Understanding the difference(if any) between “microwave oven” vs “microwave” can be perplexing, especially since there’s a divided opinion about them.

Some believe that the terms primarily mean the same thing. However, there’s a lot that holds a contrary opinion.

This may probably leave you wondering, are they or are they not similar?  Is there any difference between a microwave and a microwave oven? 

This article compares microwave ovens vs microwaves. Read through.

microwave oven vs microwave

Microwave Oven vs Microwave: What is the Difference?

Microwave is just a common short form name for Microwave Oven.

Most people will talk about microwaves when all they are referring to is the microwave oven: a kitchen appliance that uses electromagnetic radiation to heat and cook food.

For most of us, as far as we are concerned, there’s basically no difference between a microwave and a microwave oven.

Both terms pretty much refer to the same thing: a kitchen appliance that we normally use for cooking and reheating food.

However, from a technical point of view, a microwave differs from a microwave oven. 

Scientifically, a microwave is simply a form of energy that’s generally created by a component known as a magnetron.

This energy(microwaves) is the one that a microwave oven (the appliance itself) uses to cook and reheat your food.

How does a microwave oven work?

Inside the chamber of the microwave oven is a core component known as the magnetron. This component’s responsibility is to generate electromagnetic waves. 

When you turn on your microwave oven, the magnetron, with the help of a transformer, channels electrical energy from a power outlet(the socket on the wall) and converts it into high-powered radiation waves.

At the center of the magnetron is a filament that’s conventionally heated by the high voltage, creating a stream of electrons in the process.

The antenna, a microwave transmission device, then channels the volatilized electrons/microwaves into the cooking chamber.

Inside the microwave oven’s food chamber, the microwaves bounce back and forth until they finally penetrate the food that normally sits on a rotating glass turntable. The rotation ensures even distribution of heat.

When microwaves penetrate the food, they activate the water molecules in it, making them vibrate rapidly. The accelerated vibration causes the food to heat up.

Which is better? Microwave or oven?

A microwave oven and a conventional oven are basically two different types of ovens with two different working principles and heating methods. 

Comparing a microwave oven vs conventional oven may seem like an unfair affair. This is because a microwave oven is more like an oven’s variant. 

The two appliances operate on different principles, no doubt. They both are a good choice, oh yeah. They all have some key benefits as well as some drawbacks, definitely.  But as a whole, you get to reheat, cook and defrost your food using either of them.

A microwave or/and an oven can be a better choice depending on what you are using either of them for. Sometimes it just boils down to personal taste and preference.

Now, when you just want to warm up something pretty quickly, a microwave is definitely the best choice.

That does not however mean that an oven cannot reheat your food. Ovens heat and reheat food alike, except that they take much longer compared to microwaves. But… good things take time, don’t they?

An Oven takes an all-round win when it comes to cooking larger dishes. You see, microwaves have a limited space, they cannot even accommodate large dinner plates. This makes them inefficient and unreliable when cooking that huge turkey for thanksgiving.

Additionally. Unlike microwaves that only cook and reheat small quantities of food, an oven adds more features like caramelizing and crisping your food.  

Furthermore, ovens have convection features that evenly distribute the hot air into the oven box, eliminating any chances of hot and cold spots.

Can a microwave be used as an oven?

Yes. A microwave oven can in most cases be used as an oven depending on circumstances. 

For it to work though, the microwave MUST have a convection feature. These types of microwaves are usually referred to as convection microwaves or combination microwaves.

Convection microwaves are microwaves that combine two cooking modes into a single appliance: microwave for regular cooking and reheating, and convection for baking, roasting, grilling and much more.

Inside of a microwave

When you switch to a convection mode on your microwave oven, the heating elements are basically activated and begin to immediately warm up the inside of the microwave. The fan then circulates the heat, ensuring even distribution for even cooking.

However, when you decide to use a microwave as the oven’s alternative, remember that it doesn’t always work best for everything.

Is it cheaper to use a microwave or an oven?

When it comes to cooking, the cheapest method is the most efficient one.

A microwave uses remarkably less energy than an oven. This saves on time and more importantly, on electricity bills, which translates to money.

However, when large dishes are involved, an oven excels as it is the most efficient.

All in all, it comes down to personal experience.


  • Microwave and microwave oven are basically one in the same. Most people use  microwave to refer to a microwave oven.
  •  A microwave uses electromagnetic waves produced by a magnetron to excite the water molecules in the food making them to vibrate rapidly. The rapid vibration causes the food to heat hence cooking your food.
  • Depending on what you are trying to cook, both a microwave oven and a conventional oven can be a better choice. Microwave ovens are good and quick at reheating and generally cooking small quantities of food. On the other hand, ovens can take everything in bulk.
  • Depending on circumstances, a microwave can be used as an oven substitute. However, not all microwaves can be used to bake and grill. Only those with a convection feature. A convection feature allows the even distribution of hot air in the food compartment, making it possible for you to bake and roast.