What is the Difference Between a Microwave and an Oven?


Have you ever wondered about the difference between a microwave and an oven? How do they work? What can they do? In this article, you’ll find some thoughts on the differences between microwaves and ovens – and which is best for your lifestyle. 

There are many differences between a microwave and an oven. First, the microwave is a smaller appliance that is much less expensive. Second, ovens use heat for cooking food, while microwaves use microwave radiation.

In this article, we’ll break down the main differences, as well as discuss how a microwave can affect your food. 

Which is Better: A Microwave or an Oven? 

Though both a microwave and an oven will heat your food, they are very different machines. Also, there are many different types of ovens, and there are many kinds of microwaves (some more powerful than others, etc.). 

So, what are the differences between these two common kitchen appliances? This article will give you a complete guide to the differences between ovens and microwaves. 

Here are some of the main differences between a microwave and an oven: 

  1. Size difference 
  2. Speed of cooking 
  3. Price differences 
  4. Method of cooking 
  5. Effects on food

Let’s look at these differences in more depth. 

One note: this article will cover general differences. Not all appliances will act the same way. 

The Size Difference Between Microwaves and Ovens

Microwaves are generally much smaller than standard ovens. When it comes to microwaves, you can find some that are nearly portable, fitting easily in a small cupboard. However, there are also midsize microwaves that hang above standard kitchen ovens. Still, even larger microwaves are almost big enough to heat an entire Thanksgiving turkey. 

Stoves also come in many sizes. The very small toaster oven is essentially a tabletop oven – some toaster ovens are smaller than microwaves. There are also your standard ovens that usually rest on the ground and may be connected to gas or electricity for power. 

Many people have found double-stack ovens quite useful. Usually, with a double-stack oven, the top oven is relatively small (the size of a large microwave), while the bottom oven is large. This makes it easy to cook several different dishes at different temperatures. 

The Speed of Cooking on Microwaves and Ovens 

The large oven is known to take longer to cook something, while the microwave is known to be a fast option. That’s why so many frozen foods are made for the microwave. Just take them out of the box, throw them in the microwave, and you’ll have an edible meal within minutes. 

However, the regular oven can cook things pretty quickly. If you look on the back of many frozen foods, for example, you’ll find they often have a rating for a regular oven. Usually, the regular oven only takes several more minutes than a microwave. That said, it depends largely on the type and size of the food and the power of the microwave.

Price Differences Between an Oven and a Microwave 

Are you thinking about buying a microwave or an oven? Maybe you’re considering a toaster oven or a microwave? This section will give you some information on each cooking machine! 

In general, the microwave will be cheaper than a full-size stove, usually starting at around $50. Even a nice microwave isn’t likely to cost as much as a full electric stove. On the other hand, ovens start at around $500 and go up from there.  

Now, let’s talk about how microwaves and ovens cook your food. 

Microwave vs. Regular Oven Cooking Methods 

Cooking methods are where the microwave and the oven start to show their differences. When you open a microwave, you’ll notice that there’s no heat whatsoever. The only heat is in your food. Why is this? 

The machine uses microwave radiation (hence the name) to cause water molecules to move, generating heat. That’s why, when you take something out of a microwave, you might notice that it’s a little soggy. The sogginess is from the water being activated into steam. 

On the other hand, the regular oven dries things out. That’s why, if you leave your cookies in the oven too long, they turn into shriveled little crisps. The oven simply uses heat from coils to cook your food. Just like the sun can dry everything out, the heat from your stove reduces moisture. Some ovens use convection, which moves the hot air around, cooking the food even more. Of course, if you cook something long enough in the microwave, it can also dry out; however, the steam contained within the unit will more likely make food soggy. 

When cooking your food, you’ll find more people prefer the effects of the oven. The oven will cook your food more evenly, as it doesn’t just target the areas with moisture. The microwave can be uneven due to frequency changes in the microwave. You can learn more about that in this video on how microwaves work

However, the oven heats everything – regardless of moisture. One more caveat: microwaves heat food from the inside out, while ovens heat food from the outside. That’s why, if you fail to cook something long enough in the oven, the inside will still be uncooked. 

You can rely on the microwave for small, daily tasks. But, when it comes to cooking a large meal, you’ll need the power of a regular oven. 

Microwave and Oven Effects on Your Food

This section discusses several things to keep in mind about how microwaves and ovens affect your food. The microwave targets moisture, and it can cook from the inside out. For this reason, microwaves can work very fast, and they can pierce fairly dense material. 

However, as anyone knows, if something spends too much time in the microwave, it’s not always the most appetizing. And, though a microwave does a good job reheating a baked potato, if you need to cook a larger meal, the microwave can heat things unevenly. 

The oven is the better choice if you want your food to taste good. It cooks the food from the outside in, giving your food a delicious crisp with a warm center. Can you imagine biting into a cookie that had a crunchy inside and a gooey outside? Also, the oven is larger, so it’s more practical for cooking large meals. 

Things to Consider about Microwaves and Ovens. 

The microwave and the oven can have different energy uses, so be sure to double-check. You might think, “Eh, I’ll just use my stove for everything. Who needs a microwave?” If that works for you, then awesome. 

However, some stoves – especially older models – can use more energy than a microwave. Double-check your stove energy rating and make sure that it makes sense to use it constantly. You might save money with a microwave. It only costs $50 to get a small microwave for warming drinks and food. 

 Now, let’s talk heat production.

Heat Production Between Microwaves and Ovens 

Some people who live in an especially hot region should consider that a regular stove creates a lot more heat than a microwave – this can make things very uncomfortable in the late summer months when you’re already spending a fortune on AC. So, if you don’t like the extra heat, consider buying a large microwave, and using it more during the summer months. 

Microwaves and ovens are two different machines, and one doesn’t replace the other. However, if you had to ask most people, they’d say that the oven is more versatile, while the microwave is more convenient. Let’s talk about what that means in the next section. 

The Microwave is Convenient – The Oven is Versatile 

In the hands of a skilled baker, there’s a lot you can do with a regular oven. You can cook holiday feasts, or you can warm up leftovers. You can bake bread or cook bacon. Also, we should mention that nearly all regular ovens have tabletop burners, which adds a huge element of versatility. You can boil water, scramble eggs, and grill pancakes. 

The oven can do just about everything. So, we might say that the oven is more versatile. However, if we’re being honest, the microwave is convenient, so some might say it’s more functional for quick uses. 

The microwave doesn’t require much thinking power. You don’t need to stop and consider where to set the temperature. You also don’t need to worry about turning it off. Just place your cup of coffee in there, press the “add 30 seconds” button, and wait until your drink is warm. 

Of course, this is opinion-based. Some people find their stoves much more useful than a microwave.

Final Take on Microwaves and Ovens 

Microwaves and ovens are two different creatures. If you’re wondering whether you need to buy a microwave, the answer is totally up to you. Microwaves and ovens work together. One heats your coffee, and the other bakes your large family meals. The microwave and the oven can share some tasks if needed, but each has their specialty.