There are a few things more annoying than waiting all day to dig into a dish that’s crisp and golden on the outside, only to discover the ice has barely melted on the inside. Flatbed microwaves are gradually filling up our benchtops, with more brands putting their own spin on this turntable-free alternative. But what’s so hot about this flatbed appliance? And is it time to say goodbye to the traditional microwave?
Unlike flatbed microwaves, conventional models use turntables to spread heat more evenly. But more recently, appliance brands like Panasonic and Bosch are taking advantage of what has been termed as ‘flatbed technology’ to do the same job. This is said to ultimately remove the need for the traditional turntable, and give you more usable cooking space without necessarily requiring a bulkier, and often more expensive, build.
Panasonic claims that its ‘Inverter Technology’ in many microwaves contains a controlled power supply system, which provides continuous heating to ensure food is evenly cooked. But microwaves without an inverter are said to similarly offer low heat settings by constantly switching power on and off. This can create cold spots inside the appliance, ultimately leaving dishes either cold on the inside or lined with burnt edges. An inverter is also said to help avoid food or drink from overflowing, as well as keep the overall flavour and texture of each dish.
Types of Flatbed Microwaves
When shopping for a new conventional or flatbed microwave, there are a variety of built-in and freestanding models available. The different types of microwaves include:
- Solo microwave: Ideal for quickly defrosting a chicken or warming up last night’s dinner, microwave-only models are perfect for getting back to basics. Microwave-only models are generally limited to defrosting, heating and reheating. But while they typically won’t have the same bells and whistles of combination or grill microwaves, solo microwaves tend to be more affordable and simple to use.
- Combination microwaves: ‘Integrated microwaves’ work in a similar way to conventional ovens, but are said to cook quicker. Compared to standard solo models, combi microwaves offer more versatility in the kitchen. They incorporate microwave energy, with grilling and convection functionalities to reheat, roast, crisp and brown food. You can also choose to use these heat sources either independently or together. But combi microwaves tend to come with a higher price tag, generally costing around $550, with some models selling for $4,599.
- Grill microwaves: Work like solo microwaves but incorporate normal microwave heating with a grill function. This allows you to brown and cook food using heat from the grill or microwave function, or both. Unlike other types of microwaves, grill microwaves don’t offer convectional heating and are usually more expensive than your solo model.
Who Sells Flatbed Microwaves?
To help you navigate your way through the appliance aisle, we’ve listed a number of models currently available from leading brands.
Panasonic is one of the few brands that has not only jumped on the turntable-free bandwagon, but it’s also currently driving one of the biggest collections of flatbed microwaves. Products like the Panasonic NN-SF564W 27L Flatbed Inverter Microwave and the Panasonic NN-SF5745 27L Flatbed Inverter might be ideal options for people shopping for a more affordable flatbed microwave oven, but don’t want to sacrifice space or features typically found in larger models.
Panasonic NN-SF564W 27L Flatbed Inverter Microwave
The Panasonic NN-SF64W is a wide 27L solo microwave oven claimed to provide 31% more space than some turntable models. It features its New Inverter Technology, which is stated to provide continuous heating with low output. This function is said to offer precise power control, which apparently allows you to melt foods like chocolate as well as soften frozen ice cream.
- RRP: $289
Panasonic NN-SF574S 27L Flatbed Inverter Microwave
There’s little separating the Panasonic NN-SF574S and the Panasonic NN-SF64W in terms of features. It similarly offers 1000W of power, but contains a flatbed design instead of a flat and wide cavity.
- RRP: $329
Both microwaves are claimed to fit the same amount of dishes as a 44L conventional microwave, making these flatbed inverter models affordable alternatives to larger conventional options.
Since combination microwaves are often compared to conventional ovens, it’s no surprise German brand Bosch has created its own range of built-in ovens with microwave functionality. Compact but costly, models like the Bosch Serie 8 CMG633BS1B and the Bosch Serie 6 COA565GS0A come with a microwave function claimed to work like an ordinary microwave, but are said to cook faster. The same function is stated to help make cooking faster when combined with the hot air heating option. Certain combi appliances like the Bosch COA565GS0A also come with a steam function as an additional cooking method.
Bosch Serie 8 CMG633BS1B
The Bosch CMG633BS1B provides 45L of usable space and includes features like ‘AutoPilot’ to provide 14 pre-set automatic cook programs. Other key functions include the 4D Hotair Plus, which apparently distributes the heat evenly among four shelf levels by using a fan wheel stated to automatically change direction every three minutes.
The microwave function on the Bosch flatbed appliance can be used independently, or in combination with hot air heating to provide faster cooking.
- RRP: $2,299
Bosch Serie 6 COA565GS0A
In addition to standard microwave heating, the 36L Bosch COA565GS0A includes a steam function which allows you to create healthy meals. Similar to the Bosch CMG633BS1B flatbed microwave, the AutoPilot feature on this model contains 15 pre-set programs.
- RRP: $2,699
Unlike Panasonic, Breville’s products range isn’t brimming with flatbed microwaves. But the Aussie brand does have a flatbed model exclusively available from The Good Guys, retailing for $168. The Breville Diamond Wave is a 23L microwave oven claimed to provide 37% more space than a standard 34L turntable microwave oven. The apparently ‘unique diamond wave design’ on the back wall of the appliance is also said to help warm food faster and more evenly by ‘enhancing the reflection’ of the appliance.
Meanwhile, for those who need a bit of help in the kitchen, the LMO525BSS model includes six menus with recommended cooking times. It also has 10 power levels stated to preserve moisture by allowing you to warm food such as bread on a low setting.
If you’re on a tight budget, it may be worth checking out what’s on offer at Target. Featuring 11 auto cooking programs, the Bellini Compact Flatbed Microwave could be an ideal option for people looking for a simple and easy-to-use appliance.
Available in a stainless steel design, the Bellini microwave comes with 25L capacity and provides 900W power to cook and reheat a variety of dishes.
- RRP: $119
Are flatbed microwaves worth the money?
Are flatbed microwaves the best way to heat things up in the kitchen? Or will this turntable-free alternative leave you in the cold? If you only need to warm up food or reheat last night’s dinner, a flatbed microwave probably won’t be worth the extra cost. But if ready-made meals aren’t the only things you plan on cooking, flatbed microwaves may be something to consider.
Combi and grill flatbed microwaves might be ideal for people who don’t usually use a standard oven, but tend to cook and bake with a variety of cooking methods. The large usable capacity is also likely to make flatbed microwaves especially useful for when you need to fit bigger or irregular-shaped plates.
When it comes to cost and capacity, conventional microwave ovens with around 50L worth of capacity are likely to have a price tag that’s just under $3,500. Alternatively, higher end flatbed microwaves with a similar volume capacity generally retail between $2,000 and $3,000.
But with a growing selection of flatbed microwaves becoming increasingly available, it all comes down to what you prefer. Is your current microwave too small? What features are you craving? Make sure to do your research to find the best flatbed microwave for you.