Battle of the Appliances – Microwave versus Conventional Oven
Modern life is a frantic, bustling melting pot of activity. From the minute we wake up to the minute our head hits the pillow, we scarcely get a chance to rest. Balancing work, family and leisure time can be a precariously tricky tight-rope.
We do, however, need to eat – usually at the end of a long, hard day before we can once and for all slump exhaustedly on to the sofa for an indolent evening of property programmes and soap operas.
We want to cook something quickly, but will speed be at the expense of taste? Not necessarily. Every supermarket has its own range of micro-meals, and the majority of them taste pretty good. On the other hand, there's sometimes a noticeable difference in taste with food that's been cooked in an oven.
So where do we go from here? Well, the obvious step would be to look at both appliances, how they work, how they cook, and draw our own conclusions – so that's exactly what we'll do. Let battle commence!
How do conventional ovens work?
Conventional ovens are appliances with metallic elements and electric current surges through them to heat it up and cook the food. If there's a thermostat, it adjusts and measures the temperature accordingly to maintain a consistent heat. Convection ovens have fans which uniformly distribute heat, and are generally more efficient because they help keep the thermostat temperature down.
Typically, an oven operates between 1000 and 2000 watts, although the electricity consumption depends on the set thermostat temperature, as well as the size of the oven – a larger oven will obviously use up more electricity. Take a look at our video on ‘how an oven works’ for more information.
How do microwaves work?
Microwaves create electromagnetic waves to heat up the food. In contrast to a conventional oven, they don't heat up the entire space inside the appliance; rather, they use the waves to heat just the food – this makes them much more energy-efficient than traditional ovens, running between 500-1000 watts. This method also cuts down on cooking time.
Difference between oven and microwave usage
Whilst both types of oven can be used to heat and cook food, they both serve very different purposes. Ovens are better for undertaking cooking that necessitates the baking or browning of food. A microwave doesn't do this but is ideal for re-heating food, roasting and practically every other type of cooking.
Things to consider
Ultimately, a microwave shouldn't be considered a replacement to a conventional oven. It serves the purpose of heating food quickly but won't brown food like a normal oven. A microwave also can't reach the temperatures of an oven.
A convection oven, though it will maintain a consistent, even temperature, will still have a 50% heat reduction compared to a conventional oven. Microwaves use 40-75% less electricity cooking, depending on what is being cooked. A microwave will use 75% less electricity when it comes to something simple, like a potato, for example.
Whether you're cooking in a conventional oven or microwave, the reality is that ANY type of cooking will invariably destroy some of the nutrients in the food. Microwaves convert the vitamin B12 from an active to an inactive form, and that renders around 40% of B12 in any form unusable.
Features of both appliances
Convection ovens are nothing more than a variation on the traditional oven that circulates heat with a fan. Food warms faster in a convection oven than in a microwave or traditional oven because it features moving air, which strips away any cold air that would otherwise insulate the food. By quickly moving hot air around the food, convection ovens operate at a lower temperature than conventional ovens while still managing to cook food more quickly.
The radiation of a microwave heats water and other molecules within the food and are unique in that they can thoroughly heat up food without necessarily cooking them.
So after all this, who wins: the microwave for its speed and convenience, or the oven for its measured, browned baking abilities? Each appliance has its function and purpose, so it's all a matter of personal choice and preference. Ultimately, however, it's up to you to decide.
By Lee Gilbert
Category: Articles, News & Tips