Energy Use in Microwave vs Toaster Oven

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Updated August 19, 2022

When it comes to a shorter cooking time for frozen food and quick meals, we have options beyond the conventional oven. The best microwave oven can keep your food warm just like a traditional oven, but is it an energy-efficient option compared to a toaster oven? Read our guide to determine if energy use in microwaves vs. toaster ovens is a more efficient choice.


  • Microwaves use less energy overall if you use them for appropriately sized jobs.
  • Toaster ovens take longer to cook food but are the more energy-efficient tools for great recipes.
  • Both kitchen appliances are great to have, especially if you want to prepare multiple courses at once.

Comparing Energy Use of Microwaves vs Toaster Ovens

In the microwave vs. toaster oven debate, energy efficiency is one of the most important deciding factors. Finding the most energy-efficient cooking tool is essential for cooks on a budget. For small quantities of food, we want the kitchen appliance with the lowest electricity cost.

If you need more cooking space and can afford the installation costs, see our guide on microwave drawer vs. built-in microwave.

Insider Tip

Use your microwave for small serving sizes and save your standard oven for a large quantity of food.

Energy Efficiency

In terms of energy consumption, a microwave usually uses less than a toaster or regular oven. A microwave heats the water molecules in your food via electromagnetic waves. This makes cooking small amounts of food much quicker and uses less energy. Of course, electric ovens with an Energy Star rating are the ideal choice for cooking large servings. That said, the microwave debate heats up when you consider convection roasting vs. baking in a microwave or defrosting vs cooking in a microwave, particularly if you’re using an old vs a new microwave.

Running Cost

Microwaves might have a lower energy usage rate than toaster ovens, but which one has the lower annual energy cost? If you want large servings of crisp food, a toaster oven results in more energy savings. Countertop microwaves cost around 12 cents per hour of cooking time, and in 60 minutes of cooking time, a toaster oven costs 8 cents to run. Keep in mind, though, that both estimates assume you’re using a basic model. On the other hand, you’ll find varying energy costs on an air popper vs a microwave, too.

Cooking Speed

Microwave cooking is much faster, so it uses fewer watts per day and leaves more nutrients in food. That said, speedier cooking doesn’t mean better results. While a toaster oven might take longer, it will make not only larger portions of food but also a wider variety. So, while a toaster oven might not be faster than a microwave for daily cooking, you may like the results a bit better. And, while not directly affecting cooking, using a baking rack vs a microwave cart is handy for placement.


Microwaves are best for heating food, not cooking it. Cooking with a microwave might result in inconsistent heating or uncooked sections of thicker foods.


How did microwave ovens come to be?

Percy Spencer, the inventor of the microwave oven, worked on radar tech during WWII and noticed the rays from the radar melted his candy bar in his pocket. In 1947, Spencer invented the first “Radarange.” The name was eventually changed to “microwave oven” for commercial purposes.

What can you not cook in a toaster oven?

You shouldn’t put styrofoam, parchment paper, plastic, or coffee mugs in your toaster oven. In addition, some units cannot use glass or aluminum foil, so check your product manual for an exact list of what not to use.

Is a toaster oven healthier than a microwave?

There’s little health difference between a toaster oven and a microwave. A toaster oven-baked potato might taste better, but it’s not any healthier than cooking it in a microwave. In fact, microwaves keep more nutrients in food than other cooking options.

STAT: A US Department of Energy survey found that 13% of Americans use their microwave more than five times per day. (source)

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