The Difference Between Microwaves and Conventional Ovens

If you’re in the market for a microwave oven, but don’t really know how they compare to a conventional oven, this article is going to run you through the differences. From how they work, to how much they cost, to how they perform. We’ll look at their pros and cons and round things off with a general comparison between the two.

Let’s dive straight in and look at how they each work.

How Does a Microwave Oven Work?

A microwave oven is a cooking appliance that uses radiation from microwaves to heat and cook food. Microwaves are a type of electromagnetic radiation. They are shorter than radio waves and longer than infrared waves.

Microwaves aren’t just used for cooking. You’ll find them being used for radar, certain industrial tasks and for communications amongst other things.

Microwave ovens use the heat from this electromagnetic radiation to heat only the food rather than the whole space inside it. The way they generate microwaves is with a special component called a ‘magnetron’. It sounds like one of the Transformers, but what it does is agitate electrons with a heated filament. This generates the microwaves needed to cook the food.

How Does a Conventional Oven Work?

Your bog-standard oven has the same purpose as a microwave but goes about it differently. Instead of using electromagnetic radiation, they may use metal elements, an electric current or wood amongst other things as a source of heat.

With a conventional oven, you will find a temperature gauge, so you can choose which temperature you are going to cook at. Ovens will most commonly use a fan, also known as a convection oven, to evenly distribute heat. A conventional oven will heat up the chamber of the oven, rather than just the food itself. This will then cook the food inside it.

Pros

So, what are the respective pros of the microwave and conventional oven. We’re going to identify what is most appealing and beneficial about each.

Microwave

  • Microwave ovens are incredibly easy to use. It’s more or less a case of putting your food in it and setting the timer for how you want to cook it and that’s it. It’s this ease of use that makes it a consumer favourite.
  • Microwaves cook food much faster than a conventional oven. You won’t really need to microwave anything for longer than 10 minutes. There’s no need to preheat the oven and it cooks at full capacity from the moment it’s turned on. The food absorbs the radiation, so time and energy isn’t wasted on heating the space around it.
  • Microwaves are generally more affordable than conventional ovens. You can get some really basic models for less than £50 for example. They also don’t incur any installation costs and microwave ovens generally use much less energy more efficiently than a conventional oven does.
  • Microwaves are also more hygienic, easier to clean and use up less space.

Conventional Oven

  • You can use a conventional oven to do many different things. You can bake, toast and grill as well as cooking. Microwave ovens don’t afford you the same choice.
  • One of the other main benefits of using a conventional oven is the temperature control. Different foods cook at different speeds or require certain temperatures. With microwaves, you’re normally only afforded a choice of arbitrary heat settings from ‘Defrost’ to ‘Very High’.
  • A conventional oven that has a fan will also distribute heat evenly just like a microwave oven. This is important for the performance of your oven so can cook thoroughly and consistently.

Cons

Now you know the positives of both microwave and conventional ovens, it’s time to take a closer look at their limitations.

Microwaves

  • Microwaves aren’t effective on thick foods. Whilst they have a very even heat distribution, they can’t cook foods that are around an inch thick or more. If you’re simply reheating something, it’s not so much of an issue. If you’re trying to cook meat, then it is. For instance, you shouldn’t cook a chicken fillet in the microwave.
  • There’s more potential for mishaps with microwaves. Some foods can explode in a microwave. For example, if you use your microwave to poach eggs. If you don’t have the right amount of water, it can cause a mini egg explosion. You can’t put any metals in the microwave as well. Metal reflects the microwaves and can cause sparks to fly or combustion. Most people are generally aware of that fact, however if you have children, you need to ensure that they are also aware of this.

Conventional Ovens

  • If your conventional oven doesn’t have a fan or convection setting, it is likely to heat unevenly. This can lead to an uneven cook.
  • Ovens generally take much longer to cook food than microwave ovens.
  • The largest downside of a conventional oven is its price, though. Ovens aren’t cheap by any means.

Microwaves vs Conventional Ovens

So, when we compare these side by side, how do they shape up? Really, you shouldn’t be choosing whether to get one or the other and these appliances are best when they work in tandem with each other. A microwave oven shouldn’t be your cooking method of choice, despite how convenient it is.

If you need a cooker, you should buy a conventional oven. Ensure that it has all the features you need. The price may be hard to stomach, but it’s a very worthy investment. And there are plenty of ovens and cookers out there that are very reasonably priced.

A microwave should then be bought separately. Together, they give you all the choice you need to cook. Whether you’re going for a quick and easy ready meal or need to defrost some meat that you forgot to take out of the freezer, a microwave oven is extremely handy to have. Its speed and convenience can’t be matched.

You’ll find all of our microwaves and conventional ovens in our cooking section. We’ve got loads of different cooking appliances in all different shapes, sizes, colours and designs. Shop around and pick the best cooking solution for your kitchen whether that be a microwave oven, a built in oven or a range cooker. There’s plenty of choice with products from market-leading appliance brands like Rangemaster, Smeg, Bertazzoni, Bosch and many, many more.