Microwave Ovens vs Toaster Ovens

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Updated August 19, 2022

You may wonder what the difference is between a microwave oven vs a toaster oven. Many consumers expect their kitchen appliances to cover a range of functions with a large variety of features, including the best microwaves and toaster ovens. However, the two appliances perform different tasks by using different heating elements. Combined, microwave ovens and toaster ovens cover defrosting, heating, baking, warming, and reheating. Still, the differences continue to expand past heat sources to cover energy consumption, cooking time, and uses. For further comparisons, check out your article on infrared ovens vs microwaves.


  • Microwave ovens defrost, heat, and reheat food by exciting the water molecules within your meals.
  • Toaster ovens toast food, as the name suggests, but may also broil or bake meals.
  • Microwaves remain faster than most toaster ovens, reducing cooking time by one-third of the time.

Differences Between Microwave Ovens and Toaster Ovens

Some kitchens include microwaves and toaster ovens as a way to heat food and prepare meals. The two differ significantly in terms of heat production, energy consumption, cooking time, and cooking types, but they both provide easy-to-use devices that may reduce your cooking time or the space required to do so. Both of these appliances are small enough to fit on your kitchen counter, though microwaves are sometimes built-in. To find out more about the differences between the two, read on. If you want to know more about other methods of warming food, read about a microwave drawer vs a warming drawer.

Insider Tip

Microwaves can reduce cooking times from hours to minutes.

How Microwaves and Toaster Ovens Produce Heat

Microwave ovens use electromagnetic waves to agitate the water molecules in your food. As this agitation occurs, it generates heat that spreads from the liquid molecules to the food surrounding them. The heating process may be adjusted slightly if a microwave features convection or grilling since the functions require different sources. An electric resistance coil heats most toaster ovens, though some contain other heating devices. Convection toaster ovens, like convection microwave ovens, include a fan to circulate the air. This fan enables the heat to encompass the food on all sides.

Energy Efficiency

The average microwave runs at about 1200 watts per hour to run, but you use significantly less energy than that. Manufacturers build each microwave model to operate for about 15-30 minutes per day. As a result, they consume about 0.3 kilowatt-hours, which measures the kilowatt usage per hour as the name implies. On the other hand, a toaster oven reduces consumption by one-third or one-half compared to a conventional oven. They also use about the same amount as microwaves, though some use more energy. The energy consumption varies based on the feature you’re using and the strength of the device.

Cooking Functions

Primarily, toaster ovens toast food, but you could bake or broil some meals using one, such as baking a potato. Because of these capabilities, residents of small apartments without an oven find them especially useful, as do RV campers. These small electric ovens also keep food warm when you select the warming function. Meanwhile, you utilize microwaves for defrosting, heating, and reheating food. They may boil water, but they do not work well on dry foods and bread. Toaster ovens fill this gap by heating foods from the outside without relying on water molecules. Have a look at our guide covering pressure cookers vs microwaves, for another mashup of kitchen appliances.

Cooking Times

Small electric toaster ovens reduce cooking times to a third of the time a conventional oven would take. This reduction stems from the implementation of convection technology and the size of the oven. On the other hand, microwaves greatly reduce cooking times compared to a traditional oven, sometimes turning hours to minutes. Whether it’s frozen food or personal pizza, nothing beats the microwave for speedy cooking. Cooking a potato, popcorn, and smaller quantities of food can be done in even less time.


Microwave ovens have trouble making dry foods and bread, so you should use a toaster oven for these meals.


Which is the greener kitchen gadget: microwave or toaster oven?

The microwave is greener because of its reduced cooking time. The two devices have roughly the same energy consumption, so the time reduction affects the “greenness.”

Can a toaster oven replace a microwave?

No, toaster ovens and microwaves work differently, with toaster ovens heating food from the outside to the inside and microwaves heating water molecules inside the food. Because of this difference, the two appliances can be used for different functions, including toasting, baking, reheating, heating, and defrosting.

Is a toaster oven safer than a microwave?

No, a microwave is safer. Microwaves heat the inside of the food, causing them to stay cool. Meanwhile, a toaster oven warms the entire area within, which can cause injury.

STAT: 27% of households use their toaster oven for only toasting, while 7% use it for only baking. (source)

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