Can an Air Fryer Replace a Microwave? Detailed Comparison!

An air fryer can do almost all the things a microwave can except when it comes to heating or cooking liquids, cooking in bulk, and the cooking speed (compared to a microwave)

A detailed answer to whether your Airfryer can replace your microwave depends on your usage and cooking habits.

If you like to cook fresh and frozen veggies, fresh and frozen meat, and love crispness, you should go for an Airfryer. 

If it’s quick reheating, bulk heating, and heating liquids you are looking for, pick a microwave over an Airfryer.

Allow me to tell you all about air fryers and microwaves, their differences, advantages, so you can decide which one is best and whether you can replace one with another. 

How Does an Airfryer Work? 

An Airfryer has two main elements to cook food – a heating coil and a fan. The heating coil may be located on the top or at the back depending on your model design. 

As the coil gets heated up, hot air is circulated with the help of a fan. 

It is circulating hot air that cooks your food inside an air fryer due to the ‘Maillard Reaction. It is a chemical reaction between reducing sugars and amino acids that makes your food tender and crisp.

An air fryer cooks food in the same manner compared to a conventional oven.

However, when the cooking space is reduced and superheated air is circulated with just a teaspoon of oil on the food, it gives you superior results for all kinds of food while reducing your calories. 

An air fryer also speeds up cooking compared to a conventional oven

How Does a Microwave Work? 

A microwave uses electromagnetic waves to cook food.  These are wavelengths shorter than red light.

Microwaves have an electron tube called a magnetron that produces electromagnetic radiation. The waves are reflected inside the oven and hit food particles at a cellular level. 

These waves interact with the water molecules inside food causing them to vibrate rapidly. The temperature increases causing the molecules to heat up, which in turn, heat food.  

As the food is heated up from inside, the container or plate remains cool to touch.

The microwave will only affect your food leaving metal and plastic alone. 

Differences Between an Air Fryer and a Microwave 

For you to get a clear picture, let us now move on two the differences between the two appliances

The Difference in Heating Time 

A microwave can reheat leftovers much faster compared to an Airfryer. This is because it interacts with water molecules inside the food, heating it almost instantly.

While it may take a microwave a few seconds to minutes, an Airfryer is slower and may take up to 5 minutes to thoroughly heat up. 

An air fryer is slower in cooking and heating food due to the heating mechanism inside. First, the coil heats up, and then with the help of a fan, hot air is circulated at a fast speed around the food heating it up evenly and thoroughly.

While an Airfryer is slower than a microwave, it is much faster compared to any conventional oven. 

Takeaway – Microwave cooks faster than an air fryer

The Difference in Food Texture 

Airfryer gives you crispy food that is tender inside while being crunchy on the outside. 

You can brown pizzas, fried chicken, french fries, and make scrumptious cookies and pastries. An air fryer essentially cooks from outside and spreads heat inwards

A microwave cooks food from inside out. As it interacts with food molecules the heat is spread from inside out. 

If you microwave for too long, the water molecules dry up. It is great for reheating leftovers, liquids, and making tea and coffee.

One difference I noticed when heating a chocolate-filled brownie with both an air fryer and microwave was that the microwave heats the chocolate inside the brownie really fast while the outside later of the brownie may still not be hot. On the contrary, an air fryer cooks the outside first and then the heat goes inside.

Takeaway – Microwave will cook inside out and air fryer will cook outside in

The Difference in Versatile Functions 

An air fryer is more versatile compared to a microwave. 

The chamber is small where hot air is circulated at a fast speed. Not only can it air fry your food, but it can also cook food to perfection.

With practice you can bake, roast, reheat and cook practically anything inside an Airfryer with the right accessories.

The only exception is boiling water or liquids.

Microwaves are great for heating meals, soups, and liquids. You can make rice and pasta inside a microwave within minutes. 

Takeaway – Air fryer is a lot more versatile than a microwave. You can actually cook food with an air fryer, but with a microwave, it’s mostly about heating food/liquids

The Difference in Health Benefits 

An air fryer cooks food naturally. Instead of using radiation, it just circulates heat like an oven. 

Although the makers of microwaves claim that using microwaves does not alter the nutritional content of food, they do not have any evidence to back up their claim. 

On the other hand, studies conducted by NIH (national institute for health) showed that microwave cooking increased the presence of acrylamide in food, which is a neurotoxin and a cancer-causing substance. Read more on the published study here

An Airfryer decreases the acrylamide content in food when they are exposed to high heat.

This is due to dry hot air that quickly cooks food.

Studies have shown a 90% reduction in the formation of acrylamide in an Airfryer. Read more details here

Takeaway – Air frying your food will decrease the presence of acrylamide while microwaving will increase it (less acrylamide is better)

The Difference in Cooking Capacity 

A microwave is a large appliance and can do bulk cooking easily.

No matter how much food you stuff, it will be ready to eat in 30 minutes most of the time. 

An air fryer is a small appliance that cannot be used to cook food in bulk.

Due to its small size, you need to cook multiple times in batches for bulk food. An air fryer also has a maximum limit scale that should not be exceeded.

The limit makes sure there is apt space between the heat and the airflow. 

Takeaway – If you need to reheat a lot of food, the microwave is faster. An air fryer can also heat food but will take slightly longer

The Difference in Power Consumption 

An air fryer is more efficient and power-saving compared to a microwave. 

It needs only 1200-1600 watts of power depending on the model for a prolonged period. 

A microwave consumes that power in thirty minutes. It also has a standby mode that can take up to seven watts.

An air fryer does not have a standby mode. 

Takeaway – While an air fryer may need more time to cook, it uses less energy than a microwave

The Difference in Temperature Settings 

An air fryer cooks at a lower temperature compared to a microwave. 

A microwave gives you many temperature options. The temperature setting can go as high as you want, depending on your model.  

An air fryer goes maximum up to 400 degrees F (roughly 200-degree Centigrade) depending on your model.

But it cooks thoroughly and evenly with the help of rapid hot air circulation.   

Takeaway – A microwave has more temperature options, while an air fryer usually has a max of 400 degrees Fahrenheit

Difference in Maintenance 

Microwaves are difficult to clean compared to an Airfryer due to their large size.

As they are highly combustible, you need to make sure the cleaning agents are free from harmful chemicals.

You need to reach deep for nooks and crannies inside a microwave. 

An air fryer is small and compact and comes with detachable parts that are dishwasher safe. 

Cleaning an Airfryer is super easy. Either use a dishwasher or wash it with warm soapy water. 

The fan and coil inside are very strong and sturdy and can last for years. 

After cleaning, you need to wipe and dry out both the appliances before further use. 

Takeaway – An air fryer is easier to clean and its detachable parts are also dishwasher safe

Let us move towards the advantages and disadvantages of microwave and Airfryer 

Advantages of Using a Microwave 

  • The best advantage that microwaves offer is speed. Everything gets cooked in a maximum of 30-40 minutes. They are pioneers when it comes to quick food preparation and supersede all cooking methods. 
  • Microwaves are quite energy-efficient due to their speed. Although they take up a lot of power, the total energy consumption cuts down due to their speed. There is no waiting or preheating time in a microwave. Everything is immediate
  • Microwaves are accurate with their power and time settings. The heat is just right according to the settings you choose. You can control the timing to precise seconds. Accurate cooking leads to well-done meals without the fear of under or overdone food preparations. 
  • Microwaves are very easy to operate. It doesn’t take very long to understand the control panel settings. There is a temperature or power setting and a timer setting. Some microwaves come with preset function buttons.  The smooth controls can be started and stopped at any time. 

Advantages of Using an Airfryer 

  • You can air fry and cook all vegetables and meat in your Airfryer. There is no need to marinate any raw meat overnight. Just five minutes of marination is sufficient for cooking inside an Airfryer. 
  • An air fryer controls your cholesterol by decreasing the oil content in your food. You just need to brush your food with oil. 
  • Air Fryers decrease the amount of acrylamide production inside food up to 90% and are the healthiest and safest cooking option. There is no exposure to fire or radiation. Just hot air that is circulating the food. 
  • The absence of oil decreases the total calorie intake without compromising the nutritional content of food. Healthily lose weight with an air fryer
  • The components of an Airfryer can be easily dismantled and are dishwasher safe.
  • If you like fried food, you can fry safely inside an Airfryer with hot air without any risk of hot oil burns. The results are very much the same
  • You can brown and crisp veggies, frozen, and bake muffins inside an Airfryer.
  • With the right accessories, you can grill and roast your food as well inside an Airfryer 
  • An air fryer comes with preset functional program buttons in the control panel that can be used to cook veggies, meat, fish, frozen, etc. Once the setting is complete, the Airfryer shuts down automatically so your food is never under or overdone.
  • You can manipulate the power and timer control to get your preferred texture from food. Use an Airfryer to cook a variety of dishes.

Disadvantages of Using a Microwave 

  • A microwave cannot deep fry food and make it crisp. The oil will heat up but not boil. 
  • Microwave cooking increases the amount of acrylamide content in food. Acrylamide is a neurotoxin and a carcinogen that gets produced when food is exposed to high heat. 
  • The waves interact with water molecules inside food to heat it This dries up food at a faster rate compared to all other cooking techniques.
  • Microwaves only penetrate up to two inches. For dense foods, the inner side gets heated up with heat transfer from the outer area. 
  • Microwaves are quite apt at taking away the original flavor and taste. Some dishes come out bland when cooked inside a microwave.

Disadvantages of Using an Airfryer 

  • Air fryers have limited space. They cannot be used to cook in bulk. Due to their small size, it becomes impossible to cook whole birds or big meat pieces inside them. Baking a cake is also difficult because of size constraints. 
  • An air fryer takes time to heat up and cook food. The cooking process is a bit slow compared to microwaves. Air frying takes up more time compared to traditional deep frying on stovetops. 
  • You need to shake up the basket a bit once in the middle or flip your food to get it evenly Crips from both sides. This can be infuriating for some. 
  • Although you can heat liquids in a heat-resistant,oven-safe container, the liquid will never boil. You can never really reheat liquids, tea, and coffee well inside an Airfryer. 

Conclusion 

Whether Airfryer can replace a microwave depends on your food habits, health concerns, and free time. 

An air fryer is a much healthier option to cook your food. It decreases the acrylamide content in food, controls cholesterol, and decreases calorie count without affecting the nutritional content of your food. 

The only catch is its inability to cook in bulk, slower cooking compared to microwaves, and inability to boil liquids. So you cannot cook rice, pasta or make tea or coffee in an Airfryer.

Microwave, on the other hand, gives you quick food results, heats food within seconds, and can make your tea, coffee, rice, and pasta. 

So if you can spare a little time and don’t mind waiting, an Airfryer can truly replace your microwave. 

For rice and beverages, use a stovetop or rice cooker and coffee maker. Microwave beverages often have stale tastes.

Choose a large version of Airfryer if you usually cook large portions. There are many new models available in the market.

Buy accessories to roast, grill, and bake food to your heart’s content in an Airfryer! 

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