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Air Fryer vs Microwave: Which is Best? FULL Buying Guide!

Should you buy an air fryer or a microwave? In general, we say get both, and here’s why. For crispy, nutritious variations of fried and baked food, use the air fryer. For quick heating and cooking moist foods, use a microwave.

We use both appliances a lot, and we’ll tell you where they shine, and why we think they both deserve a spot in the kitchen.

Microwave Vs Air Fryer: The Differences

Apart from the difference in design, the major difference is in the method of heating. The air fryer uses circulating hot air to heat and crisp food. The microwave uses electromagnetic radiation to heat food and works better for soft foods.

Air Fryer Cooking Method

Air fryers use heating elements and a fan to circulate the hot air around all sides of the food.

The searing heat crisps the outside of foods, making excellent traditionally fried foods like potatoes, fried chicken, popcorn shrimp, and similar crispy foods.

The air fryer helps to crisp foods that would turn out soggy in a microwave. Furthermore, it uses a minimum of oil. Unlike a regular fryer that requires several inches of oil, the air fryer can make crispy food with a spritz of cooking spray.

Air fryers are equipped with a built-in heating coil that heats up first.

After the heating of the coil, the air fryer’s onboard fan starts spinning, blowing the heat produced by the coil across the food inside the frying basket, cooking it evenly.

An air fryer takes a long time to cook food to get it nice and crispy.

Microwave Cooking Method

Microwaves, on the other hand, heat and cook food by employing electromagnetic radiation within the microwave frequency range. These microwaves vibrate the water molecules in the food, creating friction and heat. This works best for moist foods.

Microwaves shine where speed is needed because they can heat moist foods usually in less than a minute. Something that might take 20 minutes to reheat in an air fryer will be hot in 60 seconds in a microwave.

However, bread tends to get tough, meat gets tough, and fried foods get soggy in the microwave. It’s best to reheat these items in a toaster oven or air fryer.

Which is Better: Microwave or Air Fryer?

In our opinion, it’s worth it to get an air fryer to accompany your microwave, but not to replace it. If your idea is to replace the microwave with an air fryer you’ll be disappointed because it really isn’t the same in any way.

Air fryers tend to take a long time to cook the food, but the end result is a flavored, crispy meal that will leave you craving more.

Microwaves cook food a lot faster than air fryers, but really only shine when cooking moist foods.

Considering that each device introduces a different technology for cooking, it makes sense that they have unique pros and cons. Each appliance does an excellent job of cooking different foods, making it beneficial to own both.

Air Fryer Vs. Microwave: Which is More Efficient?

Unlike microwaves, air fryers require quite a bit of time in order to reach the desired temperature for cooking.

Microwaves and air fryers both come in models between 1,200 and 1,500 watts.

The amount of energy they use depends on how long they run. Usually, microwaves are only running for several minutes but an air fryer will be on between 20 and 40 minutes.

So, the microwave cooks much more efficiently than the air fryer.

Another consideration is the standby mode of the microwave. Where the air fryer will consume zero energy when it’s not on, many microwaves have an LCD time display.

This display will use between 2 and 7 watts 24 hours a day. That adds up to about 2 cents per day in electricity – not worth factoring into the expense of operating the microwave.

Pinpointing the most energy-efficient air fryer or microwave can be pretty daunting for someone who champions low energy consumption.

For good a microwave, we recommend the Panasonic NN-SN966S. If you’re looking for an air fryer, on the other hand, our favorite is the Ninja AF101.

Panasonic Microwave Oven NN-SN966S Stainless Steel...
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  • Inverter Technology with Turbo Defrost:...
  • Large Family Size: This countertop...
  • Smart Cooking Settings with Genius...
  • Keep Warm Feature: This inverter...

Ninja AF101 Air Fryer that Crisps, Roasts, Reheats, &...
  • LESS FAT: Now enjoy guilt-free food. Air...
  • 4-IN-1 VERSATILITY: Includes 4 versatile...
  • DEHYDRATE: Create flat, chip-like...

Air Fryer Vs. Microwave Cooking Capacity

The size of your cooking appliance and its cooking capacity are two of the most vital aspects to take into consideration when shopping for either an air fryer or a microwave.

They’re especially important if you usually cook for a lot of people.

If you take any air fryer and compare it with any microwave oven, it’s bright as day that air fryers are more compact and lightweight than microwaves.

However, they don’t offer as much cooking capacity as microwaves do. So, you have a choice to make, large capacity, or compactness?

If you want a compact microwave, we like the Black & Decker EM720CB7 because it’s not too big to stay on the countertop for daily use if you don’t have the option of mounting it on the wall.

Most air fryers have to be stored on the countertop whereas microwaves can be mounted out of the way or placed in a cabinet.

It is easy to tuck an air fryer in a pantry or cabinet, but you’ll have to take it out and plug it in to use it every day. This makes it less likely that you’ll reach for it first when it’s time to cook or reheat food.

Does that mean that you should completely disregard air fryers when it comes to bulk cooking? Not necessarily!

Even though air fryers are smaller than microwaves, there are units that flaunt deep chambers, allowing for bulk cooking. The Dash DFAF455GBRD01 is a good example. It’s also cool because it has an included pot for reheating liquids.

BLACK+DECKER EM720CB7 Digital Microwave Oven with Turntable...
  • Pre-programmed buttons for popcorn,...
  • 700 Watts with 10 power settings, clock...
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  • Push-button door release for easy access
  • Dimensions (W x D x H): 17.3” x...

Dash Deluxe Electric Air Fryer + Oven Cooker with...
  • HEALTHIER FRIED FOOD: Enjoy guilt free...
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  • INCLUDES: The 1700-watt Deluxe air fryer...

Air Fryer Vs. Microwave: Which is Healthier?

Compared to conventional fryers, both air fryers and microwaves offer much healthier cooking.

These appliances extract the juices out of the food trying to cook, allowing for frying or cooking without the need to add oils, eliminating any health problems associated with excess oils.

Sometimes you’ll be required to add oil, but it’ll be an extremely small amount compared to the amount of oil that you’re required to add in order to cook foods with the aid of a deep fryer or a conventional oven.

Less oil also means the appliances and dishes are much easier to clean.

It’s a toss-up between microwaves and air fryers for the healthiness of the food you cook in them. They both can cook with little to no oil.

The air fryer is more likely to require a little oil to get foods nice and crispy – a spritz of cooking spray.

Microwaves can destroy some of the nutrients in food, a problem that air fryers don’t have, though heating can destroy nutrients no matter how it’s done. On this score, the air fryer might be a little bit better.

If you’re looking for an air fryer that’s extremely easy to clean, you must seriously check out the COSORI CP258-AF. The unit features a detachable, non-stick air basket that’s dishwasher-safe. The basket is commodious as well, at roughly 9.5 x 9.5 x 4 inches.

On the other hand, if you’re in the market for an easy-to-clean microwave oven, it doesn’t really get any better than the Toshiba EM131A5C-BS. Just a few wipes using a clean, damp cloth and this microwave’s interior will be squeaky clean.

TOSHIBA EM131A5C-BS Countertop Microwave Ovens 1.2 Cu Ft,...
  • 【Pre-programmed sensor menu】 for...
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  • 【Other Functions】1100 watts with 10...
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Air Fryer vs Microwave: Which to Use?

There are foods that you can prepare in an air fryer that can’t be prepared in a microwave, and vice versa.

For example, meat shouldn’t be cooked in a microwave. So, if you’re trying to make chicken, bacon, steak, or even fish, an air fryer will be a better choice than a microwave.

Cooking meats using an air fryer is remarkably easy, and as we already mentioned, you won’t need to add as much oil as you’d typically add if you were to cook using a deep fryer or a frying pan.

Lightly coat the food, put it in the fryer’s basket, and run the air fryer until it’s as crispy and done as you want.

When should you use a microwave oven? Air fryers won’t enable you to melt butter for baking or heat up hot water for making the hot drink of your preference, but microwaves will.

A microwave is super convenient for cooking and does other things well too.

  • Disinfect baby bottles, canning jars, dish sponges, and other items.
  • Defrost foods
  • Prepare frozen meals from start to finish
  • Melt butter and coconut oil
  • Boil water
  • Steam vegetables
  • Quickly reheat leftovers

We use both appliances frequently. If we want the food to be crispy we put it in the air fryer. If we’re simply reheating or making moist food we use the microwave. They’re both convenient kitchen appliances.

FAQs About Air Fryer Vs. Microwave

Q: Can the air fryer replace the microwave?

A: Not in our opinion. The air fryer is best for making crispy foods. If you wanted to use the air fryer to reheat food slowly, you certainly could, but it isn’t very practical. We like the microwave for convenience and the air fryer for flavor.

Q: Can I reheat food in an air fryer?

A: Yes you can, though it will take quite a while. Some air fryers have only baskets making it difficult to impossible to reheat liquids or soft food. If you plan to reheat food in an air fryer, get one with a basket and a bucket to hold soft foods and liquids. Expect the food to dry out.

Q: Is an air fryer harmful to my health?

A: No, in fact, it’s better for your health than deep frying or even baking in some cases. The air fryer gets a crispy texture on foods with little to no oil, so you can eat healthier without sacrificing flavor.

Q: What does an air fryer do that a microwave doesn’t?

A: An air fryer makes food crispy. A microwave makes most foods soggy. That really is the only thing that an air fryer does that a microwave can’t do, but it does it very well. When it comes to cooking or reheating crispy foods in an air fryer, the flavor is far superior to microwaved food.

Q: Is an air fryer worth buying?

A: Absolutely, yes. We have an air fryer and we use it pretty frequently. We use it to cook crispy vegetables like carrot sticks, asparagus, broccoli, and kale chips. We also use it to make crispy “fried” chicken, popcorn shrimp, and to reheat garlic bread.

If you’re like us, you won’t use it as much as you use your microwave, but you’ll use it more and more as you find delicious meals to make in it. Just make sure you get one with enough capacity to feed your family. If you get one that’s too small you’ll use it less because it will take too long to make enough for everyone.

Final Thoughts

Most homes already have microwaves, and air fryers really aren’t that pricey. We think that everyone would be happy owning both instead of trying to replace one with the other.

Can you substitute air fryers for microwaves or vice versa? Not really. They both shine in different cooking techniques, making them valuable in unique ways.

Both cooking appliances excel in specific areas and do a remarkable job of capitalizing on each other’s functionalities, which further proves that any kitchen can benefit from having both.