With the business of modern life, it's nice to have tools that work to make things easier. That is why many people today see huge benefits in investing in kitchen appliances such as a toaster oven or a microwave. Many of us need to opt for quick, on-the-go options to cook food, especially during busy days.
A toaster oven and a microwave are kitchen essentials that many of us can't do without. Thus, it is important to get a quality brand with the right functions that suit your lifestyle.
But do you need to get both for your kitchen? Or you can simply choose one to include in your range of kitchen arsenal? We're here to help you figure it out!
How Does a Toaster Oven Work?
To begin the toaster oven vs microwave debate, we need to understand each of the appliances first and how they work. Here' we're starting with the toaster over.
The toaster oven is a microwave and an oven combined together in a smaller appliance, designed to fit even a tiny space on your kitchen counter. Many users make use of a toaster oven to make a quick toast for breakfast or reheating left-over foods.
A toaster oven has toasting abilities that allow you to brown bread and other things at different levels. It is also useful when roasting seeds such as sesame when you cannot do so in a typical oven or stove.
This is a feature specific to a toaster oven, since a microwave cannot do browning. As this is an oven type appliance, other functions include baking, broiling, and defrosting.
How Does a Microwave Work?
A microwave is another kitchen essential that many households cannot do without. This appliance works by producing microwaves, that bounces around the interior of the device to quickly heat food.
This heating method makes a microwave great for heating up ready-made food packs, but it can’t make a quick toast like a toaster oven, lacking the same baking/browning ability.
The microwave also has other benefits outside of warming food. If you own a heating pad, you'll know they sometimes require to be placed inside a microwave to heat. You can also use a microwave to disinfect kitchen items with high heat.
Pros and Cons of Toaster Oven vs Microwave
- Can fit in small spaces
- Can be stored when not in use
- Keeps food warm
- Browns and toasts food
- Affordable to buy
- Single rack placement only
- Cannot cook a large quantity of food
- Makes foods dry
- Inefficient thawing and defrosting
- Cannot heat up liquids
- Short cooking and heating time
- Great at heating liquids such as soups and drinks
- Easy to clean
- Does not burn foods
- Available with many functions such as popcorn making
- Defrosts foods easily
- Overheating may make the food soggy
- Cannot brown or toast
- Makes food dry
- Large footprint
The cooking processes between a toaster oven and a microwave are different. While a toaster oven makes use of infrared radiation, the microwave makes use of microwaves, which are electromagnetic waves that heat your food.
Still confused? Let's break it down.
In an oven toaster, when the electrical energy flows to the toaster it produces infrared radiation in thin filaments called coils that are connected together. These coils glow red hot as electricity passes through them making the inside of the toaster hot enough to cook the food.
Since heat is directed straight to the food from the coils, it produces the browning/toasting effect that leads to the crispy food a microwave can't produce. It's basically a smaller version of a conventional oven.
Meanwhile, microwave ovens produce and bounce around microwaves inside the oven to heat water present on the food itself. As the water molecules warm-up, it generates heat to cook and warm the food as needed.
Because of this heating element, it cannot brown or crisp the exterior of the food like toasters. On the upside, microwave ovens have the ability to quickly heat liquids such as tea quickly, which toasters can't do.
When it comes to cooking time between a toaster oven vs microwave, the microwave is the winner. Microwaves work faster because all water molecules within the food heat simultaneously. This allows faster cooking of all food content in the dish. Since a toaster oven cooks in a similar way to a traditional oven, it takes more time to heat up to cook.
However, you need to consider the wattage of the microwave oven you are using for optimum speed. Remember this rule: the higher the wattage is, the faster it heats and cooks.
When it comes to cooking options, both the toaster and microwave have similarities. Both can help you a lot with many of your daily cooking needs. However, you can find limitations on professional use because the temperature of both the toaster and microwave is not as high as a traditional convection oven.
As said earlier, the toaster oven is best for foods that you want to bake, toast, or crisp like French fries or pizza. It can also roast small things such as almond and sesame seeds when your recipe calls for it.
Meanwhile, microwave cooking is perfect if you have time constraints and need to prepare a meal faster. Quick frozen food and liquid-based meals like soup work well here.
Many models of toasters and microwaves require no installation at all, as you can simply put it on top of your kitchen counter and move it around whenever you feel like it.
There are some models that do require installation for people who want a permanent kitchen fixture. If an installation is required, we suggest you request help from a professional to prevent wiring issues, fires, and other accidents.
The size and capacity between a toaster oven vs microwave is a tricky question. They can vary greatly depending on the brands and the models you are purchasing. In general, it's safe to say a microwave will be the larger of the two.
Since toaster ovens are predominantly used for toasting bread, the capacity is usually categorized as a 4-slice or 6-slice model. The sizes of toaster ovens range from 16” x 8” to 20” x 10”.
Meanwhile, microwaves measure the size by wattage and cubic feet. It can vary from 700 watts to 1,200 watts, while cubic feet reading can be between 1.4 cu.ft to 2 cu.ft. The footprint of a standard microwave is 24” x 19”.
Toaster ovens are usually cheaper compared to microwaves, but that depends on the brand and capacity. The most basic model of a toaster oven can cost about $35 for a compact 4-slice one, with 6-slice models ranging from $55 to $75. There are also conventional toaster ovens that cost $200+.
A microwave normally costs between $60 to $250 depending on the wattage and cubic feet. Features such as various settings and component make-up of the structure also affect the price of the microwave.
Toaster ovens and microwaves that need to be installed are more expensive than countertop ones. Aside from the price of the kitchen appliance itself, you also need to budget for installation costs. An installable toaster oven can cost around $150, while the microwave can range from $300 to $600. Installation costs will vary from one installer to another, though it is usually between $150 to $200.
When purchasing any appliance for your home, make sure that you look for an ENERGY STAR Certified logo. Appliances that are certified by ENERGY STAR use less energy compared to those without the certification.
Between the two appliances, a toaster oven uses more energy than a microwave. A toaster oven can cost between $0.15 to $0.25/hr of operation while the microwave cost around $0.08 to $0.15/hr. It is also important to note that a toaster oven cooks food slower than a microwave. Hence, it would cost you more.
Cleaning is the only maintenance you need to do in these appliances. Microwaves are easy to clean, as most come with a removable glass tray, making the interior easy to wipe down. A wet cloth or paper towel can do the trick in cleaning a microwave.
However, it is a different case when it comes to a toaster oven. It has a wire rack that needs to be cleaned and a crumb tray that you need to empty out regularly. You need to be careful with the coils when cleaning, as they shouldn't be exposed to water or moisture.
Safety should always be a top priority in the kitchen! The biggest area of concern for a toaster oven is heat, as it can become hot while operating. Avoid touching the surface while cooking, and avoid the coils. It should also not be placed near flammable materials or in an area that kids can easily reach.
The microwave oven, on the other hand, is safe as long as the door is intact. A broken door can cause radiation to leak from the microwave to your home.
You also need to be careful of the components of the food containers you are putting in the microwave. Metal can have bad reactions in the microwave, and styrofoam and some plastics can melt leading to food contamination.