The newest addition to the CombiSet range is the Miele Salamander. It's a built-in appliance that browns, grills, caramelises and glazes. Not to mention, the heat retaining properties of the ceramic base allows dishes to be kept warm as well. It has a circular halogen light with 12 heat settings and a projecting canopy that raises and lowers for browning. It also comes with safety features such as overheat protection and an obstruction sensor. The unit heats up very quickly, so take extra care and keep children well away when it's on. When not in use, the unit lowers under your benchtop, showing only its stainless steel top.
CHOICE tested the Salamander by browning cauliflower au gratin and five creme brulees, and found browning to be uneven if the dish isn't situated directly under the halogen light. While we achieved a good result for the cauliflower au gratin, the dish used was slightly too big, leaving a rim around the edge that didn't brown. We lowered the heating element until it was within 3cm of the food. At such a low level, it's hard to keep an eye on the process, as the stainless steel top obstructs your view. It's also inconvenient, as to get the best result we had to brown each brulee topping one at a time. To keep food warm, you'll need to use a lower setting and raise the element about 10cm from the food. The Salamander only does this well for about three minutes - any longer and food begins to dry out.
On the plus side, the controls of the Salamander are exceptionally easy to use. It has two basic dial controls that are clearly labelled and simple to operate. While stainless steel often requires more effort to keep clean, the ceramic surface that most often comes into contact with food is easy to wipe over.
The Salamander is a bulky unit whereby its projecting canopy may obstruct with other cooking practices. When installing the unit, you'll lose most, if not all of the cupboard space below, and you should only use smooth-based dishes to avoid scratching the ceramic surface.
Notwithstanding its limitations, the Salamander exudes style and works fast. However, if you're prepared to dedicate a little more time, your standard multi-function oven with grill can give a similar result, without breaking the budget.