The new hotness nowadays is the air fryer. Air fryers, like microwaves, help save you time in the kitchen by the quickness of its heating and cooking time. It instantly cooks versus a toaster oven, grill, or conventional oven that takes 15-20 minutes to get preheated.
A convection oven requires 5 minutes of preheating, in contrast. Microwaves work without preheating and so does the ramped-up convection oven known as air fryers. However, which is better when it comes to the microwave vs air fryer debate?
Microwave vs. Air Fryer
If you’re wondering which appliance is best for your cooking circumstances, it depends on the situation. Do you want to deep fry something like chicken or pizza immediately but without the artery-clogging grease that comes with it? An air fryer could possibly work to your advantage.
If you wish to do simple cooking chores like bake a mug of quiche and cook eggs or reheat already cooked food on short notice as well as defrost frozen food, you can depend on the microwave instead.
The main difference between the two? Microwaves heat up food by vibrating their water molecules and cooking them in their own juices. Meanwhile, air fryers heat up the air inside then use convection fans to deep fry them like a convection oven would but faster and for frying purposes.
What is an Air Fryer?
The main marketing appeal of the Air fryer is that it fries food like a deep fryer but without the oil, just hot convection air flowing so quickly it fries instead of bakes or grills your food. Grammatically speaking, that makes no sense since baking involves heating air while frying involves heating oil.
However, the air fryer technology recreates the deep fryer cooking method while using air instead of oil by how hot the air it creates and how fast the cooking process gets (baking requires a more deliberate and longer period of time).
Unlike the unhealthy deep fryer that puts too much oil into your food, making them cardiac problems in the future, you’re instead submerging the food in the Air and its own hot juices rather than in fat.
What is a Microwave?
Most people use the microwave to reheat leftovers, boil a cup of water for instant coffee without making a whole pot of hot water with the electric kettle, and sometimes cook mug-portioned baked goods like mug brownies or mug quiche.
Microwave radiation—not to be confused with nuclear radiation—uses short-frequency radiowaves in order to heat food rather quickly—around 1-2 minutes or more depending on how big the food is—by vibrating its water molecules to boiling.
Not coincidentally, microwaves could microwave or heat up a mug of water to boiling in only 1-2 minutes as well depending on the power level of the microwave (anything above 1-kilowatt power could do it in 1 minute or less).
Which is Better?
Which is better? Depends on what you want to do with your food. If you want to healthily fry or brown a pork chop, brisket, or chicken with breading, the air fryer offers the superior heating method resembling deep fry cooking. A microwave requires more finagling and food turning to compete.
The way air fryers and microwaves work fundamentally differs from each other. They both rapidly cook food but do so in different ways. Microwaves use short-frequency radiowaves. Air fryers use an even hotter and faster-heating convection oven setup that heats up so fast it fries food rather than bakes it.
Air fryers heat up the air within its basket to an exceptionally high temperature, much higher than what you can get from the convection oven. When you place the basket in position to close off any leaks, the fan circulates the hot air quickly to fry the food in order to cook it.
Air Fryers Fry Rather Than Roasts
The exterior of your food gets hot exceptionally quickly like how a microwave heats up the interior of the food quickly as well. You get a crispy fried exterior when using the air fryer versus the convection oven that bakes or roasts food instead.
This makes frying things that would normally be unhealthy somehow healthier than before. You won’t use fat or oil to cook them anymore.
Microwaves Heats from the Interior
The microwave’s microwaves or tiny radiowaves leave you with soggy French fries or chips because it works by heating the food inside out or more through its interior, where its water content lies. You can’t fry anything on a microwave because it’s not built to fry.
In contrast, an air fryer can simulate deep-frying sans the unhealthy oil, lard, or fat normally associated with cooking fries or chips. You can even make extra crispy fried chicken with the air fryer as though you dipped it into a deep fryer yourself.
A Space-Age Wonder from the Past
Even nowadays, the microwave remains something you’d expect to see in the International Space Station rather than your everyday convenience store because of the way it emits radiowaves in a way that cooks food. That sounds like something almost modern or sci-fi.
However, while it feels modern, the microwave has actually been around since wartime—during the aftermath of the Second World War, in fact. The air fryer, meanwhile, is a reimagining of the old convection oven model, turning the baking appliance into a quick-frying one instead.
A Second World War Invention
The military invented radar for planes flying through military missions to detect enemy aircraft. The American engineer known as Percy Spencer invented microwave ovens after he noticed chocolate in his pockets melted while he was nearby radar equipment.
The first microwave was known as “Radarange” instead and sold back in 1946. Mostly commercial and military establishments used microwaves at first but soon consumer models became available to households around the 1960s.
What Have We Learned?
Air fryers don’t use new technology. They use convection technology found in convection ovens and convection microwaves then dial it up to 11 in order to bring you a hot air cooker and fryer that uses super-hot air to fry your food like a tub of hot grease on the stove but healthier.
A microwave, in contrast, cooks food by microwaving its water molecules quickly to boiling, leading to quickly reheated cooked food and a slightly serviceable cooking appliance alternative.
- “Air Fryer vs Microwave – The Difference Between The Two & Which Appliance Is Best For You“, MyBudgetRecipes.com, Retrieved October 10, 2021
- Chris Sherwood, “What Is the Difference Between Baking & Frying?“, Livestrong.com, Retrieved October 10, 2021