It used to be that microwaves were primarily for heating, defrosting, or the occasional cooking of easy meals and treats. But since their invention, a broad range of features have been added to the appliances for user convenience. One of them is the grill function, but is it any good?
Grills in microwaves are good for browning and crisping food to amplify flavor, visual appeal, and texture. You can cook everything from toast and grilled cheese sandwiches to steaks, burgers, chicken, and veggies. Though these cost a little more, it’s worth it to have the added functions.
If you enjoy a flavor-packed crust on your favorite grilled meals and can’t afford or don’t have space for a convection oven, a microwave grill is a great alternative. So, to buy or not to buy? Find out in this guide on using grill microwaves.
What Is a Grill Microwave?
A grill microwave is a standard microwave with grilling capabilities. Hence sometimes called a combination microwave. It comes with a grill rack or plate, where you directly place the food you want to cook.
Some foods like small pieces of meat, pasta, and chopped vegetables will, however, require that you put them in a cooking dish first to grill. Grill microwaves also perform standard everyday microwave functions like:
- Reheating food and drinks
- Defrosting meat
- Cooking regular convenient meals
My personal favorite and the best value for money is the Samsung MG11H2020CT Countertop Grill Microwave from Amazon. It has a grill-only function and a combi function, which cooks food using both the grill and microwave modes. And the microwave’s ceramic enamel interior is easy to clean.
How Do Grill Microwaves Work?
Grill microwaves work by utilizing a heating element, which converts electrical energy into thermal energy. The heat is then transferred to the grill plate by infrared radiation to make it hot enough to cook food.
In both standard and grill microwaves, there’s also conduction heat produced. A good example being when a patty comes in direct contact with the hot grill plate and forms golden brown sear marks. Conduction is also responsible for the transfer of heat from the outside to the inside of food.
What Utensils Can I Use in Grill Mode?
You can use glass, ceramic, and metallic utensils when in grill mode. However, when grilling, do not use cookware or utensils made of plastic, wood, silicone, and paper.
If using the microwave mode, metal utensils are a no-no as microwaves bounce off metal, meaning the food won’t get heated. Metal can also cause sparks (arcing), risking damage to the appliance and possibly a fire.
However, some newer microwaves do allow for use with metal. Still, always check the manual before putting metal in the microwave.
Are Grill Microwaves Worth the Extra Money?
Grill microwaves are worth the extra money because they offer so many more functions than a regular microwave. Not only can they grill foods, but they help to reduce the number of dishes and utensils required to cook a meal.
When you can make everything from burgers and grilled cheese to fully baked potatoes in a matter of minutes, you’ll see why these types of microwaves are worth the added cost.
How To Use the Grill Function on a Microwave
To use the grill function on your microwave, read the instruction manual as each microwave brand is different. That said, it generally involves the following steps:
- Press the ‘Start/Off/Clear’ button.
- Press the ‘Grill’ button.
- Set the required time by turning the dial or pressing the number buttons.
- Close the door.
- Press the ‘Start’ button to begin the countdown.
Grilling times vary depending on the food’s type, size, and thickness and whether you’re cooking it from scratch or heating it. In addition, some grill microwaves come with auto cook options for specific food items, such as popcorn and chicken.
Various Foods You Can Make in a Grill Microwave
The grill plate sits close to the heating element to allow quick heat transfer to both the grill and the food. The proximity also results in tasty grill marks and crispy crusts.
Here’s a list of foods you can grill in a microwave:
- Meats – including chicken, steak, salmon, pork chops, and turkey.
- Vegetables – such as asparagus, yellow squash, bell peppers, fresh corn, and zucchini.
- Fruits – including pineapple, melons, peaches, apples, pears, mango, and bananas.
- Bread and charcuterie – sandwiches, hamburgers, bacon, and hotdogs.
Can I Make Pizza or Bake in a Grill Microwave?
You can make pizza or bake in a grill microwave if it has a convection oven function. The Cuisinart CMW-200 Convection Microwave Oven with grill from Amazon.com is one such microwave.
I recommend the Cuisinart CMW-200 because it comes with eight different functions. You can, for instance, defrost a frozen pizza, bake it using the convection function, then grill it to char the cheese and crust.
However, you can still use a grill microwave to heat cold pizzas, casseroles, and other baked goods to crisp and brown them for delicious results.
4 Tips To Help You Find the Perfect Grill Microwave
If you’re thinking of upgrading to a grill microwave, there are a few key aspects you’ll want to keep in mind before making a purchase.
1. Choose a Microwave With a Large Enough Capacity
If you have a big family, you’ll likely be reheating or cooking sizable food portions at one go using larger than average utensils and cookware.
So, the oven capacity and turntable size of the microwave grill you choose shouldn’t be average either. Ideally, larger families should go for an oven capacity of 25-30 l (6.60-7.93 gal) and a turntable of at least 30 cm (11.81 in).
2. Check How Much Power It Has and What Your Kitchen Can Handle
Most grill microwaves have a wattage of 800 to 1500 watts. And generally, the higher the wattage, the faster the cooking time and the pricier the appliance.
However, some older homes may not be able to handle appliances with excessive power consumption. Therefore, it’s a good idea to check your kitchen’s outlets before plugging in newer appliances to avoid any accidents.
Once you know the maximum level of wattage you can use, look for a model that allows you to adjust power levels in all cooking modes as it can save you money on electricity.
3. Choose a Microwave That Will Fit Your Space
Consider how much counter space you need in your kitchen, factoring in the clearance space required for sufficient ventilation.
Some grill microwaves can be double the size of a regular microwave, and depending on the model, the clearance space needed above and behind usually ranges from 10-30 cm (3.94-11.81 in).
4. Consider the Extra Costs of the Grill Function
Grill microwaves are generally more expensive than solo microwaves because of the grill function.
Other than capacity and oven power, special features like child lock, sensor cooking, preset menus, and flatbed technology can impact the price.
While the average cost of five 1000-watt grill microwaves is around $160, you can sometimes get the appliance as cheap as $50.
Before making that purchase, think about how often you’ll use the added functionality. If it’s more of a gimmick and something you’ll only use on special occasions, it might not be worth it in the long run.