Welcome back to Air Fryer Bro, the place where we tackle all the burning issues around air fryers! Today, we are comparing the air fryer vs toaster oven and the pros and cons of both. I have wanted to do this for a while, because I often see comments such as “it’s just a posh toaster oven or countertop oven” leveled at air fryers more often than I would like! When you look into it, modern smart oven technology is much more complicated than this! So here is our Air fryer vs toaster oven low down! Which should you cook food in today? Read on to find out….
Although air fryers and toaster ovens are common kitchen appliances, they have some key differences. Although they both having heating elements (often positioned at the top of the cooking compartment), the air fryer uses a powerful fan to aggressively circulate hot air from this element around the cooking compartment. This means an air fryer can give a crisping effect similar to deep fat frying. Whereas a toaster oven’s more simple heating element arrangement acts more like a broiler or, at best, a basic oven.
Of course, this is a basic overview. Let’s get into the finer details and compare every aspect in more detail.
Please note: To view any of the products mentioned in this article on Amazon, simply click the picture.
What are my baseline air fryer and toaster oven models?
When comparing anything, we need a standardized base to build on. This will help us understand where these comparisons are coming from. When I talk about an air fryer or a toaster oven in this article, this is what I am talking about.
A typical air fryer
For air fryers, I would say a typical model is the Ninja air fryer model featured below. It is a more traditional bucket style air fryer with all the typical features I would expect.
A typical toaster oven
When I think of a typical toaster oven, this would be the Hamilton Beach toaster oven below. When people tell me they have a toaster oven, this is usually what I see.
Don’t confuse one of these with a conventional oven (the regular oven most of you would use), these are much smaller and more basic.
Air fryers and toaster oven compared
What’s the difference between an air fryer and a toaster oven
Actually, when talking about the typical air fryer and toaster oven, there are some pretty major differences,as follows:
Yes, both create hot air! But how? A toaster oven uses a pretty basic form of heat, a simple strip of heating elements placed in the unit. Very basic toaster oven models have only one set of heating elements at the top, whereas some more fancy ones will have both at the top and bottom.
Many air fryers also have a pretty standard heating element, although it is usually stronger than in a toaster oven and in a coil form. The thing that makes a big difference is the powerful fan found in the air fryer. This fan will push and circulate the hot air around the air fryer’s cooking compartment, and this is how the food inside is air fried. An air fryer is unique in the way it distributes hot air around its cooking compartment.
If you want a toaster oven more in line with an air fryer, you could buy a slightly more expensive one with the convection function (meaning it has a small fan inside). This still won’t be as powerful or offer the fried food style of the air fryer, though.
Method of cooking
Most typical toaster ovens only have a small selection of cooking methods available. Usually they can bake, broil, roast and grill (and occasionally act as a rotisserie). Whereas an air fryer can do these types of cooking, as well adding air frying and even dehydrating to the mix. This makes the air fryer a much more flexible kitchen accessory than the typical toaster oven.
Of course, the main attraction of an air fryer is to get that air fried taste (instead of unhealthy deep fat frying that the air fryer is designed to replace!), something the toaster oven can’t compete with. Being able to air fry is a one of the main reasons I bought an air fryer myself. As someone that loves french fries and chicken wings, the air fryer has been perfect!
I also feel that my air fryer is much better at roasting than a toaster oven. Try roasting a whole chicken in there, for example!
Simply put, air fryers cook food in a wider variety of ways than a typical toaster oven.
Potential Mechanical Problems & Safety
An air fryer is a fairly new kitchen appliance which uses a more complex and powerful heat source to cook the food inside, whereas a toaster oven is a much simpler device that has been around for decade. In general, this means that the air fryer is far more likely to have mechanical problems than a toaster oven. Don’t get me wrong, if you invest in a good quality air fryer it is not likely to break down. It is just more likely to happen when compared with an air fryer.
The intense heat used inside an air fryer makes it more likely to have safety issues as well. Air fryers are safe appliances when used correctly, but are more likely to have safety issues when put alongside the toaster oven.
Speed of cooking
Even a good toaster oven will cook most things at the speed of a regular (or maybe a fan assisted) oven. Whereas, for most food types, an air fryer will cook in around half of this time.
The only cooking style that might be faster and/or easier in a toaster oven would be toasting (hence the name I suppose). For example, toasting bread or making cheese on toast (a British tradition), this would be easier and probably faster in a toaster oven.
On the whole, for a faster cooking time and cooking process, go with an air fryer.
Cooking Frozen Food
I cook food from frozen in my air fryer all the time, and the power of the air fryer’s cooking style means it only adds a few more minutes onto your regular cooking time. This is much harder in most toaster ovens, with would struggle to even cook frozen food in a decent amount of time.
Most toaster ovens have very little insulation to keep the heat in. You will often see thin metal as the only form of insulation provided. If you buy a more expensive model, this may improve, but still is not comparable with the typical air fryer.
An air fryer will typically have a cooking basket that sits inside a well-insulated cooking compartment. They are often designed with insulation in mind. This will keep more of the heat inside the air fryer, and not heating up your kitchen instead. This is especially helpful for people with small kitchens or that live in hot climates. For me in Hong Kong, using an air fryer makes it easier for me to cook even in the peak heat of the summer!
This insulation is also very handy when you have a small kitchen (like me). The outside surfaces on the air fryers I have owned never get hot. This means you can store an air fryer very soon after you have finished using it. Whereas, you would have to wait for the metal exterior of a toaster oven to cool down first.
When you look at the typical Hamilton Beach toaster oven shown above, you can see that it is rated at 1400watts. In comparison the Ninja air fryer used is 1550 watts. For a generally more powerful cooking appliance, that isn’t much of a wattage bump for the air fryer in my opinion. And the better insulation will probably make an air fryer more energy efficient than a toaster oven.
When comparing the typical price of an air fryer vs toaster oven, it is clear to me that the air fryer is generally more expensive. Of course, both products have a complete range of products, but in general, this would be the case. When you look at the cheapest toaster oven on Amazon (at the time of writing), you are looking in the $20-30 range. Whereas, the cheapest air fryer would be $40-50 at best. For most people, they will buy a toaster oven for around $50-60 and $100-120 for an air fryer. That’s quite a difference in price. This price difference increases even more when you purchase ‘big brand’ air fryers such as those made by Philips and Ninja.
The traditional toaster oven has more space to cook in when compared to the traditional bucket style air fryer (even though they take up the same countertop space inches!). You would definitely have to buy a large capacity air fryer to get the same level of cooking space available in a toaster oven. The typical air fryer basket doesn’t let you cook much, as you can’t block the airflow by stacking (unless you have wire rack accessories). This will lead to you having to cook bigger portions of food in batches, which is not ideal.
However, the recent introduction to the market of oven air fryers has helped to balance out this difference and increase the capacity of the air fryer. You can now get an air fryer in the form factor of an oven, with the large capacity seen in toaster ovens. Although, these are generally even more expensive than a bucket style air fryer. You would be lucky to find an air fryer oven close to the $100 mark. See the example below.
These air fryer ovens are usually more expensive, but are also more premium and offer the large capacity some are looking for in their kitchen appliances. They will also offer a rotisserie function not available in traditional air fryers.
These days, most air fryers are fitted with a digital display. This comes across as more modern, and gives an impression of a smart oven. Most toaster ovens are still using more conventional rotary dials.
What are some common features both an air fryer and toaster oven share?
Both an air fryer and a toaster oven are compact countertop cooking appliances when compared to traditional ovens. They are often compact and easy to move, whilst not taking up much counter space. When not in use, both appliances could be stored away in a cupboard. Although, as stated above, the air fryer’s increased insulation does make it much easier to store.
Easy to clean
Both units are compact and easy to clean. Although, a traditional bucket air fryer might be considered slightly easier, as you can often completely lift the air fryer’s cooking compartment out of the unit to clean in the sink. Certainly makes it easier to soak in soapy water 🙂 The only thing that can be annoying to clean with an air fryer is the mountain of accessories they often come with 🙂
Is an air fryer better than a toaster oven?
Of course, there is no way to tell each and every one of you which kitchen appliance is best for you. Everyone has their own requirements, so it is up to you to see which each offers and decide for yourself. Some people might favor size, whereas others may favor pure cost or even the type of foods cooked in your household!
Although, I can tell you what is best for me and why. Living in Hong Kong, I have a tiny kitchen. So the flexibility and ease of storage that the air fryer brings is the best solution for me. Also, I cook ‘fried’ food in my household much more than toasted.
As far as I can see, the only reasons someone would choose a toaster oven over an air fryer is if they want to spend less money and if they mostly prefer to toast rather than fry food.
Is an air fryer healthier than a toaster oven?
I am not a nutritionist or a scientist, so I can’t give you any professional advice here. But, from my layman’s point of view, I think both these kitchen appliances would be similar when it comes to health. You might even argue that a toaster oven is healthier, as you can cook mostly without adding any oil. Whereas, for a lot of food in the air fryer, it is recommended to spritz the surface with oil to help it get crispier.
Wrap up and Conclusion
So there you have it. Our comparison of the air fryer and toaster oven. I hope it helped you decide which is best for you and your kitchen counter 🙂 For me personally, after being introduced to air fryers, I would never go back to even thinking about buying a toaster oven. To me, they seem prehistoric in comparison. But hey, maybe that’s just me!
Even a convection toaster oven would not be a buy for me. At this price point, you might as well get the extra power of an air fryer oven. Again, just my opinion here!
If you have different opinions, we would love to hear all about them in the comments section below. The Air Fryer Bro can’t be an expert at everything, so we welcome input from other knowledgeable people in the community 🙂
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best air fryer toaster oven?
I think the funniest thing now is that the lines are starting to get even more blurred between toaster ovens and air fryers. Not only do we have convection toaster ovens to muddy the waters. Manufacturers are literally starting to combine the features of toaster ovens and air fryers together, with interesting results.
So, if you need the features of both an air fryer and a toaster oven, this may be your best option. I have seen the likes of Cuisinart and Breville in this space, but the best option I have seen lately is by Cosori. You can see their air fryer toaster oven below. At this point, it’s pretty much the same as an air fryer oven. These manufacturers just like to cover all their bases with different naming schemes!
Is an air fryer the same as a small convection oven?
When we refer to a small convection oven, we are talking about a countertop convection oven that has a heating element and a small fan to push hot air around the cooking compartment. This should not be treated the same as an air fryer, which is more like a convection oven on steroids. This is because the fan and heating element used is much more powerful than what you find in a typical convection oven, and therefore your french fries will be more crispy when they come out of an air fryer versus a regular convection oven.
The problem is that manufacturers will often label both convection style toaster ovens and air fryers with the same ‘convection cooking’ label, leading to some consumers thinking they are the same. Don’t be fooled.
This Black and Decker small convection oven is a prime example of this.
If you want something more like an air fryer, you need something with a more powerful heating element and fan. An air fryer oven (sometimes also labelled with the convection oven tag) would be your best bet.
Sorry if you are confused by all this talk of convection ovens, toaster ovens, convection toaster ovens and convection air fryers!! The modern smart oven technology market has turned into a mess! I wish the manufacturers would stick to a more sensible and uniform naming structure ha ha!!
Can an air fryer replace a toaster oven?
Yes, an air fryer can replace a toaster oven and give you more cooking styles as a bonus. This is especially the case if you buy an air fryer oven, which would have a similar (if not bigger) form factor than a typical toaster oven.