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Toaster Oven vs Microwave – Do I Need Both?

Toaster oven vs microwave

My house has a relatively small kitchen. It annoys me to no end, but it’s what we have. I’ve made the most of this by cutting down on the types of appliances I use on a day-to-day basis and streamlining my cooking process. This involves making difficult decisions about the kinds of devices I need and don’t need in my life.

One big question for people is “how do I reheat food in a way that is space efficient, time efficient, and gives me the best taste?” Well, it’s a tough one. Obviously, people are going to usually suggest microwaves. They’re cheap appliances, they don’t take up a lot of space, and they are really good at performing one function – reheating food, possibly at the expense of flavor or texture.

And that’s why I want to bring up an alternative that is still relatively energy efficient – the toaster oven. Toaster ovens can perform all of the functions of a microwave (including defrosting) while also offering you the ability to cook dishes from scratch. If you need to get as much power and utility crammed into your devices as possible, a toaster oven might be a second option for the space-conscious kitchener.

Table of contents

  • How Is A Toaster Oven Similar To A Microwave?
  • How Is A Toaster Oven Different From A Microwave?
  • Is A Toaster Oven More Energy Efficient Than A Microwave?
  • Is A Toaster Oven Faster Than A Microwave?
  • Is A Toaster Oven Healthier Than A Microwave?
  • How Does A Toaster Oven – Microwave Combo Work?
  • Conclusion

How Is A Toaster Oven Similar To A Microwave?

Toaster ovens and microwave ovens share a lot in common, in fact. They are usually roughly the same size, they don’t require as much energy to heat them as a regular oven, and they are designed to be simple to use.

The Size Comparison

As the average toaster oven is

How Is A Toaster Oven Different From A Microwave?

Is A Toaster Oven More Energy Efficient Than A Microwave?

No, let’s just get that out of the way. Because toaster ovens are powered and work in a different way to microwave ovens, they require more energy to use. This is down to two reasons:

  • They use heated elements to heat up a cooking cavity as opposed to microwaves
  • They generally require longer to cook, meaning that you will be using energy for longer than with a microwave

Are Toaster Ovens Energy Efficient?

But that’s not to say that toaster ovens are inefficient appliances. You won’t be wasting energy by using one. Let’s look at the numbers to find out more about how toaster ovens and microwave ovens compare.

Toaster ovens, on average, use 1700W of energy per hour of cooking. That isn’t a lot when you compare it to, say, a regular oven (which can need in excess of 500W extra to cook for the same period of time).

Depending on your model, this might be higher or lower. If you have a toaster oven with a higher wattage, then the odds are that it is more powerful and this can cut down on the time you spend cooking.

Are Microwaves Energy Efficient?

Microwave ovens, on the other hand, only need between 700W and 1000W per hour of cooking time. In some cases, this is around half the power needed to get your toaster oven working. The savings are clear to see.

Toaster oven vs microwave

It is worth pointing out that a 700W microwave is definitely on the weaker end of the scale and you will find that your cooking times can be almost double that of what you would expect from a 1000W microwave. Most microwaves now come with a wattage of at least 850W, so try not to buy an old-fashioned or simply substandard model.

But this becomes doubly as efficient when you realize that the time you spend cooking with your microwave oven is far shorter than the time you spend cooking with your toaster oven.

Is A Toaster Oven Faster Than A Microwave?

Because you are heating a cooking cavity (much like a regular oven) instead of blasting microwaves at your food, it takes longer for a toaster oven to heat up. In fact, it is worth mentioning that microwave ovens have no preheating time – they don’t need it because you aren’t using heat to cook.

How Fast Is A Toaster Oven?

Toaster ovens have comparable cooking times to a regular oven, usually needing between 5 and 15 minutes extra to cook your dishes (depending on the dish).

For example, if you simply want to reheat a pizza, you may want to give your toaster oven 15 minutes to fully heat the pizza back to piping temperature. If you are cooking toast from scratch, you may need 9 minutes to get a good crunchy texture into the bread.

Toaster oven vs microwave

This all depends on the model and the foodstuff you are trying to cook, but a toaster oven is almost always going to be slower than cooking with a microwave oven. It is designed to cook and reheat things by the use of thermal energy (or heat, to laypeople like you and me), not blast it so it is hot. That takes a lot longer.

How Fast Is A Microwave Oven?

Fast. Ultrafast. When they came on the market, that was what they were sold for – a fast way to cook food for the entire family. Now, speed comes with compromised quality, but that’s just something we have to deal with when we are using microwave ovens.

I suspect most people reheat (or even cook, on the rare occasion) with microwave by guesswork and intuition, but I find that for every pound of food you are cooking, you should be blasting it for 4 minutes.

I don’t recommend cooking foods from scratch in a microwave. In finding out more about how quickly microwaves cook for this article, I found a particularly disturbing article about cooking whole turkeys in a microwave. The texture will be weird and the cooking will probably leave you with a slightly chewy or extremely dry bit of food.

Use an oven / toaster oven when you are planning to cook from scratch.

Is A Toaster Oven Healthier Than A Microwave?

Depending on who you ask, you might have heard that microwave ovens are unhealthy. I want to say that microwaves (not the ovens, necessarily) are harmful to humans. If we are exposed to microwaves too much, we can develop cataracts or get serious, deep burns.

The average microwave does use a lot of microwaves to cook food. The food is actually cooked because the water in the foodstuff starts to shake and (eventually) evaporates when exposed to microwaves. This is why food can be extremely dry when it has come out of the microwave.

I have to say, however, that microwave ovens are no more dangerous than toaster ovens or regular ovens when they are working in proper order. As long as the door on your microwave oven is working properly, you have nothing to worry about. Well, aside from burns from talking piping hot food out of the appliance.

Toaster ovens are also safe to use, but you do have a higher risk of burning due to the glass door and the elements. Although these elements are not superheated like in a regular toaster, they are still extremely hot and can cause serious burns.

The food that comes out of either appliance is also equally safe. Toaster ovens can lead to burnt food (which is difficult with a microwave) which can lead to serious illnesses, however, especially if you eat them on a regular basis.

Toaster oven vs microwave

How Does A Toaster Oven - Microwave Combo Work?

These were very novel inventions to me up until very recently. I was very pleased to find that a number of microwave/toaster oven products (sometimes referred to as microwave convection ovens or microwave kitchen top ovens) are available at reasonable prices.

They look like large, powerful microwaves, but they also have the grilling function of a traditional oven or a toaster oven. This means that you can get all the utility of a toaster oven along with microwaves, promising ultrafast cooking and reheating.

I will say that I don’t own one, but by looking at how they function and testing out my friend’s one, I can say that they are impressive pieces of kit. Being able to defrost, microwave cook, and then “fast bake” (that is, cook like a traditional oven or a toaster oven) without moving the dish out of the cooking cavity is a really interesting function.

Would I suggest getting one if you can only afford to buy either a toaster oven or a microwave? Yes, I would. They are sophisticated pieces of equipment that can perform all of the functions you need without breaking the bank.

You may find that they generally need a little more power than some microwaves (my friend’s microwave – toaster oven combo needed 1800W to work as an oven), but if you can live with that then it is not a difficult trade off.


It’s kind of hard to compare these devices. They serve very different functions in a lot of ways. While you can reheat food in both of them, the toaster oven is not designed to be used in that way. The primary function of a microwave was always going to outstrip what is a secondary function of the toaster oven.

If you can only afford one, however, I would suggest getting a toaster oven. A strange conclusion, you might think, considering that it is slower and less energy efficient, but the range of food that you can cook in a toaster oven is far greater than what you can blast in a microwave.

Really, I wouldn’t suggest to anyone that you should be cooking in a microwave – that is, cooking from scratch. Use it for reheating food and you will never have a problem with your microwave. If you choose to start cooking rice or chickens in your microwave, you may find that you have avoidable problems on your hands.

If you only need to buy an appliance for reheating, get the microwave. There’s no need to use more energy and time to heat up yesterday’s lasagna when microwave ovens are so affordable and practically in every kitchen. Make your life easier and only get a toaster oven when you also need to make use of the rest of its excellent features.

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