Content Summary

When it comes to cooking or reheating food, two common appliances are considered: the toaster oven and the microwave. While both tools can cook and heat food, they have significant differences in terms of functionality, speed, versatility, and more.

For this reason, we will explore the pros and cons of toaster ovens and microwaves, to help you determine which one is suitable for your cooking needs. Read further!

A toaster oven is a small oven that uses heating elements to cook your food. It works similarly to a regular oven but is smaller in size, making it ideal for toasting, roasting or baking a wide range variety of food, in smaller quantities.
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A microwave oven uses electromagnetic waves to heat your food quickly, making it more convenient for reheating leftovers, cooking frozen dinners, or defrosting food.

Both microwaves and toaster ovens come as countertop models. Both are great appliances, but they serve different purposes. Moreover, we will share our first-hand experience with each appliance, as we’ve tested them out in our kitchen. Read on for more details.

Toaster Oven vs Microwave: Main Differences

1. Heating Elements:

Toaster ovens use different heating elements including Radiant, Nichrome, Quartz, and Ceramic. These heating elements bake food and provide a crispy texture to the food.

Microwave ovens use magnetrons as electromagnetic energy which produce radio waves that heat up food quickly.

2. Speed:

Most toaster ovens take longer to cook food than microwave ovens as they need more time to heat up the internal heating elements. This means that reheating and baking takes a while longer in a toaster oven compared with a microwave.

Microwaves are faster than toaster ovens when it comes to reheating or cooking food since they use radio waves to heat up the food faster. This process is faster than the oven as it cooks foods from all sides at once.

3. Versatility:

Toaster ovens are more versatile than microwaves when it comes to cooking different types of dishes. Toaster ovens can cook almost anything from pizzas, casseroles, cookies and pies, meats, vegetables, to toast and bagels.

Microwaves are limited to reheating leftovers or cooking pre-packaged meals such as frozen dinners, popcorn, soup, boiling water or oatmeal.

4. Energy Consumption:

Toaster ovens use more energy than microwaves as they need to heat up their heating elements before they can cook food. This means that toaster ovens tend to use more energy than microwaves which only need a very short time to warm-up. So a toaster oven costs more than a microwave.

Microwaves are considered the kitchen appliance with the highest energy efficiency as they use less energy than other cooking appliances such as stoves and ovens.

5. Cleaning:

When it comes to cleaning, both toaster ovens and microwaves require some level of maintenance. A glass door is all they have in common.

Toaster ovens often have removable crumb trays, making them easy to clean. However, they can be difficult to clean around the heating elements and require some elbow grease to keep them spotless.

Microwaves, on the other hand, may require cleaning more frequently due to spills and splatters. However, they are easy to clean with some soap and water.

Toaster Ovens

A toaster oven is a mini-oven that operates like a conventional oven, but on a smaller scale. One of the significant benefits of a toaster oven is its versatility. You can use it to toast, bake, broil, roast, and reheat.

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  • Versatile: They have a wide temperature range and heating elements, allowing you to experiment with different cooking techniques. Those include toasting, baking, roasting, broiling, and reheating various dishes, such as pizza, breads, cakes, meats, and vegetables.
  • Save Energy: Toaster ovens use less energy than regular ovens, making them more economical.
  • Great Alternative: A toaster oven can also cook food faster than a conventional oven, which makes it a great alternative.


  • Slow Cooking Time: A toaster oven takes a longer time to cook if you need to preheat pre-cooked meals compared to microwaves, so patience is a virtue when using this appliance.
  • Limited Capacity: You can't cook large meals in a toaster oven, and it also takes up a bit more counter space than a microwave.


A microwave oven uses electromagnetic radiation to heat up food. It is a great appliance for reheating leftovers, cooking frozen food, or melting butter. Microwaves heat up food faster than a toaster oven, and they are easy to use.


  • Heats Quickly: Microwaves reduce cooking time, and only take a few seconds to heat up food, making them suitable for busy households.
  • Easy To Use: Microwaves are more user-friendly and require minimal effort to use, making it easy to operate for people who aren’t particularly cooking-savvy.
  • Best For Reheating Leftovers: Microwaves are excellent for reheating leftovers as it keeps the moisture in the food and doesn't dry it out.
  • Best For Cooking Frozen Foods: Microwaves are excellent for defrosting and cooking frozen foods, and they’re great if you don’t have time to thaw your food before cooking.


  • Limited Functionality: While a microwave is great for reheating leftovers or pre-packaged meals, its functionality is limited when compared to a toaster oven. You can't bake or roast in a microwave.
  • No Crispy Texture: Microwaves don't provide the same browned or crispy exterior that can be achieved with a toaster oven. Microwaves also have a tendency to make food a bit rubbery or soft.
  • Not Fit For Certain Food: Some foods, such as toasts, custards and vegetables, are better suited for a toaster oven than a microwave.

Microwave vs Toaster Oven FAQs

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about microwaves and toaster ovens.

What are common problems with toaster oven?

Some of the common problems with toaster ovens include temperature fluctuations, uneven heating, and burned food. It's also important to make sure that the oven has been properly preheated before use.

What are common problems with microwave?

Common problems with microwaves include sparks, buzzing noises, and food not being cooked properly. It's also important to make sure that the microwave is kept clean and free of any food particles or debris.

Can a microwave replace an oven?

Microwaves can't replace an oven as they have limited functionality compared to an oven. Microwaves are mainly for reheating and cooking pre-packaged meals, while an oven can bake, roast, toast and even grill various dishes.

Can a toaster oven replace a microwave?

A toaster oven can replace a microwave for certain tasks. A toaster oven is more versatile and can be used for baking, roasting, toasting and even broiling various dishes. You can also use it to reheat leftovers or pre-packaged food that you would normally cook in the microwave.

Is it okay to put metal in a microwave?

No, don't put metal in the microwave: this may cause sparks or fire. It is best to use only microwave-safe containers and utensils when using the microwave.

Is a toaster oven better than microwave for preheating foods?

A microwave is better for preheating foods as it takes a shorter time to heat up food compared to a toaster oven. Toaster ovens take longer to heat up, so they may not be suitable for people who are in a hurry.

Is a toaster oven better than a microwave for cooking foods?

A toaster oven is better than a microwave for cooking certain foods, such as pizza and breads. A toaster oven provides a more even heat and can give your food the desired temperature and texture.

Tips & Tricks

1. General Tips:

  • Consider the size of the product, the features it offers, how much energy it uses, and the type of cooking you will be doing. By considering these factors you can choose the right appliance for your needs.
  • It's worth noting that toaster ovens and microwaves need to be used correctly to avoid accidents. Make sure to read the user manual carefully before using either of these appliances.
  • Use heat-resistant glass cookware or containers when cooking in microwaves or toaster ovens as they are best suited for microwave or oven use.
  • Always keep a watchful eye on your food when cooking in either appliance.

2. Using Toaster Ovens:

  • When cooking in a toaster oven, use metal cookware and check on your food regularly to avoid burning.
  • When you’re using a toaster oven, make sure to preheat the appliance before cooking your food.

3. Using Microwaves:

  • It’s best to use a timer when using the microwave, as it can help prevent overcooking or burning your food.
  • Place food in the center of a microwave plate for even cooking.
  • Avoid using plastic containers in microwaves, as microplastics may come off and mix with the food.

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In conclusion, toaster ovens and microwaves have their respective pros and cons, and the choice ultimately depends on your needs and preferences.

If you require versatility, flexibility, and cooking variety, then a toaster oven may be the ideal option. If you need to heat up food quickly and require the convenience of preset buttons, then a microwave may be the better choice.

At the same time, it is good to have both appliances in the kitchen as they complement each other's functionalities.

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We hope that our experience and insights on these two kitchen appliances will help you make an informed decision on what appliance will suit your kitchen needs.

Happy cooking!

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