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What Is a Convection Microwave? Types, Pros & Cons

modern microwave oven on table

It’s hard to overestimate the role of a microwave in a modern-day American household. This simple, affordable kitchen appliance does a great job of reheating food within minutes. You don’t have to wait half an hour before the leftover chicken is ready to eat. However, you won’t be able to bake or roast any meals with it. That’s where convection microwaves come in.

These electric ovens are bigger, stronger, and have more features than a regular microwave oven. With a decent-quality convection microwave, you can do a lot more than just defrosting, cooking, and reheating basic foods. But how does it work, exactly? What are the biggest pros and cons of such a device? And, more importantly, should you start saving for it already? Let’s find out!

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How Does It Work?

For reheating some leftovers and having a bite before you head out, a good old microwave is a life savior. You can also cook some frozen meals in it. But that’s pretty much it. A convection microwave, in contrast, has an additional heating element and a fan that keeps the air flowing in the heating compartment. That allows the owner to roast, cook, and even bake tasty meals, much like you would in a convection oven.

More importantly, the included racks ensure even baking. When the air circulates through the oven, it cooks the dish from all sides (the rack elevates the food). This is how it works: you turn the appliance on, place the chicken, pizza, or whatever else you’re trying to cook/bake/roast into the microwave, select the desired mode, set the timer, and it does the rest! Convection microwaves are much faster, too. They get the food ready in the blink of an eye.

Another big pro: the racks let you prepare not one but several meals simultaneously. Therefore, if you’re having friends and family members over for a nice dinner party, and you’re on a clock, a convection microwave will help get everything ready in time. And you won’t have to stick with a boring cooked dish. Roasting and baking will be an option as well. Summing up, a convection microwave is a combination of a standard microwave and a convection oven.

taking grilled chicken from modern microwave oven
Image Credit: HENADZI KlLENT, Shutterstock

What Are the Different Types of Convection Microwaves?

There are eight types of microwaves available on the market, including over-the-range, low-profile, built-in, and countertop units. However, when it comes to convection microwaves, there isn’t much variety to choose from. These kitchen appliances only have two modes that you can (and should) switch between when choosing what you want to do with your food. Here they are:

Standard Mode

In this mode, the device works exactly like a standard microwave. With it, you can heat or cook food, which is what most run-of-the-mill devices are capable of. This is the default mode and, most likely, you’ll be using it more often as it’s perfect for reheating some leftovers and cooking frozen chicken, turkey, veggies, and other stuff.

Convection Mode

If you want to bake, roast, and preheat your dishes, don’t forget to switch to the convection mode. Once you select it, the microwave will turn into an oven with proper airflow (thanks to the built-in fan), an extra heating element, and even distribution of that heat. As a result, you can prepare a much wider range of meals compared to what the standard mode offers.

What About the Settings?

With a convection microwave, you don’t have to choose between the microwave and the oven—you can use both at once. Plus, most devices come with presets/programming for quick, hassle-free cooking. You just choose the right setting, and the appliance automatically starts as a microwave but switches into the oven mode at the right time to “finish up” your food. This allows for focusing on something else instead of having to stay in the kitchen until the meal is ready.

One of the best things about convection microwaves is that it only takes a second to switch between the presets and choose the one(s) that you like. It does take time to make sense of all the various settings, but once you do that, you’ll start to appreciate the simplicity, flexibility, and capacity of this home appliance device.

pressing buttons of a microwave
Image Credit: Zyn Chakrapong, Shutterstock

Where Is It Used?

Just like any other microwave, the convection microwave is designed, engineered, and built for one thing: preparing food. However, it’s a much more advanced machine that’s capable of not only reheating, but also cooking, roasting, baking, and even crisping. The list of things that you can put in it is quite large. Mostly, people use these appliances for roasting an entire chicken, turkey, or ham.

Thanks to the above-average size of the oven, it will take in a rather big “birdie”. You can also cook green bean casseroles, different cakes, muffins, pies, and regular cookies using metal cookware. And then we have crisp pizza, a beef roast, and roasted marshmallows, to name a few. Sometimes, convection microwaves are used as heating appliances (especially in recreational vehicles).

Now, it’s important to keep in mind that convection microwaves aren’t nearly as big as traditional ovens. On the one hand, that’s great news as you won’t have a hard time trying to find a place for it in the kitchen. But on the other hand, you won’t be able to cook multiple large dishes in a convection microwave at the same time. That said, if the containers, bowls, or the actual meals are quite small, then yes, you can cook/roast/bake it all simultaneously.

Advantages of Convection Microwaves

  • Cook faster than a regular microwave. Convection microwaves circulate the hot air and “attack” the food from all corners. The air swoops in from the top, bottom, and sides, ensuring faster cooking times. This ultimately depends on the recipe, but, for the most part, you can expect the meals to be ready faster compared to a conventional microwave.
  • Excellent racking system. People that like to prepare tons of meals will definitely appreciate multi-rack cooking. There’s nothing hard about this: you just put various dishes on different racks, enter the desired settings (temperature, cooking time, etc.) and the appliance does the rest. You won’t have to rotate the dishes, by the way, because the air is distributed evenly and ensures 360-degree cooking.
  • Capable of preheating frozen foods. With a standard microwave, you’ll have to wait for quite a while before the food that was just grabbed from the fridge turns into a delicious meal. But, thanks to the preheating mode, the standby time is way shorter. It’s also important to mention that this feature helps the food skip the so-called danger zone and keep bacteria at bay.
  • Allow you to roast and bake. Grilling, browning, roasting, and crisping foods are a fine American tradition. You can do all that by investing in a convection microwave.

Disadvantages of Convection Microwaves

  • More expensive than a regular microwave. A convection microwave is like the perfect combo between a microwave and a convection oven. So, that’s why it costs more. However, these appliances are cheaper than traditional ovens, and, thanks to the relatively small size, they don’t need much space in the kitchen. That’s one of the reasons why they are so popular in RVs.
  • Take some time to master. Convection microwaves aren’t that complicated. If you’ve ever had to operate any modern kitchen appliance, you shouldn’t have a hard time figuring this device out. But all those menus, options, and cooking modes might be a bit too much at first. The good news is that most manufacturers include detailed instructions in the package. The intuitive touch panels help as well. Still, there will be a gentle learning curve
choosing a microwave in an electronics store
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is a Convection Microwave Really Worth It?

The answer is yes, but only if you do, indeed, have use for it. As mentioned, these devices are significantly better than regular microwaves. They can preheat frozen goods in 15–20 minutes and come with built-in racks for cooking multiple dishes at the same time. On top of that, you can use a convection microwave for roasting and baking. But, if you’re a single person or a couple, all these extras might not be that important.

True, it’s nice to have an appliance that can get all kinds of meals ready in one go. However, if you mostly use the oven to reheat some soup or a slice of pizza, a standard oven will be able to do all that at a much lower price. So, it’s up to you to decide whether you’re ready to pay for the extra features and capacity or not. If you are, then the convection microwave will be worth the investment.

Can Convection Microwaves Handle Metal?

It’s not recommended to use baking sheets or aluminum oil in a conventional microwave because metal reflects the waves generated by the device. What you get out of that is food that’s not cooked evenly. And in some cases, that makes the microwave catch fire. Thankfully, that’s not the case with convection microwaves. All you have to do is switch into the “oven mode”: the hot air will circulate and get the dish ready danger-free.

Convection Microwave Maintenance: How Do You Do It?

You won’t have to do a lot to keep the oven running. The most important thing here is to clean the insides. Make a habit of always cleaning the microwave after using it. Some paper towels should do the trick. For stubborn stains, we recommend heating a big bowl of water for 2–3 minutes and holding it in the oven for at least five minutes (leave the door closed). That should make it easier to get rid of the gunk.

cleaning microwave oven
Image Credit:, Shutterstock
When to Use Convection Microwaves When Not to Use Convection Microwaves
You want to do some roasting and baking You only need the oven for reheating
You’re looking for a multi-tasking device The budget for the appliance is limited
Preheating is important for you You already have a standard microwave
Multiple racks are a big priority You don’t have a big family to feed

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If you’re looking for the golden middle between a standard microwave and a full-fledged oven, a convection microwave will be a great investment. For the most part, it looks and operates exactly like a conventional microwave, yet it’s much faster, more efficient, and can not only reheat and cook but also roast, bake, and make your favorite dishes crispy.

You will have to pay extra for all these techy features, of course. So, essentially, it all comes down to what kind of kitchen appliance you’re looking for. A big family that wants to do more than heat up yesterday’s noodles, pasta, or veggies will find the enhanced capabilities of a convection microwave to be well worth it.

Featured Image Credit: Pixel-Shot, Shutterstock


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