Convection Oven vs. Microwave

When it comes to kitchen appliances, few are more prevalent than the convection oven and the microwave. These common household staples have their pros and cons, but is one better than the other? 

Convection ovens and microwaves have similar goals — they can both heat food. But they do have their differences. While microwaves are convenient, many people prefer convection ovens for their broad range of functions, efficiency, and high-quality results.

As mentioned, while both appliances have similar goals, they both have their fair share of pros and cons. If you’re wondering which one to buy between the two, then you’re in the right place! The rest of this article will expand upon the differences between the two, and why convection ovens are often the preferred option.

What Is the Difference Between a Convection Oven and a Microwave?

The difference between a convection oven and a microwave is that a convection oven uses an electrically-powered fan to heat the air inside, while a microwave heats food with electromagnetic radiation.

Although both appliances have the same goal, they function a lot differently. Convection ovens work by heating a grill and using a fan to circulate air throughout the oven. The fan makes convection ovens much faster than conventional ovens.

You can watch the YouTube video below for more information on how convection ovens work:

On the other hand, microwaves use radio waves to heat up food. These waves enter the food and heat it up by causing the molecules to move quickly. Eventually, these molecules start moving so fast that the temperature of your food increases.

Watch the YouTube video below for a quick and clear explanation of how microwaves work:

These different heating processes provide the two appliances with some distinct pros and cons that lead some people to prefer one over the other. Let’s walk through some of the advantages and disadvantages of each kitchen device.

Convection Oven Pros

  • Convection ovens will heat your food evenly thanks to their fan. The fan circulates the hot air around, giving your food an even crisp throughout. With a convection oven, you won’t have to deal with unevenly heated food ever again!
  • A convection oven can do many things that a microwave can’t. This includes grill, broil, roast, brown, and crisp.
  • Your convection oven will heat all the food inside it, no matter how much there is. This can be helpful for people with big families who need to heat up large quantities of food.
  • Convection ovens are significantly faster at heating food than other appliances. This can be helpful for people who don’t have a lot of time on their hands.

Convection Oven Cons

  • Convection ovens aren’t ideal for baking since the fan prevents bread and cakes from rising. In fact, any food that needs to rise, such as soufflés, won’t cook well in a convection oven.
  • Convection ovens are harder to clean because they have numerous heating elements. The fan, in particular, may be hard to clean depending on the design of your convection oven. 
  • Convection ovens can be easier to break than microwaves. This is because they have multiple parts that need to be removed for cleaning.
  • Convection ovens can’t be used for defrosting food. That’s why you’ll need to thaw your frozen foods before cooking them in your convection oven.

Microwave Pros 

  • Microwaves are great at defrosting food. Many even come with a special defrosting feature.
  • You generally can’t burn your food when using a microwave. While overheating does happen, it’s very hard to burn food in a microwave.
  • Unlike convection ovens, the microwave itself won’t get hot. This is why it’s generally safe to use even by children.
  • Microwaves are very easy to clean. They also require little-to-no maintenance.
  • Microwaves are more energy-efficient than other heating appliances that rely on gas, oil, or larger amounts of electricity to produce heat. It uses as much as 80% less electricity than conventional ovens.

Microwave Cons

  • Several non-food materials like plastic and aluminum don’t react well when microwaved. It’s important to only heat up food in microwave-safe containers when using a microwave. 
  • Microwaves can only heat up food and can’t grill, broil, roast, or toast. This means that any food you put in the microwave will likely come out a little soggy or smushy. 
  • Microwaves are great for small portions since they start from the inside and work their way to the outside. However, larger quantities of food will take significantly longer to heat up. You’ll likely only be able to heat up individual portions of food in a microwave.
  • Microwaves are notoriously bad at heating food evenly. In other words, you may end up with food that is extremely hot in some parts and lukewarm or cold in others.

Are Convection Ovens Faster Than Microwaves?

Convection ovens are faster than microwaves, thanks to their fans. These fans help circulate heat throughout the entirety of the oven, which is why convection ovens do a great job cooking food quickly and evenly.

Besides being much faster at heating food, convection ovens can also heat up large quantities of food. Since the hot air is circulated evenly throughout the oven, convection ovens are just as effective as heating large quantities of food.

Microwaves can only effectively handle small portions of food. Since the appliance can’t control where and how it shoots radio waves at the food, you have to place your food right in the center of the spinning plate. The further away it is from the center, the less evenly and successfully you’ll be able to heat up your food.

Thus, microwaves aren’t ideal for big meals, especially if you’re short on time. 

Can I Replace My Microwave With a Convection Oven?

You can replace your microwave with a convection oven. Convection ovens are incredibly versatile appliances that can handle almost any task that a microwave can, although many opt to keep both. 

A convection oven can do virtually anything that a microwave can, with just a handful of exceptions: 

  • You can’t make popcorn in a convection oven.
  • Defrosting in a convection oven is possible but not recommended by manufacturers.
  • Heating liquids like water, coffee, or milk in a convection oven is time-consuming and energy-intensive.

You should carefully think about your cooking habits when deciding if you can fully replace your microwave with a convection oven. If you tend to reheat food often, make microwave popcorn, or use your microwave to defrost food and heat up liquids, you may not be fully satisfied with just a convection oven.