Have you ever gone to the store planning to buy a new microwave for your house, but you inadvertently noticed that you were in the air fryer aisle?
I bet you’re thinking to yourself, what’s the difference between an air fryer and a regular microwave? Should you get an air fryer instead?
Here’s everything you should consider when making the switch.
Can an air fryer replace a microwave?
While it may seem practical for an air fryer to replace a microwave oven, an air fryer does not replicate the convenience, speed, and method of cooking as a microwave does. An air fryer can replace a regular or convection oven, but not a microwave.
Such things as boiling water and heating up soups and stews is considered inefficient and can become a challenge for air fryers to handle, while doing so with a microwave is a cinch.
What are the differences between an air fryer and a microwave?
One of the biggest differences between using an air fryer and a microwave is the ability to reheat leftovers and heating liquids.
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), microwaves are defined to have an electronic component called a magnetron. This is an electron tube that produces the electromagnetic radiation reflected within the oven’s interior. The interesting thing about microwaves is that it heats food at a cellular level cooking the water contained within the food.
Air fryers have a fan and a heating element that circulates heat around the food while airflow encompasses the oven for an even and thorough cooking.
Microwave ovens are infinitely faster at cooking than air fryers. It takes mere seconds to a few minutes to warm food in a microwave, but with air fryers, it can take 15 minutes or longer.
Arguably speaking, air fryers are more versatile than microwaves.
You can cook many things in a microwave, but you can cook almost anything in an air fryer if you have the right accessories for bacon, steaks, and fried chicken, for example. Yes, you heard that right. If you didn’t already know, there are some really neat accessories that will allow you to cook things in your air fryer that you’ve never imagined you could.
Either way, microwaves are great and have the advantage when it comes to warming up liquids and soups. Using an air fryer would just not be energy efficient enough.
Air fryers have a limited capacity in this respect but it does provide a more natural way of cooking food. Rather than using radiation, it is simply circulating heat.
Some people would also argue that you can still cook nearly everything in an air fryer.
I would advise, however, that if you plan to cook soup in an air fryer, try using a heat-resistant bowl to place the soup inside. You’re just going to need a lot more time and patience.
Although the FDA claims minerals and vitamins don’t alter in a microwave, they do not provide evidence or proof of this. With the handful of studies by the National Institutes for Health (NIH), microwave cooking does increase acrylamide in food, a known carcinogen. This does affect food’s overall nutritional content. Air fryer cooking decreases acrylamide contamination by 90%.
With microwaves, you can pop in a big batch of leftovers and have it ready within minutes. It doesn’t matter how much food there is, cooked for the appropriate amount of time, it will be ready to eat within 30 minutes.
Air fryers, on the other hand, cannot cook a lot of food at once. This is because you have to ensure there’s enough space between the heat and airflow. So, you will often have to cook larger batches in phases.
Air fryers are easiest to clean and maintain. Their small, compact size with portability and non-stick pans makes cleaning a cinch. High-quality models have tested coils and fans, giving you decades of use.
Microwaves are difficult to clean. Not only will there be oil, sauce, and butter splatters and stains, you also can’t use a heavy-duty cleaner.
Because of combustibility, you can’t be sure the cleaner is free of things like aluminum or other metal-based chemicals.
There are virtually no detachable parts aside from the turning table so you have to really reach into the microwave’s chamber to grab all the crumbs and scrub off the stains.
And after cleaning, you’ll have to wipe down all the excess water to dry up the microwave.
Plus, you have to replace light bulbs and turntables periodically.
Microwaves consume 1200 watts of power for around 30 minutes every day. Plus, it uses up to seven more watts when in standby mode. Air fryers are more efficient; exuding somewhere between 1200 and 1500 watts over a long period of time. It also doesn’t have a standby mode.
Air fryers cook food at a lower temperature than microwave ovens. But the hot air circulation with even coverage allows for thorough cooking of more delicate foods. Microwaves easily cook food at a hotter temperature than is palatable for most people.
Tips on how to use an air fryer to get microwave-like results
In some instances, you will be able to use an air fryer to get microwave-like results. Keep the following tips in mind:
- Air fryers don’t produce the same results as microwaves since they make food crispy
- Don’t attempt to cook soup, stew, or hot beverages in an air fryer, but if you must, use a heat resistant container
- The food will cook faster if you don’t pack too much food into the air fryer basket
- You will have to experiment with temperatures and cooking times. I recommend taking note of how much time it would take you to microwave a type of food for a certain amount of time and then try to replicate that heating however long it takes with an air fryer.
How to reheat food using an air fryer
If you’re looking to reheat things like pizza and fried chicken, simply set the air fryer at 350°F (175°C). Place your food in and cook for about two to three minutes. You may need to put it on longer depending on the size and amount.
The longer you keep your food in the air fryer, the crispier the texture becomes. However, be aware that if you place your food in the air fryer for too long, the outer edges of your food will become burnt and dry.
Can you make things in the air fryer that are not fried in it?
You can make and reheat items in an air fryer not previously fried in it.
In essence, air fryers don’t need oil to cook but still provide that crunchy texture.
Crying is traditionally described as cooking food in hot fats or oil.
In fact, one could argue that an air fryer is more deeply related to a convection oven. Both devices practically do the same thing, circulate heat within a chamber using a fan.
But to answer the question, you can cook food in an air fryer without “frying” it.
What type of food does each produce?
Air fryers produce a different kind of texture in food than microwave ovens.
Air fryers make food golden brown and crispy which is good for fried chicken, french fries, pizza, and a host of homemade pastries.
Air fryers work by cooking the exterior of the food in hopes that heat will spread from the outside in.
Unfortunately, if you cook your food for too long in an air fryer, the outside may become burned.
Microwaves zap food with radiation which makes food mushy and can negatively alter cheese. So, it’s good for premade meals designed for microwaves and reheating liquids, pasta, rice and etc.
Microwaves heat the water molecules inside of food. This causes the molecules to act violently and disperse from within the food outside.
Ultimately, if you microwave your food for too long, the insides become dry.
What foods can you not cook in an air fryer?
Even though there’s a fair amount of versatility with an air fryer, there are some foods you cannot cook in it:
- Battered foods
- Cake Donuts
- Large Whole Birds
- Super Cheesy Dishes
- Raw Grains (including rice)
- Leafy Vegetables (lettuce, kale, chard and etc)
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