Jump to Section
Microwaves and convection ovens are two energy-efficient appliances for quickly heating foods.
While people may use these two appliances for the same cooking tasks, they're different in many ways; hence the microwave oven vs convection oven debate.
To help you make the right purchasing decision, we'll explore the convection oven vs microwave oven debate. You can also check out our guide on the best convection oven for you.
Let's find out the differences between a microwave oven and a convection oven.
What Are the Main Differences Between A Microwave Oven and A Convection Oven?
The main difference between a microwave oven and a convection oven is in the technology they use in cooking food.
Microwave ovens use electromagnetic radiation (microwaves) to heat water molecules in food. A microwave oven is the best appliance to use in defrosting frozen foods, cooking foods with high water content, and heating leftovers.
While convection ovens heat food by transferring heat from their heating elements at the top and bottom and using a convection fan to circulate the hot air around the cooking chamber. A convection oven is great for baking, toasting, roasting, and dehydrating foods.
Because of their heating mechanism of circulating hot air, convection ovens are faster and more efficient in heating food than microwave ovens.
To better understand how these appliances work, let’s explore them individually.
What is a microwave oven? A microwave oven is an appliance for cooking food using electromagnetic waves from a magnetron to vibrate the fat and water molecules in the food. The vibrations of these molecules then lead to the heating of the food.
This cooking method is faster than traditional ovens. However, this unit may not evenly cook foods with uneven distribution of water. And microwaves are not the best appliances when it comes to browning or crisping food.
One great feature of a microwave is that it is less likely to burn food as it starts heating from the inside to the outer layer of your food. Also, it is easier to clean.
What is a convection oven? A convection oven is an appliance that cooks food like a conventional oven.
It has two heating elements (one at the top and the other at the bottom) that produce heat in the cooking chamber. The convection oven then uses convection fans to circulate the heated air around the chamber to cook meals. This also makes it easy for convection ovens to brown and crisp foods.
This mode of heating is very energy-efficient and ensures foods are cooked evenly and fast without hot or cold spots. Despite being fast cookers, convection ovens can be set to slow-cook foods at lower temperatures.
Convection ovens heat food from the outside to the inner layers, and this makes the units burn food sometimes.
What are the advantages of a microwave oven when compared to a convection oven?
The advantages of a microwave oven, when compared to a convection oven, are that they’re great for heating wet foods, easy to clean, and cheaper.
Great for quickly heating foods with high-water content
When compared to convection ovens, microwave ovens are the best appliances to use for reheating leftovers, melting butter, and defrosting frozen food.
Microwaves work by vibrating water molecules in food from the inside. As a layer of the molecules become hot, they then agitate and heat other water molecules due to the friction between them.
So when you want to heat wet foods and preserve their flavors and aromas, you should consider using a microwave as convection ovens are more ideal for dry foods.
Ease of cleaning and maintenance
Unlike a convection oven, the cooking area of a microwave oven is made of glass. This makes the appliance easy to clean after cooking. On the other hand, the interiors of convection ovens are usually made of stainless steel which is more difficult to clean than glass.
Secondly, microwave ovens have fewer parts compared to convection ovens. If the heating elements or fan break, you’ll have to repair them before using your convection oven again.
When compared to a convection oven, a microwave oven is more affordable. The price for a microwave oven ranges between $50 – $1,500, while a convection oven costs around $70 – $3,000. This is because convection ovens cook faster and are more versatile in the kitchen than microwaves.
Less burnt meals
The radiation heating technology that microwaves use to heat items from inside out reduces the risk of burning food. Plus it doesn’t alter the taste and nutrients of your meal. This is unlike convection heating technology that heats food from the outer layers to their insides.
Keeps your kitchen cool and quiet
Compared to convection ovens, microwave ovens don’t produce so much heat, so they keep your kitchen cooler. Also, convection ovens have fans that may be noisy during operation, while microwaves have none.
What are the advantages of a convection oven when compared to a microwave oven?
The advantages of a convection oven, when compared to a microwave oven, are that the appliance is versatile, faster, safer for cooking, more energy-efficient, and cooks more delicious meals.
When compared to a microwave oven, a convection oven can perform more cooking tasks. You can use convection ovens for roasting and grilling meat; cooking vegetables and casseroles; baking cookies and pies; toasting bread; crisping pizzas; and lots more.
On the other hand, microwaves perform fewer tasks such as reheating leftovers and defrosting frozen foods.
Secondly, convection ovens have space to fit and cook multiple foods at a time while microwave ovens can only prepare one meal at a time.
More delicious and even cooking
If you want crispy results, a convection oven is the appliance to use.
Their convection heating technology ensures the fan evenly distributes the hot air around the cooking chamber to dry up the outer surface of your dish while keeping the interior moist.
And without fluctuating temperature, the unit cooks meat and vegetables more evenly (without hot or cold spots), plus makes them browner than microwave ovens. Also, regardless of how many dishes you put in the convection oven, the convection fan will ensure they all cook evenly.
The results are also crispier, crunchier, and more delicious than meals prepared by microwaves. And you don’t have to baste meat as convection ovens will lock in your meal’s moisture.
The fans of convection ovens are an innovation that makes them cut cooking time even when cooking at lower temperatures. The fans circulate the heated air generated by the heating elements to cook food faster than microwaves (which doesn’t have such a mechanism).
This also makes it possible to cook larger meals (and more than one dish at a time) in speed time. So if you want to cook meals for a large family, a convection oven will save you the time of cooking in batches.
Compared to microwaves, convection ovens are more energy-efficient. This is because a microwave uses an average of 1200 watts per hour while a convection oven uses 20% less energy than that. One of the reasons for the lower energy bill is that convection ovens cook meals in a shorter time frame.
Also, you can roast your meals or do some baking without preheating the oven.
Safe for cooking
When compared to cooking with microwave ovens, convection ovens are safer.
First, a study shows that microwaves may be dangerous to health as they can produce carcinogenic agents that can weaken the immune system. Secondly, you can’t use plastic containers (except microwave bowls or specific types of plastic) in your microwave oven as they’ll emit toxins like Bisphenol on exposure to the microwaves.
And finally, standing in front of a microwave when it’s running can be harmful to humans because of the radiation. Convection ovens don’t emit radiation that can harm you, and you don’t need to use special bakeware with the unit.
No temperature fluctuations
In a convection oven, there are no temperature fluctuations because the convection heating technology evenly circulates hot air all through your dish.
This constant temperature is also great for heating dishes such as souffles, pastries, and dishes with leavening agents (like yeast and baking powder).
On the other hand, there are temperature fluctuations in a microwave as foods (or portions of food) with higher water content absorb more microwave energy than those with lower water content.
Which One Is more Usable in the Kitchen Between A Microwave Oven and A Convection Oven?
Convection ovens are more versatile in the kitchen than microwave ovens. A convection oven can perform tasks such as broil vegetables, roast meat, bake bread to give you more delicious and crisper results.
And if you’re asking, “Is a microwave oven the same as a convection oven?” The answer is no. Microwaves and convection ovens are different appliances.
A microwave is an appliance that heats food by using electromagnetic waves to agitate the water molecules in the dishes. While a convection oven is an appliance that cooks food by generating heat from its two heating elements and uses a fan to circulate the hot air around the cooking chamber.
What foods can you cook in a microwave oven?
A microwave is great for reheating and defrosting foods such as leftover rice, vegetables, and soup. However, you can make the following meals in a microwave and save time;
- Spaghetti squash and meatballs
- Hot dogs
- Macaroni and cheese
- Baked potatoes
- Omelette or scrambled eggs
- Egg fried rice
- Chicken quesadilla
- Lemon pudding
- Steamed vegetables
- Pumpkin seeds
You can find more uses of a microwave here. Also, here are a few meals you should never cook in a microwave;
- Hot peppers
- Whole eggs
- Breast milk
- Red pasta sauce
- Frozen meat
- Processed meat
What foods can you cook in a convection oven?
You can cook the following foods in a convection oven;
- Roast chicken, ham, turkey, and beef, etc.
- Roast potatoes, artichokes, and other vegetables
- Bake cookies, pies, pastry, and muffins
- Toast bread, buns
Can a microwave oven and a convection oven be paired together in a kitchen?
Yes, you can pair a microwave oven and a convection oven in your kitchen. A microwave is best suited to reheating and defrosting leftovers and frozen foods like frozen meat. Here’s how to use a microwave oven.
On the other hand, a convection oven is better suited to baking and toasting bread; roasting and frying meat; and broiling veggies and casseroles.
What are the instances where you can use a microwave oven and a convection oven together?
You can use a microwave oven when you want to cook frozen meat before roasting it.
You can defrost the frozen meat in the microwave and afterward, roast it in the convection oven to make it crisp and have an appealing brown look.
What are the instances where a microwave oven and a convection oven should never be used together?
You should not use a microwave oven and a convection oven when you don’t stock up on lots of frozen foods. Your stove and convection oven may be enough to perform the other kitchen tasks.
What to Consider when Buying A Microwave Oven and A Convection Oven?
All microwaves and convection ovens aren't made the same way. So here are the features you should look out for when buying either a microwave oven or a convection oven.
What type of unit should I get?
One of the most important factors to consider before buying a microwave oven or convection oven is the size of your kitchen. This will determine the type of unit that’ll be compatible with your kitchen.
There are different types of microwaves; countertop, over the range, built-in, and microwave drawers. Of these models, countertop microwave ovens are the most common and cheapest models. They can cost as low as $50: however, they offer you a limited room for cooking.
Over-the-range microwaves maximize your kitchen space and act as ventilation systems (replacing range hoods) for kitchen ranges. This makes them ideal for small kitchens with limited countertop space. Built-in and wall microwaves help save you countertop space, although they’re usually expensive and not ideal for small kitchens.
There are also other types of microwaves based on function; solo microwave ovens for reheating and defrosting, grill microwaves with grilling accessories for grilling meat and vegetables, and convection microwave ovens for baking, roasting, and browning food in addition to reheating and defrosting,
Also, there are two types of convection ovens; floor and countertop convection ovens.
For a home cook, a countertop convection oven is great as there are models that can feed large families. But if you have a restaurant with a lot of human traffic, you should consider either a single or double-stacked floor model. There are also half-sized and full-sized models for kitchens with limited space.
What capacity is ideal?
This factor depends on the family size your microwave or convection oven will feed.
For a small family of 2 – 3 people, a 15 – 20-liter microwave will suffice. But for a larger family of 3 – 5 people, 25 – 30-liter models are ideal. If you cook for more than 5 people, a 30-liter model is the minimum capacity you can go for.
Convection ovens with at least six racks will be able to feed a family of five people and above. While for a smaller family of four people or less can go for a 10- or 12-inch sized model with 4 – 5 racks.
Which appliance comes with the most presets?
Most microwave ovens come with a Popcorn setting (for cooking based on the size of the bag) and defrost, and reheat settings. You can get more high-end features like baking, etc., but these come at a higher cost, and you may not need them if you don’t do a lot of cooking. However, if you cook often, you can choose a convection oven as most models offer these pre-programmed settings as basic.
Typically, the higher the wattage of a convection oven or microwave, the faster they’ll heat meals.
900 – 1,000-watt microwaves are the ideal models that are powerful enough to defrost meals efficiently. Models with lower wattage (like in the 700 watts or less range) can also defrost meals, but they’ll take a longer time to cook and will not be very efficient.
The same goes for convection ovens: models in the 1,000 – 1,400-watt range are very energy-efficient.
How cost-effective are these appliances?
A microwave oven costs between $50 – $1,500, while the price for a convection oven ranges between $70 – $3,000. That said, convection ovens last longer than microwaves and are more versatile.
The average lifetime expectancy for microwave ovens is 9 to 10 years while the average lifetime expectancy for convection ovens is 13 to 15 years.
What Are the Best Brands for Microwave Ovens?
The five best brands making the best microwaves are Panasonic, Breville, Whirlpool, Black & Decker, and GE.
Panasonic is one of the best brands making some of the best microwave ovens. Their models are powerful, energy-efficient, efficient in heating food evenly, and offer fast heating.
Breville is a reputable brand that manufactures budget-friendly kitchen appliances without compromising on quality. Their microwaves are versatile and heat food consistently and evenly. They’re also easy to use.
One of the features we love about the Whirlpool microwave is its smart feature that allows you to operate and monitor the progress of your cooking using your smartphone’s Whirlpool app. With loads of smart features, this microwave is one of the best microwaves. However, it’s expensive and may impact your energy bill.
Black & Decker
Black & Decker is another brand making low-budget appliances, and their microwaves are great small kitchens with limited countertop space. They’re energy-efficient and allow you to do most basic cooking.
GE is another reputable brand making a wide range of microwaves. Their products come with mixed reviews, although they’re generally efficient, versatile, and fast in cooking.
What Are the Best Brands for Convection Ovens?
The five best brands making the best convection ovens are Black & Decker, KitchenAid, Breville, Oster, and Cuisinart.