A microwave oven can cook or reheat food much faster than a conventional oven. Using microwave technology, water and particles within the food are quickly heated, usually turning cold or frozen foods into steaming and hot meals. A microwave requires less energy than a toaster or traditional oven, using an average of 750 to 1,100 watts.
A toaster oven essentially works the same way as a traditional convection oven and can cook the same foods. The only limitation is the size of the foods that can be cooked; toaster ovens are best suited for smaller portions. Toaster ovens require less energy than traditional ovens, but more than microwaves, using around 1,200 to 1,700 watts.
There are a few safety concerns that differentiate the ovens. There is a danger of a fire starting in a toaster oven if the food is left in too long, or if food debris or crumbs fall into the heater. Since microwave ovens quickly heat foods there is a danger of liquid or vapor exploding in the user’s hand. A microwave oven is unable to heat substances placed within a metal container, so putting such items into a microwave can cause it to spark and possibly even smoke.
A key difference between the two ovens is cooking times. A microwave oven quickly reheats meals, or cooks frozen meals. This can usually take around 30 seconds to 4 minutes, with it taking around 6 minutes to fully cook a small russet potato. However, a toaster oven typically will reheat food first before the start of the baking or broiling process. Reheating takes longer because the toaster oven has to preheat. Reheating a piece of pizza in a microwave can take around 2 minutes, but can take up to 5 minutes in a toaster oven.
There is a slight difference in price between toaster and microwave ovens. The cost of a toaster oven ranges between $30 and $120. The price of a microwave oven is between $50 and $120 although higher-end models can cost up to several hundred dollars.