Reheat vs Cook in a Microwave

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Updated August 19, 2022

Even if you have the best microwave oven, your favorite foods won’t turn out well if you don’t know how to use your appliance. So, you may wonder whether you can reheat vs. cook in a microwave and what it means for a wide variety of foods. In addition, these cooking modes may affect the nutritional benefits of your meal. So, if you want to understand the difference between these cooking methods, read on for our complete guide.


  • Microwave ovens use electromagnetic radiation to excite the molecules in food, heating it.
  • Do not cook raw meat or raw egg in your microwave due to the dangerous risk of food poisoning.
  • Follow food safety guidelines while reheating your meals, but most types of food should reheat in a microwave just fine.

Comparing Auto-Cook and Auto-Reheat in Microwave Heating

The difference between cooking and reheating in your microwave comes down to the type of food you want to make. Some foods are better suited to the electromagnetic radiation present in your microwave oven. In contrast, others should not be heated in a microwave. That said, some popular foods are much more convenient in a microwave compared to using a conventional oven. So, just like comparing a kettle and microwave for boiling water, both cooking modes will heat your food, but the better choice is in the details.

Insider Tip

Cut your meat into small pieces before reheating it in the microwave. This gives your food more surface area, which helps with heat distribution during the cooking time.

Cooking Speed

Your cook time will not differ between reheat vs cook microwave settings, but you’ll need to cook some foods longer than others. Again, this doesn’t depend on the cooking mode but rather the power levels required to heat your meal properly. That said, you might want to look into a Lightwave oven vs a microwave.


Ensure you know if your container is oven or microwave-safe before putting it in your appliance. Your cooking mode will not change the taste of your food, but unsafe containers can seep toxins into your food, changing the flavor.


Raw foods, like meat and chicken, are not suitable to cook in a microwave, but a hard-boiled egg is excellent if it’s in a microwave-safe container. Assuming everything is safe to cook in a microwave, the electromagnetic radiation poses no threat to nutrients in food. So, it should be safe whether you cook or reheat it in your microwave. Additionally, having a great microwave for popcorn will also result in fluffy, healthy popcorn.


Ensure that your plastic container is microwave-safe before exposing it to microwave blasts. Some containers pose a health risk due to carcinogenic toxins in non-approved cookware.


How did microwave ovens come to be invented?

Percey Spencer invented the first microwave oven, initially called the Radarange, in the 1940s. He introduced the first commercial model to market in 1947, and home microwaves became available in 1967.

Can a microwave be used as an oven?

While you can use a microwave for certain foods, some recipes require the radiant heat of an oven. In addition, microwave heating is not good enough for raw meat or baking from scratch. So, while you can substitute a microwave for an oven in specific recipes, you should at least keep a toaster oven on hand for when a microwave won’t cut it.

Is it cheaper to use a microwave or an oven?

As a method of reheating, a microwave is usually the more energy-efficient choice. Unfortunately, microwave radiation tends to leave the middle of dense foods uncooked while the outer edges dry out. That said, the optimum heating of more full meals will be faster and more efficient in an oven.

STAT: According to the USDA, most microwaves penetrate the food to a depth of 1 to 1½ inches. (source)

Coby McKinley Profile image