Microwaves vs Ovens: Their Differences Compared


Are you trying to understand the differences between ovens and microwaves?

When it comes to cooking your food, both options can be great, but understanding all of their differences can be tricky.

Luckily, you’ve come to the right place for answers.

The main differences between ovens and microwaves are their heating method and cooking capability. Microwaves use electromagnetic waves and are great for reheating food, while ovens use a heating element and are more versatile.

Read on to learn more about other differences and make the right choice!

Microwaves vs Ovens

The biggest difference between microwaves and ovens is how they heat food.

Microwaves use super-fast electromagnetic waves (“microwaves”) that cause the water molecules in your food to vibrate rapidly, which generates heat. On the other hand, ovens have a heating element that warms up the air inside to cook the food.

These heating methods influence their cooking speed and capability, which you should consider when deciding between a microwave vs an oven.

In this section, we’ll compare their main differences to help you make an informed decision.

#1 Reheating

When it comes to reheating, microwaves are almost always the better option.

If you’re reheating food, you know it’s already cooked through. You don’t need to worry about raw meat or food-borne disease. All you need is for your food to be hot. Microwaves can do that, and do it quickly.

Ovens can reheat food too, of course. But, it won’t be quick.

It’s worth mentioning that if you’re trying to reheat an entire casserole, an oven is more efficient. It can also help you avoid soggy fries.

Verdict: Microwaves reheat single servings quicker and more efficiently, while ovens can handle large portions.

#2 Capacity

When deciding between an oven and a microwave, you need to keep in mind the capacity of each appliance, especially if you have a large family.

If you tend to cook large dishes, ovens are the way to go. They can cook things through without cold spots or the need to stir.

Cooking with microwaves, on the other hand, is inefficient when it comes to large, solid dishes.

But, if you’re like me and tend to cook for one or two people, microwaves can be your best friend.

Heating up an oven to full temperature and keeping it there to cook a single serving of something wastes your time and electricity.

Verdict: Ovens are great for cooking large dishes, while small dishes are best cooked in the microwave (as long as you’re not cooking raw meat).

#3 Versatility

When it comes to versatility, ovens usually win out.

Microwaves are great for reheating food, but they may not be able to handle more complex cooking tasks like baking. Ovens, on the other hand, can be used for baking, roasting, broiling, and more.

That’s because microwaves excite the water in your food and keep the edges from turning brown and tasty. Ovens don’t have that problem.

Bear in mind that some modern microwaves have unique cooking features, such as the ability to steam vegetables.

Verdict: Ovens are more versatile as they can be used for different purposes.

#4 Maintenance

Although the maintenance requirements can vary depending on the type of oven or microwave you have, ovens typically require more frequent maintenance because they have more components that can break out over time.

Cleaning an oven can also be a bit harder and more time-consuming than cleaning a microwave because they have a larger interior space and more components.

Verdict: While both ovens and microwaves need maintenance to ensure they work properly, ovens may require more frequent maintenance than microwaves.

Can a Microwave be Used as an Oven?

Microwaves can sometimes substitute for ovens, depending on the circumstances. The trick is choosing foods that work well in the microwave.

For example, you should never try to cook raw meat in the microwave. That’s one situation where the oven will always win. By the time the center of a piece of raw meat is cooked in a microwave, the edges will be dry and burnt.

Plus, microwaves won’t kill all the dangerous bacteria that can be found in raw meat. For those types of recipes, stick with an oven.

On the other hand, if you’re cooking something that can be stirred, then a microwave can be fine. Many boxed casserole recipes can be made in the microwave, for example. So, you can cook some large dishes that would normally go in the oven.

Cooking large dishes in the microwave will take a while, but it’s doable.

Is It Cheaper to Use a Microwave or an Oven?

When you’re cooking food, the cheaper option is the most efficient option.

If you already have an oven and a microwave, you can choose the option that cooks your food thoroughly in the shortest amount of time. That keeps your electricity costs down and saves you money.

For example, it wastes energy to heat up your entire oven to cook a single Hot Pocket. On the other hand, you’ll cook a large meal less efficiently in the microwave vs. oven. The quicker cooking method usually winds up being the cheapest.

If you don’t have a microwave or an oven, then you need to consider the cost of the appliance. Microwaves are almost always cheaper to buy and install.

Unless you’re looking at something like a microwave drawer, ovens are going to be more expensive upfront.


Choosing between using a microwave or an oven doesn’t have to be confusing. They’re both useful daily tools with different strengths and weaknesses.

Ovens are more versatile and great for large meals. Microwaves, on the other hand, are at their best with quick, small portions. Knowing how microwaves and ovens compare will help you make more confident cooking decisions.

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Thank you for taking the time to read this, and have a great day!

Hi there! I’m Craig, and I’m the founder of Appliance Analysts. When it comes to appliances and anything electrical, I’ve always loved opening things up, figuring out how they work, and fixing them. This website is where I share free advice from myself and our experts to help our readers solve their appliance/HVAC problems and save money. Read more