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Are convection microwave ovens a useful item to have? Or are they not good as a microwave and not good as a convection oven either?

I understand that a regular convection oven helps to cook things faster. But a microwave cooks things pretty darn fast already so why would you want a convection feature?

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It is a combination of a regular convection oven with a microwave, so you have both hot air and microwaves cooking your food. So the advantage is you get the quick interior heating of the microwaves combined with the surface browning from the hot air; convection just makes that hot air cooking faster and more even.

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To emphasize: you can use both functions at the same time, or use just one. For e.g. Gratin Dauphinois using both together is great: the microwave makes the potatoes cook quickly, and the convection makes them yummy. –  Erik P. Sep 9 '10 at 13:21
    
Nitpick: the dish is pommes Dauphinoise, not gratin d. –  daniel Sep 11 '10 at 7:30
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Microwave: A microwave heats water and molecules in the food by using microwave radiation. It will heat food efficiently and quickly, but does not brown or bake like a conventional oven.

Oven: Fueled by gas or electricity and heats from the bottom (baking, roasting) or from the top (broiling). The heat is from a single direction and not uniform.

Convection Oven: An oven that has a fan that circulates heated air. This allows for operation at a lower temperature while cooking more quickly. It also results in a more even bake.

Convection Microwave (Oven): A combination of a microwave and a convection oven. Allows for even, quick cooking that is browned or baked.

So, at the bottom of the scale is a microwave and an oven. They each have different functions. Then there is a middle tier that would be a convection oven - an improvement over the oven. The top tier is the convection microwave oven that provides all the features: quick cooking, heating, baking, browning, and evenness.

If you do a lot of cooking and only have a single oven, but find yourself wishing you had a second, a convection microwave would be useful for you. If you want something truly multi-purpose, then yes. Since each has a set of features it provides and/or lacks, it comes down to what best fits your needs.

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Good answer, and +1 for not including the common misconception that microwaves cook from the inside out. They do not! –  Josh Sep 10 '10 at 23:22
    
Also, good ovens do not cook just from the top or the bottom. While the heating elements may be only in one position, the air in the oven circulates via convection (even without a fan in so-called convection ovens). Contact with the hot air heats the food from all sides via conduction from the air. Furthermore, the air in contact with the oven walls, floor, and ceiling heats them to quite a high temperature as well. They then emit infrared radiation, which in ovens can be a significant part of the energy actually delivered to the food--this is also from all sides. –  SAJ14SAJ Jan 21 '13 at 19:17
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