Fast forward: It's in the oven

Where to find a microwave that'll do you a full English breakfast. By Michael Oliveira-Salac and Martin Skegg. Photographs by Phil Ward

Microwaves: the best thing since sliced bread, relied upon by the busy and lazy, or the devil's spawn, despised by chefs and `real' cooks. Whichever way you look at it they have become a standard feature in kitchens. They still might not cook food as well as an oven, but with a combi version you can have the best of both worlds, using the speed of the microwave with the traditional finishing of an oven. Today's microwaves are so sophisticated they work out everything for you, so all you literally have to do is put the food in and turn it on ...

LG `Talking Microwave', pounds 160, stockists on 01753 500 470. A combination oven designed primarily for the elderly or visually impaired, the Talking Microwave is in fact ideal for anyone who has a problem with appliances. When a key is pressed the oven announces the function selected, assuring you what is going on. If you enter the weight of the food it works out how long to cook it for and lets you know. It also has Braille keys and lets you leave voice reminders for other people.

Samsung M308 Microwave, pounds 80, stockists on 0181-391 0168. A basic and straightforward microwave, making up in style what it lacks in sophistication. It has a reasonable 500-watt oven and is extremely simple to use. Ideal for heating drinks or ready meals, and small enough to fit into any kitchen.

DeLonghi `Infinito' Intelligent Microwave, pounds 330, stockists on 0800 626 496 (available end of June). A combination oven, grill and 850-watt microwave with the ever-so-clever auto feature - you select the food type and it automatically sets the duration and power level and gets on with it. You don't even need to know anything about food or cooking, as long as you can follow the simple on-screen instructions.

Sanyo EMS153S Touch Control Microwave, pounds 130, from Comet, call 0500 425 425 for nearest store. A microwave with grill that does multi-stage cooking, a device that automatically varies temperature accordingly. The timer function lets you set the oven to come on later in the day, so you can get back from work and find your dinner already cooked. Should you be feeling adventurous, a cook book is supplied with ideas of other things to microwave apart from supermarket meals.

Sharp `View Cook', pounds 330, stockists on 0800 262 958. Possibly the ultimate microwave. It has a 900-watt microwave, top and bottom grill, and 2000- watt convection oven. It also has a 2" LED screen enabling you to access the 2000-page electronic cookery book. This contains more than 200 recipes and cooking tips and sets the oven's cooking times and modes automatically. Step-by-step instructions are provided for preparations, ingredients and quantities. You can even do a full English breakfast (fried egg, bacon, the lot) all in one go. Should you wish to take control (with all this why bother?) there is a manual mode.

Siemens HF24052 Microwave, pounds 290, available from Buyers and Sellers, orders on 0171-229 1947 (national delivery). An 800-watt microwave in stainless steel with functions to make things easier for busy families. The "keep warm" facility is useful for those members of the family who can never make meal times, and a memory function remembers two stages of your most used recipes. It has five power levels and automatic weight programmes where you give the weight of the food and it does the rest.

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