Air Fryer vs Microwave – The Difference Between The Two & Which Appliance Is Best For You

Air fryers and microwaves are both appliances that help us save time in the kitchen and make cooking easier but you might be wondering which is best for you and your cooking situation.

The main difference between microwaves and air fryers is that microwaves heat up food and reheat whereas air fryers change the way you cook the food. If you want to heat or reheat food you will require a microwave, if you want to cook food and have fryer quality food you will want an air fryer.

In this article I will be talking about each appliance, what they do and what are the differences along with which is more suitable to you and what you require.

What Is An Air Fryer?

Air fryers are fairly modern pieces of technology that have gained a lot of popularity in the past few years. Essentially, they attempt to recreate the process of cooking in a deep fryer but using very hot air instead of very hot oil.

The reason that they do this is that cooking in a deep fryer is extremely unhealthy. Not only are you submerging your food in fat, but the fat is absorbed into the food itself during the cooking process.

An air fryer prevents this from happening by, simply, preventing there from being any oil in the basket of the air fryer. With that said, some recipes recommend that you add a little oil to the food that you’re cooking in an air fryer – but whether you do is completely up to you.

The way that air fryers work is that they heat up the air within the basket to an exceptionally high temperature. Then, when the basket is completely in position and any leaks are therefore closed, a fan circulates the hot air very quickly in order to heat the food, thereby cooking it. The benefit of cooking in this way is that the outside of a piece of food gets heated exceptionally quickly, meaning that the outside gets crispy in a way that isn’t possible in a conventional oven.

Air fryers are most typically used for frying things that would typically be extremely unhealthy, thereby making them a little bit less unhealthy. For example, air frying some fries is much healthier than deep-frying them, and you’ll have exceptionally similar results. Another food often cooked in air fryers is fried chicken, which also requires very high external temperatures in order to properly crisp.

What Is A Microwave?

A microwave is an appliance that, while feeling quite modern, was actually invented a fairly long time ago. During the second world war, radar was invented for planes that flew on military missions. Percy Spencer, an American engineer, is generally credited with the invention of microwave ovens. The first models were named ‘Radarange’ and were sold in 1946.

A microwave oven works by exposing food that’s within the center of the oven to electromagnetic radiation in the microwave frequency range.

Essentially, that means that a microwave oven generates microwave radiation and zaps it at your food. These microwaves then penetrate the outer 3 centimeters or so of your food and rapidly heat small pockets of water.

The heat from these little water pockets then spreads through the rest of your food by conduction. In order to ensure that even cooking is achieved within a microwave, they typically have spinning turntables in the center which are timed to spin a given number of times in a minute.

This means that if a plate of food is placed in the center of a microwave, it will be exposed to microwave radiation from all sides as the turntable rotates.

Microwaves are more often used to reheat food than they are used to cook food. The reason for this is that microwaves heat food very well, but typically don’t add much in the way of the original flavor. Therefore, people often cooking in a pan or an oven, and then reheat food in the microwave.

With that said, there are recipes where microwaves take center stage, however. A lot of the time, people will cook smaller meals in a microwave, for one or two people, such as a small portion of scrambled eggs, or a baked potato.

What Are The Differences Between Air Fryers & Microwaves

The way that microwaves and air fryers cook food is fundamentally different. Air fryers heat up air and use that as a medium in which they rapidly cook food.

This is the same as a deep fryer, but a deep fryer will use oil instead. On the other hand, a microwave will usually not heat air at all, instead heating small pockets of water near the surface of food, allowing for the rest of the food to heat by conduction.

It would be a lie to say that microwaves cook better or worse than air fryers, as the two are just fundamentally different. The important thing to bear in mind, though, is that as an air fryer cooks food, food browns through a number of well-studied browning reactions which develop flavor.

This isn’t the case with a microwave, so you’re missing out on some critical cooking reactions there, which is a shame, truly.

The cooking time between microwaves and air fryers typically varies a little bit. A microwave will typically cook food more quickly as the process of heating food via microwaves is really efficient, leading to rapid heating of water-heavy food.

On the other hand, the heat has to inefficiently transfer between the hot air and the food in an air fryer, which takes a lot longer as it is much less efficient.

Advantages and Disadvantages of a Microwave


  • Generally, faster cook time.
  • Safer, as fires are extremely rare with microwaves.
  • Much more affordable.


  • Won’t crisp food on the outside.
  • Very single-function: a microwave can heat food up and that’s it.

Advantages and Disadvantages of an Air Fryer


  • A healthy way to cook – little oil used in the cooking process.
  • Well-browned and crisp food.
  • Can cook a number of different types of food.


  • More expensive than a microwave.
  • Can take a while to preheat before cooking.
  • May be more dangerous due to the conventional heating element.

Which Appliance Is Better For You?

This is a tricky question to answer as the appliances generally serve two different purposes.

If you’re someone who just needs to warm up food, then a microwave may be a better choice for you. Microwaves have been around for a very long time, making them affordable and dependable.

They are exceptionally good at heating food up very quickly and will do it every time. Furthermore, microwaves typically have a very long life as they don’t have too many moving parts within them, leading to sturdy construction, ideal for use in the home.

If you’re someone looking to change up the way that you make food and cook healthier meals, using less oil, then an air fryer might be a better way to go for you. An airy fryer can be a great addition to a kitchen, but we’d really recommend considering how much you’ll use one before you get one. They can be quite costly and would make an expensive item to just use as a decoration.

Furthermore, we’d also recommend checking out a few air fryer recipes before picking one up to make sure that you know what you’re going to be cooking in it. That way you can grocery shop accordingly, and buy an air fryer that’s the right size for your needs.