I have been fascinated with baking for as long as I can remember. My mom is an avid baker and so I have always seen a baking oven in the house. I say baking oven because that’s all I knew about this oven at the time - that it bakes cakes and pizza and whatnot.
As I grew up we bought a fancy(at least to me it was) Microwave Oven with Convection mode and for a while, we thought we were replacing the old oven with a new multi-purpose device. But boy, we were disappointed with the baking skills of the Microwave ‘oven’. And ever since, we’ve had both in our kitchen.
The moral of the story is - they’re different. Way different.
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Difference between Microwave & Baking Oven (OTG)
Microwave ‘oven’ and a Baking oven (or OTG - Oven Toaster Grill) use different technologies of heating up the food. Hence one cannot produce the results of the other.
A Baking oven (OTG) has heating rods on the base and ceiling of the oven which cook the food in various modes - heating from the bottom, heating from the top or both.
Microwave oven, on the other hand, sends out microwave radiation and stimulates the molecules inside the food components to move around & get heated up pretty quickly in the process.
The result is that food put in a Baking oven gets cooked gradually whereas in the Microwave it gets heated quickly.
This is also the reason that the microwave cannot give the browning effect in food which is certainly desirable in some cases.
For instance, think of a pizza - the charred crusty edges, golden brown cheese on the top and slightly grilled looking vegetables. Well, though you can melt cheese in a microwave, you can't really make a pizza in it. For that you will definitely need those heating rods.
When you go to buy an Oven in the market you would have 3 choices - OTG (Oven-Toaster-Grill), Microwave and a Microwave Convection Oven. The last one is is a hybrid of the first two. It is also the most commonly found oven in Croma/Reliance Digital/Vijay Sales and even online.
And it is believed to be a multipurpose device that can do both, but it really can’t because it utilizes the same technology even in the Convection mode. The only difference is they have added a fan in this. The hot air inside gets rotated and gives some color to the food. But the technology remains the same. There is no real difference between the Microwave & Microwave Convection oven apart from the price.
And I think all that jargon is just thrown around to not let us buy the actual thing we want - An OTG oven to bake our cakes.
Bottom line is - if you just want to heat up stuff, buy a Microwave. If you want to bake/cook - like baking or making a pizza, garlic bread etc, get a Baking oven. Don't buy a hybrid.
Types of Baking Ovens
So remember I told you that the Baking oven has two heating rods - one in the base & other on the top, so that’s a simple oven, also technically known as a Conventional oven. The rods get heated up by electricity and heat the air around it, the hot air rises to the top and the whole cycle continues.
This, however, creates the problem of heat spots - the heat is too much in some parts of the oven and too less in the others and depending on the size of your oven, your food also might be too close or far away from the heating rod creating an uneven cooking environment.
To combat this - in a more sophisticated oven (aka the Convectional Oven), there is an additional fan along with the rods. The fan rotates the hot air within the oven, thus creating a uniform heated environment to bake or roast or cook.
Pro tip - Buy an OTG oven with a fan - it has multiple modes of operation - with & without the fan. This would ensure all the baking/cooking needs are taken care of.
Which Oven Should I Buy?
Since I have started working on experimenting with cookies in my home kitchen - I have worked on three ovens - three very different kinds of ovens.
1. Bajaj Majesty 35 Lt
This one is a basic Convectional oven. The fan inside is not very strong and hence the baking is not very uniform. In the beginning, I had a hard time understanding why the cookies weren’t coming out as they should. I still use it at home, but I wouldn’t recommend it for buying.
Bought At Price: Rs.8,000
2. Morphy Richards 40RCSS
This is one of the top range home ovens. Not only does it have a fan but also different operating modes for different needs. For example - to make cookies the fan is a must. For cakes and pizza, however, not really. So I get to pick and choose how I want to work with it depending on what I’m making. Whether you’re an amateur just starting out or a baking hobbyist, I’m sure this the oven for you. Totally recommended, especially given that it’s not much pricier than the above oven.
Bought At Price: Rs. 11,000
3. Unox Line Micro Oven
A fully professional oven with no visible heat elements(rods) inside. All one can see in this is a large fan at the back wall of the oven which blows the hot air which bakes our cookies. This is important because it lets us bake cookies in four layers. Or I could bake a cake on one of the layers and cookies on the other. And while there are many brands for this kind of professional ovens as well, I swear by Unox. But obviously this is only for those considering baking professionally.
Bought At Price: Rs. 58,000
In the end, I come back to that point - It all boils down to what you want to do with your oven - reheat food, melt chocolate or butter? Go for the Microwave. You want to bake something? A pizza or a cake or even garlic bread? Go for the Baking oven - with two heating rods and a fan. That is a pure convection oven.
It's actually a better idea to keep both devices in your kitchen - but do not buy hybrid versions generally called Microwave Convection Oven. It’s a microwave only - it can’t bake, no matter what the salesperson tells you.
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