Air fryers and toaster ovens are popular appliances that work well in almost any home. But what if your kitchen only has space for one? Is there a meaningful difference between toaster oven and air fryer? You bet! While they both cook your food quickly and allow you to try new recipes, some critical differences exist between the two.
Both toaster ovens and air fryers are compact countertop appliances. A toaster oven works on the same principle as a standard oven; it has two heating elements located on the top and bottom. On the other hand, air fryers use a fan (like a convection oven) to circulate the heat around the food.
For those of you unsure about which appliance would fulfill your needs best, read on. We have an in-depth comparison below to make your choice between an air fryer and a toaster oven easier.
What’s Really The Difference Between Toaster Oven And Air Fryer?
When two products appear to be very different but are essentially quite similar in function, it can be hard to distinguish – or decide – between them. To be entirely sure that you’re getting what you need, you must take a much closer look at each appliance individually and weigh them up against each other.
How Does A Toaster Oven Work?
A toaster oven is designed to work like a regular oven, but on a much more compact scale. Toaster ovens have heating elements (top and bottom) that can be switched on simultaneously or individually.
Countertop toaster ovens are an excellent alternative if your kitchen lacks the space for a large oven; or if you just don’t feel like turning it on all the time. Typically they have functions that include baking, broiling and making toast. Some toaster ovens even have burners on the top – making them ideal for small spaces.
Toaster ovens can vary in size, from small to large, and are also available in convection models.
How Does An Air Fryer Work?
Air fryers are small countertop appliances that produce heat with a coil element and a fan that circulates the hot air. This nifty appliance is essentially the miniature version of standard convection ovens.
The remarkable thing about air fryers is that it mimics the effect of frying food without using oil to produce similar results. Air fryers can cook anything you’d typically fry in oil or bake in an oven.
Air fryers are also available in a range of sizes of between 2 and 6-quart – keep in mind that the bigger the appliance, the greater the cost.
Pros And Cons Of Toaster Ovens And Air Fryers
This section will look at the advantages and disadvantages of each appliance.
Toaster Oven Pros
- Compact countertop appliance that is great for small kitchens
- Versatile functions and adequate temperature control
- Easy to use and pre-heats faster than a standard size oven
- Great for reheating foods not suitable for a microwave
- Can toast the bread, so you don’t need to have a toaster as well
Toaster Oven Cons
- It can be challenging to cook for many people at once
- Spilled or burnt food on the surface can be hard to clean up
- Can produce unevenly cooked food
- General oven cooking time guidelines can result in burned food
- Limited rail space to reposition racks
- Food spills can slip through the cooking rack and onto the element
Air Fryer Pros
- Smaller than a toaster oven and does not heat up the entire kitchen while cooking
- More energy-efficient due to shorter cooking times
- Great for small families who don’t want to use the oven every day
- Produce crispy food (including frozen battered/crumbed dishes) with little to no oil
- Not challenging to operate or clean
Air Fryer Cons
- High temperatures can quickly burn food if you are not paying attention
- Cannot cook food covered in liquids, like battered fish or onion rings
- Not suitable for large families because the basket is pretty small
- Overcrowding the basket can result in unevenly cooked food
- It can dry out meat like steak and chicken breasts
- Vegetable cooking can be tricky
Toaster Ovens Vs. Air Fryers: What’s Best For Your Kitchen Space?
The amount of counter space that you have available may dictate your available options. The outside of a toaster oven can get really hot, so you want to leave plenty of space around it, and make sure it’s not too close to a wood cabinet or other appliances.
While an air fryer usually won’t have the external heat problem, it still needs sufficient space to function. Most recommendations that we have seen suggest that you leave four to six inches of space around your toaster oven and five to eight inches around your air fryer.
The difference in size between the two appliances is not really noteworthy. Both appliances are great for small kitchens; you’ll have to think about your daily needs or why you feel you need a toaster oven or an air fryer.
How often do you feel that the small dinner you want to cook isn’t worth the trouble (or cost) of even pre-heating the regular oven? If the relative crispiness of your onion rings or chicken wings don’t matter to you, then you can save money on your electricity bill with a toaster oven. It does the same job for only half the energy.
However, suppose you’re not bothered by the electric bill your regular oven generates but really want to cut back on fried foods. In that case, an air fryer is a good option. It uses little to no oil. But keep in mind, just because you’re using less fat doesn’t mean an air fryer is automatically healthier.
Tips On How To Use Toaster Ovens And Air Fryers Effectively
Follow our guidelines and tips to make the most of these appliances.
Best Practices For Toaster Ovens
1. Don’t Overcrowd.
Don’t overcrowd your toaster oven; this will result in uneven cooking. When you have multiple pans in the oven, switch the pans halfway through to ensure even heat distribution throughout. However, it might be a good idea only to cook one dish at a time and place it in the middle rack.
2. Regular Cleaning
Clean your toaster oven regularly; while it doesn’t happen too often, the dirty appliance can cause fires. It is also a good habit to keep all cookware as clean as possible to avoid any possible contamination.
3. Ward Against Drips and Spills.
If your toaster oven does not come with a drip tray, line one rack with foil and slide it into the lowest spot to catch any drippings or food spills and avoid potential dangers. Not to mention the rancid smell of burnt food.
4. Do Preheat.
Don’t put food in a cold oven; follow the recipe and pre-heat according to instructions. However, remember that countertop appliances can cook food faster than regular ovens. You’ll have to learn how your particular toaster oven works through trial and error.
5. Pay Attention.
Luckily, the glass front will make it easy to watch your food while you get used to its quicker cooking times. Never get distracted while you have something in the cooking in the kitchen; stay near and check the progress regularly.
Best Practices For Air Fryers
Always pre-heat your air fryer just like you would your oven (unless the recipe calls for a different approach). Because the air fryer is so tiny inside, you won’t wait long to reach the desired temperature.
Although you can do it, you should generally avoid cooking frozen food in your air fryer. Let the food thaw entirely and come to room temperature before cooking and pre-heat the fryer. For most air fryers, pre-heating is essential for even cooking. Don’t make your air fryer struggle to heat cold food while achieving your temperature goal. You might be disappointed with the results.
For best results, master the balance of just the right amount of oil. For example, you should toss potato wedges in a little olive oil and seasoning before placing them in the basket to get that crispy skin we all love. Giving your wedges a good shake halfway through can improve the outcome significantly.
Air fryers are not suitable for all types of vegetables; popping a raw carrot in the basket will probably not yield anything you want to eat. Wispy foods like spinach can float up to the heating element and cause all sorts of nasty smells and smoke.
Clean your air fryer after each meal. Just like you won’t cook a chicken breast in the same dirty pan you used last night; you shouldn’t cook in an air fryer without cleaning it first.
Don’t overload the basket, or you might end up with half of the meal slightly burned while the other half could use another few minutes. Perhaps buy a bigger fryer from the start or cook in smaller batches.
Another fantastic thing about air fryers is that you can bake in them. But, just as you need to adjust cooking times for frying with hot air instead of other methods, adjustments are needed for baking. You may have to run through trial and error to get the perfect temperature for your particular model.
Comparison Chart Of Toaster Ovens And Air Fryers
For a quick comparison of the primary qualities of toaster ovens and air fryers, we have compiled this handy chart to make your decision easier.
|Toaster Ovens||Air Fryers|
|Size||From 14.6 x 11.4 x 8 in to 21.5 x 23 x 11.2 in||From 8.75 x 8.75 x 11 in to 2.01 x 15.31 x 12.72 in|
|Cost||Between $ 45 and $ 120||Between $ 50 and $ 250|
|Cooking Time||Faster cooking times compared to standard conventional ovens||Shorter cooking times compared to traditional convection ovens|
|General Features||-Temperature control |
-Offer combination models
-Different sizes available
-Available in various styles and colors
-Some models have drip trays
|-Temperature control and timer|
-Pre-heats in less than 5 minutes
-Fancier models offer more cooking modes
-Available in touch screen or manual knobs
-Offer combination models that include dehydrating
-Different sizes and colors
Is Cooking In An Air Fryer Healthier?
Definitely, when compared to a deep fryer. An air fryer will reduce the number of calories you consume. However, some dishes like potato wedges still need a bit of oil in an air fryer.
Is An Air Fryer Better Than A Toaster Oven?
Not necessarily. It depends on your specific needs. Both have strengths and weaknesses. Air fryers can excel in providing extra crispiness, while some toaster ovens excel at getting a good char.
Is An Air Fryer The Same As A Traditional Toaster Oven?
Air fryers and toaster ovens have similar functions, but they are not the same. Air fryers use fans to distribute the heat evenly within the appliance. In contrast, traditional toaster ovens use elements the same way a standard oven does.
What Is The Difference Between A Convection Toaster Oven And An Air Fryer?
Convection toaster ovens and air fryers are smaller versions of standard convection ovens. There are minor differences between them, but they basically provide the same function. They both use a fan to circulate air to cook food.
Can A Convection Toaster Oven Be Used As An Air Fryer?
Yes. You can use a convection toaster oven as an air fryer because they use similar technology to produce the same results. Indeed, now popular manufacturers like Breville and Cuisinart now market “air fryer toaster ovens” or toaster ovens with an “air fryer” feature.
Follow us on Pinterest to keep up with the best tips and tools for your family kitchen!