Convection vs. Non-convection Microwaves: The Key Differences

When searching for a new microwave oven appliance for your home, you’ve probably seen two different types of microwaves: A conventional, non-convection microwave oven, and a convection microwave oven. They’re both microwaves, but they look vastly different. So what are their differences?

A non-convention microwave is smaller and simply used for reheating food or performing simple cooking tasks. A convection microwave is a bit larger, looks like a small conventional oven, and has some cooking and baking functions similar to a conventional oven in addition to its microwave functions.

To learn more about all the differences between a convection and a non-convection microwave, keep reading!

How Convection Microwaves are Similar to Non-convection Microwaves

Convection microwaves are similar to non-convection microwaves in that they can do everything a non-convection microwave can do. A non-convection microwave is a regular, conventional microwave that you find in most homes. Conventional microwaves are made for reheating food, boiling water, defrosting frozen foods, and those that are installed into your overhead cabinetry have fan ventilation and cooktop lighting.

Newer microwaves also have sensors manufactured into them that can detect moisture inside the microwave and automatically adjust the cooking time so that food isn’t overcooked or undercooked. A convection microwave has all of these features, in addition to what makes it different from a non-convection, conventional microwave.

Main Differences Between Convection and Non-convection Microwaves

The main difference between a convection microwave and a non-convection microwave is that a convection microwave has more additional features and more cooking capabilities than a non-convection microwave. These microwaves, much like a conventional oven, can be preheated so that they can roast, bake, or crisp foods or desserts.

In other words, they combine the benefits of both a traditional microwave oven and a conventional oven. A non-convention microwave won’t add that layer of crispiness to the food that a conventional microwave or conventional oven can. Using the convection microwave oven, you’ll be able to bake small casseroles, roast small chickens/turkeys, or bake a small cake or batch of cookies inside.

Another difference between a convection microwave and a non-convection microwave is their appearances. A non-convection microwave is a typical microwave that you’d be able to find in most modern homes, which has a vertical door handle and a panel with a display screen and setting buttons on the right side.

A convection microwave is about the same size as a non-convection microwave, but a little bit larger. In appearance, however, it looks more similar to a conventional oven, often with a horizontal door handle that opens from the top down. Some convection microwaves, however, open from right to left like a non-convection microwave. The main physical difference is that they often have a metal rack inside.

What Can you Cook/Bake With a Convection Microwave That you Can’t With a Non-convection Microwave?

There are many foods you can cook or bake with a convection microwave that you won’t be able to with a traditional, non-convection microwave. These foods include, but are not limited to:

  • Roast chicken
  • Cook small casserole
  • Bake cookies
  • Crisp pizza
  • Small baked cake
  • Reheat two dishes at once (using oven rack)
  • Cook a beef or pork roast
  • Make an omelet
  • Prepare macaroni and cheese
  • Bake pizza rolls
  • Steam vegetables
  • Cook risotto
  • Bake a pie
  • Bake potatoes
  • Roast ham
  • Roast vegetables
  • Bake a pastry
  • Bake muffins
  • Bake cornbread
  • Toasting bread
  • Toasting buns
  • Roasting potatoes

How a Convection Microwave Differs From a Conventional Oven

What makes a convection microwave different from a conventional oven is that because the convection microwave is much smaller than the conventional oven, the convection microwave can preheat and perform cooking, heating, roasting, and baking tasks much faster than a conventional oven can.

Because it’s much smaller than a conventional oven, it takes up much less space. One convection microwave can replace both a conventional oven and a traditional non-convention microwave oven. The conventional microwave will allow for more even cooking, longer cooking times, and more delicious cooking results, just like a conventional oven can that you won’t get out of a traditional microwave.

Is a Convection Microwave Worth Buying?

Many of those who have smaller kitchens or who live alone in a small space, and who have purchased a convection microwave, would say that buying a convection microwave is worth it. This is because they are able to save so much space that normally would have been taken up by a traditional oven and traditional microwave.

So long as they also have a burner that can be plugged into a wall, they’ll be able to accomplish almost any cooking or baking task that they want in their small space using just the burner and the convection microwave. You should keep in mind that there are some limitations to owning a convection microwave and not a conventional oven.

First, you won’t be able to bake large batches of baked goods or cook large portions of food. You also won’t be able to bake more delicate goods in a convection microwave, such as custards, angel food cakes, quick breads, and souffles. This is because the convection microwave has a fan inside that causes hot hair to circulate through the oven rather than rise up as it does in a conventional oven. Thus, cakes and delicate baked goods won’t be able to cook through or rise very evenly.

Deciding whether or not buying a convection microwave is worth it depends on a person-by-person basis. If you already have a large kitchen that already comes with a conventional oven and traditional microwave appliances, you may simply just want to buy a convection oven for convenience and to cut down the time it takes to cook or bake small portions of food that would normally be doubled when using a conventional oven.

If you live in a very small space, such as a studio apartment or a mobile home, which does not already have a conventional oven, you may get a lot of use out of a convection microwave and save a lot of room in your already limited living space.

Really, it comes down to whether or not you need or want a convection microwave and whether you feel like you’ll use it frequently enough to get a good return on investment. If so, buying a convection microwave will absolutely be worth it.

Energy Consumption of Convection Vs. Non-convection Microwaves

Because a convection microwave does more and has more cooking capacities than a traditional, non-convection microwave, it’s going to consume more energy and require a higher voltage outlet to run well without tripping the circuit breaker. Because of this, and because microwaves cook much quicker than conventional ovens, microwave cooking is more energy efficient than conventional oven cooking.

A regular non-convention microwave, on average, takes about 1200 watts per hour to run. Some older microwaves run for an average wattage of 800 watts per hour. For the common 1200 watts per hour microwave, that’s about 300 watts for every 15 minutes of use and can cost you about $13.46 per year of electricity use alone if you use it every day. This cost varies by state.

A convection microwave oven, on the other hand, will take about 3000 watts per hour to run, on average. There are some newer convection microwaves, however, that can run for as low as 1000 watts per hour, with the average for newer convection microwaves running at 1400 watts per hour. Because it takes more power to run a convection microwave on convection mode, it’s going to cost you more per year on your electricity bill than it would be if you used a traditional microwave.

On the other hand, convection microwaves can cost you less to use annually than a conventional oven. And, some newer convection microwaves can be set to eco mode so that they use less standby power when they’re not in use, thus reducing the amount of energy used overall. If your convection microwave doesn’t have this feature, you can simply unplug your microwave whenever not in use.

How do Convection Microwaves Work in Comparison to Non-convection Microwaves?

A microwave oven works by cooking food using a form of radiation called microwaves. These microwaves are produced to cook the food inside the oven from the magnetron, an electron tube. The microwaves bounce off of the metal microwave interior and then are absorbed by the food. The water molecules inside the food that absorb these microwaves will be caused to vibrate.

The microwaves that pass through the food and cause the water molecules to vibrate are transformed from radiation to heat, and the production of heat inside the food cooks your food. Food inside the microwave is cooked from the outside in, rather than inside out because the microwaves can only penetrate the outer layers of food, and the agitation of water molecules because of that penetration creates heat in the inner layers of the food, then cooks the inside.

This causes uneven cooking because while the outer layers of food can be cooked through very well, the inside may not be fully cooked. This is why it’s recommended to turn over solid foods in the microwave halfway through the cooking process or to stir liquid foods periodically during the heating process. You should also allow the food to sit in the microwave after cooking so that the food cooks more thoroughly and evenly as it sits. This will also allow for more time for the outer layers of the food, as well as the dish, to cool down.

A convection microwave, in standard mode, which is essentially the microwave mode, will work the same way as a non-convection microwave. In convection mode, however, it will cook food a bit differently, but in a similar way that conventional ovens cook food. This mode basically transforms your convection microwave into a convection oven, except the heat circulates around the interior of the microwave rather than rising from bottom to top.

Much like a conventional oven, the convection microwave in convection mode uses a heating element and a fan that warms the interior and blows the heat to distribute the hot air around and across the food to cook the food and add a crisp texture to the outer layers. The heat blows in a circular motion, bouncing off the walls, rather than moving up and back down as it does in a conventional oven. You’ll also be able to swap between convection mode and standard mode during the cooking process to cook foods faster than it would take to cook in a conventional oven.

How to Use a Convection Microwave

To reheat food in the convection microwave while it is in standard/microwave mode will be the same process as using a non-convection microwave. We have a step-by-step guide that shows you exactly how to use a non-convection microwave if you’ve never used one before or you need a refresh.

Cooking or baking food in your convection microwave while it is in convection mode will be a different process. This is best for baking and roasting items or cooking foods that you wouldn’t be able to cook well in a microwave setting. You’ll first need to make sure that the convection mode is turned on. It can be switched on simply by pressing the convection mode power button.

Next, you’ll need to preheat the oven. Set the cooking temperature on the control panel and wait for it to preheat to that temperature. Once it’s done preheating, you can then insert your convection-safe dish or container with your prepared food into the convection microwave and place it on the rack. You don’t want to place it at the bottom of the microwave, as the rack supports the food and allows for better airflow and for the food to heat evenly. Once you have the dish placed and centered, close the oven door.

According to how long you want to cook or bake your food, according to your best guess or a recipe, set a timer. You can set a timer directly on the microwave using the control panel to press “Timer” and then input a time. The timer will buzz when it runs out. Then you can check on the food to see if it’s adequately cooked to the correct and safe temperature.

If it’s not quite done, close the door again and allow it to cook for a few more minutes. Once it’s ready, carefully remove the dish using an oven mitt and place the dish on a hot pad or on your stovetop, then allow it to cool off a bit before serving it up and enjoying your warm food.