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Both air fryers and microwaves are appliances that are used to heat food. However, there’s a lot of confusion about which appliance is best for cooking healthy meals at home.
Which one of these appliances is best for you?
Take a look at our comprehensive comparison of these two kitchen appliances so that you can make an informed decision about what’s best for your home! If you decide to buy an air fryer, here are some of our favorite inexpensive air fryers.
Air Fryer vs Microwave: How Do They Work?
Before we get to the differences, it’s important to know how each of these appliances works.
How do Air Fryers Work?
Air fryers use Rapid Air Technology which includes a heating element or coil placed closer to the food (fryer-style basket), eliminating the moisture from food with swift air circulation.
How do Microwaves Work?
Microwaves are often your go-to machine to reheat meals quickly. Microwaves produce a type of electromagnetic radiation that causes water molecules to vibrate—increasing the temperature of your food.
Air Fryer vs Microwave: What Are The Differences?
Air fryers are a great way to get your food crispy. They work by circulating hot air around your food, making for an extra crunchy exterior that a microwave won’t be able to match.
On the other hand, microwaves will heat or reheat your food quickly. The way microwaves heat food won’t lead to a crispy exterior, and it can also dry out the food’s outer layer.
While air fryers provide a more consistent and crunchy meal, microwaves are more convenient since they’re fast. Both appliances are super convenient, so it’s usually best to have both in your kitchen!
In general, an air fryer will take more time to cook food compared to a microwave. This is because the built-in coil takes time to heat, and then a fan is used to circulate the hot air within the air fryer basket.
Microwaves are quick to cook food. They only use electromagnetic radiation to heat and cook the food directly. The heating and cooking process happens very quickly, and you only need to wait a couple of minutes for your dish to be ready!
For example, if you are microwaving veggies, they’ll typically be ready in 3-4 minutes in a microwave, whereas it may take 8-10 minutes for the same food cooked in an air fryer.
Neither microwaves nor air fryers have a high cooking capacity. Both are typically used to make or reheat meals for small families.
However, microwaves will typically be larger than air fryers, allowing you to reheat larger meals.
On the other hand, air fryers usually only make enough food for one or two people. If you want to cook smaller batches of food, like meal prepping, the air fryer will come in handy.
Air fryers can cook vegetables, meats, and desserts such as brownies and cookies if the recipe calls for it. Air fryers can cook up to 80% of what a regular oven can and do what microwaves usually cannot do.
To show the versatility of an air fryer, here are 46 healthy air fryer recipes that you can try out at home!
Although air fryers are more versatile than microwaves, microwaves can still do a pretty good job cooking most things you want to have for dinner. For example, you can cook macaroni and cheese or chicken quesadilla in a microwave. However, microwaves are best used for quickly reheating food.
Air fryers and microwaves almost use the same amount of energy.
The overall consumption is dependent on the model of your air fryer and wattage, which stretches from 1250 – 1500 watts (maximum). It doesn’t consume any power when on standby mode.
On the flip side, a microwave oven’s electricity usage is slightly higher since it uses radiation for the entire process, but the cooking time is lower. In general, microwaves use 1100 watts to 1850 watts for an hour of use and about 12 watts when on standby mode.
Health is becoming increasingly important in our culture. Organic, low-fat, or low-carb diets have trended as of late. So when planning out and preparing, you have to consider the healthiest way to cook your meals.
Microwaves don’t require any oil for cooking as electromagnetic radiation heats your food. That means that no calories or fat are added cooking the food.
About 75% of recipes with air fryers call for some amount of oil. This helps crisp up the food. While an air fryer doesn’t use nearly as much oil as a deep fryer, it will still have additional oil compared to a microwave. That oil will increase the calories and fat content of your meal.
Depending on which model you buy, both air fryers and microwaves are easy to clean and maintain.
Air fryers are compact, and there isn’t much cleaning needed once you’re done using them. The primary reason for that is – not using oil which otherwise makes cleaning a dreaded task.
To clean an air fryer, you can wash the basket with a soft sponge, warm water, and dishwashing soap. It’ll take you approximately an hour or so to dry the basket, after which you can place it back.
Modern microwaves are also very easy to clean, but you’ll notice stains on your microwave’s interior or stuck-on food when heating oils and messier food.
To clean the inside of a microwave, mix a cup of water and lemon juice into a microwave-safe bowl. Place this bowl inside and turn on the microwave on high power for several minutes until you notice the mixture boils and steams on the window.
Wait for 5-10 minutes to cool down before opening the door. Remove the bowl and take a sponge to a soft cloth to wipe the inside.
Both microwaves and air fryers have built-in safety features. All microwaves and most air fryers have automatic shut-off features to ward off burns and injuries. The appliance itself is unlikely to cause burns, but it’s possible that the hot food itself could cause burns, so be careful when taking hot food out of either.
Modern microwaves are very safe, and contrary to popular belief, your food does not become ‘radioactive’ when cooked in a microwave.
Air Fryer vs Microwave: Which Should You Choose?
Both air fryers and microwaves make healthy meals easier. They can both be used to cook food quickly and give you the ability to prepare various dishes at home without having to go out and purchase them from a restaurant or cafe.
However, there are some significant differences between these two appliances that can make or break your decision. Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of each appliance.
Pros and Cons of an Air Fryer
- A healthy way to cook: Air fryers create healthy meals as they don’t use hot oil during cooking; instead, hot air is used, which reduces the amount of fat in your meal.
- Crispy food and crunchy exterior: Air fryers can make your favorite food crispy and crunchy without using oil.
- Convenient cooking: Air fryers take up little space on your counter and can cook a variety of food without taking too much time.
- Low energy consumption: Air fryers don’t need much electricity to function.
- Small capacity: Compared to microwaves, air fryers have a smaller capacity which means you can only cook small batches of food at a time.
- Takes longer than microwaves: Air fryers take up to 10-12 minutes to cook a dish whereas, with microwaves, you can do it in 5-6 minutes.
- Price: Air fryers are more expensive than microwaves.
Pros and Cons of a Microwave
- Easy cooking: Most people already have microwaves in their kitchen, which makes cooking easy.
- Quick-cooking: Microwaves cook food quickly because they are directly exposed to the heat source.
- Affordable: Microwaves are less expensive than air fryers.
- Takes up space: Microwave ovens are often large and can take up a lot of counter space.
- Not as crispy: Microwaves cannot make the outside of your food crisp and crunchy.
- Limited function: Microwaves cannot bake or roast food and have limited function.
To sum up, if you’re looking for ways to make your healthy eating more convenient, air fryers might be the way to go.
If you want an appliance that can heat your food fast without oil, microwaves are an excellent choice for you. If you’re looking for a space-saving option, take a look at these best built-in microwaves.
An air fryer can indeed be a great alternative to microwaves and give you more options for cooking your food. However, an air fryer can’t replace the microwave oven and its ability to quickly reheat a versatile range of food.
Can you use an air fryer to reheat food?
Absolutely! Cooking with an air fryer, whether for cooking or reheating food, is a healthy way to do so. When reheating food in an air fryer, make sure to use a lower temperature to ensure the food doesn’t get dry.
As you can see, both air fryers and microwaves make healthy eating more convenient. If you’re looking for a healthier way to represent deep-fried food, an air fryer is a way to go. If you’re looking for a way to heat or reheat your food quickly, microwaves might be a better choice.
Richmond Howard started Meal Prepify in 2019 and has helped over a million people learn how to meal prep, get better at meal planning, and create a kitchen they love to use. He’s an avid home chef and loves to bbq, grill out, and make awesome food for family and friends. He’s been featured on MSN, Renaissance Periodization, and Good Financial Cents.