I had an interesting question posed to me the other day – “what’s the difference between an air fryer and a toaster oven?”
I didn’t really know how to respond simply because the devices are completely different. They are designed to cook different types of food and perform the tasks in very different ways. “What do air fryers and toaster ovens have in common?” might have been an appropriate response at the time.
But the more I think about it, the more I’m not actually sure if the question is as ridiculous as it first seemed. Both devices are excellent for a number of reasons, but finding good models can be difficult without breaking the bank. This means that some people might want to get both devices, but they don’t have a clue why they should buy one over the other.
That’s why I wanted to put this guide together. What is each device best at and which should I get for my needs? I want to look at how healthy the appliances are as well as looking at the general energy efficiency and use of space too. And with that, let’s have a look at which device I reckon you should be buying.
Table of contents
- What Is A Toaster Oven?
- What Is An Air Fryer?
- Is A Toaster Oven Healthier Than An Air Fryer?
- Is A Toaster Oven More Energy Efficient Than An Air Fryer?
- Is A Toaster Oven More Space Efficient Than An Air Fryer?
What Is A Toaster Oven?
A toaster oven is not really like a toaster. In fact, it’s more like a small oven. You might have even heard them being referred to as kitchen top ovens or a variation on that. They have a cooking cavity and work by using at least one element to heat the food inside.
Most toaster ovens are relatively cheap and definitely affordable for most households. They are famed for being versatile and can perform the functions of many appliances in a convenient kitchen top package. They are fantastic for people who are space conscious but still want to have access to all the standard cooking methods in their kitchen.
What Is An Air Fryer?
Air fryers are devices that are becoming more and more popular each year, it seems to me. Unlike a traditional oven or a deep fat fryer (which generally needs oil in order to cook crisp and crunchy food), air fryers cook by only using heated air. This generally makes it a very healthy option.
By circulating heated air around the cooking cavity (which is very different from an oven’s cooking cavity), an air fryer can make food like fries and roast potatoes extremely crisp. If you only have a traditional oven, an air fryer can seem like a real jump forward in kitchenware technology.
But which is better? If someone has neither a toaster oven nor an air fryer, which should they buy? It’s a difficult question, but I’ve been experimenting recently to find out which is the best choice for you.
Is A Toaster Oven Healthier Than An Air Fryer?
Healthiness in cooking can mean one of two things:
- It cooks food that contains few calories, or
- It does not require you to use unhealthy methods to cook dishes
I’m going to be tackling both, but let’s start by looking at the first one.
Is A Toaster Oven Healthy?
To be clear, no device is inherently healthy. You need to be responsible for the healthiness or unhealthiness of the food you cook yourself. Nothing will magically make unhealthy food healthy.
But toaster ovens can be perfectly healthy when they are used correctly. They can perform a variety of functions that make cooking, bake, broiling, and toasting as easy as turning the device on.
If you want to grill a piece of chicken, it is extremely easy with your toaster oven. You can simply turn it to the broil section and you will have excellent grilled chicken in a few minutes. This means that you can cook extremely healthy food in only a matter of minutes.
Of course, some dishes that you want to cook in your toaster oven may need you to use oil. Just like a regular oven can cause dishes to dry out or stick if you don’t use oil, a toaster oven will make otherwise delicious food a bit unpalatable. You can avoid cooking food like this in your toaster oven, but it will mean having to rethink the way you use your device.
Is A Air Fryer Healthy?
Air fryers don’t use oil. Oil contains a lot of calories. They use air instead. Air contains no calories.
That’s my simple breakdown of why most people assume air fryers are better than almost any other device if you are mainly thinking about healthiness. But you should probably be warned that air fryers are not the miracle devices that some people would have you believe.
Because air fryers don’t cook in the same way other fryers and oven style appliances work, there is a risk that they will not cook food all the way through. There are reports of bacteria which is present on the surface of raw meat that can survive the air frying cooking method, meaning that it is not entirely safe to eat meat that has been prepared in an air fryer.
That is not to say that raw meat that goes into an air fryer comes out as raw meat. You can still cook meat well, but there is an additional risk that could make someone think twice about using one if they are cooking for vulnerable people like small children or pregnant women.
Is A Toaster Oven More Energy Efficient Than An Air Fryer?
When I was testing out the energy efficiency of these two types of appliances, I wanted to know the wattage. Wattage (shown as W on devices) is the amount of energy your appliance will need to actually power it. Lower wattage devices are (generally) friendlier to the environment than higher wattage ones.
How Energy Efficient Is A Toaster Oven?
Toaster ovens are extremely energy efficient when compared to conventional, traditional ovens. Whereas a traditional oven would need around 2,000 to 2,200 watts per hour of cooking, a toaster oven only needs around 1,700W. This means that filling a cooking cavity with heat and keeping it hot enough to cook food takes less energy.
It’s not all perfect, however. If you have a particularly weak toaster oven, you may find that you need to cook food for a considerably lengthier stretch of time. This is especially true when you have a toaster oven in the 1,200W to 1,400W range. You may find that cooking dishes takes longer and you will need to use more energy.
How Energy Efficient Is An Air Fryer?
I was pleasantly surprised to find you that most air fryers use the same amount of energy as most toaster ovens. This means that you can get the same excellent quality dishes out of an air fryer that you can out of a toaster oven.
As an additional bonus, air fryers cut down on preheating time. You don’t need to wait for between 10 and 15 minutes (depending on the model you are using) to get the appliance up to temperature and can instead just pop your food in and forget about it.
This is an additional bonus when you find that air fryers are also particularly capable of cooking some foods in even short times thanks to the way in which superheated air that is being circulated cooks food. This is great, but be aware that some air fryers may not reliably cook meat all the way through.
Is A Toaster Oven More Space Efficient Than An Air Fryer?
Space efficiency is key to a happy kitchen in a lot of family homes. Making sure that you get a device that can easily perform all the functions you need it to do while not taking up much room can be difficult.
If you want to save on space in the biggest way, you need to think about the devices that you are replacing. How does this device perform the tasks of other devices that I don’t need to store in my kitchen?
How Space Efficient Is A Toaster Oven?
Toaster ovens are a bit bigger than a toaster and generally around the same size as a microwave oven. This makes them perfect for fitting into small kitchens. This is even more of a bonus when you realize that you can use your toaster oven to perform multiple functions at the same time.
For example, let’s say that I want to cook a chicken, reheat a lasagna, and toast some bread. Well, there’s no real reason that I can’t do all three in a toaster oven. Thanks to a cooking cavity that can fit in most small to medium sized dishes, you can cook anything that you can fit in.
I particularly enjoy cooking with my toaster oven because I can simply take out the dishes, let the appliance cook down, and wipe it down easily. This saves on the sometimes laborious cleaning sessions with a traditional oven.
How Space Efficient Is An Air Fryer?
Air fryers can be extremely space efficient, sometimes to the point limiting the kinds of dishes you can actually fit in them! This can be a problem for some cooks, especially because it means that you won’t be able to get rid of your other appliances.
Because you can’t really use an air fryer to reheat food in the same way you use a microwave or to toast bread, I can’t say that it will reduce your appliance needs to one simple device. That means that I believe it loses out this round to the toaster oven.
Similarly, if you have a particularly space efficient (read: small) air fryer, you’re actually going to spend a lot longer cleaning the appliance that you would like. Small air fryers are going to cost you time in simply making sure that every nook and cranny is clean!
Getting an air fryer is an excellent addition for people who have space to spare and the money to spare too. I don’t believe that they do cut down on space because you still need extra appliances to cook larger or more complex dishes. Plus they’re a pain to clean.
This means that I think toaster ovens are better for small kitchens, but air fryers are excellent as luxury additions to a kitchen. I’ve enjoyed using an air fryer to make healthy fries and fried potatoes, so I would recommend them to anyone. It all comes down to the matter of if you can afford to effectively have a posh potato fryer that doesn’t really double up with other devices well.