Can an air fryer replace your microwave? Or vice versa

Reasons To Choose an Air Fryer:

  1. Better at Cooking Meats & Poultry
  2. Cheaper Option
  3. More Portable
  4. Doesn’t Take Up Much Space
  5. Less Stigma Attached to Air Fryers
  6. Bake Cakes & Bread

Reasons To Choose a Microwave

  1. Super Fast Cooking
  2. You Can Cook a Wider Variety of Food
  3. Defrost & Reheat Function
  4. Heat Up Coffee & Tea
  5. Excellent For Wet Foods Like Porridge, Soup or Stew

If air fryers are the new kids on the chopping block, then microwaves are the veterans of the kitchen.

Invented in the 1940s, the standard microwave needs little explanation to most people. However, you might be wondering how these handy appliances stack up against more modern technology and if they’re still worth buying when machines like air fryers are available.

Before you waste your hard-earned money, it’s essential to make sure to research your options to avoid ending up with an appliance that you don’t need or use. Fortunately for you, we’ve got all the information you need on this page.

We’re going to look at the differences and similarities between air fryers and microwaves to help you make your decision. The areas we’ll focus on are size and shape, heating methods, storage, foods they can cook, how fast they can cook them, expected features, ease of cleaning, and price range.

What’s the Difference Between Air Fryers & Microwaves?

Microwaves and air fryers have relatively few things in common. They have different aesthetics, their heating methods are unalike, and opposing finished results. What they do have in common is efficiency, convenience, and affordability (for some microwaves) when compared with large, more traditional cooking equipment.

Size & Shape: While there are expectations to the rule, generally speaking, air fryers have a much smaller footprint than microwaves. 

The “pod” shape of an air fryer is designed specifically to house the heating element at the top of the appliance with the cooking drawer and basket below. This makes the machine taller than it is wide, though for the most part, not so tall that these machines won’t fit under your cupboards. 

Having a smaller base footprint helps maximize your kitchen space. The basket is completely removable, so your workspace isn’t compromised when putting food in or taking it out of the air fryer. 

On the flip side of the coin, microwave waves tend to have a far larger footprint and require much more of your kitchen space, usually permanently. The large doors can cause inconvenience when accessing the microwave, especially if you have limited kitchen space.

Heating & Cooking: The word ‘fryer’ is not only misleading; it’s completely false. Air fryers were marketed to coerce people into cooking previously fried foods in a more healthy way yet still retain their flavor.

Using super-heated air and a high-powered fan, air fryers circulate this hot air around your food in a similar manner to the process a traditional convection oven does. However, by combining the hot air, reduced cooking space, and a little splash of oil, you can achieve results in the kitchen that are almost comparable to frying food while simultaneously reducing the number of calories you consume.

To this day, people still refer to cooking food in a microwave as ‘nuking’ it. There is a long-held belief that microwaves aren’t safe, probably due to the word ‘radiation’ that explains how this type of appliance cooks food when in actuality, microwaves are as safe and healthy as most other cooking devices.

In the simplest terms, the appliance creates electromagnetic microwaves that cause the water molecules in your food to vibrate, and in turn, heat your food. It’s quick and efficient, but it’s also easy to overcook your food, making it hard and/or rubbery.

There are convection microwaves on the market that incorporate air fryer style technology that lets you cook crispy food, and these are generally more expensive than standard models.

Storage & Portability: Even the most compact microwaves will need a permanent spot in your kitchen. This type of appliance is large and heavy even in its smallest form, so trying to store it in a cupboard when you’re not using it is not viable.

Conversely, air fryers, even the larger ones, have a small footprint and weigh a lot less, making them a lot easier to move around them your kitchen and much more convenient to store.

What Foods Can They Cook & How Fast?

The type of food each appliance can cook and how fast they cook may play a huge factor in helping you decide which device is best for you.

Though air fryers can cook many different food types, they tend to lean towards cooking fresh ingredients, while microwaves are the polar opposite. There plenty of fresh food recipes that you can cook perfectly well in a microwave, but these appliances excel in cooking ‘TV meals’, pre-packaged food, and defrosting frozen goods ready to be cooked in an oven.

Listed below are popular foods, how each appliance handles them, and some approximate time of how long it takes to cook them.

Chicken & Chicken Wings: One of the favorite foods to cook among the air fryer community is chicken, in particular chicken wings. There are tons of different recipes for delicious and crispy chicken wings, and an air fryer will take about 20 to 25 minutes to cook.

While you can cook chicken in a microwave, the results are less than optimal. Frequently it ends with dry, overcooked meat. However, convection microwaves can handle the job.

Pizza: Microwaved pizza isn’t ideal, but it’s not so bad if you’re in a rush. A mid-sized microwave will have a pizza ready to eat in 5 minutes, while it can reheat last night’s pie in under 60 seconds.

Making bite-sized mini pizzas in an air fryer will achieve delicious results, but you won’t be able to make full-sized pizza. There just isn’t enough room.

Vegetables: Both appliances can quickly whip up a batch of vegetables, albeit in different styles. An air fryer is more adept at roasted vegetables, while a microwave is capable of steaming them.

Cakes & Bread: Unless you buy a convection microwave, you won’t be able to bake cakes and bread in your appliance, not in the traditional sense anyway (there are variations of recipes for different baked goods to be cooked in a microwave), but an air fryer can make small loaves and cakes.

Frozen Food: Cooking frozen food is one of the air fryer’s party-tricks. The settings on these appliances mean it can cook a last-minute meal, no problem. While you can’t cook food from frozen in a microwave, it does have the added benefit of a defrost function to make life a little easier.

Wet Foods: Microwaves are fantastic for heating soup, stew, casserole, and porridge oats in only a few minutes. An air fryer can’t make these kinds of food at all.

Potatoes: Microwaves can cook baked potatoes far faster than any other appliance. Approximately 5 minutes for a couple of jackets. While an air fryer can take anywhere up to an hour to produce a baked spud, but the results are far superior with a lovely golden brown finish.

Coffee & Tea: You’re not only limited to food in the microwave as it’s able to make hot drinks too. Obviously, trying that in an air fryer would be a terrible idea.

What Kind of Features Can You Expect?

There are tons of different features throughout the ranges of both air fryers and microwaves. Listed below are some of the most popular and common features you’re likely to find on these products.

Air Fryer:

  • Air Fry
  • Air Roast
  • Air Broil
  • Dehydrate
  • Chicken Wings
  • Fries
  • Fish
  • Reheat
  • Auto Shut-Off

Microwaves:

  • Potatoes
  • Reheat
  • Keep Warm
  • Soften/Melt
  • Auto Defrost
  • Rice
  • Veggies
  • Pizza
  • Convection Capabilities (On some specific Models)

How Easy Are They To Clean?

Air fryers are generally considered to be one of the most straightforward small kitchen appliances to clean. The basket, drawer, and rack (if yours has one) are all removable and usually dishwasher safe. These components are the parts of the machine that comes into contact with the food you’re cooking.

Alongside air fryers, microwaves are also super simple to clean as long as you take appropriate precautions. Cooking in a microwave requires all your food is placed in a microwavable container, which, barring explosive accidents, should be the only thing you need to clean afterward. However, it is crucial to make sure all your food is adequately covered, or you’ll be cleaning it off the roof of your microwave.

Is There a Big Difference in Price?

Microwaves and air fryers’ prices are very similar in that they are wide and varied depending on the models and brands. Both these appliances are available from as little as $60 for the most basic models, while the more premium air fryers can stretch to a couple of hundred dollars. High-end built-in microwaves can retail at over $1000.

However, the sweet spot for air fryers’ quality and value can be found between $100 and $150, while the best value microwaves are closer to $150 to $250.

Final Verdict

There are two schools of thought when it comes to small kitchen appliances; quick and convenient, or take a little more time for more delicious results.

While air fryers, in certain situations, can cook more rapidly than conventional cookers and stoves, in a race with a microwave, the air fryer is the tortoise to the the microwave’s hare. Though a microwave cooks faster (and a more varied menu), you’ll get better results from an air fryer. Unless, of course, you opt for a convection microwave to get the best of both worlds.

The choice between these two appliance styles is simple; a microwave is a great kitchen assistant to help subsidize your other appliances or be used for quick-cooking tasks when you don’t have much time.

On the other hand, air fryers are more suited to cooking the main part of your meal (assuming you don’t need vast quantities). These portable devices cook deliciously crisp and juicy meats but are just as capable of whipping up a tasty snack, albeit with a smaller menu range than the microwave.

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