As the Air Fryer Bro, I have talked about microwaves a fair amount. I have done articles talking about whether you can use an air fryer as a microwave and also one on air fryer microwave combo appliances! But today I am taking it back to basics and doing a simple comparison…. air fryer VS microwave…. what are the differences and which one is best for you? Read on to get the lowdown!
Air Fryer VS Microwave: 11 Points of Comparison
Using these main points of comparison, you should be able to work out which appliance is best for your specific needs.
1. Cooking Method
An air fryer and a microwave differ a lot when it comes to the cooking method they use.
An air fryer uses a heating element coupled with a high-powered fan, which works in tandem to push hot air around the air fryer’s cooking compartment and cook the food inside.
A microwave uses the wonders of electromagnetic radiation to penetrate your food and warm it up from the inside. The molecules inside the food start to move around and bump together like rush hour on a busy train! This is what causes the food to heat up.
2. Cooking Styles
The different cooking methods described above create very different outcomes in your food. An air fryer can crisp up the outer layer of your food, whilst maintaining moisture inside. Whereas a microwave is good for heating or re-heating food, but if overdone can lead to something dried out and not appetizing.
On top of this, a typical air fryer can do many different cooking styles, from roasting to air frying and even to dehydrating. Whereas a typical microwave is only good for heating or reheating food in one way.
If you want to be able to add more cooking styles to your microwave, you will need to buy a combination microwave, which is a hybrid appliance that combines the functions of a microwave with other cooking appliances.
3. Energy Efficiency
The typical bog standard microwave would be considered slightly more energy efficient than a typical air fryer. A typical microwave would usually be around 700-800 watts, whereas an air fryer would be around 1200-1500 watts. And you typically run both appliances for a similar amount of time, so clearly the microwave would use less energy.
However, to get the full extend of cooking styles that an air fryer has you would need to get a combination oven which at least includes a convection cooking option, and these are often a lot closer to wattage to a typical air fryer.
So when comparing apples to apples (i.e. feature similar appliances) both would be very similar when it comes to energy efficiency.
Both an air fryer and a microwave have a good amount of insulation, which keeps more of the heat inside the unit and improves energy efficency.
The size of the typical air fryer is smaller than the typical microwave, meaning it has a smaller footprint on your kitchen countertop. A microwave is more inline with an air fryer oven (an air fryer within an oven style format) when it comes to size and footprint.
5. Cooking space
Although the cooking space is similar, I would argue that an air fryer gives you more usable cooking space. A microwave often comes with a turntable or rotating glass plate in the middle, which means it is hard to stack food or have multiple layers.
An air fryer doesn’t let you stack food either, as it would affect the cooking efficiency of the unit (if hot air can’t flow all around your food, it won’t cook evenly). However, you can easily add an additional wire rack to an air fryer, giving you several layers of space to cook.
And if you switch to an air fryer oven, you will have plenty of space and multiple layers of cooking space to use.
An air fryer is more compact than a microwave and is easier to move around. This not only means an air fryer uses less kitchen counter space, but it can also be easily tucked away it in a cupboard when not in use. This is not so easy with a microwave.
An air fryer is also more versatile when it comes to what you can cook inside. You could roast a whole chicken, dehydrate some fruit and bake a cake! All in one appliance. This would simply not be possible in a microwave and would require you to have additional kitchen appliances.
7. Cleaning Up
Both a microwave and an air fryer are easy to clean up, with easy to wipe main cooking compartments. A microwave is a simple ‘box’ you can wipe out whereas the air fryer’s cooking compartment can be lifted out and taken over to the sink to wash.
The only advantage an air fryer has over a microwave when it comes to cleanup, is that more of its parts can be cleaned in a dishwasher.
The typical microwave is slightly more expensive than the typical air fryer, although not by much. We can see this by comparing the Amazon Basics model of both products. This gives us a good baseline for how much a bog standard unit should cost. You can see them below and view them for yourselves over at Amazon by clicking the image.
Typically, the air fryer will cost between $10-20 less than the microwave.
The other thing to consider is that if you want a microwave with all the cooking styles of an air fryer, you would need to buy a combination microwave, which would cost considerably more. The Galanz model below is somewhere between 2 to 3 times the price of a typical air fryer, for example.
A lot of people think that air fryers are noisy, but when compared to a microwave, the noise levels are similar. Both will clock in around the 55-60 decibel range in your kitchen. If you don’t believe me, you should go read some of my air fryer reviews. I always put the decibel rating each time, and they have always been in the range described above 🙂
As a microwave has been around for longer than an air fryer, I would argue that the typical user could use a microwave safely right out of the gate. For example, most people know the main safety rule of not putting metal into a microwave. However, very few people realise that you can’t cook light food in an air fryer, which could fly around the cooking compartment and potentially cause a fire risk against the heating element. Or that excessive oil build up inside an air fryer could lead to white smoke setting off smoke alarms!
11. Food Safety
Both the microwave and the air fryer have plenty of rumours floating around saying that they make your food radioactive or encourage excessive cancer causing carcinogens in your food. However, there is no scientific evidence to back this up.
Yes, if a microwave is poorly maintained, there is the potential it could leak electromagnetic radiation. If you burn all your food in your air fryer, it will produce more carcinogens in the same way a barbeque will. But if you use both appliances as intended, they are safe for public consumption 🙂