I’ve been looking forward to preparing this article, because I own both a toaster oven and a microwave, and I use both on a regular basis.  In my humble opinion, they’re BOTH fantastic appliances, particularly for people living in smaller spaces or for those of us without access to or space for the traditional large ‘built in’ or free standing oven.

Speaking as a user, I use both of these appliances many times a week, but it’s important to understand that they do different things – you can’t replace or interchange one with the other.  So, your buying decision when faced with the two products is really determined by what functionality you require, what you’ll be using it for and what you expect it to do for you.  Let’s take a closer look at both and compare them so that you can assess their value both to your budget and your lifestyle.

First, let’s have some example pics so we know what we’re talking about when we use the terms ‘toaster oven’ or ‘microwave’.  The appliance pictured below is a typical toaster oven.

toaster overn with bread inside
A standard toaster oven

The image following is what we’ll be referring to when we’re discussing microwave ovens.

Microwave oven
A standard microwave oven!

As you can see from the example images above, they’re very similar looking appliances.  Both rectangular in shape, and although they both come in different sizes/volumes, they’re made for kitchen counter usage so they’re always roughly of similar dimensions. 

The color or finish could differ too, but most models of both are either white, grey/steel color or black and you can usually choose which color or finish suits the ‘look’ of your kitchen – just do some online homework or chat to your local retailers about your preferences and the stock they have on hand.

What You Can Expect to Pay

We’ve done the market research for you, and below is a table giving some cost examples for each appliance from major manufacturers.  Bear in mind these figures are correct at the time of writing but must be regarded as estimates. 

Availability or pricing will differ according to your region and the product specs, so do check with your local appliance suppliers for the best deal!  Prices given are for stand – alone counter top appliances, not combination appliances or ‘over the range’ OTR or built in models.

‘ – ‘ indicates that the brand either doesn’t offer the product or no information could be found on it.

BRANDMICROWAVETOASTER OVEN
Samsung$200 – $400
Whirlpool$150 – $330
Frigidaire$90 – $250
L.G$150 – $260
KitchenAidLimited range – approx. $625$150 – $400
BoschOnly over the range models available
Miele$1 000 – $2 000
General Electric$160 – $740$130 – $140
SmegOnly built in or OTR models availableNo counter top models made
Panasonic$100 – $360
Toshiba$80 – $350$50 – $280
Hamilton Beach$55 – $150$60 – $140
Black & Decker$80 – $200$60 – $150

Based on my research, Toshiba, Hamilton Beach and Black & Decker offer the biggest ranges at the best prices, and they’re available at large retailers such as Walmart, so those brands are a good place to start when you’re shopping.

Functionalities of Microwaves vs Toaster Ovens

As we’ve said before, the two appliances are different and both perform necessary functions in the kitchen.  Both appliances work via heat transfer to cook food but they do it in different ways.

Microwaves cook your food by radiation using tiny radio waves of energy, or microwaves.  Ovens rely on heat transfer via convection and conduction to cook your food.

That being the case, you can do different things with each.

A microwave oven is typically used for defrosting and thawing; reheating of pre – cooked food; steaming and cooking.  Some microwave experts even use their microwave ovens for baking!

A toaster oven is generally used for things like toasting; baking; roasting or slow cooking things like casseroles or chili.

So both of them offer a range of different cooking methods that will give you loads of different types of meals.  If you’re anything like me, you won’t want to be eating the same thing every day, so you’ll be using both interchangeably as your mood and needs change. 

Also, let’s not forget the all – important morning staple of your toaster oven – golden, delicious toast!  Toast is something your microwave can’t do, so it’s always best to have both appliances if your budget allows.

bread toast
Toast is something a microwave oven just can’t do!

The great thing about both appliances is that they’re space friendly, so you can enjoy the convenience of microwave reheating and thawing but also the longer and more in depth cooking of an oven with a counter top toaster oven.  As both fit onto standard kitchen size counters, there’s no need for big amounts of overhead or wall space.

Portability

Both your toaster oven and microwave oven were built to be easily movable and portable between residences.  If you move, they’re both of a size and shape to box up carefully and transfer to your new home/student digs/office kitchen.  As long as you have a firm flat counter top and a power point nearby, you’re good to go!

For clarity’s sake, it’s probably good to mention here that EVEN IF you have access to a really, really, long extension cord and an outdoor table, neither appliance should ever be used outdoors.  Although the idea may be tempting, using them outdoors could lead to damage to your appliance, your appliance warranty being voided, or injury such as electrocution.

Typical Power Consumption Toaster Oven vs Microwave

An average sized toaster oven uses 1200 to 1400 watts.  This is about a third to a half LESS energy than a normal sized electric oven.

An average sized microwave uses around 925 watts, so it beats the toaster oven for energy saving but both appliances can be regarded as being energy efficient compared to ‘regular’ or large appliances like fitted ovens or fridges.

  • Using your toaster oven for thirty minutes daily will cost you about $20 over a year.
  • Using your microwave for 5 minutes daily will cost you about $5 over a year

Pro – tip:  If you’re concerned about your power usage and perhaps only using your microwave for reheating or for short bursts, consider going for a smaller size microwave as it’ll use less power to achieve the same result. 

The same logic applies to toaster ovens, the smaller ones will use less power, so if you’re living alone or only using the toaster oven now and again, a smaller one would be both cheaper and more energy – efficient.

What is a Toaster Oven Better For?

In simple terms, your toaster oven is better for cooking from scratch (with raw ingredients), and browning that food.  It’s also leagues ahead of a microwave for baking because of its browning ability.  It’s nowhere near as fast as your microwave, but your food will be beautifully golden and cooked through to perfection.

What is a Microwave Oven Better For?

A microwave is faster and better for reheating already cooked food and for steaming raw ingredients in their own juices or added liquids like stock or water.  A microwave loses out to the toaster oven for browning and longer cooking processes like stewing and baking, but it can’t be beat on speed, convenience and energy efficiency.

Once again, both appliances clearly have their own benefits and ‘areas of expertise’ and it’s difficult to say that one is better than another – it all depends what type of cooking and eating you’re doing!

Toaster Oven vs Microwave Oven – Which is Easier to Clean?

As somebody who owns both and uses both regularly, this is kind of a no – brainer, for me anyway.  In my humble opinion, the microwave is easier to clean because the circulating plate is removable and you can just take it out and wash it under your hot tap with some detergent.

Also, there are no fiddly RACKS or OVEN DRIP TRAYS to contend with AND if you’re going to be a microwave ninja about it like I am, I always use a microwaveable steam/plate cover to avoid splatters and grease getting onto the microwave walls. 

A microwave steam cover is a MUST HAVE item friends!  They’re ridiculously cheap, easily washable and simple to use. 

hand holding a microwave steam cover
Using microwave steam covers can avoid splatters and grease getting onto the microwave walls. 

To make sure you get the right size:  simply take your largest plate that fits into your microwave with you when you buy your steam/plate cover, then match the size of the plate to the sizes of covers the store has available.  The microwaveable steam/plate cover should reach the edges of your plate all around, but be no bigger than that.

They’re such brilliant products and you can use them in a variety of sizes on different microwave safe dishes to steam your food too, they’re brilliant for doing things like chicken breasts, portions of steamed fish and steamed vegetables in the microwave – incredibly quick and because the food is cooking in its own moisture you’re avoiding excess fats whilst keeping all that color and nutrition in, so it’s a really healthy way to prepare your meals.

In terms of cleaning the microwave wins for me but cleaning the toaster oven isn’t exactly a huge chore either, as it’s a smaller appliance and has grease and dirt resistant surfaces to begin with.

Below are some handy tips for cleaning toaster ovens and microwaves. 

  • Remember, when cleaning appliances, always unplug them first.
  • This is a tip I use myself – line the bottom and bottom sides of your toaster oven with a sheet of tin foil, shiny side up.  The shiny side of the tinfoil reflects heat so that the food cooks more quickly, and if you’re cooking things like cakes or pastries containing gloopy ingredients like jam, any spills or explosions of batter etc. are caught on the tinfoil and not messed all over the oven!  To clean up that sort of mess, simply remove the tinfoil and clean it off or replace it with a new sheet of foil altogether.  SO MUCH EASIER than cleaning the whole toaster oven!
  • When using appliances, always do so with clean hands.  If you’re touching your microwave or toaster oven with greasy or oily hands, that leaves traces on the outside and the handles of your appliance that you’ll have to clean off later.  Rather just rinse and dry your hands before touching them and you’ll save time and effort.
  • Before cleaning out smaller appliances like toaster ovens, put a layer of newspaper or old cloths underneath the appliance FIRST to catch any drips or food crumbs that may otherwise fall onto your counter or floor.
  • To quickly degrease the inside of your microwave, you’ll need a microwaveable bowl, hot water and a lemon.  Fill the bowl half way with hot water, then cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice into the water.  Add the two halves of lemon into that water too.  Now microwave the bowl with the lemon in it for 3 minutes on high, OR until the water is boiling, keep an eye on it to check that it doesn’t boil over. 

Once it’s done, leave the bowl and lemons in the microwave for a further 5 minutes without opening the microwave door.  The steam and heat from the lemon and lemon water will loosen any dirt and oil in the microwave, the acid of the lemon will degrease, and the lemon will remove bad smells from the microwave at the same time. 

Once they’re cooled down you can use the lemons (flesh side down) as scrubbing tools for the microwave interior too, that acid will power through grease.  Once you’re done simply wipe the inside of the microwave down with a clean dry cloth.

  • Whether cleaning a toaster oven or a microwave, always use a non – abrasive cleaning agent and cleaning tool so that you’re not damaging the finish of your appliance.  Things like steel wool are absolute horrors for appliances, rather use appliance friendly sponges or cleaning cloths. 
  • Always rely on your owner’s manual – the manufacturer knows what works with their appliance and how to look after it.  To that end, always keep your appliance manuals easily accessible and stored in a safe place like a kitchen drawer.

Thank you for joining us as we looked in some depth at toasters and microwave ovens. 

Both appliances are an absolute gift to cooks, bakers, and eaters everywhere, and we hope the information we’ve provided here will help you in making better buying and usage choices. 

See you next time!