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Suppose you’re shopping for the best microwave. In that case, you may wonder what the difference is between a microwave oven vs. an air fryer, especially if you’re about to choose a new microwave. Of course, both kitchen appliances will heat food, but how does each option compare to deep frying or other cooking methods? Read our guide, and we’ll walk you through the difference between air fryers and microwaves.


  • A microwave oven uses electromagnetic radiation to heat your food quickly.
  • An air fryer uses hot air circulation similar to a convection oven to bake food or leftovers quickly.
  • A microwave is best for heating or reheating pre-cooked food. An air fryer makes crispier recipes than a microwave, but the process takes a bit longer.

Comparing Microwave Ovens and Air Fryers

The popularity of air fryers has grown as consumers move away from frozen food and healthier meals. In addition, resurgent worries about radiation in microwave ovens have caused a stir in the air fryer vs. microwave debate. The main differences between air fryers and microwaves are the recipes and the cooking technique, like microwave convection oven roasting or baking. That said, there are other significant differences you need to know. One difference is an oven or microwave taste, as food will taste different based on the appliance used, and whether the microwave was old or new.

Insider Tip

Don’t overload your air fryer with large batches of food. It will block the air circulation necessary for convection baking.

Cooking Time

Both appliances cook much faster than conventional ovens. That said, microwaves are still the king of cooking speed, especially if you have a microwave with convection settings. This is because the hot air circulation of air fryer fans takes longer than a microwave. Still, you get results similar to convection baking.


Air fryers rely on rapid air technology to produce a variety of dishes. Proper air fryer function makes food with the crispness of a deep fryer, but you don’t have to deal with frying in oil. Conversely, microwaves use electromagnetic radiation to excite the water molecules in your food, which warms it up. Both devices can warm food, but an air fryer is the best choice for cooking raw food. Additionally, with newer models, you can get combination units that do more than just one cooking method, like these great microwave and toaster oven combos.

Maintenance Time

The difference between microwave and air fryer cleanup is simply a matter of how you clean them. An air fryer’s hot air circulation can loosen stuck-on food, but most models allow you to machine wash all the components that touch any food items. On the other hand, microwave ovens require a bit more work to clean than air fryers. Still, you can remove the center turning plate and wipe out most spills and stains. Additionally, you may find that a wall microwave with a drop-down or swing door might clean up a bit easier than traditional models.


Regularly clean the baking tray and air fryer basket for best results. Keeping your air fryer clean ensures that your food is clean and your hot airflow is unobstructed by blockages.


Is an air fryer safer than a microwave oven?

There isn’t an outright health benefit of cooking with an air fryer vs a microwave oven. An air fryer’s cooking process is similar to convection ovens and even advanced convection microwave ovens. That said, you may find air frying is an excellent alternative to microwave ovens for certain types of food.

What can a microwave do that an air fryer can’t?

Unless you have a convection microwave oven, an air fryer cooks food similar to traditional convection ovens. Convection heating produces crispy food but won’t cook things as fast as microwave radiation.

Can you fry food in a microwave?

Unfortunately, you cannot use a microwave as a deep fryer. A unit with advanced features will not reach adequate cooking temperatures to make crispy chicken or other fried foods.

STAT: A US Department of Energy survey found that men use convection microwave ovens almost 50% more on average than women. (source)

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