Air fryers and microwaves are two of the most popular kitchen appliances for your countertop. They cook food in very different ways, and it can be difficult to know which of these machines is right for your space.
You may even decide that you want both. Let’s get into the differences between these two machines and what they can bring to your home, so you are prepared for your next Amazon shopping spree.
How Do Air Fryers Work?
Air fryers are incredibly similar to standard convection ovens. These use a heating element and fan in order to circulate hot air around your foods. The addition of oil to many dishes will make them crispy, very similar to how they would be cooked in a deep fryer. However, deep-frying requires a lot of oil and air frying does not.
The hot air in a smaller area helps the foods cook faster than in an oven. Even though your fried food won’t taste exactly like deep-fried food, it is pretty close and is a lot healthier. You can cook a number of other foods in an air fryer too, so they are pretty versatile machines.
How Do Microwave Ovens Work?
Microwave ovens have a unique method of operation that is highly dissimilar to air fryers. Microwaves have an object inside them called a magnetron, and this produces microwaves, a form of energy.
The microwaves will be reflected by the walls of the microwave oven and then will be absorbed by the food items inside it. These microwaves cause the water molecules in food to vibrate, which creates heat, thereby cooking the food.
You may have heard the term electromagnetic radiation used in reference to microwave ovens, and that is indeed what this process is called.
However, this form of radiation is completely harmless, and its only effects are to heat food inside the oven. Microwave ovens use a turntable to rotate the dish containing the food, ensuring that the microwave radiation can heat the food evenly and not leave any cold spots.
Are Air Fryers The Same As Convection Ovens?
Air fryers are very similar to convection ovens. Both of them use the circulation of hot air to cook or reheat foods, but they do have some differences.
Since ovens are a lot bigger than air fryers, they take longer to preheat and the cooking time will also be increased. The cooking capacity of ovens is a lot bigger though, so if you need to make multiple dishes at once or serve a large group, ovens are the best choice.
Air fryers and ovens have very similar functionality, so almost anything you can cook in an oven can be cooked just as well, or better, in an air fryer. Air frying will save you a little bit of money though, because they require much less power to run than a full size oven.
Air fryers will require the addition of a small amount of oil depending on the types of food you are making. The best air fryers on the market are combo machines that can also function as toasters; the heated air is trapped in these machines which helps the bread toast in less time.
How Does the Cooking Versatility Compare Between Microwaves and Air Fryers?
Both microwave ovens and air fryers are incredibly versatile gadgets for your countertop that have unique cooking processes.
Despite their differences, they have a lot in common when it comes to how much they can cook. Microwaves are most popular for reheating prepared meals cooked in a conventional oven or on the stovetop and reheating frozen meals. However, they can be used for a lot more than this.
It will likely surprise you just how many recipes can be found for making legit meals in a microwave, and since they cook so efficiently, it is a very energy efficient process too.
Of course, to feed many people, you’ll need to cook in batches no matter which appliance you use. Some common foods prepared in microwaves are rice, steamed vegetables, and any type of frozen prepared meal.
Many frozen dishes that can be cooked in an oven also do very well in a microwave, and you’ll get the benefit of reduced power consumption.
Air fryers are the better choice for cooking cuts of meat such as steak, chicken wings, and fried chicken, since the combination of hot air and the coating of hot oil will help the inside cook to a safe temperature while ensuring the outside gets crispy.
The radio waves in a microwave are not able to produce this effect. Air fryer ovens that double as toaster ovens will be the most versatile, and they can make excellent nachos, pita chips, and more with their toasting/dehydrating functionality.
French fries, onion rings, mozzarella sticks, and donuts are also popular food items for air fryers since they cook really well in less oil than is required for deep frying.
In summation, air fryers are better machines for true cooking of raw foods, and microwaves are better choices for reheating and steaming. Raw meat CAN safely be cooked in a microwave, but it requires a lot of management to ensure it is safe, and it isn’t done all that often. The rapid air technology in air fryers makes them a much safer option for cooking than microwaves.
Pros and Cons of Air Fryers
- Much healthier alternative to deep fryers; less fat and calories consumed thanks to the reduction in oil
- Highly versatile machines
- Very fast preheating times
- Very safe to operate
- Require cleaning after every use
- Small capacity; overfilling the basket will dramatically reduce cooking ability
- Venting system will heat up the space around the machine
- Will require some practice; burning/dehydrating foods as a beginner is very common
Pros and Cons of Microwaves
- Best appliance for steaming rice and vegetables
- Incredibly user friendly and easy to operate
- Can reheat any type of food exceptionally well
- Require very little maintenance or cleaning
- Will never burn food
- Often leaves super-hot zones and cold spots; cooking/heating evenly requires a lot of stirring
- Bulky, will take up a fair amount of space on your counter
- Cooking capacity isn’t ideal
- Have to be careful about the materials placed inside, as some will melt or catch fire
Do I Need an Air Fryer or Microwave?
Of course, the main difference between these two cooking appliances is their cooking methods. An air fryer uses convection heating like an oven, and a microwave uses electromagnetic waves to create heat through vibration of water molecules in food.
While both of these machines are quite versatile, you may be wondering which is best for your home. In all honesty, we recommend adding both machines to your household.
Traditional microwaves are most effective for reheating foods (frozen or otherwise) or steaming foods like rice and vegetables to cook.
However, they are not designed for cooking true meals. It is worth noting that there are some convection microwaves out there that have dual functionality: they operate as a standard microwave uses radiation to cook, but they also can function as convection ovens. If you choose a microwave of this kind, you may feel that you don’t need an air fryer as well.
Thanks to the way an air fryer cooks food, they are compatible with a wide range of foods. They often replace traditional toasters, ovens, and deep fryers.
Depending on the type of air fryer you get, you can even cook foods such as steak, baked potatoes, and pizza in an air fryer. The addition of a little oil goes a long way to crisping up your side dishes too. They are quite affordable and easy to operate.
All in all, both air fryers and microwave ovens are exceptional products that we feel should have a home in every kitchen.