Microwave vs. Oven: Pros and Cons and How They Differ

Fred's Appliance
March 6, 2024
Oven Repair

You can find a microwave and an oven in most modern kitchens since they are both such handy appliances to own. While both can be used to heat and cook food, there are some important differences between them. 

Each has its own strengths and weaknesses, and they use very different methods to heat food. This article will explain what the differences are between them, what the pros and cons of each are, and what types of food are best suited for each appliance.

By the end of this article, you will know how these two appliances differ, and when it’s best to use one over the other so you can use them both to their full potential.

How Is a Microwave Different from an Oven?

Microwaves use a type of electromagnetic radiation called microwaves, hence the name, to heat food. Ovens, on the other hand, use either a gas flame or a heating element that turns electricity to heat.

Microwaves work by causing the water, sugar, or fat molecules in food or beverages to vibrate rapidly, which produces heat and cooks the food. 

In contrast, the heating element or gas flame of an oven heats the air inside, which surrounds and radiates into the food. Convection ovens additionally use fans to circulate the hot air for faster and more even cooking.

Ovens tend to be much larger in size than microwave ovens, and they can reach higher temperatures.

What Are the Pros and Cons of an Oven?

When pondering whether to use the oven over a microwave, take into consideration these pros and cons:

Pros of an oven:

  • Ovens are excellent for baking, roasting, grilling, and broiling, and for achieving a crispy or browned crust.
  • They usually produce higher quality, better-tasting cooked food than microwaves.
  • They can cook a larger amount of food, making them great for cooking multiple dishes simultaneously.

Cons of an oven:

  • They require more energy to run and heat, making them inefficient for reheating, defrosting, or cooking small meals.
  • They are slower at heating and cooking food.
  • Cleaning an oven requires much more effort than cleaning a microwave.

What Are the Pros and Cons of a Microwave?

Here are the advantages and disadvantages of using a microwave over an oven, to help you decide which is most suitable for your needs: 

Pros of a microwave:

  • Microwaves are small and compact, making them a great choice when you have limited kitchen space.
  • Excellent for reheating and defrosting food.
  • Microwaves can heat food or liquids faster than an oven.
  • They use less energy than an oven to run.
  • Easy to clean and maintain after each use.

Cons of a microwave:

  • Microwaves are not as versatile as ovens, since they cannot brown or crisp food.
  • They can sometimes leave food with a soggy, soft texture.
  • They can only heat a small volume of food, such as a single meal or drink.

What Types of Food Can an Oven Cook Well?

Ovens are excellent for cooking a wide variety of foods and recipes. Here’s a list of some of the most popular options:

  • Meats: Lamb, chicken, pork, beef, and fish are all absolutely delicious when roasted in an oven, creating a crispy crust, skin, or fat on the outside while the inside stays moist and tender.
  • Vegetables: Roast vegetables, such as carrots, potatoes, and parsnips are also delicious when cooked in the oven. For more delicate vegetables, such as broccoli or cabbage, you may need to keep an eye on them so they don’t burn, or cover them with metal foil to protect them.
  • Casseroles: One-pot dishes such as casseroles, lasagnas, macaroni cheese, and Shepherd’s pie bake really well in an oven, allowing the flavors under the surface to combine while the top browns nicely.
  • Pizzas: Pizzas and the simple but satisfying cheese on toast cook well in the oven, creating a nice combination of the crispy outer crust with melted cheese on top.
  • Baked goods: Whether it’s bread, pastries, cookies, cakes, or pies, using an oven is the best method for baking, allowing them to rise and brown properly.

Which Foods Cook Well in a Microwave?

Despite microwaves not being as versatile in terms of cooking methods as an oven, they are still suitable for cooking a large variety of foods. Here’s a small selection of foods that cook well in a microwave:

  • Vegetables: You can steam cook many different vegetables in a microwave by placing them in a microwave-safe container with a small amount of water, and then covering and heating for a few minutes.
  • Soups, curries, and stews: Microwaves are excellent for reheating soups, curries, and stews since they have a soft, moist texture. You can even make and cook these dishes from scratch in the microwave. 
  • Eggs: Certain types of egg recipes can work well in a microwave, such as quick scrambled eggs, omelets, or poached eggs. However, never put an uncracked egg in the microwave, as it will explode!
  • Rice: Whether it’s pre-cooked microwavable packets, or from scratch in a microwave-safe container with some water, microwaves are a great way to cook rice.
  • Hot drinks: Microwaves are great for quickly reheating cups of coffee or tea, and for making hot milk-based drinks like hot chocolate. 
  • Any leftovers: Microwaves are usually the appliance of choice for reheating leftovers quickly, whether that’s from the previous night’s Sunday roast or a slice of apple crumble you recently baked.

Final Thoughts

Microwaves and ovens are both excellent appliances, so it’s impossible to pick which is better overall since it depends on what your specific needs are at the time. Hopefully, however, this article has given you a clearer idea of how these two appliances work and differ from one another, so you can use them both in the most suitable and efficient way possible.

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