Air Fryer vs Toaster Oven – What’s the Difference?

Both the Air fryers and the toaster ovens cook with the help of heating elements inside them.

The main difference is that air fryers have a fan inside them to help rotate hot air, and a toaster oven may or may not have a fan inside. But both would have a heating element that cooks the food.

An air fryer is a small kitchen appliance that is mostly vertical or cylindrical. It works like a convection oven with a heating coil and a fan underneath to help rotate the hot air. 

A toaster oven is smaller than a traditional oven and has heating elements on top and below. It is also available as a convection toaster oven with a fan inside. 

It is mostly rectangular and smaller than a microwave.  

Before I get into the difference between an air fryer and a toaster oven, let me quickly elaborate on what these appliances are.

What is an Air fryer? 

As the name suggests, air fryers were build to eliminate the need for deep frying.

Ninja AF101 Air Fryer, 4 Qt, Black/gray

It uses the concept of hot air circulation to get the same results as you would after deep frying. 

Air fryers are a rage in the US especially for those who love to eat frozen food, chicken, french fries, etc regularly. 

The elimination of oil is the most attractive part for the health-conscious. 

Due to its small size, food gets cooked fast in an air fryer. You do not need to defrost food or preheat an air fryer. Always refer to the cooking guide that comes along to indulge in different types of foods. 

Air fryer models mostly have a digital touchscreen with a timer and temperature settings. Some pre-set settings may also be present depending on the model.  

With a height of 3-4 feet, an Airfryer works well for small, cramped spaces. The fast, easy technique of air frying is now a must-have in every US kitchen. 

What is a Toaster oven? 

Toaster ovens are small versions of traditional ovens that fit easily on countertops.

They have excellent ability to toast, roast, broil, bake, and cook food.  Think of it as a combination of a toaster and mini oven.

BLACK+DECKER 4-Slice Toaster Oven with Natural Convection, Stainless Steel, TO1760SS

You do not have to defrost frozen food when using a toaster oven. However, preheating the oven before placement gives excellent results.

A toaster oven usually has heating elements present above and below.

They bake and roast very well as both sides get done and there is no need to flip or do any prodding inside to get delicious, crispy food. 

A toaster oven is economical compared to air fryers. However, due to technological advancements, the price goes up with added features. 

It can measure anywhere from six to seven inches up to 18 inches or more. 

A toaster oven gives you more space compared to an Airfryer with the presence of multiple racks and a Crumb tray at the bottom

A versatile kitchen appliance, you can use for pizza, cakes, pastries, muffins, burgers, pies, roasted chicken, meat, veggies, etc.

You can use it for reheating leftover food, make ready-to-cook items, and toast bread slices for breakfast. 

How Does an Air Fryer Work 

The process of Air frying is quite simple. Instead of deep-frying in hot oil, this appliance replicates the heat exposure to food by circulating the hot, dry air. 

When an Air fryer is switched on, heat is produced in the element with the help of electricity.

A high-speed fan inside an air fryer helps to rotate this heat at high speed resulting in a blast of hot air. 

This hot air circulation cooks food and makes it crispy just like deep frying in hot oil.  Simply put, hot air is used to replace hot oil

You can cook small batches of fried food like chicken, meat, fries, veggies, etc. It is perfect for cooking frozen food quickly.

How Does a Toaster Oven Work 

A toaster oven works just like a traditional oven that has been around in the kitchen for ages. 

It is a smaller, compact version, cuboidal in shape to fit into our modern countertops. Think of it as a combination of a toaster and a mini oven!

Once it is switched on, the heating elements present above and below heat up. Heat increases the temperature inside the oven which then cooks food through conduction. 

Depending on the design you choose, you can place raw food in multiple racks and it gets done in one go. Being versatile, you can choose from a wide range of cooking options.

Once the food is done, the oven will switch off and for some new models, the oven door may open up. 

Difference between an Air fryer and a Toaster oven

Now that you are familiar with the workings of an air fryer and a toaster oven, let us proceed towards understanding the difference between them

Design

There are many designs of an air fryer available in the market according to your needs and features: 

  1. There is a standard vertical air fryer with a heating element and a fan.
  2. A Cylindrical barrel-shaped air fryer with a drip tray underneath the basket 
  3. Undercounter Airfryer ovens that can be placed under countertops. Especially useful if you want the counter space to remain free. They also help to air fry large quantities of foods 
  4. Air fryer toaster ovens. They are a cross between air fryers and toaster ovens.

There are four different kinds of toaster ovens available in the market: 

  1. Standard toaster oven. This is a basic version with heating elements and dial control for temperature and time
  2. Convection toaster oven. It has a fan inside that helps to circulate hot air created by the heating element. It cooks the food much faster compared to a normal toaster oven. 
  3. Digital toaster oven. It comes with pre-heat settings and a digital display.
  4. Rotisserie toaster oven. It is designed for roasting meat. These toaster ovens have a turning mechanism that helps to roast meat evenly from all corners. 

Difference in How it Works

Food is placed in the air fryer basket which is placed inside another chamber. 

Hot air circulation helps to cook the food rapidly and make it crispy.  If you are cooking a large amount, you may need to toss or flip so that all pieces get exposed.

In a toaster oven, the food cooks thoroughly with the help of heat created by heating elements.

As the heat is both on top and beneath, food cooks rapidly and evenly. There is no need to flip. 

Structural Difference in Heating Elements 

Since a toaster oven is a mini version of a traditional oven, it has heating elements in form of small strips at the top and bottom. 

An Airfryer is a small appliance with limited space. The heating element here has a coil-like design.

Size 

A standard air fryer is smaller than a toaster oven. However, it is easy to place over countertops as it does not require a lot of space. 

Depending on the design, a toaster oven is slightly larger and rectangular. It takes up a good amount of space but lesser than a microwave (and a lot less than a regular convection oven).  

Cooking Ability

An air fryer is an excellent choice for quick meals, reheating leftovers, and cooking frozen foods. It is very helpful to make your food brown and crisp. 

An air fryer is a healthy alternative for frying chicken and french fries with hot air instead of oil. 

You must not place any batter inside as the batter can spoil the interiors, dry up, and may fly to the heating coil with the help of a fan.  

A toaster oven is an appliance for cooking a lot of food at one time. Spacious and effective, it can cook, reheat, bake, roast, grill, and broil food.

It works best for cooking meat, toasting bread, baking pizza, cakes, etc. You cannot boil rice inside a toaster oven

Cleaning and Maintenance

A toaster oven has an open design with removable racks making it very easy to clean. The crumbs and debris are easy to reach so you can easily remove the gunk and grime.

An air fryer is slightly complicated as you have to remove the basket, take out the drip tray underneath and clean the chamber holding the basket.

You can place parchment paper or aluminum foil to collect the debris so you do not have to reach out to remove debris from a limited space area. 

Energy Consumption 

An air fryer takes up slightly more power compared to a toaster oven. 

A standard air fryer takes up around 1600 watts whereas a standard toaster oven requires a mere 1400 watts. 

The power consumption can increase depending on the size of the model you choose and the added features.

Safety Regarding Both the Appliances

A toaster oven has metallic parts inside as well as on the outside. This can heat up and may cause burns if not handled properly. 

An air fryer is mostly safe with an insulated outer side and the basket tucked safely inside its body.

However, you should be careful which removing hot food from the appliance. Allow it to cool down or use oven mitts. 

Price 

The price may differ a little with the standard toaster ovens costing a little more compared to air fryers. 

The cost of both the appliances may increase or decrease depending on the brand and the inbuilt features.

Conclusion 

Although an Airfryer is perfect for a quick serving of frozen food, you cannot cook large quantities of food.

For that, you need to cook in air fryer ovens or toaster ovens. 

An air fryer has a space-saving compact design. It can be used to cook meat and veggies, defrost, reheat and roast.

As it does away with oil, it is a very healthy alternative to deep frying. You can cook the food faster although cleaning up can be a little hard due to its small size.

A toaster oven is a small version of a traditional oven plus a toaster. It fits perfectly on the countertop taking up less space compared to a microwave.

A toaster oven is a versatile appliance that can be used to bake, grill, toast, roast or reheat leftover food. 

You can cook large portions of food compared to a standard air fryer. A toaster oven is quite easy to clean and maintain due to its open design.

The only caution you have to take is to handle it with oven mitts as the metal parts can get quite hot. 

I hope this detailed analysis between the two appliances answers your query and makes you choose the right appliance for you. All the best!

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