Toaster Oven vs Microwave

A microwave oven is a standard appliance in any modern kitchen. But a toaster oven is also a very useful item to have for cooking quick and simple meals. In fact, many people are replacing their microwave with a toaster oven due to health and other considerations. However, before you jump onto the bandwagon, it is prudent to take a closer look at the toaster oven vs microwave¬† debate. You don’t want to be replacing one with the other only to regret the decision later on.

The Workings Of A Toaster Oven vs Microwave

A toaster oven uses a heating element to heat up the interior. This normally consists of a few rods at the top and bottom of the oven’s interior. The number of rods will depend on the size of the oven. For instance, a small 2-slice toaster oven like the MaxiMatic ETO will have one heating element each at the top and bottom. But a bigger 6-slice toaster oven like the Breville BOV800XL has 5 quartz heating elements in total.

These heating elements will make the interior hot and slowly cook the food from the outside in. If it is a convection toaster oven like the Cuisinart TOB-135, the cooking process is aided by a fan. The fan helps to circulate the hot air to quicken the cooking time.

A microwave oven works differently. Instead of relying on heating elements, it uses high powered radio waves. A microwave oven will have a magnetron which is a microwave generator. The waves generated will penetrate inside the food and make the molecules inside vibrate. The vibrating molecules emit heat which makes the food turn hot.

Pros And Cons Of A Toaster Oven vs Microwave

Cooking Results

As you can see from the explanation above, both of these appliances work differently. So, in the toaster oven vs microwave comparison, the food will come out differently too. That is why certain food is best cooked with a toaster oven while others may turn out better with a microwave.

  • Browning and toasting – You can toast bread with a toaster oven. It browns pretty evenly too with the heating rods used. But you can’t use a microwave to do toasting and browning. That is why you can do away with a toaster if you have a toaster oven at home. But if you just have a microwave, you will still need to invest in a toaster to toast your bread.
  • Crisping – Microwaved food usually ends up being soft and soggy. So, dishes like crispy skin chicken would be best achieved with a toaster oven. Similarly, food like bacon and pizza will have better results with a toaster oven than a microwave. They will come out crispier for a better taste.
  • Boiling – Microwave works very well with food that has a high water content. That is why you can use it to heat up tea and milk perfectly.

Although food may come out tastier with a toaster oven, the downside is it can also result in hard and dried-out meat if overcooked. The heat and fan will dry out the juices if left too long in the oven.

Frozen Food Convenience

Microwaves will have a frozen food feature to help you with the thawing and cooking. But a toaster oven seldom has this feature unless you are willing to invest in a high end model like the Breville BOV845BSS Smart Oven Pro.


A microwave tends to work faster than a toaster oven. So, if you need a meal in a hurry, a microwave is the best choice. It is also fast and easy to use when it comes to reheating liquid, leftovers and other food.

Keeping Warm

A toaster oven can be used to keep food warm. You can do so by lowering the temperature to a minimum. Some models also has a keep warm function like the Black and Decker Spacemaker.¬†However, a microwave can’t keep your food warm unless it has that specific feature incorporated into its design. This feature is typically missing in the low and mid-range microwave models.


A toaster oven can be very hot when in operation. The exterior could burn your hand if you are not careful. This could be a potential danger, especially if you have young kids around. On the other hand, a microwave does not generate much heat in its outer casing. But the problem with a microwave is the danger of accidentally putting in things that you are not supposed to like styrofoam containers, lunch bags and plates with metallic rims.

Although radiation is not a cause for concern when it comes to microwaves, some people still prefer to err on the side of caution and choose to use a toaster oven instead. In actual fact, there is no concrete proof as yet that microwave ovens are harmful to health. The design and safety mechanisms ensure the waves stay inside the oven while it is turned on.


You can get a cheap toaster oven like the Black and Decker 4-slice model for about $30. But the cheapest microwave would probably cost you about $40 to $50. So, it is slightly more expensive if you are budget conscious.

At the top end of the scale, a toaster oven can cost up to $250. This is similar to a microwave although more expensive models can go beyond $300.

Which One Should You Buy?

Toaster oven vs microwave – which one should you buy indeed? Because they are great for different things, you would need to decide what you would be mostly using it for. If your lifestyle often means eating frozen dinners and other convenient take out boxes, then a microwave would be a better fit. But if you often cook at home and like to make a variety of dishes, a toaster oven is a better choice.

At the end of the day, there are pros and cons to each appliance. Some food is definitely better suited to a toaster oven while others to a microwave. The cooking outcomes, speed, cost and features would be different too. One is not necessarily better than the other. It is just a matter of whether a toaster oven or microwave is a better fit for your kind of lifestyle and cooking habits.

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