chicken, or a couple of baked potatoes, or a tray of asparagus just fine, and doesn't heat up the apartment.
I've never actually used an induction cooker, but my understanding is that they are super-fast, and that they will likely change the order in which you prep stuff (ie, your mise better be ready before you get started). You'll also need to make sure that you're using it with a ferrous pan.
posted by Gilbert at 11:00 PM on September 26, 2011

This was me for five years.

I still use my mini-oven because it rocks the socks off of a full sized. Back then, the best on the market was the Cuisinart TOB-175BC. These days, I hear the Breville BOV800XL is the one to lust for.

I also made use of an induction cooktop — my advice is to find one with more than six power settings. I found pancakes would only properly cook if I alternated between 3 and 4.
posted by mmdei at 11:03 PM on September 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

In Korea families usually don't have ovens, so microwaves and toaster ovens get used a lot. You adapt pretty quickly.

Also, you learn to make lots of good soups.
posted by bardic at 11:21 PM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

These days, I hear the Breville BOV800XL is the one to lust for.

This is my toaster oven. It is the king of my kitchen.
posted by Jairus at 11:34 PM on September 26, 2011

I lived in a small shed for a while and chose this over a microwave. I could still use it to defrost, and got used to reheating things on my cooktop. It did all the things you'd want an oven and grill to do (also used it as a toaster), and was quick to heat up because it was nice and small.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 12:36 AM on September 27, 2011

These days, I hear the Breville BOV800XL is the one to lust for.

We have this unit. It is as good as the reviewers say. Perhaps better.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:22 AM on September 27, 2011

My kitchen, like many Dutch kitchens, has a built-in convection microwave instead of a normal oven. It cooks very well. The only issue I've had with it is its size: I can't fit two things in at once (no splitting the cake mixture between two tins or cooking the potatoes separately from the chicken), there's nowhere far enough from the element to count as the bottom shelf of a normal oven, and it's just as well I've never been in the habit of roasting turkeys. Oh, also, it has a grill setting (US "broiler", I think) but doesn't come with a grill pan and can't be used with the door open - so I haven't actually tried that functionality out.

I think it's a fairly high-end appliance (it's a Siemens, though as it's built-in, the model number won't help you); cheaper ones tend to be smaller. You'll save yourself some potential annoyance if you make sure whatever you get is big enough to accommodate a 12-muffin tin; that means it's also big enough to fit roasting tins, baking trays and so on. Bear in mind that you may not be able to disable the rotation of the turntable during cooking, so depth matters as well as width.

Nthing "induction hobs are great" - though if you've been using your pans on a gas stove, you'll probably need new ones even if they're ferromagnetic.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 2:44 AM on September 27, 2011

Yes, you can make toast in a toaster oven, no problem. But induction "burners" heat up slowly, and cool slowly, so adjusting temperature while you cook is pretty different.

Here's something to consider: what about storage and prep space? I lived in an apartment with a tiny kitchen for a year and a half (the apitment, we called it) and the lack of prep space meant I had to schlep all the ingredients to the living room, which was a pain. People who just reheat, or make ramen or whatever, might do just fine with a tiny kitchen -- but since you like to cook, I'd think twice.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 2:45 AM on September 27, 2011

My mother and I redesigned and renovated my sister's studio apartment a few years ago. We eliminated her full size stove and oven and put in a gas cook top and purchased a high end but small convection/microwave oven. The size we purchased can only accomodate a 9X9 at the most but there are ones that are bigger. She has used it for fish (I cooked lobster tails in it) and it works wonderfully. We chose the oven because it blended into the rest of the kitchen and it didn't stand out at all.

I have a convection/toaster oven. I like it very much and cook almost everything in it. The nice thing is, I CAN make toast.

You can't use the convection/microwave for toast, but you can't heat up food like you do with the convection/toaster if you are accustomed to reheating food in the microwave. What is more important, toast or quick reheat?

As for the induction cookers (I work in broadcasting and did a show where they showcased one of these) it depends on what you are willing to spend. The one we have heats up quick but it is expensive. You also have to buy the pots to go with the cook top. I am sure there are others that you can use any pot or pan with it. There is a great Japanese brand one, I think it is Sunpentown, not sure if it is widely available. I'm partial to a gas stove, though.
posted by Yellow at 5:36 AM on September 27, 2011

I don't have experience with a microwave/convenction oven combo, but my toaster/convetion oven would work well as a (small) primary oven.
posted by Hermes32 at 8:04 AM on September 27, 2011

I live in a warehouse, so no kitchen to speak of. I bought this KichenAid Convection Oven and it has been AWESOME. It does a great job with chicken, vegetables, and I'm even able to use it to bake my homemade bread.

Consider trying it before trying the MUCH more expensive ones, I can't really imagine how much better they could be than this.

I also bought these burners but they require that you have fairly flat-bottomed pots and pans, my cheap, warped pans did not work well with them.
posted by fake at 8:20 AM on September 27, 2011

Yes, you can make toast in a toaster oven, no problem. But induction "burners" heat up slowly, and cool slowly, so adjusting temperature while you cook is pretty different.

This is not true. Induction cooktops react instantaneously to adjustments.
posted by mmdei at 8:21 AM on September 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

I have a microwave and a convection/toaster oven and that works for me. I almost never use the big oven, but I'm not much of a cook.
posted by radioamy at 9:07 AM on September 27, 2011

Yes, you can make toast in a toaster oven, no problem. But induction "burners" heat up slowly, and cool slowly, so adjusting temperature while you cook is pretty different.

This is the exact opposite of the truth! I have an induction cooktop and am here to tell you that it heats and cools just as quickly as gas--but it can go way, way lower (I can melt chocolate directly in the pan without scorching) and way, way higher (depending on model, of course--but the first time I tried to stir-fry on mine, I totally incinerated my meal, so unexpectedly hot was it). It is fantastic. I'll never go back to gas.
posted by HotToddy at 10:36 AM on September 27, 2011

Actually, I take that back, it heats way FASTER than gas. I can bring a pot of pasta water to boil in something like four minutes.
posted by HotToddy at 10:38 AM on September 27, 2011

Yep, our induction cooktops can bring a 20 quart pot of water up to a rolling boil in under half an hour. And the cooktop itself stays cool so they're cooler to work next to. They're ridiculous and I adore them.
posted by hindmost at 1:24 PM on September 27, 2011

I have the cheapest possible toaster oven--$15 on sale at P.C. Richard's--and it, too, bakes everything you'd want. I am a baker and my real oven doesn't work. So go for a toaster oven, but don't feel like you need to get the most expensive one.

Don't mean to sound silly, but think of it this way: for everything short of a soufflé, all you really need is a box that gets really, really hot. It just needs to, you know, resemble fire.
posted by skbw at 7:54 PM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

We have a Cuisinart BRK-200, and although I'm not terribly happy with this particular oven (its temperature goes all wonky on a fairly regular basis, but we've mostly learned to deal with it) I do most roasting and baking in it rather than the full-sized oven. We'll definitely be replacing it with something in the same line, but better. (Breville, y'all say? Hmm... *makes note*)
posted by Lexica at 8:37 PM on September 27, 2011

Response by poster: Wow, thanks so much everyone. This has been extremely helpful and gotten me excited about this kitchen!

I would consider whether you really need the microwave function

Yeah, honestly, I'm not so sure I do. But I don't have one now and there are definitely times I wish I did - especially for those Trader Joe's frozen meal nights.

Thanks to everyone who let me know about the ferromagnetic requirement for induction cooktops. I'm actually starting my kitchen (mostly) from scratch since I've been living in shared houses but the few pans I do have (a small egg pan, a larger one and a dutch oven) are cast iron, so that shouldn't be an issue. I'm also glad to know that I can use the counter when I'm not cooking - I thought it would be "dead" space.
posted by lunasol at 9:23 PM on September 27, 2011

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