Before air fryers were a thing, we had convection microwaves or convection ovens. These appliances were a little larger but did everything an air fryer was meant to do. They have been around since the 1970s. They never phased out of the market, however. They are a great option for those looking for a versatile, convenient kitchen appliance.
Today, there's a huge variety of them on the market for high and low price points. In this article, we will go over what a convection microwave is, whether they are worth the money and if they are worth it for you.
What is a Convection Microwave Oven?
A convection microwave oven is a combination of a microwave and oven with a convection feature. Convection microwave oven combines microwave technology with an extra heating element and fan, enabling them to bake, roast, and crisp food as well as reheat food quickly.
It offers you features of both, including cooking, baking, roasting, and sometimes extended period uses like dehydrating. Very simply put, it has a fan and exhaust that a regular oven does not. The fan and exhaust blow hot oven air around the food, then vent it back out. It uses two modes – the first is a standard model that uses microwaves to heat or cook food.
The second is a convection mode that transforms your microwave into a convection oven, which uses a heating element and a fan to evenly distribute heat throughout the appliance. As a result, this hot air surrounds the food so that it cooks evenly and more quickly. This extra heat surrounding the food and the temperature at which the oven heats up is why you can do more types of baking in a convection microwave than a regular one. Foods cook than in an oven because of the smaller area the heat needs to distribute. Today, many convection ovens have multiple settings to help you achieve the right doneness in your food.
Is a Convection Oven a Microwave Oven?
Convection microwave ovens are not the same as microwave ovens. While some functions overlap, they should be considered in different categories. A standard microwave oven is mainly used to reheat or defrost food that has been cooked already.
A convection oven is a combination of a microwave and an oven. Having the option of a “second oven”, which is another name for the second function of your convection oven, you instantly have more convection cooking possibilities.
Is a Convection Oven an Air Fryer?
To be honest, an air fryer seems to cover very similar functions and claims to do much of the same things a convection oven does. But are they the same? The answer is yes, they are almost the same. However, an air fryer is simply a convection oven with a smaller chamber. We find that an air fryer does an amazing job at exactly what it claims to be. It concentrates all its heat in a small area, and the food being cooked cannot be limiting airflow. This can make cooking with it not as versatile. At the end of the day, an air fryer is a convection oven, but a convection oven is not an air fryer.
Settings on Convection Ovens to Try
Not all convection ovens have the following settings. The newer and more expensive retro ovens often have more presets. Below are settings that show how versatile they can be in your home. They are not all-inclusive.
- Bake. Convection ovens are amazing for baking cookies, cakes, and crumbles. They can even work for some bread. It will do it faster and in a shorter amount of time, but make sure to watch it, otherwise, it might burn. Until you know your oven well enough, be sure to check often towards the end of its baking time.
- Roast. One of the biggest tests for a higher-end convection oven is to test whether it can both fit and properly roast a chicken like an oven. While this is a huge exaggeration, in general, the point is you could probably roast smaller portions pretty well and achieve a nice brown top.
- Broil. Broil is hotter than the bake setting usually and is only meant to add golden brown color at the end of cooking. This is great for mac and cheese and casseroles, and sometimes pizza.
- Air Fry. Air Fry is a great function because it gets hotter than broil and brings back to life and reheat any take-out foods. It can definitely help with browning overall while circulating are so your food has extra crispy skin.
- Dehydrate. Some convection microwaves include a dehydrate function for extended use. This requires the machine to bake food at a lower temperature, and for hours. The air circulating through the oven also helps to dry out food faster.
- Frozen. This is a lower temperature setting than the others on a toaster oven, much like a microwave. Unlike a microwave, because it heats using the surrounding air, it defrosts food more evenly and avoids cooking one part while leaving the other raw like a microwave, provided you turn it as you are watching it.
Convection Microwave Pros & Cons
As with every appliance, convection microwaves have their pros and cons. They are useful devices, but they are not necessarily for every kitchen. Some of their pro's include:
However, some cons that might turn a consumer away may be:
Tips for a Convection Microwave
When using a convection oven, some general tips while playing with any of the settings would include:
Lowering the temperature. Most of these include presets with times and temperatures. Set it to the closest preset you need, and lower the temperature and time. This is to avoid overcooking.
Check earlier your food earlier. Food cooks more quickly in a convection microwave. Check on it halfway or just before the recommended cooking time of the way through the recommended cooking time. This allows you to make any necessary adjustments.
Make sure air can circulate through. Convection works because air can circulate around and over the food. Using a tray, pan, and or pizza plate works best, since it does not cover the oven shelves with aluminum foil.
How Much can a Convection Microwave Cost?
Depending on the brand, convection microwave ovens can cost under 150 dollars or go for in the hundreds of dollars. This mainly depends on all the functions we discussed earlier above. The more functions and recognized the brand is, the pricier the item is. Depending on how powerful the oven is (see 1100 watt ovens), it can be more costly as well.
Who Should Buy a Convection Microwave?
Convection microwave ovens are great, but may not be for everyone. Not all people can cook or need another kitchen appliance. You should consider buying a convection microwave if you find that you:
Cooking different types of foods regularly (baked goods, roasted foods, etc.).
Don’t like to cook, but still want to meal prep something healthy with minimal effort.
Have limited space, but want to equip a kitchen with the versatile appliance.
Moved into a new space and there is no stove or oven.
Are traveling in an RV camper and want a convenient way to make meals.
Have a tiny kitchen and no space for a traditional large oven.
Enjoy takeout food but do not want to wait for an oven to preheat.
So, are convection microwaves worth it?
There are a plethora of convection oven options to choose from. We look at the features and limitations of convection microwaves. Cost can be a factor when choosing your appliance. Not everybody needs all the functions of a Breville or a Ninja Food.
If you want a toaster oven that can do just a little more, there are brands that do that and are in a much more affordable price range (see also ovens under 200 bucks). We've gone over what a convection oven is and is not. There are specific settings on a convection microwave that make it a great addition to a kitchen, mainly its ability to bake, roast, and broil. Once you get the hang of it, it can be a hugely versatile appliance in your kitchen than the conventional oven or traditional oven.