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Microwave vs. Microwave Oven – Here’s The Difference!

Antonio Forde
Updated: July 4, 2024
7 min read

Once in your life, you might have been confused by the difference between microwave and microwave oven. 

Are they similar or not? Read on to find out.

Here’s the Difference Between a Microwave and a Microwave Oven:

There is no difference between a microwave and a microwave oven. Both terms pertain to the same kitchen appliance that utilizes microwave radiation to cook and reheat food. Most consumers just use the term “microwave” as a shorter version of “microwave oven” for convenience. 

What Exactly Is a Microwave? (And Can You Bake in a Microwave?)


A microwave oven is a cooking appliance that uses microwaves, a type of electromagnetic radiation, to cook and heat food.

These electromagnetic waves are super-fast, bouncing off the oven walls before getting absorbed by the food you place in the microwave cavity.

Microwaves have magnetrons, a high-powered vacuum tube that serves as an oscillator. You can glimpse the magnetron through the perforated metal cage just behind the control and instrument panel when you open your appliance.

Microwaves work by targeting the water content of the food, causing them to vibrate. This produces friction, which then generates heat that warms up your food.

The electromagnetic waves are why you cannot put metal in your microwave. If you do, the reaction causes sparks, leading to a fire.

Microwave ovens are incredibly easy to use. Unlike conventional ovens, you do not need to preheat them before using them. It cooks at full capacity the moment you turn it on. 

They also have helpful options like defrost, and different radiation ranges from low to high.

While microwaves can perform many cooking methods, they are mainly used for heating, reheating, and defrosting.

Microwave ovens only heat up the food and not the whole oven cavity, making cooking time faster and more efficient. This is because radiation is absorbed by the food only, and no energy is wasted heating up the space around it.

You can do a lot with your microwave. It is efficient in reheating, steaming, boiling, and simmering food. You are assured that whatever dish you place in is cooked thoroughly and quickly.

If you have pre-packaged or frozen dishes, microwaving them is the fastest and most efficient option.

One thing a microwave oven cannot do is bake.

This is because microwaves cannot hold the temperature you need for baking. However, hybrid microwaves can do a combination of microwaving and basic baking.

Convection microwaves are an advanced type of microwave oven that boasts many features. 

They contain both a microwave emitter and a heating element, so you reheat, cook, grill, and roast food. You can most definitely bake using a convection microwave.

A convection microwave works in at least two modes. The first is the standard method, which uses microwaves to cook or heat food. 

Most microwaves for domestic use have a circular tray called the turntable. This tray rotates to guarantee that your dish is cooked from all sides when the appliance is operating.

Turntables can turn in random directions, clockwise or counter-clockwise, depending on the course it was running when you used it last.

The second mode of convection microwaves uses a heating element. 

The heating elements work in tandem with a fan to ensure that heat is evenly distributed throughout the appliance, allowing for uniform cooking. This is also the reason why you can bake using a convection microwave.

However, you should note that even with a heating element and fan involved, convection microwaves have limitations in baking. 

If you are thinking of baking anything fancy, your oven is the better choice than your microwave. 

Convection microwaves are typically pricier than regular microwaves because of the additional features. 

They are available in different sizes and price points, so you can choose as per your preference.

What Exactly Is an Oven? (And Can You Microwave in an Oven?)

Conventional ovens primarily use thermal insulation for cooking food. Unlike microwaves, ovens work by generating heat directly through their heating coils.

While microwaves use electromagnetic radiation for cooking food, ovens use metal elements or an electric current as a heat source. This means actual heat is involved in cooking food.

With basic ovens, there are top and bottom heating elements. The broil element located at the upper portion of the oven is used for browning and searing meat.

Meanwhile, when you turn on the bake function in your oven, both the bake element found at the bottom and the broil element on top is activated to heat the oven evenly.

These coils warm the oven air and heat the food you are cooking. You can place either raw or pre-cooked food inside your oven, and it does the job for you.

It is perfectly okay to put metal inside a conventional oven. Without microwaves involved, there is no need to worry about sparks and fire.

With conventional ovens, you can choose from various cooking methods for extensive food items options.

You can cook anything, from meat and vegetables to fruit dishes.

Ovens also have temperature gauges that allow you to choose the right temperature for cooking. 

With specific heat settings, you cook food at different speeds and control the temperature as you wish. In comparison, microwaves have limited options for temperature control.

Most ovens have fans located at the back, allowing even heat distribution. This is important for your oven’s performance to cook food thoroughly each and every time.

Since they are a lot more flexible than microwaves, ovens let you grill, broil, roast, and bake to your heart’s content.

The steady dry heat that an oven produces is necessary for baking. With regular microwaves, this is not possible.

You can also microwave in a conventional oven.

In fact, conventional ovens work very well as alternatives for microwave ovens. You can reheat the food just fine, but it will not be as quick as when you reheat using your microwave.

Ovens are handy when you want to reheat entire casseroles and large quantities of food. You do not need to worry about stirring to avoid cold spots. 

This versatility and multifunctionality of conventional ovens make them the better choice for many homemakers. 

Ovens can cost between $350 and $15,000. You can add up to $600 more to your overall bill with labor installation.

Most homeowners shell out around $2,000 on average for unit and installation. 

If you want to save, you may opt for an electric stove rather than the gas variety. 

This is the least expensive of all oven types, but it tends to have a higher operating cost since your energy source is electricity.

Which Is Better, a Microwave or an Oven?

Both microwaves and ovens are valuable tools that assist your daily kitchen needs. Choosing which is better than the other is unviable since they have different strengths and weaknesses.

The appliance that you pick should depend on your day-to-day cooking requirements.

Microwaves are the best for cooking quick meals. If you are in a hurry and need to prepare something fast, then this appliance is God-send to you.

On the other hand, ovens take time to heat up, which means your food will take much longer to be ready. This is why they are not the best option for people who are always on the go.

Meanwhile, if you plan to cook large portions of food, the microwave is not the tool you need. 

While they have even heat distribution, microwaves are not great for foods that require slow cooking, like roasting.

If you want to cook thick meats, you have to make sure that the food reaches the proper temperature to eliminate any foodborne bacteria present.

Moving the meat and turning it once in a while is also advised to avoid cold spots.

Meats cooked in microwaves also tend to be drier and less juicy. But if you are not concerned with quality, this should not stop you from trying.

With ovens, you can also cook multiple dishes simultaneously, saving you time and energy. Ovens have bigger compartments that can accommodate larger cookware. 

You can also use metal wares like cast iron, stainless steel, and aluminum – something that you should not be doing with your microwave.

If you need to crisp or caramelize food, you are definitely better off with an oven. 

Browning is possible when the high temperature breaks down carbohydrates and protein in food. It can also happen as a reaction between sugar and amino acids.

The presence of hot air in the oven cavity causes the food surface to dry then turn brown.

With microwaves, browning is not achieved simply because there is no constant heat present. The rest of the microwave cavity remains cool as your food cooks.

When the steam arising from the food comes in contact with the cool air in the oven cavity, it leaves the food surface moist. Hence, charring does not take place.

If you want to brown, you should use a browning dish with your appliance or opt for a convection-type microwave.

Compared to conventional ovens, microwaves are generally more affordable. You can get a basic model for as low as $50. 

Unless you opt for over-the-range and built-in microwaves, there is no need to worry about installation costs.


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Written by
Antonio Forde
I'm the head-writer @ Ask The Home Geek (or, in plain English, I'm the guy writing & editing the majority of the content here). Current learning project: Korean.
Have any questions? Write us a message.
Antonio Forde
I'm the head-writer @ Ask The Home Geek (or, in plain English, I'm the guy writing & editing the majority of the content here). Current learning project: Korean.