The Air Fryer Bro is back, to explore and possibly answer a common question that many air fryer users have. Whether their shiny new air fryer can be used in the same way as a microwave? I suppose a lot of people are wondering if they can save space on their kitchen worktop by dumping their microwave and replacing it with their recently acquired air fryer.
A microwave is usually used to reheat already cooked or pre-cooked food. Occasionally, it can also be used to cook some food items from scratch. Can you do the same thing in an air fryer? Yes, most of the time you can. But because they cook in two totally different ways, the results will differ slightly. Generally speaking, If you want to reheat or make food with no added texture, go for a microwave. If you want something to come out crunchy or crispy, the air fryer would work well.
Can I use an air fryer as a microwave? Before we get on with the detailed answer, I just want to say that the microwave air Fryer combination and convection microwave appliance are a thing now! I have a whole article talking about my favorite ones…. If you really need to air fry and microwave a lot, this could be a good option 🙂
In this article, we hope to take a deeper look into the different ways a microwave oven and an air fryer cooks. We will talk about how this will affect the type of food that will come out of these kitchen appliances, and whether an air fryer can do what a microwave does well enough to replace it.
How does a microwave work?
To put it in basic terms, a microwave oven will directly penetrate food with heat energy. Once the microwave radiates the food, the molecules inside this food start to move and vibrate around. As these rapid vibrations happen, these molecules (and thus your food) heat up.
What this means is that the microwave oven is heating or cooking food from the inside to the outside, which sets it apart from a lot of other methods kitchen appliances usually use to heat or cook food. It is also able to heat food up in a rapid manner.
How does an air fryer work?
An air fryer does exactly what you would expect from its name. It will heat or air fry food using extremely hot air. This hot air is created by a heating element at the top of the air fryer. This hot air is then circulated around the air fryer’s cooking compartment by a fan. You could relate this method of making hot air to the way a hair dryer or a space heater does it.
An air fryer works in a similar way to a convection oven, but due to an air fryer’s smaller size, the cooking times are usually lower in an air fryer. This smaller size almost condenses the convection effect on the food.
What type of food does each produce?
The microwave’s method of cooking allows it to heat or cook food a lot faster than other methods in the kitchen. This is why the microwave has become a very convenient tool for a lot of kitchens, especially for quickly reheating food. However, this type of cooking will heat food, but it doesn’t add any crispy texture to the food.
An air fryer’s way of cooking applies hot air to the outside of the food you are cooking. This means the food will have a completely different crispier style of cooking. Perfect for cooking food that you want to have more of a texture and a bite to it. I am thinking of mainly fried food such as french fries and chicken wings, as well as food that requires a crisp skin such as rotisserie chicken 🙂
I have also been able to bake a cake in my air fryer, as well as broil like in a conventional oven. Baking and broiling is not really possible from a microwave in my opinion.
So it makes air frying a much more versatile option.
One downside of the air fryer is that hot air can have a drying effect on food. We wrote a whole article about how to help with this problem HERE, if you need help with this. Also, an air fryer basket can be somewhat more restrictive than a microwave’s cooking compartment.
Can an air fryer be used to do the same as a microwave?
The main purpose of a microwave in a lot of people’s kitchen, is to quickly reheat leftover or pre-made food. An air fryer can often do a similar thing to a microwave, it will just take a slightly longer time. As an air fryer is cooking from the outside inwards, you also have to be careful that the food is fully reheated all the way through.
When talking about reheating food, the end result will be better in an air fryer if the food is the type where you would traditionally want a crispy texture. On the flip side, if you only want to apply heat and not texture, the microwave will still do better.
Some people use microwaves to reheat TV dinners or other similar microwave meals. These are specifically designed for use in a microwave, and this would be hard to replicate in an air fryer. If you are able to take the food out of the plastic tray and into some type of air fryer safe cookware, you would be able to reheat the food. However, you are then taking out the major reason people use TV dinners. Convenience.
Another important usage for a microwave is the ease that it can heat up liquid. For example, I can remember making milky coffee for my parents as a kid. You simply put a cup of milk in the microwave and heat it up for a minute or so. Add instant coffee granules and you have a milky coffee. My sister and I also used to make hot chocolate this way too.
Unfortunately, the air fryer’s method of cooking doesn’t suit reheating liquid in such a simple and quick way! So you can also forget about reheating soups or stews in it too!
What’s the best reheating technique for an air fryer?
If you have decided that the food you want to reheat in your air fryer is appropriate (left over pizza and fried chicken seems to work well), then what is the technique you should use?
Simply put, you want a low heat so you can reheat the food without burning it. I usually go with a temperature around 350F or 175C.
It’s hard to give timings, as the size and thickness of each food item will change the timings. I would say play around with it yourself and find the sweet spot for the items you often want to reheat.
When I reheat pizza, I usually do 2-3 minutes at 350f/175C, and I find the pizza you get out is great. A bit crispy, and well warmed through. This is the advantage over a microwave, that these types of foods don’t go soggy when reheating.
What’s the deal?
An air fryer and a microwave oven are two very different types of kitchen appliances with totally different cooking styles. This means being able to replace one with the other depends on your particular use case.
For example, If you use your microwave for heating TV dinners or liquid (or even a baby’s bottle), this can’t be done well and conveniently in an air fryer.
However, if most of your microwave usage involves reheating or cooking foods that can be crispy, an air fryer can take over this job well. As long as you are careful to reheat the food thoroughly.
An air fryer isn’t necessarily better or worse than a microwave, they are both different kitchen appliances with slightly different (but equally useful) applications.
As stated earlier, you can now buy a smart oven or air fryer/ convection microwave oven combo. These appliances will combine the air fryer and microwave function into one unit. If you can find a good one, it could give you the best of both worlds.
Thank you for reading another article over here at Air Fryer Bro. Hopefully, it cleared up some of your questions regarding the differences between a microwave and an air fryer. If you still have some unanswered questions, please let us know in the comments section below. Also, if you have any of your own experience trying to ditch a microwave for an air fryer, we would love to hear all about your journey in the comments section below.