Microwave and oven are used synonymously by many. But, the fact remains that other than that both cooks food, they are as different as chalk and cheese. Both use different mechanisms to heat, have different functions and different effect on food. We will explore it all in detail through this in-depth article.
How Does Microwave Oven Work?
Microwave ovens are equipped with magnetron. They generate microwave as a result of interaction of electrons with magnetic field. The food molecules absorb these microwaves. The absorption of high energy results in the the molecules vibrating. Further, this vibration generates heat due to friction, which boils/cooks the food.
In modern microwave ovens, you can adjust the power of the microwave setting. But, contrary to what you may expect, microwave ovens do not achieve that by reducing the output power of the magnetron. Instead, it cycles the magnetron on and off in a cycle. This method is called pulse-width modulation. So, if the power is set at 75%, magnetron remains on for 75% of the time and off for 25% of the time. Usually, you set it at lower power and higher duration when you need to defrost food or heat something slowly, but uniformly.
How Does Convection Oven Work?
Convection ovens or convection setting works with the help of a heating element and a fan. Here, the heating element located at the top or sides of the oven cavity heats up. This heat is circulated with the help of a fan. Thus, heat is uniformly distributed throughout the cavity for uniform cooking.
An advantage here is that the heat and air together removes moisture from the surface to form a crispy layer on top. However, you need to be careful with the settings, else, it may overcook and make the food dry.
Types of Microwave Oven
In India, there are mainly two types of microwave ovens. They are solo microwave ovens and convection microwave ovens. Let us understand what they are.
What Is Solo Microwave?
Solo microwave oven, as the name suggests cooks, reheats or boils food only using microwaves. It doesn’t have a heating element or a fan. As a result, you cannot use it for any other cooking functions like baking or grilling. Solo microwave ovens typically cost from around Rs. 5000 onwards.
What Is Convection Microwave?
Convection microwave ovens are a complete package. You can accomplish a variety of cooking functions using a convection microwave oven. Using the microwave setting, you can reheat and boil food quickly. If you want to bake or roast, you can use the convection function whereby heat from the heating element is circulated by the fan. Convection microwave ovens also have a grill function where the fan is switched off.
Further, you can use different functions together too. Almost all convection ovens have functions like microwave + convection and microwave + grill which helps cook easier and quicker. Usually, they cost from Rs. 10,000 onwards.
What is OTG?
OTG, also known as Oven Toaster Grill have heating element and are devoid of a fan to circulate that heat. OTG ovens are the least expensive among different types of ovens as they have very simple heating mechanism with prices starting from around Rs. 3500. With a very few exceptions, most models have mechanical control too. OTG ovens are ideal for making cake, pizza and other baking chores. Newer models come with rotisserie as well. If you are a home-baker, an OTG is ideal and preferred choice for baking various food.
Differences Between Solo Microwave and Convection Ovens
As mentioned earlier, the main difference between solo microwave and convection ovens lies in their heating method. This difference makes a remarkable difference in the speed of cooking and its effect on food.
First of all, microwave ovens are incredibly quick. You can boil a cup of water in about 3-4 minutes depending on the wattage of the oven. But on the flip side, microwave ovens often heat food unevenly. Larger portions of food or denser food especially face this problem as microwave may not penetrate the insides of the food evenly. Generally, food with higher moisture content tend to heat more evenly in microwave ovens.
Convection ovens are slower to cook. Convection mode is usually used to bake cookies, cake, pizza, rolls or to grill chicken, paneer etc. They heat food slowly, but uniformly. Further, the heating process and the air circulation results in browning on the surface- something that microwave ovens cannot achieve.
Related reading: Can I Use Stainless Steel In Oven?
Effect Of Microwave and Convection Heating On Food
Convection heating is uniform and it cooks food in such a way that it is crispy outside and softer inside. However, when it comes to microwave oven, as it is directed at mainly water molecules, food tends to steam and become soggy.
Pros and Cons of Microwave Oven vs Convection Ovens
|They are easy to use as you just need to set the timer in most microwave ovens.
|They are more affordable than convection ovens.
|Doesn’t heat the cookware too much
|The better option for defrosting.
|Heating is often not uniform.
|Sometimes it fails to heat insides of dense food.
|There are limitations on utensils that can be used for microwaving. Metals should be avoided.
|Running microwave ovens for too long may overheat and even result in food like eggs exploding.
|They are more versatile as you can cook a variety of food, bake, grill, roast etc using the convection setting.
|Precise temperature control is possible in convection oven.
|It may take a while to get a hang of using the right temperature, timing and other settings.
|They take much longer time to cook.
|They are comparatively expensive.
|Cookware too gets heated in convection ovens.
Which one to choose?
Most of the convection ovens come with microwave setting as well. Opt for a convection oven if you are looking for the complete package for not just reheating and defrosting, but also for baking, grilling and more.
If on the other hand, your needs are limited to just reheating food and if you just want to occasionally make rice, noodles, mug cake and such simple dishes, then a solo-microwave oven would suffice. They are comparatively less expensive too.