Convection Oven vs. Microwave – What’s the Difference?
Ovens are one of the fastest and most convenient cooking appliances you can have at home. But, because they come in different types and sizes, you need to know how to choose one that will work best for you.
The convection and microwave oven are two of the most commonly confused oven types, and this is because at a glance they look quite similar. Also, both offer the advantage of cooking food faster and with less preparation time.
However, the truth is that the two differ in several aspects from the mode of operation to the cooking methods that they offer.
How you intend to use your appliance will determine which between these two ovens will work best for you, but here we make the choice easier by explaining their main differences, and with overviews of both.
Convection Oven Overview
Convection ovens as they are today first came into the market in 1967, and so contrary to what some users tend to assume, they are not a new technology, and it is only that they have been gaining more popularity in the last few years.
These ovens are more like conventional or traditional ovens because they also include two heating elements with one at the bottom and the other at the top.
However, besides the heating elements, these ovens will also come fitted with some powerful fans which are designed to help circulate the heated air throughout the appliance and around the food to ensure faster and more even cooking.
Unlike the microwave oven, these appliances will not have hot or cold spots and will ensure that your food not only cooks faster but also more evenly.
Also, these ovens are very handy when you want to do some slow cooking as they allow you to adjust the temperature with high precision. And better yet, they will allow you to cook more than one food type at a go.
Because these ovens cook quite fast, you will not need to keep them running for long like when using the conventional types, and this makes them more energy efficient.
But while the fans help make them more efficient, the strong gust that they produce can ruin some food types. Also, given the inclusion of fans, these appliances tend to be relatively more fragile and will hence require a little extra care.
Microwave Oven Overview
The microwave oven has been in use since the 1930s, but it only became available for the domestic users in the late 1960s, and since then the technology has improved tremendously to make these appliances some of the most efficient out there.
The microwave oven will use a very different approach to cook food. Unlike the convection and conventional ovens, they will not cook using heat from traditional heating elements.
Instead, microwaves will cook using electromagnetic waves generated by a magnetron built-in on the unit. And it will work by causing the water molecules in the food to vibrate which then produces heat.
These ovens are known for their super-fast heat up as food that will take a few minutes to heat in regular ovens should be hot enough in the microwave in seconds. Better yet, when cooking with the microwave, there will be less likelihood of burning food.
Many users will appreciate that microwaves will provide a cleaner and more hygienic method of cooking food as they are super easy to clean after use. You will also find their design and functions more user-friendly as anyone can use one effectively.
But for those that are looking for an oven that can crisp and brown food or want something that can cook larger food batches at a go, microwaves might not be very useful as they do not perform well in these areas.
How it Works
Heats and cooks food by circulating hot around it and throughout the appliance
Heats water molecules in food using microwaves
Electricity or gas
Baking, grilling, browning, and roasting
Heating and defrosting food
Longer and more tedious
Convection vs. Microwave Oven
Some home cooks will prefer to buy both microwave and convection ovens while others will go for the convection microwave unit that has both functions as it will be ideal for different cooking situations. However, if you just want to buy one, here are their key differences to help you determine which one you will need.
1. How it Works
When choosing between two popular appliances like the convection and microwave ovens, it is always a good idea to start by understanding how they work. Knowing how they work not only helps you determine which one will give you an easier time but also what suits your specific cooking needs.
The working mechanism of the convection ovens is more like the traditional ovens but much faster and more efficient.
These ovens will cook food by heating hot air and circulating it around the food and throughout the appliance.
Once you power the oven, the first process is to heat the two heating elements which then transfer the heat to the air inside before the fans then circulate the air around to cook food. This mechanism creates a perfect cooking environment to ensure fast and even food cooking with no cold or hot spots.
Microwaves cook using a unique mechanism and not the traditional methods that involve heating food directly or through the air around it.
Instead, with these appliances, you will get a built-in electromagnetic wavelength generator that delivers electromagnetic waves that heat the water molecules in the food causing it to heat up from within.
With microwave ovens, there will be no broiling function which is one of the key things that set it apart from convection ovens.
2. Power Source
Power source also matters when it comes to choosing your oven as you need to be sure that whatever you buy will work for your particular situation.
With the convection oven, you can get models that use either electricity or gas which means that they will work for almost anyone and can be used from anywhere. However, electric convection ovens are more efficient and reliable.
Microwave oven, on the other hand, is typically available in electric types only. Given the working mechanism that these ovens use, it will be hard for any other power source to work well. Hence, with microwave ovens, it is more about choosing something that is more energy-efficient than deciding the power source.
3. Cooking Time
You do not want to wait for ages for your food to cook, and so when deciding which oven to choose, you need to consider the cooking time you expect to get.
Contrary to what many users tend to assume, microwave ovens will not cook faster than convection ovens. Microwave ovens will heat food faster than most other oven types but when it comes to actual cooking it is much slower.
Convection ovens can attain higher temperatures and have a more efficient system of distributing the heat over and around the food which translates to faster cooking for all kinds of foods.
4. Best Uses
How you intend to use your oven will ultimately determine the type that you buy, and so it is important to know the best uses of the convection and microwave ovens.
With that said, the convection ovens will be a more versatile appliance as it can cook almost any food. Hence, you will end up doing much more with these ovens than with the microwaves.
Convection ovens are perfect for baking, grilling, roasting, browning, and even when you want to caramelize foods. Most of these cooking methods will take a lot of effort to achieve on the microwave oven and some will not even be possible.
Microwave ovens will outperform the convection ovens when it comes to warming up food as they will do it faster and with minimal risk of burning or scalding.
But, you can also use microwave ovens to defrost foods, make popcorn and even heat milk or boil water. Some people will even use their microwave to make pasta.
5. Cooking Capacity
The cooking capacity for both convection and microwave ovens will depend on their particular size as both will come in different sizes.
However, a typical convection oven will have a relatively larger capacity than a microwave as many will come with at least two racks to allow you to cook more food at a go.
While there are still some larger microwaves with high capacities, cooking large batches of food on a microwave is not always easy as the thicker the layer the more uneven the food will cook.
Also, another thing that gives the convection oven an edge, while still at the capacity, is that its design and cooking method can allow you to cook different kinds of food at a go.
Whether you are using a convection or microwave oven, you will still need to do some cleanup. Hence, when trying to decide which oven to buy, you need to keep this in mind as you will need an appliance that gives you an easy time when it is time to clean up.
Here the microwave oven seems to have a clear edge over the convection oven because besides giving it a thorough wipe down after use, there is nothing much to do. Hence, with a soft kitchen cloth or sponge and some water, you will have everything you need to clean the microwave. And better yet, there will be no greasy racks to clean.
Convection oven, on the other hand, takes a little more effort to clean as you will first need to allow them to cool down completely before cleaning. Also, there are more places where food particles can get into on these appliances which makes cleanup even harder. And if you make a mess when cooking, the metal food racks will take a lot of time and effort to clean.
Despite how useful ovens might be in the home, you still need to watch out for how much you spend to ensure you get value for your money.
Both convection and microwave ovens are available in both budget and high-end models, and so you can be certain there is a model out there for every budget.
However, the convection ovens tend to be a little more expensive when compared to microwave oven because to get a good one you will need to spend at least $100. With a microwave oven, you can get good enough models for as little as $50.
An oven is one of those must-have appliances at home, but it is also important to make sure you get the right type as they come in different options that will be ideal for different uses.
And when it comes to picking between the convection and microwave oven, you will only need to watch out for their core differences in features and functionality to determine which one suits your particular situation.
With that said, the microwave oven will be a great buy if you are looking for something to defrost and heat food fast. The convection oven is perfect for anyone looking for a great all-round kitchen appliance that will be useful for baking, roasting, grilling and several other cooking methods.