I was recently having a conversation with my sister-in-law and the question on toaster ovens vs microwave arose. To our surprise (despite both of us being kitchen appliances aficionados) we couldn’t clearly tell the difference between the two.
Worst yet, the more people we asked, the more we realized none of our friends had an idea what separated one from the other, besides the physical appearance. The only thing we could all agree on is the fact we need both of them in our kitchens if we value convenience and efficiency.
With that confusion in mind, I ventured deep into the internet to review the differences between the two. And now that I am more enlightened, I have decided to create a detailed post explaining the differences between the two.
That said, prior to getting to that section of the post, let us start by laying out an overview of the two products to ensure we are on the same page.
Overview of a Microwave Oven
In this age, you will hardly come across any modern household without the best microwave somewhere in the kitchen. Thanks to their convenience and efficiency, these appliances have practically become a family member in most, if not all, American families.
If you are not accustomed to the appliance, I will briefly explain what it is capable of.
The best Microwave oven is arguably the fastest appliance when it comes to reheating food compared to other types of ovens. This is mainly due to the fact that unlike most ovens, microwave oven does not depend on conventional heating elements to execute this task.
Instead, these appliances utilize electromagnetic waves that can quickly warm your meals from the inside out.
In addition to that, compared to other types of ovens (including toaster ovens), microwave ovens are more energy efficient. They are also way easier to use for people who have never operated such appliances before.
To operate a microwave oven, all one has to do is place the meal on the warming tray, put it into the appliance, push a button, then sit back and relax. No preheating is needed.
Another department that the microwave oven beats every other oven out there is when it comes to daily task requirements such as preparing simple and quick meals. Better yet, you won’t need to worry about too much cleaning after you are done using the appliance as well.
That said, if the list of requirements you have in mind right now includes crisping, browning, baking, and toasting your meals, then I am sorry to notify you that you’ll be disappointed by the microwave oven because it cannot execute such tasks at a level that meets your standards.
Even worse, the list of meals you can prepare in a microwave oven is short, meaning it is not that versatile either.
- Easy to clean
- The best when it comes to energy efficiency
- Perfect for quickly reheating meals
- Easy to operate
- Less versatile
- Not good for browning, toasting, or baking
Now that you understand what a microwave oven is and what it can do, let us describe a toaster oven.
Overview of a Toaster Oven
We can easily describe a toaster oven as a smaller version of the conventional oven you were raised with. This implies that this appliance can do everything the regular oven could do but on a smaller scale.
Unlike the microwave oven, a toaster oven usually avails traditional heating methods whereby the heat is supplied by a heating element that is placed at the bottom or top side of the unit. Some toaster ovens even retail with heating elements both on the top and bottom sides.
This heating feature of the toaster ovens makes them the perfect appliance for browning, roasting, and grilling meals. If you ensure that you acquire the best model out there, then you can even use it to bake sautéed vegetables and small cakes.
Another feature of the toaster oven that is hard to beat is the fact they will not limit you to certain bakeware or cookware like microwave ovens do. You can use anything to carry out your cooking tasks, as long as what you use has the ability to withstand the high heat output that the toaster oven generates.
In addition to that, toaster ovens also prepare your meals at a specific temperature setting, which awards you more control over how to prepare your meals and how they come out. If you fancy faster cooking, the toaster oven is the appliance for you as well.
That said, the main downside of toaster ovens, when compared to microwave ovens, is the fact they are way less energy efficient and cleaning them after use usually is a hassle.
- Great for everyday use
- The best if you want to brown, crisp, and toast your meals
- Will work with most, if not all bakeware and cookware
- Offers the traditional oven-like method of heating
- Way harder to clean
- Less energy efficient
Now that you clearly understand what the two products are and what they can do, I believe we are ready to skip to the main section of the post and look at the differences between toaster ovens vs microwave ovens.
Similarities and contrasts
Bearing in mind that both the microwave oven and the toaster oven are small in size, they both won’t have a higher price tag like the full-sized ovens. Having said that, their prices still differ significantly.
On average, the toaster oven is more expensive than a microwave oven. Even when you want to acquire the most basic toaster oven model in the marketplace, you ought to be ready to part with at least $60. The same cannot be said for microwave ovens, given some of the cheapest ones in the marketplace currently retail at around $40.
When we decide to go to the higher end of the spectrum in regard to prices, the toaster oven is still slightly more expensive. You can get one of the most expensive ones for hundreds of dollars whereas you will need around $300 to acquire one of the best and most state-of-the-art microwave ovens.
Maintenance and cleaning
If you tend to make a mess in your kitchen during operations, then you can rest assured that regardless of which oven you pick, there will be a whole lot of cleanup to do.
That said, if I am purely speaking from experience, then cleaning after using a toaster oven is usually more time consuming and tedious compared to if I were cleaning after using a microwave oven.
First, you will have to sit back and wait for your toaster oven’s heating elements to cool down before you can lay your hands on them. In addition to that, the toaster oven retails with other parts such as the crumb catcher, wire rack, and glass door: all of which usually need to be cleaned after using the appliance.
To make matters worse, all the toaster ovens I have come across also included crannies and nooks where food pieces got trapped, hence giving you a hard time while cleaning.
The microwave oven, on the other hand, is easier to clean since all you need is a sponge or clean kitchen towel, water, and soap. Their glass tray is also usually removable.
Safety is another feature that you should never overlook when you are about to invest your hard-earned dollars in a kitchen appliance.
Generally speaking, just like full-sized ovens, toaster ovens usually pose a greater risk than microwave ovens. This is mainly because the appliance gets hotter during operation. And if the exterior surface is not cool to the touch, then it can hurt anyone who comes into contact with the appliance.
As for microwaves, due to their nature of heating elements, they won’t create any significant heat, so their surface does not pose any risks.
The only downside of using microwaves is the long-lasting notion that they tend to leak harmful radiation into our meals. That side, to this date, there is no concrete evidence to support these claims.
Toaster oven vs Microwave energy use
Before I even dive deeper into this point, you already know who the winner is.
As a general rule of thumb, microwave ovens are more energy-efficient compared to toaster ovens. When using a microwave oven, most models are designed to utilize from 600 to 1200 watts, which usually translates to a total cost of approximately 0.08 – 0.16 dollars per hour.
Toaster ovens, on the other hand, are designed to use from 1,300 to 1,700 watts, implying that they will cost you around 0.16 – 0.22 dollars an hour.
That said, note that the market today is filled with lots of energy-efficient toaster ovens that can use even less electricity than the average microwave oven. Just ensure you scour the internet thoroughly before making your final decision.
As you can see from the comparison above, both products have their advantages and disadvantages; making them both a must-have in your kitchen if you tend to prepare a wide array of meals.