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Microwave Oven vs Toaster Oven Comparison

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Microwave ovens and toaster ovens are convenient and versatile appliances. Although both oven types can reheat food, they have different technologies and functions.

Do you need both for your kitchen or can you save money and space and choose one?

We'll help you find the answer by describing the differences between a microwave oven vs. a toaster oven.

How Microwave Ovens Work

Microwave ovens use electromagnetic waves – microwaves – to heat food very fast. But since microwaves heat water molecules, the food you put in a microwave oven gets cooked but doesn’t crisp on the outside.

The dish holding your food sits on a plate that rotates until the timer stops or the microwave oven is stopped manually.

There are two types of microwave ovens - standard and convection.

A standard microwave oven has one cooking mode that uses microwaves to cook food.

A convection microwave has at least two modes - standard and convection. The convection mode uses a heating element and fan to circulate heat throughout the microwave oven.  

When cooking food in a convection microwave oven, it is possible to alternate between both cooking modes.

Microwave Oven Demonstration

How Toaster Ovens Work

Toaster ovens use heating elements that heat the air inside the enclosed oven interior. These elements ensure that specific foods cook faster than on a traditional stove burner because hot air heats them from every direction.

Convection toaster ovens add another element, a convection fan, which introduces air circulation, speeding up the cooking process.  

As the heated air moves around inside the oven, fewer hot spots are created, and the result is that you don’t have to worry about burned or unevenly cooked meals.

Basic microwave oven
Convection Toaster Oven with Rotisserie and Grill on the wooden table

Microwave Oven vs. Toaster Oven

Cooking

Microwave ovens are mainly used to reheat, boil, defrost, thaw, or melt various foods such as chocolate, butter, and cheeses.

However, there are other ways to use your microwave. They can be used to cook frozen dinners, toast nuts and seeds, roast garlic or garlic bread, and soak beans.

They are a great way to scramble or poach eggs, steam vegetables, or cook fish, bacon, and potatoes. You can bake a cake in a microwave!

Microwave ovens should be used to make soft, cooked meals, and they aren’t a good option for other types of food.

For example, microwave ovens can be used to make toast, but the results are often disappointing. The bread may become rubbery rather than crisp, and the surface won’t turn a nice brown color. However, some microwaves come with a grill to prepare crunchy meals.

Tip: A microwave can also be used to clean a dirty kitchen sponge.  

Rinse the sponge, squeeze it a few times and rinse it again but don't squeeze the water out. Place the sponge in the microwave oven for a couple of minutes. When the sponge is cool enough to touch, squeeze the water out of it and let it air dry.

Toaster ovens were designed as alternatives to conventional ovens. They quickly cook smaller quantities of food in a more energy-efficient way.

Toaster ovens are easy to use, convenient, and versatile.

They can be used to make anything from regular toast to air-fried home-made fried chicken. The range of recipes you can prepare depends on the power, customizable settings, and size of the toaster oven.

A good toaster oven has no problem helping you prepare crispy food, browned veggies, pizza, and more.

If can adjust the temperature and fan speed, toaster ovens can also handle recipes where the goal is to cook something until it becomes soft.

Maintenance  

One factor to consider when deciding whether to buy a microwave or a toaster oven is the time needed to clean it. It is easier and less time-consuming to clean a microwave than a toaster oven. 

Toaster Oven Cleaning

The door, walls and ceiling of a toaster oven should be cleaned after each use. If used daily, weekly cleaning of the toaster oven (door, interior, exterior, and removable parts) is a good practice.

If you don't use it frequently, you can opt for monthly cleaning.

Microwave oven cleaning using lemon

Microwave Oven Cleaning

If food is covered when heated with paper towels, microwave cooking bags, or ceramic, glass, or plastic covers, very little time is needed to clean the interior walls and ceiling of the microwave.

Grime on the interior of the microwave can be loosened with steam. Place a bowl of water and one tablespoon of lemon juice (or 1/2 lemon) in the oven. Heat the bowl on high for 2 minutes. 

The removable glass tray in a microwave is easily cleaned with soap and water. Most glass trays can be washed in a dishwasher.

Energy Efficiency

Both types of countertop ovens can help you save power by using your conventional oven less often.  

The typical power consumption of a microwave oven is between 700 and 1,300 watts. Toaster ovens might consume between 1,200 and 1,800 watts, sometimes even more.

Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. You can opt for smart toaster ovens, which cost more but excel at energy efficiency. Some of them could be more energy-efficient than a poorly built microwave oven.

Another aspect that ties into energy efficiency is cooking time. A toaster oven needs to be preheated, meaning that you have to waste energy while the oven reaches the desired temperature.

Microwave ovens work faster. The water molecules in the food heat up simultaneously, which cooks the rest of the surrounding food. Coupled with the lower power draw, this enhances energy efficiency.

Safety Concerns

To avoid getting burned, most manufacturers recommend having a clearance of a few inches on each side of your countertop toaster oven. 

Microwave ovens don’t have this issue. However, it is imperative to make sure that the door is intact. If the door is damaged, radiation could leak when the oven is used.

Final Thoughts

In explaining the differences between a microwave and a toaster oven, we showed that although they are capable of similar types of cooking, they are not interchangeable.

Microwave ovens are better suited as complementary appliances which help you cook, melt, or reheat certain food items quickly and without wasting energy.

Toaster ovens can sometimes replace your conventional oven, especially if they’re large enough and if they’re also equipped with a convection fan.

The price of toaster ovens vs. microwaves depends on wattage, size, and features.  

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