If you have never used a toaster oven but often use a microwave, you may be wondering how a “toaster oven vs. microwave oven” comparison would look. Even though I have both kitchen appliances, I was wondering this very thing myself. This curiosity led the writing of this article.
Some people have actually ditched their microwaves entirely in favor of toaster ovens. I can’t say that I will ever do this, if for no other reason than our microwave is mounted under our cabinet and the space would look very odd if we removed the microwave. Even if it was a counter top microwave, I doubt I could convince my husband of getting rid of it.
I think there is a place for both cooking appliances, and the side-by-side comparison bears this out. Below are the most common uses for both toaster ovens and microwaves, and how well each type of cooking does for each use.
|How is Food Cooked?||Toaster ovens cook food by heating the oven interior with heating elements. There may be as few as one element or as many as five or six, depending on the model. Food is cooked from the outside in, which takes longer than microwave cooking.||Microwave ovens cook food by using microwaves, which are electromagnetic waves, that heat up water molecules. All the water molecules get heated up at once, which is why microwave cooking is faster than toaster oven cooking.|
|Browning and Toasting|
Toaster ovens win this feature hands down. Heating elements do an excellent job of evenly browning and toasting food.
Microwave ovens are incapable of browning or toasting food.
Crisping is another area where the toaster oven excels. Foods such as bacon or the outer skins of chicken turn out wonderfully crisp.
Microwave cooking usually ends up soggy, not crispy. In order to get crispy bacon you have to cook the heck out of it, but it doesn't compare to toaster oven cooked bacon. And forget about crispy skin on chicken that's cooked in a microwave because it isn't going to happen.
Bread heated in a toaster oven comes up wonderfully warm. You can cook it long enough to be crispy on the outside, yet soft and warm on the inside. Or, you can cook it just long enough to be warm but not crispy.
Microwaves are terrible for heating up bread. Any type of bread ends up tough and chewy. The only way I've ever been able to combat the chewiness is by sprinkling water on the bread first, but then it ends up warm and slightly soggy.
Both toaster ovens and microwave ovens do a good job of cooking potatoes and sweet potatoes. Toaster ovens take longer, but the results are far superior to microwave cooking. I never knew how buttery soft the inside of a sweet potato could be until I cooked it in my toaster oven!
Microwaves do a good job of cooking potatoes and sweet potatoes. They are much faster than toaster ovens, but the results are not quite as good.
|Cooking Frozen Food|
Toaster ovens do an excellent job of cooking frozen foods. Some models, such as the Breville BOV800XL toaster oven, even have a FROZEN FOOD setting that adjusts the cooking time and temperature for frozen foods. Toaster ovens are slower at cooking frozen foods than microwaves, but models with convection cooking will speed up the process, and many foods will have a nice crisp crust.
Microwave ovens also do an excellent job of cooking frozen foods. They are faster than toaster ovens, but the food will not have any type of crispy finish to it.
Many toaster ovens are large enough to cook pizzas ranging in size from 9" to 13". Pizza cooked in a toaster oven comes out perfectly cooked, with a crispy crust.
The only kind of pizza I've ever heard of being cooked in a microwave are Hot Pocket type pizzas, or ones that come with special boxes that have silver on the inside top. The results are marginal at best.
Some toaster ovens are equipped with convection cooking. The benefit of convection cooking is that it cooks faster and at lower temperatures.
Microwave ovens do not use convection cooking.
|Cooking Large Quantities|
Toaster ovens do better with smaller amounts of food, though some are capable of large items, such as entire chickens.
Just about every microwave is capable of cooking large quantities of food.
People are often surprised to learn that you can reheat food in a toaster oven, but it's true. I love reheating food in my toaster oven and prefer the results to food that has been microwaved. This is especially true of anything with bread, such as hamburgers or pizza. The tradeoff for better results is that it takes longer to reheat food in a toaster oven than in a microwave.
Microwaves are probably most often used for reheating foods. They do a much quicker job of reheating than toaster ovens, but the results are, in my opinion, not as good.
You can keep food warm in a toaster oven by placing it inside and keeping the temperature low.
About the only way you can keep food warm in a microwave is to simply keep it inside after it is done cooking. But doing so will cause it to cool if not eaten right away.
It is more complicated to keep a toaster oven clean because there are wire racks and crumb trays to wash, glass doors and walls to wipe down, and heating elements to occasionally clean.
Microwaves are very easy to clean. All parts of the inside are easy to get to. Some models have removable glass trays that you can take to the sink to wipe down or clean.
|Exterior and Interior Heat|
Almost every toaster oven gets hot on the outside during use. Care needs to be taken to prevent burns or melted plastic from the exterior of toaster ovens.
Microwaves do not get hot on the outside during use. Likewise, the inside also stays cool so you only need to worry about the food being hot, not the interior walls, when removing cooked food.
Toaster ovens are almost always smaller, lighter, and easier to move than microwave ovens. The exception would be counter-mounted microwaves, though there are a few toaster ovens that can also be mounted under counters.
As I already said microwaves are almost always bigger, heavier, and harder to move than toaster ovens, with the exception being those microwaves that are mounted under counters.
This is a toss up but I'll give the edge, which is very slight, to microwave ovens. The typical toaster oven uses between 1,200 and 1,800 watts for cooking. It costs about 12¢ per 1,000 watts per hour, so that equates to between 15¢ and 22¢ per hour of usage. But both are much less expensive to use than a conventional wall oven.
I give a very slight edge to the microwave for energy efficiency because most microwaves use between 700 and 1,300 watts for cooking. At about 12¢ per 1,000 watts per hour, your typical microwave costs between 8¢ and 16¢ per hour of usage.
So, there you have it. The microwave cooks faster than the toaster oven, but my personal experience is that all foods cooked in a toaster oven have a better overall texture and taste.
You will need to decide for yourself which type of cooking works best for your needs. Microwaves are great for those who mostly want to reheat foods. Toaster ovens are incredibly versatile and convenient, which, in my opinion, is worth the extra time needed for cooking.