Kitchen & Appliances

Toaster Oven Vs Microwave Oven: A Comprehensive Comparison

When it comes to convenient cooking, then microwave and toaster ovens are one of your best bets. However, even then, there are comparisons to be made between the two. Which is better at what? Which saves more energy? Which is more cost effective? Which is safer than the other? Overall, which is the more effective kitchen appliance? These, and more, are some of the questions we hope to answer for our readers in what will be a comprehensive comparison the two. What we hope is that by the end of this article, you will have a clear understanding of which of these two ovens suit you and why.

The Science Behind Heating Your Food

The microwave oven heats up food through electromagnetic radiation (microwaves), which is where it gets the name. Microwave cooking uses waves that travel from all directions within the heating compartment and come into contact with the food. The energy in the waves is then transferred to the food molecules in an even manner, and vibrates them at high frequency to generate heat, which makes it appear as though the food is cooked inside-out. Microwaves are faster due to the speed of heat transfer from the microwaves to the food.

The toaster oven is designed with a heating element at the top and/or bottom. The radiant heat from the filaments transfers the heat to the air within the compartment and again through the baking pan or foil to the food. Thanks to that, the food is cooked from the outside-in. Unfortunately, the heat transfer is significantly slower than a microwave oven and takes up a lot of time. In fact, it is advisable to pre-heat the oven before cooking if you want to speed up the time it takes to cook food.

Do You Like it Soggy or Crispy?

The efficiency of a microwave oven depends on the type of food, or rather the molecules within the food. Food with high fat or water content is the ideal choice when using a microwave because water molecules are more excitable and they transfer heat more efficiently than drier foods. Unfortunately, that means that most foods cooked in a microwave end up soggy and those with low water content end up tough or very chewy. Not a great option for things like bread or French fries.

There are three different types of microwave ovens; the solo, grill, and convection ovens. Each of these determines the type of food you can cook. For instance, the convection oven is the best for baking. Nevertheless, as a rule of thumb, microwaves are best for soggy and frozen food.

The toaster oven is ideal for toasting, browning, and crisping. Essentially, all the dry foods that you can’t cook in a microwave oven should be cooked in a toaster oven. Since the oven doesn’t affect the water content in the food, you get a much better finish with drier foods than you would in a microwave. The toaster oven has a higher range of temperature control, making it ideal for complex cooking as opposed to a microwave, which usually only has low and high heat options.

A Healthy Kitchen

If you’ve done your research on microwaves, then you’ve definitely come across rumors on how the radiation is harmful. Well, the rumors are false. The radiation used to heat up food is practically harmless. However, that does not mean that direct radiation exposure is harmless. Fortunately, the door should protect you from that, which is why you should always ensure that it is locked properly and that there are no cracks.

Honestly, the greatest safety risk when using a microwave comes from negligence. There are certain containers that are microwavable and others are not. We cannot stress enough how important it is to check whether the container you use is microwave-friendly. Metals for starters shouldn’t be used at all due to risk of sparking. Additionally, some plastics could melt and/or release fumes that could be ideal. Glass or porcelain is the best choice for microwaves and even then you should confirm it is microwave-friendly. Some microwaves have additional safety features such as a child lock, which you should look out for when doing your purchase.

While toaster ovens don’t come with any big warning signs, there are still some concerns that need to be addressed. For starters, a toaster oven releases a significant amount of heat. Therefore, you should be careful with what you place around the oven, especially when it comes to flammable substances. More importantly, you should be careful when removing food from a hot oven. Ideally, any safety measures you take using a conventional oven should also be used for toaster ovens.

Which is Greener?

Energy efficiency is a serious concern when choosing home appliances. Fortunately, both microwave and toaster ovens are highly efficient when it comes to energy consumption. Nevertheless, when comparing the two, a microwave oven is definitely greener. The microwave uses between 700 – 1300 Watts while a toaster oven uses between 1200 – 1800 Watts.

The Impact on Home Decor

It would be a crime to plan out your entire kitchen then have it ruined by the placement of your oven because you either didn’t know how it would affect it or didn’t plan for it. It is important to note that both types are countertop models, which means that they can be placed on any surface as long as you have enough space. Please pay attention to safety when you decide on where to place your oven.

It is also possible to mount them. If you have the space for it, then you should have a professional mount the oven for you. The professional is necessary to avoid damaging the oven, which can be a serious safety risk and to avoid poor mounting.

Nevertheless, before you do any of that, you should plan around the space that you have because they have different sizes. Toaster ovens are usually smaller than microwave ovens. Size is important, especially, when it comes to the amount of food you need to prepare. A toaster oven can cook a pretty crisp pizza but it’s best to find the best pizza oven if you want to host an outdoor party.

Cleaning and Maintenance

Microwave ovens are easier to clean than toaster ovens. There’s just no way around that. A microwave has fewer parts to move around and those that can be moved are easy to clean. Alternatively, it takes time and effort to clean a toaster oven, especially when it comes to the exposed filaments.

Since maintenance is closely tied to cleaning, it is far easier to maintain a microwave than a toaster. However, when there’s actual damage it is easier to maintain a toaster than a microwave oven. More importantly, if there is damage, it is advisable to find a professional especially where microwaves are concerned.

Which is Cheaper?

The cost of a microwave oven often depends on the Wattage and capacity and comes in at anywhere between $200 – $500 on average. The cost of a toaster oven mostly depends on capacity and ranges anywhere between $30 – $800. Of course, there are additional costs for installation which can increase the price by anywhere between $50 – $150 on average.

The Takeaway

If you haven’t caught on by now, the choice of either microwave or toaster ovens depends almost entirely on preference. Therefore, you should know what you want then compare the two and choose one that suits all your needs. It is significantly harder if you have to choose one over the other without knowing what you prefer. Of course, you should know that these ovens can’t do everything. For instance a microwave grill oven won’t be as good as the best stainless steel grill. In the same way, a microwave oven can’t do everything a toaster oven can do and vice versa, even if there is some overlap.


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Hi and welcome to Joyous Household. My name is Jen! I'm excited that you're hear and hope that my experience and reviews can help provide some answers for you!

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