Toaster Oven Vs. Microwave: What’s Right For You?

Both toaster oven and microwave are deeply rooted in our kitchen as indispensable appliances.

But if we were asked to explain the specific differences between them and make some on-point arguments on the toaster oven vs. microwave debate, the answer would be much more complicated than we’ve imagined.

As pioneers in convenient and quick cooking, these two devices have a paramount role in our household, and we are using them on a daily basis, but have you ever asked yourself if you are using them to their fullest potential?

Lately, there has been a lot of buzz around people who are ditching their microwaves for toaster ovens, due to their supposed supremacy. However, I think that it would be fair to say that both of these appliances have their pros and cons.

Personally, I use them both, especially when there is a need to prepare a quick family lunch or a snack for my boys. And while the microwave is perfect for cooking potatoes for four persons, I would never even think about trying such culinary endeavor in the toaster oven.

These two appliances are very much different when it comes to certain functions, but also to energy-efficiency.

If you currently weigh on with which one you should equip your kitchen, or you simply haven't yet figured out for what to use each one of them, it would be best to consider all pros and cons, and finally, put an end to the toaster oven or microwave dilemma.

How Does Toaster Oven Work?

  • A toaster oven uses fast-warming heating elements, usually on the top and bottom of the device. Depending on the model, there can be as many as five or six heating elements.
  • This enables for the air to be heated in the oven cavity, and dispersed via the fan. Some top toaster ovens may include a combination of ceramic and quartz infrared heating elements and/or steam settings.
  • A standard toaster oven has the function of toasting, broiling, and baking, while some can also include advanced functions like defrosting and roasting. Since the food is cooked from the outside in, the preparation lasts longer than in a microwave.

Further Reading: Toaster Oven vs. ToasterToaster Oven vs. Convection Oven


How Does Microwave Work?

  • Microwave ovens cook food incredibly fast (faster than toaster oven). If you have ever been so pleasantly surprised with the speed of cooking, you must have wondered how does microwave work.
  • Unlike the toaster ovens that have heaters, microwaves use electromagnetic waves that heat up water molecules all at once. This process results in significantly shorter cooking time than in the toaster oven. What is characteristic for the microwave is that those waves are not melting glasses or plastic.

Further Reading: Microwave vs Convection OvenCompact MicrowaveConvection Microwave Oven


Where Does Toaster Oven Excel?​

As I already mentioned above regarding the microwave vs toaster oven question, the two appliances have different functions, and there are plenty of areas where toaster oven outperforms the microwave.

  • The functions where toaster ovens beat microwaves hands down would definitely be browning, toasting and crisping, since microwave cooking usually ends up soft and soggy, instead of crispy. So, if you want delicious crisp bacon toaster oven should be your top choice. Also, preparing chicken in a microwave will not result in crispy skin.
  • If you reheated pizza in a toaster oven, you would end up with a crispy base on the outside and soft in the inside. The same goes for bread. It also does a quite good job in cooking a smaller amount of potato. Although it takes longer in doing that, toaster oven baked potatoes are far better than the ones prepared in the microwave (crispy on the outside, soft and buttery on the inside).
  • Other tasks where toaster oven outruns the microwave are keeping the food warm, convention cooking, and cooking pizza.

Where Does Microwave Excel?

If the previous paragraph left you thinking: “Well, perhaps I don’t even need a microwave after all” stick around and allow me to change your mind.

  • The majority of people who think microwaves don't perform well are not quite sure what are microwaves used for. First of all, the fact that the meals in them are prepared faster can be a true lifesaver (at least for me it is).
  • Although the food doesn’t have a crispy finish after cooking in a microwave, it does have a decent flavor, and it is prepared faster. This especially goes for frozen food.
  • Unlike the toaster oven, microwave is capable of cooking large quantities of food, which is great when you're having guests over for dinner.

Cleaning, Maintenance, and Longevity of the Two Appliances

It is evident by now that both of these appliances are designed to save time, but what's the point of saving you time for cooking if you are going to spend hours cleaning them later? This is the battle in the great toaster oven versus microwave war where microwave wins every single time.

  • Microwaves are very simple to clean. All parts are reachable, and most models even have removable glass trays that can be taken out and cleaned in the sink.
  • On the other hand, toaster ovens have crumb trays, wire racks, walls and glass doors to wipe down. Also, the heating elements must occasionally be cleaned (remember to always wear an oven glove).
  • The average useful lifespan of both devices depends on the quality of the chosen model, but on average, they both last about eight years.

You May Need: Oven Cleaners

Energy-Efficiency

This is a very important factor that affects most of my purchase decisions. Both microwave and toaster oven are far more energy-efficient than a conventional wall oven.

However, most microwaves use between 700 and 1,300 watts, while a typical toaster oven uses between 1,200 and 1,800 watts. That doesn’t mean that energy efficient toaster ovens can't use less electricity than regular microwaves.

Either way, when you are buying these two appliances, you should search for energy star microwave and energy star toaster ovens.

Addressing the Health and Safety Issues

  • You have all probably heard the microwave oven cancer relation rumors, but do we actually have enough proof for that? Don’t think that the question do microwaves give off radiation wasn't on my mind when I first bought this appliance, and if I had any substantial evidence that is true, I would never push the button on that appliance again.
  • According to Jane Lear, the executive director of Cured, a magazine devoted to food preservation, microwaves emit a non-ionizing form of radiation with a frequency so low they couldn’t possibly damage the DNA in our cells. Another commonly asked question is do microwaves kill nutrients? Lear claims that that too is a misconception and that the situation is quite the opposite.
  • Namely, since foods are prepared faster and with little or no fat or water, it can even retain more nutrients than conventionally prepared meals. As for the toaster oven, there are no significant health concerns. However, due to its heating both inside and outside, it can be somewhat unsafe to handle when getting the food in or out.

Make Some Culinary Delights in Toaster Oven and Microwave

If, while reading all this, you were infected by the (quick and simple) culinary bug, then it is time to prepare some delicious treats.

I’ve already wrote about my top five toaster oven recipes, but I’d like to share a couple of suggestions from other bloggers and chefs, and a few best microwave meals.

Microwave: Fastest-Ever Lemon Pudding by BBC goodfood
  • Having unannounced guests and don’t have the time to prepare a delicious desert? BBC has got you covered with this spongy sweet paradise pudding.
Microwave: Back to School Meals by Bigger Bolder Baking
  • Everything about this list is life-saving. The blogger has prepared five recipes from breakfast to dinner, with included dessert and snack. The best thing about them is that they're so simple that my boys can make them on their own, while I'm typing this article.
Toaster Oven: Lemon-Thyme Bruschetta by The Kitchn
  • Perfect if you need a last minute appetizer or a party finger food.
Toaster Oven: Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole by Food.
  • This has always been my family’s favorite classic meal, and believe it or not it is even better when cooked in a toaster oven. Just ideal for an easy weeknight dish that is sure to please the entire family.

Is the Jury Still Out?

Let me know has this article helped you get to the bottom of the toaster oven vs. microwave discussion.

In the end, that decision may be needless. You can use both of these appliances to prepare different simple and quick meals, which will be equally as delicious as the one prepared in a conventional wall oven.

The only difference is that you will spend less time in the kitchen and more time with your family, and that is, after all, the most important thing. 🙂

Barbara Whitney
 

For the last 20 years, I’ve been cooking, preparing, researching, and gathering recipes, tools, and knowledge about food and the way we prepare it. Raising two lively boys and spoiling one great husband later, it’s safe to say that I’ve optimized my kitchen to deliver the best possible meal, no matter the occasion.

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