Air Fryer vs Microwave: Which Is Better for Cooking?

An air fryer uses convection to fry food with hot air, whereas a microwave uses electromagnetic waves to heat the food’s molecules, heating it. Both end up cooking the food, but the difference in how the food is cooked changes the texture and crunchiness of the food.

Here are the answers to common questions about the differences between air fryers and microwave ovens.

Air Fryer vs Microwave: Which Is Better for Cooking?

How An Air Fryer Works

An air fryer uses convection, which is heat transfer through the movement of air, to cook food. The air fryer circulates hot air through the cooking chamber, heating and cooking the food. It first heats a coil and then uses its fan to blow air over the coil and the food.

The coil heats the air, which then transfers the heat to the food. The outside of the food cooks faster because it is directly exposed to the hot air. Once the outside is cooked, it seals in the moisture inside the food, creating a crispy exterior and a moist interior, similar to deep-fried food but without the need for oil.

The method of convection cooking with hot air allows the air fryer to produce a similar texture to deep-fried food but with significantly less oil.

How A Microwave Works

A microwave oven uses a magnetron to produce microwave radiation, which then heats food by causing its particles to move more rapidly. This process happens at a molecular level, with the radiation heating the outside of the food and the heat being conducted inwards.

This can result in hot spots and cold spots in the food, which is why many microwaves have rotating plates and smaller portions tend to heat more evenly. Despite the use of the word “radiation,” the low-frequency radiation from a microwave oven is not harmful to you or your food.

The term “radiation” simply refers to any type of ray on the electromagnetic spectrum, including harmless forms like visual light and radio waves. Therefore, the radiation from a microwave oven does not pose a danger to your health.

Can You Use An Air Fryer As A Microwave?

No, you cannot use an air fryer in the same way as a microwave. They cook food differently and have different cooking times. Attempting to cook food in an air fryer for the same amount of time as in a microwave will result in food that is not warm enough and may have uncooked parts.

While microwaves can both cook and reheat food, air fryers are better suited for cooking and may overcook food when used to reheat. Additionally, some foods are not suitable for air frying, and recipes designed for microwaving will not work the same way in an air fryer.

However, if an air fryer can cook a particular food well, the result is likely to be better than that of a microwave. The only time to use an air fryer instead of a microwave for reheating food is when you want the food to be crispy, but caution must be taken not to overcook and burn the food.

How Are Foods Cooked In An Air Fryer Different From Microwaved Foods?

Microwaves cook food by using microwaves to heat food particles at a molecular level, while air fryers cook food with a stream of hot air that rapidly cooks the outside. This results in air-fried food being crispy on the outside and soft and moist on the inside, while microwaved food simply becomes hotter without any browning.

For example, when cooking frozen french fries, microwaving them will result in soft and flimsy fries, while air frying them will result in crispy fries on the outside and warm and soft on the inside. It is not recommended to use a microwave to try to make something crispy, as it will only make the food stiff and unpleasant to eat.

Is It Healthier To Cook With An Air Fryer Or A Microwave?

Both air fryers and microwaves are healthy appliances for cooking food, as they reduce the amount of oil needed. While both appliances reduce the need for oil, air fryer recipes may still require a small amount of oil. This may not make a significant difference unless you closely monitor your oil intake.

One health concern with microwaves is that they can destroy some of the nutrients in the food they cook, although any method of cooking with heat will also result in some nutrient loss. Microwaves tend to cause more nutrient loss compared to air fryers.

Overall, both air fryers and microwaves are good options for reducing the amount of oil in your food. However, if you are looking to preserve more nutrients in your food, using an air fryer may be a slightly healthier option compared to a microwave.

Can You Cook Anything In An Air Fryer?

Yes, you can cook a variety of foods in an air fryer, including meats, fries, and vegetables. The limitation is what can go in the air fryer without making a mess, and not overloading it. Overloading the air fryer can lead to mushy or uncooked food, so it’s important to leave enough room for air circulation.

Avoid cooking large, single pieces of food as the inside may cook more slowly than the outside. Some air fryers have additional features such as baking, roasting, or rotisserie, which greatly expand the variety of foods that can be cooked in the air fryer.

Does A Microwave Or Air Fryer Have A Better Capacity?

The size of the unit is a major factor in determining cooking capacity. Air fryers are typically more compact, with an average capacity of 3.7 to 5.8 quarts, while microwaves have a wider range, with an average capacity of 1 to 2.2 cubic feet (30 to 65 quarts). Despite the larger size of microwaves, it’s not recommended to use all the available space at once, as it can lead to uneven heating and longer cooking times.

However, the microwave’s cooking capacity can be used more efficiently due to its quicker cooking time. Overall, while microwaves have a larger capacity, the air fryer’s compactness limits its cooking capacity.

Which Is Faster To Use?

Microwaves are faster to use than air fryers. Microwaves can start cooking immediately, while air fryers need to preheat before cooking. The microwave’s use of microwave radiation heats food quickly, taking only minutes or seconds to cook, whereas air fryers typically take 20-40 minutes.

In a race to cook multiple batches of the same food, the microwave would be able to cook more batches in the same time frame. However, it is important to note that the speed of a microwave can vary depending on its wattage, so it is advisable to choose a microwave with a decent wattage for faster cooking.


Both the air fryer and the microwave have their advantages for cooking. The air fryer is better for achieving crispy and fried-like results with less oil, while the microwave is better for quick heating and reheating of food.

This article helps readers understand the differences between the two appliances and how they can complement each other in the kitchen. It provides insight into the strengths of each appliance and how they can be used to create a variety of dishes efficiently.

By comparing the two, readers can make an informed decision about which appliance better suits their cooking needs, whether it’s for healthier frying with the air fryer or reheating and quick cooking with the microwave. Ultimately, the article aims to help readers make the most out of their kitchen appliances and improve their cooking experience.

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