The 2018 Sharp R890E (W/ST/BS) is a mid-size, 1100W inverter microwave. It is also a small fan-forced oven and has a grill element as well. For the right people, it can replace a traditional oven/grill.
GadgetGuy covered the new Sharp 2018 Microwave range here. We found that Sharp is the number one selling microwave brand by volume but its convection series only accounts for about 5% of sales.
We accepted Hans De Jong, Head of Consumer Electronics at Sharp Australia, challenge. “To use a combination convection oven for a few weeks to see what we thought.” In his words and Sharp’s 2018 mantra, “Can you Live Smart, Live Sharp.”
Some microwave history
I bought one of the first consumer microwaves from Sanyo in 1974. As a carefree bachelor then I was looking for anything that could fast-track my cooking. My next purchase was a Breville double griller (a sandwich press on steroids that could cook both sides of a steak at once). The point is that I have been using a microwave oven and a double grill combo for over 40 years and have not starved.
Fast forward to now. I have owned several – mainly Panasonic as it has the highest brand recognition. Recently a very expensive Miele microwave/grill built-in that I don’t consider offers the value or performance that Sharp R890E does.
But like 99% of Aussies I consider a microwave an essential part of the kitchen.
They are part of the kitchen landscape
GadgetGuy has had a lot of experience reviewing microwaves from Panasonic, Samsung, LG, Breville, Whirlpool, Omega, Miele, AEG and more. Some have been straight microwaves (800-1200W), some with steam technology, some with convection, grill, sensors, and turbo bake …
Without exception, we found that Joe and Jane Average use the microwave side 99.99% of the time. Defrosting, heating convenience dinners, cooking vegetables, and reheating beverages like coffee. Oh, and throw in the microwave popcorn craze as well.
All they need is a simple microwave to cook the veggies. It becomes almost like muscle memory. “Honey, how long for the peas?” No fancy on-screen menus needed here.
If that is all you do, then no need to read further. Any microwave will do. You may as well do what 95% of people do. Buy the largest capacity for the lowest price.
But if you are the right kind of single or couple do read on.
That landscape is changing – there are three main trends
Smaller kitchen design in modern high-density apartments has forced a shift to built-in models, not just a freestanding unit poked in a convenient hole. This trend is encouraged by the uber expensive faux-European brands with Hardly Normal marketing budgets.
These smaller kitchens mean a trend to combination microwave/convection oven/grill units to replace ovens at least twice the size. In case you have not noticed there is also a trend to single dish draw/half-width dishwashers and two-hob hot plates.
And finally an understanding that a microwave, especially an inverter, gives a better, more even heating and can provide healthier results even with convenience foods.
Why a combo microwave/convection/grill oven?
Let’s go back to my original premise – for the right people it can and does replace a traditional oven/grill. After a few weeks of use, I avoided using the big power sucking oven or its grill element. Success.
But there are a few initial observations. In no order
Microwave cooking is a serial form of cooking. Cook item one, cook item two etc. It is harder to get everything cooked to serve hot at the same time (but you can plate and reheat so no big issue).
A mid-size unit with a 31.5cm turntable suits a single or couple – it is not a family sized oven. Don’t try it on a big roast.
Combination microwave/fan-forced oven/grill needs entirely different cooking pans
The primary advantage of this fan-forced oven is the minimal pre-heat time compared to a full oven. In all other respects use the same cooking time as you would in a larger fan-forced oven.
The grill will produce crispy golden cheese on toast, but it takes about 50% longer. The upside is no preheat time so let’s call it a draw.
And it is possible to use a combination of all three technologies to get the result. For fear of oversimplifying a frozen pizza can be microwave defrosted, oven baked and grilled for a crispy cheese top in the one device.
Different utensils for different uses
Microwaves have a rotating glass turntable (which also rotates in oven and grill mode). Simply put, you need round cooking plates or pans that can go on a 31.5cm turntable.
Fan-forced oven and grill (the US calls it Broiling) utensils
Sharp supplies a chrome metal wire rack with low (baking) and high (for placing food closer to the grilling element) settings. This rack is not microwave safe.
It cautions against placing metal pans on the glass turntable (probably because it may crack). It suggests you use an insulator between them.
Woolworths had a $6, 29cm round metal perforated pizza plate (meant for oven and grill only). Any metal plate/pan around 30cm round without handles is OK.
I am still looking for a round grill/oven plate with sides and without perforations to stop fat/oil leaking through.
Grill pans need to withstand about 275°. Ceramics will often crack so metal pans are safest.
Woolies also had a range of Décor microwave safe ‘plastic’ containers for doing bacon, eggs, vegetables etc. More expensive versions have a steam lock lid.
Pyrex glass containers and Corning Corelle plates are suitable for microwave and oven. But not grilling as they will crack. Search for ‘microwave cooking accessories’ and look at the images.
You can use ceramic casserole pots too without metallic glazes, handles or rims. These are fine in the oven.
The instructions say you can use limited metal pans for combination cooking. I was not game to try that as I blew up a microwave once by using the wrong pan.
My point to Sharp is simple. If you want to sell more microwave/convection/grill ovens, do the homework for us and offer an exclusive pack of round 30cm pans at extra cost.
The first impression is it is a bit deeper than a standard microwave to allow for the fan-forced heating compartment at the back. As it is an oven/grill as well, you need at least 40mm all around to dissipate the heat. It should not be within a child’s reach.
The review unit was ST – stainless steel. That only refers to the front door trim and the remainder is a matching painted matt alloy or W white colour ($399).
The R890E is an inverter type – considered the best style of microwave.
There is no published cavity capacity in litres. My best guess is around 25 litres.
It has a large seven segment LED display (plus symbols) that will spell ROAST.
Note that the R890NW model name is a 20l, 900W combo – ignore those reviews.
The Sharp R890E does everything every other mid-sized Microwave will do.
It provides 1,100 watts. All you need to do is deduct 10% from any 1,000W cooking times on convenience food packaging.
Or you can select any wattage including
100W (keep food warm)
440-770W (delicate foods like Seafood or eggs)
880-1100W (meat, pasta, rice )
Frankly, most will leave the microwave at the 1,100W default and adjust the time. The start button defaults to 30-second units – press twice for a minute etc. You can also add extra time this way.
You can stack up to four commands like defrost followed by cook or convection cook
I scrambled eggs (my recipe is two 60g eggs and 80ml of low-fat milk) in a Pyrex two-litre measuring cup. It took just on two minutes compared to a 900W Miele at 2.5 minutes. Everything is quicker.
Next was microwave popcorn in a sealed bag. In the Miele, this takes 2.5 minutes and leaves quite a lot of un-popped kernels. Any longer – the popcorn burns.
The Sharp took 2 minutes and had fewer than a dozen un-popped kernels. This is due to the inverter technology that cooks more evenly.
Over the test period, it did bacon, peas, fresh and frozen vegetables and heated beverages all with aplomb.
What I like is the light inside the oven allows me to see food cooking.
The fan-forced oven has much faster pre-heat
The fan-forced oven is 2,100W and will heat up to 230°. I have never needed more than that when baking. The only caveat here is the timer only goes to 99 minutes and 99 seconds. You can use the combi cooking function to extend that four times.
The grill is 1,100W. It is the only area where I feel it needed more power. Nonetheless, it produced good grilling results, albeit taking a little longer time.
Again, it will do anything a larger fan-forced oven will if it is within the cooking load (capacity of the cavity). Pre-heat takes scant minutes compared to a Miele electric built-in oven.
Note that if you are lucky enough to have a gas oven, then pre-heat time is not an issue, but you then don’t get the speed of fan-forced cooking.
Frozen pizza – check
We tested a Dr Oetker Ristorante thin crust ham and pineapple pizza first. But as store-bought pizza, it is little thin on toppings. We added 100g of off-the-bone ham, a similar amount of Mozzarella cheese and heavily dusted with grated Parmesan. We left one ‘slice’ as supplied to compare. OK, a $5 pizza became a $10 delicious fattening one!
We placed the pizza tray on the low rack and followed the instructions for fan-forced 200° for 14 minutes.
After a five-minute pre-heat the pizza was cooked to perfection in 14 minutes (the slice left au naturel) but the extra cheese, while melted did not have that golden goodness.
We used oven gloves to take out the pizza tray and invert the rack to grill height. The grill heats fast and within 10 minutes had golden cheese.
Next time we will use the upper rack for the oven and set the combination cooking for cook and grill – simple. You can program microwave plus oven plus grill or any combination. Be aware of utensil issues.
Apple pies, meat pies and chips – check
We tried Woolworth’s frozen 125g Apple Pies at 175° for 30-minute cooking time. This time we just added five minutes for pre-heat and the pies were perfect.
A 250g (half a bag) of thick cut steak chips at 230° for 35 minutes – perfect.
Two 150g meat pies from frozen. 220° for 25 minutes – perfect
As a finale to convenience food, we tried a range of things like cheesy toast, baked beans/spaghetti on toast etc. The grill handled this well provided we added 50% to our usual large oven grill times.
OK, all we have proven is that the fan-forced oven/grill it works as specified. What about real cooking?
Remember that we are cooking for two – servings portions reflect that.
I have a gas Weber Q Family BBQ. I do a 500g (uncooked weight) boneless, lamb leg, mini-roast, two large jacket potatoes, and baked pumpkin and carrots. This process takes two hours (5-7pm with dinner on the table) e.g.
15 minutes pre-heat gas Weber (temperature unknown – as per the manual)
Lamb and potatoes for 1.5 hours (turn halfway)
Pumpkin and carrots for 30-45 minutes (turn halfway)
Rest the lamb for 15 minutes while making instant gravy and peas in the microwave
OK, the Weber caramelises and carbonises the roasted items beautifully. The lamb is juicy but probably medium-well done.
The Sharp cookbook says to preheat to 200° and then cook for 25-27 minutes with a resting time of another 15-25 minutes. It says it can do up to a 2kg roast in under two hours.
You can also set it to automatic just by pressing ‘Roast’ selecting lamb (or Beef, Chicken or Pork), adding the weight and it does the rest.
Fitting everything on to a 30cm round roasting plate was impossible. It will fit the roast and the potatoes.
Rather than settle for uncaramelized pumpkin and carrots, we cooked these beforehand in the microwave and rubbed a little olive oil over them for grilling while the meat was resting.
The roast cooked in the time specified. It lacked the charred Weber characteristic, but it was perfectly cooked to medium and resting it would continue to cook to medium-well.
Next the pre-cooked vegetables under the grill for 10 minutes (turning at 5), gravy for 2 minutes and peas for 1.5 minutes. All came together and, on the table, in under an hour. That is half the time than the Weber.
The microwave oven pre-sets can do much more
It has pre-set for Roast, Bake, Meat Pies, defrost (mince, steak, fish etc.), rice/pasta, quinoa and more. You can also add three favourites with power levels and cook times. In all 28 smart auto menus.
In this case, read the manual as you will extend your cooking skills. There are also many new recipes online here.
GadgetGuy’s take – the Sharp R890E can do almost everything
With the caveats
Serial cooking means plan to get everything ready at once – precook some items and reheat to serve
Mid-size is perfect for singles or couples
Fan-forced does everything a larger oven does – only less preheat times
The grill is about 50% slower but no pre-heat time so it’s a draw
All I needed on top of this is my trusty Breville Smart Grill Pro for steaks, pikelets (pancakes), toasted sandwiches (toasties) and anything requiring a hot plate.
Mid-size for one or two people – 25 litres versus a 60-70 litres traditional oven
Fan-forced has significantly shorter pre-heat times and performs like any other oven
The grill can achieve golden cheese melts
The microwave does all any other does plus a range of presets
‘Serial’ cooking makes it hard to deliver a complete meal at once
The grill is slower than expected but does not require pre-heat – call it a draw
You need to stop thinking like a cook and start thinking about meal preparation
Still needs a stove top (or a double grill) to complete the cooking
Sharp needs to access a range of cooking pans suitable for this oven
Ratings – Sharp R890E
Price aside ($399-429) it is first a 1,100W mid-sized, mid-range microwave. On that basis, it is a five out of five if only for the added convenience features. But you can buy similar powered straight microwaves at around $150.
As a small fan-forced oven it scores a five out of five. As a griller, it gets a four out of five.
Overall: 4.6 out of 5
Features: 4.5 out of 5 – I like that it has three cooking types. Does it have sensors and scales – who needs them?
Value for money: 4 out of 5 – shop around and you may be surprised – if you can get it for closer to $300 add an extra star!
Performance: 4.5 out of 5 – Remember it is a five out of five for the microwave.
Ease of Use: 4 out of 5 – Sharp could sell a range of cooking pans for this that would make it perfect
Design: 4 out of 5 – I know it has to meet a price, but the matt metal paint on the sides and top takes away from a premium finish. I suspect white will be most popular.
Price – Sharp R890E
The Sharp R890E is a mid-sized oven – around 25-30 litres with a 31.5cm turntable. The internal cavity is 33 (D), 33 (W) and 23 (H).
RRP is $399 for White and $429 for Stainless steel and the Blue steel models. It did not take long to find the White online for $305 and the others for $315 – now that is a bargain.