Can An Air Fryer Replace a Microwave? [Expert Advice]

Can an air fryer replace a microwave? Although air fryers can do almost all the things a microwave oven does, they can’t actually replace the microwave oven and all of its functionality.

The air fryer can easily replace a regular or convection oven but not a microwave oven. Some of their functions may be similar but the air fryer cannot heat or cook liquids, cook large amounts of food, and duplicate the convenience and speed offered by the microwave oven.

You must understand that although they complement each other very well, they serve different purposes, and cannot be substituted for each other.

Keep on reading for an in-depth analysis of the similarities and differences between an air fryer and a microwave, so you can decide which one is best and whether you can replace one with another.

can an air fryer replace a microwave

Can an air fryer replace a microwave?

An air fryer is not meant to serve as a substitute for a microwave. While an air fryer uses hot air and a minimal amount of oil to cook and make food crispy, a microwave employs microwaves to cook and heat food. While an air fryer can be used to cook and reheat a few types of food, it is not as versatile as a microwave, which can cook, reheat, and defrost a wide range of foods and is generally more convenient and faster for these tasks.

However, an air fryer can still be a useful addition to a kitchen, particularly for cooking and crisping small, oil-based foods like frozen snack foods, chicken wings, and French fries, as well as for roasting and grilling certain types of food such as vegetables and meat. Therefore, while an air fryer can complement a microwave, it cannot fully replace it.

Let’s say you wanted to just save space in your kitchen and you don’t really need all those extra functionalities a microwave provides, then you can use the air fryer as your microwave replacement. However, if you would need an appliance for melting and defrosting things, then you would be better off sticking with a microwave.

How does an air fryer work?

Air fryers are basically convection ovens equipped with a fan and heating element to circulate heated air (about 392° F or 200° C) at high speeds through the chamber allowing you to fry or cook food while using about 80% less oil.

An air fryer actually cooks food in the same manner as a conventional oven. When you set the appropriate temperature and time to cook foods, the circulating heated air gives them a crispy texture on the outside and preserves the juicy ‘inside’.

Compared to deep fryers, air fryers use up to 80% less oil. Using less oil means fewer calories, which aids in weight loss, resulting in a healthier lifestyle.

The chemical reaction between carbohydrates and amino acids that occurs during cooking in the air fryer is what is responsible for the brown surface and flavor common in air-fried foods. This is known as the ‘Maillard reaction’.

Besides, air fryers are rather small in size allowing them to reach the required temperatures faster, which results in a shorter cooking time.

Most air fryers feature adjustable timers and temperature settings making cooking very simple and easy. Although sometimes, you may have to shake, stir or flip the food halfway through. But apart from that, the air fryer pretty much automates the process of cooking food.

Types of Air fryers:

Currently, there are four main types of air fryers on the market. They are:

a. Cylindrical Basket Air fryer

This air fryer looks like a small barrel, with a cylindrical cooking basket suspended in the air fryer unit.

b. Paddle-Type Air fryer

This air fryer has a rotating shaft in the center that helps to cook food evenly.

3. Basket-Type Air fryer

This air fryer has a basket similar to that of a deep fryer. The main difference between it and a deep fryer is that it can fry food without using oil.

d. Oven Air fryer

This type of air fryer looks like a small oven. It’s equipped with a pull-out drawer that has a cooking basket.

Pros & Cons of Using Air Fryers

Pros
  • User-friendliness, as some are even programmed with automatic time and temperature for some specific foods, like meats, fish, or vegetables making them quite easy to use. They are also easy to clean.

  • Fewer calories, since it requires less oil for cooking, you do not have to worry about your health when consuming meals prepared with them.

  • Versatility, as they can be used to bake, grill, roast, toast, fry, dehydrate, reheat, and more.

  • Time and cost-efficient, since they can cook your foods fast and are relatively cheap

  • Energy Saving as it has a faster cooking time, resulting in lower energy consumption.

  • Small size

Cons
  • Small cooking capacity. Although air fryers come in a variety of sizes, the affordable models are generally small and can only cook for a few people.

  • Not-too-tasty foods. Air fryers are noted for using a significantly lesser quantity of oil for cooking, so you may likely find your dishes to be less appetizing, and dried out if overcooked.

How does a microwave oven work?

Trying to answer the question can an air fryer replace a microwave, you have to know that microwave ovens use a magnetron, which is a type of electron tube that produces electromagnetic waves which are then reflected inside the oven. Causing them to hit and cook food particles at a cellular level. The FDA also explains that microwaves cause water molecules in the food to vibrate, producing heat that cooks the food.

These waves which have a wavelength shorter than that of red light interact with the water molecules inside food causing them to vibrate rapidly increasing temperature. This increased temperature is what heats up and cooks the food molecules.

The reason why the container or plate remains cool to the touch is that only the food is affected and heated up from the inside by the microwave.

The microwave is a quick and convenient solution. However, compared to the air fryer, it cannot fry food without oil.

Types of Microwave ovens:

a. Solo Microwave

This type of microwave can be used to perform only one function – heat up food.

b. Grill Microwave

In addition to electromagnetic waves, this type of microwave has a grill element that can be used to brown or crisp food.

c. Smart Microwave

This type of microwave comes with Wi-Fi-enabled features such as voice control and other smart features.

d. Built-in Microwave

This type of microwave easily fits inside a wall or existing cabinetry.

e. Under-counter Microwave

This microwave oven is specially designed to fit into a low cabinet and opens with a sliding door.

f. Countertop Microwave

This is a free-standing microwave that stands on a flexible counter and is quite easy to change its position.

g. Convection Microwave

While most microwaves use only electromagnetic waves to heat food, convection microwaves also circulate hot air around the food to cook it evenly from all sides.

Pros & Cons of the Microwave

Pros & Cons of the Microwave

Pros
  • Extremely fast: Microwaves offer extremely fast cooking times, most food gets cooked within a maximum of 30 to 45 minutes.

  • Energy-efficient: Although they consume a lot of electricity, microwaves are quite energy-efficient due to their speed. The energy consumption is reduced due to their speed.

  • Precise control and settings: Microwaves are accurate with their power and time settings. The heat is just right according to the settings you choose. You have the option of setting precise timing and temperature settings down to the smallest units.

  • User-friendly: Microwaves are very simple and easy to setup and operate. There’s no learning curve required to master the control panel settings, so in less than a few minutes you’re ready to cook like a pro.

Cons
  • Cannot deep fry food: Microwaves can’t deep fry food and make it crisp because they can only get to temperatures required to heat up oil but not boil it.

  • Odd-taste: Due to the cooking method employed, some dishes that are microwaved can come out bland or odd tasting as the original flavor and taste have been taken away by the microwaving process.

  • Not suitable for dense foods: Because microwaves can only penetrate food up to two inches, dense foods will not cook evenly and will not come out well.

  • Not-too-healthy: Microwave cooking increases the amount of acrylamide content in food. Acrylamide is a carcinogen and neurotoxin that is produced when food is exposed to high heat.

The electromagnetic waves interact with water molecules present in food to heat it up, thus causing food to dry up at a faster rate compared to other traditional cooking techniques.

Similarities between an air fryer and a microwave oven?

Both appliances are similar in a few ways listed below:

  1. User-friendly

Air fryers and microwaves are both very easy to set up and use with almost no learning curve involved. You’re ready in a matter of seconds.

They both have numerous cooking presets that make cooking very easy, and feature in-built timers that will notify you when your food is ready. Just select the preset, and the air fryer or microwave will do the rest.

  1. Portable and compact

Both air fryers and microwaves are light, easily stored or relocated, and available in various sizes. This allows you to easily find one that will fit perfectly in your kitchen and is also great for people who are fond of traveling or going on camping trips.

  1. Safety features

Both appliances include an automatic shut-off function that kicks in when the air fryer or microwave detects an anomaly to prevent hazards.

  1. Easy to clean and maintain

Both appliances are very easy to clean and maintain. This means you don’t have to spend hours scrubbing them after each use.

A lot of air fryers and microwave ovens are also dishwasher-safe and come with removable parts that can be easily cleaned.

  1. Affordable and energy-efficient

Both are very affordable and also very energy-efficient, further reducing your energy expenses.

Differences between an air fryer and a microwave oven?

Here’s a table detailing the key differences between an air fryer and a microwave oven:

Features
Air fryer
Microwave Oven
Cooking versatility
Can practically cook any type of food that requires deep frying, roasting, baking, and grilling But best suited for crispy foods (fries, fried meats)
Can cook various types of foods also, But you are mostly restricted to reheating or cooking simple food staples
Function
Uses hot air in a circular fanning system (Rapid Air Technology)
Microwaves use electromagnetic radiation to preheat and cook food in very little time.
Price
Affordable but a little pricier compared to microwaves.
Microwaves are usually cheaper than air fryers
Size and Capacity
Smaller size. Most affordable sizes range from 2 to 8 quarts. This means they are best suited to cooking meals for just two or three people at once.
Microwaves are measured in cubic feet, and their sizes usually range from 0.50 to two cubic feet Most microwaves tend to be a bit bigger than air fryers. This gives them the ability to hold more food and cook larger quantities at a time.
Performance
Faster cooking times
Cooks much faster than air fryers and is a better option if you’re in a hurry
Energy Consumption
Consumes less power than microwave ovens. They do not have a standby-mode
A little bit more power ‘hungry’ when compared to air fryers, but their speed makes up for the difference in power consumption They have a standby mode to reduce power consumption.
Healthier Food
Uses little to no oil, resulting in less cholesterol consumption Also, preserve more nutrients in food compared to microwaves.
Microwave cooking increases the amount of acrylamide content in food.
Ease of Use
Very simple to use
Very simple to use but it offers you more features and a better range of options compared to air fryers
Maintenance
Quite easy to clean and dishwasher-safe
Difficult to clean due to their larger size, Highly combustible and contains more hard-to-reach nooks and crannies than an air fryer

Can you fry food in a microwave?

No, you cannot deep fry food in a regular microwave oven. This is because microwave ovens can only get to temperatures required to heat oil but not boil it. Cooking food in oil at lower temperatures is basically only ‘Sautéing’ it.

However, you can use some specially designed but pricy microwave ovens that have a ‘Slim Fry’ feature which allows you to fry food in your microwave.

Is an air fryer safer than a microwave oven?

Air fryers produce healthier foods and come with many health benefits in the long run when compared to microwave ovens. This is due to the fact that air fryers don’t use infrared radiation or microwave radiation to cook food.

Instead, they perform more like traditional convection ovens that circulate rapid hot air around the food to quickly dry it out, thereby reducing the formation of acrylamide by about 90%. Acrylamide is a carcinogen and neurotoxin that is produced when food is exposed to high heat and is linked to the development of cancer.

Which is better between an air fryer and a microwave oven?

This is simply a matter of personal preference depending on which one best serves your needs and your circumstances.

In some ways, one is better than the other, and vice versa. Both have certain advantages and disadvantages.

Air fryers are a much healthier option to cook your food, but they can’t cook in large quantities, have slower cooking compared to microwaves, and are unable to boil liquids. In other words, you can’t make tea and coffee or cook rice, or spaghetti in an Air fryer.

A microwave, on the other hand, is faster at cooking food than an air fryer but not as tasty.

So, technically none is better than the other.

How about an air fryer microwave combo?

However, if you can’t decide on which to buy, there’s an appliance called a the Panasonic HomeChef 4-in-1 Microwave Oven with Air Fryer. It’s an appliance with a 4-in-1 solution.

All-in-one countertop appliance with a microwave, broiler, airfryer, and convection oven! Use each feature separately or in combination for scrumptious dishes every time.

No pre-heating is necessary in the healthy air fryer mode, which quickly circulates hot air over food to produce crispy, browned results. Make food items like nuggets, french fries, and more tasty and healthy.

As a Primary or Secondary Oven: For baking and roasting, use the Convection Bake option up to 425°F, with or without preheat. The ideal tool for toasting, browning, and crisping is the FlashXpress Broiler.

Intelligent, even cooking power Genius Sensor Cook, Turbo Defrost, and other dedicated settings for simpler cooking; 1000-Watt Panasonic inverter microwave technology for smart, even defrosting, reheating, cooking, and warming.

Space-saving, streamlined design: Large capacity and a compact design (22″W x 13.4″H x 17.7″D with a 14.2″ turntable); use as a countertop microwave or convert it to a built-in microwave with the optional trim kit (NN-TK81KCS)

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FAQs

Do air fryers emit radiation?

No, air fryers do not emit radiation like a microwave ovens. They use an entirely different principle to cook food.

Do air fryers use microwaves?

Air fryers do not use microwaves to heat food, instead, they use a fan and heating element to circulate heated air at high speeds through the chamber allowing you to fry or cook food.

Can I reheat food in an air fryer?

Yes, air fryers are excellent at reheating leftover or stale foods. This is because they function like mini convection ovens, making leftovers crispy and tasty again. They do a better job than microwave ovens at reheating foods since they produce tastier and crispier results.

What appliances does an air fryer replace?

Although you won’t get any of the extra features offered by a deep fryer, an air fryer can replace your deep fryer for most dishes except those with a thick or wet batter.

Can you use an air fryer for everything?

Yes, you can cook almost anything in an air fryer. Fries, poultry, fried meats, fish or pork, appetizers, vegetable side dishes, appetizers, even desserts, baked recipes, and more!