Convection Oven vs Microwave: Which One Is Right for You?
No kitchen is complete without an oven. It is an essential component in baking, reheating, and defrosting.
When it comes to ovens, we are spoiled for choices as they come in multiple types, sizes, and prices.
As the two most popular choices, the decision on which oven to get normally comes down to the convection oven vs microwave oven.
What are they and how do they work? How do they generate heat, and what are their strengths and limitations?
Let’s turn up the heat on these two different types of oven and find out which is better for you.
Convection Oven vs Microwave: What’s the Difference?
To help you find out which appliance is best suited to your needs, let’s take a look at both and explore their main points of difference.
1. How They Work
The primary difference between a microwave and an oven is how they heat up food.
Although both use a fan to evenly distribute the heat, the way they generate heat is the key difference.
A convection oven generates heat using heating elements inside of the appliance, usually with one heating element at the top and one at the bottom.
Using a convection oven allows for low-temperature cooking and even heat distribution.
The even heat distribution means that you can often cook food faster, albeit at a lower temperature, than conventional ovens.
It is a common misconception that microwaves heat your food from the inside out.
Actually, a microwave oven uses radiation to generate electromagnetic waves, which excite the water molecules in food and cooks your meal.
The advantage of this method of cooking is that it cooks the food very fast but rarely burns it.
Unfortunately, however, because the water distribution is often different in your food, you sometimes wind up with hot and cold spots when using the microwave.
Before investing in either appliance, you should also consider the average size of each to make sure you have room for them.
Convection ovens are considerably larger than convection microwaves. This allows you to cook more items at once as well as larger joints of meat.
Still, because they’re bigger, they do take up more room in your kitchen.
As such, if you have a small cooking space, a convection oven might be too cumbersome for your area.
Microwave ovens are smaller than convection ovens and take up a lot less space in your kitchen.
This means that you will be limited to cooking smaller portions, as well.
Cleaning is a chore that not many of us enjoy, so you should also look at how easy each appliance is to keep clean.
Anyone who has been on cleanup duty in a kitchen will tell you how tedious cleaning an oven is. They are large, cavernous, and there is always some dirty nook that you missed.
As a result, you normally finish with sore knees, an aching back, and dirty hands.
Cleaning up after using a microwave is considerably easier compared to cleaning a convection oven.
This is because a microwave is smaller, the surfaces are smooth, and it is normally set up on a counter, too, so no more sore knees!
4. Power Source
The power source of each oven can also sometimes vary, so it’s time to ask yourself if you prefer gas or electric.
Convection ovens can run off of electricity or gas.
Although gas can be expensive and requires the occasional refill, with this, you can at least still have a roast dinner if the power goes out.
Microwaves always run using electricity, which can be problematic if you want to have dinner during a blackout.
You also have to make sure that a microwave is placed near an electrical outlet or have access to an extension cord.
4. Cooking Times
One of the most asked questions when people contemplate whether to get a convection oven or a microwave is, does a convection oven cook as fast as a microwave?
The answer to this question kind of depends on what you mean by “cook.”
A microwave definitely heats food faster, but if you are cooking a turkey, a convection oven will beat the microwave every time.
To get a better understanding, let’s break down the specific differences.
Convection ovens are a great substitute for your regular oven because it can cook food 25% faster.
Because convection ovens have a fan, this allows the heat to circulate faster, and the heat will be distributed more evenly.
This speeds up your cooking time significantly.
Compared to a regular oven, microwave ovens will also cook your food faster.
Microwaves are capable of cooking your food up to 25% faster than a convection oven, but it really depends on what you are cooking.
If you are cooking large meals with uneven water distribution, your microwave might take longer to cook.
This is because you will have to reheat the food more times to ensure there are no cold spots left in the center of your dish.
The ultimate appliance offering the fastest cook time is the convection microwave.
This can heat your food as quickly as a microwave, while also allowing you to brown or crisp your dishes.
Is a Convection Microwave the Same as a Convection Oven?
Essentially, a convection microwave is a combination of a microwave and a convection oven.
Convection microwaves can do most of what a convection oven can do, but there are a few differences that you should be aware of.
A convection microwave uses a fan to circulate the energy that is emitted when heating your food.
By doing this, you can brown and crisp food, which is something you cannot do in a regular microwave.
A convection oven also uses a fan to distribute heat in order to evenly cook or warm up your food, but it does so at a much slower pace than a convection microwave.
Use of Metal
One of the main differences between a convection oven and convection microwave is that you cannot put metal in a convection microwave.
Putting metal in a convection microwave, as with any microwave, can cause sparks, which is a fire hazard and should be avoided at all costs.
By contrast, you can use metal in a convection oven without worrying about causing a fire in your kitchen.
Convection Microwave Safety Tips
Speaking of fires, you should also equip yourself even with the most basic tips when it comes to using a convection microwave.
1. Use Microwave-Safe Containers
You should still be using microwave-safe containers even when using a convection microwave.
Certain types of plastics should be avoided to prevent them from melting inside the microwave.
Most containers will specify whether they are microwave safe. When in doubt, it is best to find a container that you are sure is microwave safe.
2. Don’t Use Tightly Sealed Containers
Even though you are using microwave-safe containers, you should still be cautious to not keep your containers fully closed when reheating dishes.
If your lids are sealed too tightly, you run the risk of having the pressure increase inside your container too quickly.
When this happens, the lid will explode in the microwave, sending your food everywhere inside, which, obviously, is not a fun cleanup job!
1. Does a convection oven cook as fast as a microwave?
The short answer is no.
If you pop a potato in a microwave, you’ll have a baked potato in five minutes, but with an oven, it will take over an hour.
This is because microwaves emit waves that bounce around until they come in contact with water molecules inside the food, which then heat up and cook the food.
This is called microwave radiation and is why they can cook certain things (especially things with a lot of water inside) so quickly.
It is also the reason why your food is sometimes cooked unevenly, as the parts with more water and fat will cook far quicker than everything else.
Convection ovens use the heat generated by the elements within the appliance to slowly bake your meal.
They also use fans to ensure the heat circulates and is evenly distributed.
The addition of the fan is what separates convection ovens from conventional ovens.
As a result of this addition, your meal will cook much better and faster. Nevertheless, they are not as quick as the mighty microwave.
In the battle between convection oven vs microwave, when it comes to speed, radiation trumps heated elements every time.
2. Can you put metal in a convection oven?
Metal is safe to go in a convection oven.
In fact, using aluminum foil to wrap your pans is a great life hack to make cleaning up easier!
Some people even choose to line the bottom of their convection ovens with foil to prevent drippings from getting onto the oven itself.
This cuts down the time spent cleaning your oven dramatically, which is great because anyone who has done it will know it can be quite a nasty chore.
3. Can you reheat food in a convection oven?
You can, but whether or not the convection oven is the best option for reheating food depends on what you are heating.
Convection ovens take longer to cook and reheat food than microwaves, so if you are in a hurry, or are just trying to reheat something small, the convection oven might not be your best bet.
However, if you are reheating a larger dish, the convection oven is a great appliance for that.
In the end, the decision rests upon your shoulders.
Good thing, you now know which factors to consider so that you can make the right decision.
Once you do, it's only a matter of time before you make yet another impressive dish that the whole family will surely enjoy.