Air Fryer Cook

Air fryer vs microwave, which is better?

Can you use an air fryer like a microwave? I know what you’re thinking: “Of course, they’re both ovens!” And yes, technically speaking that is true. But here’s the thing: An air fryer is not JUST an oven. Sure, it can do most of the same things as a microwave (heating up food and cooking certain foods) but there are some key differences between these two kitchen appliances. Let me break it down for you…

How does food cook in an air fryer vs microwave?

The cooking process of these two appliances are completely different.

An air fryer has a heating element and a fan installed on the inside. The heating element, which is usually a metal coil, heats up and the fan blows hot air around the food. This cooks the food from all angles – just like an oven –so it cooks evenly.

Microwaves, on the other hand, have an electric heater called the “magnetron” installed on the inside. The magnetron heats up water molecules in the food by directing microwaves (a form of electromagnetic radiation) at it. The microwaves cause the water molecules to vibrate. The friction by the vibration creates heat that cooks the food. The higher the water content, in the food, the faster the it cooks.

taste the difference air fryer

Differences of cooked food in an air fryer vs microwave

Let’s have a look at what to expect when cooking food in an air fryer vs microwave.

Texture: Food cooked in a microwave is soft and moist on the inside but hard and crunchy on the outside, whereas food that has been “fried” in the air fryer is crispy on the outside and moist on the inside.

Evenly cooked: In the air fryer, the circulating hot air cooks the food evenly as it cooks the food from all directions. Whereas with the microwave food may not be evenly cooked. This is because the microwaves cook the outer layer and the core is cooked by the heat from the outer layer. This why sometimes food may look cooked but when you bite into the core it is still cold or even raw.

Nutrients: Both of these cooking methods retains the foods nutrients when they are used correctly. The factors that can cause the loss in nutrients are the temperature, cooking time, and method of cooking. For example, high temperature and a long cooking time would cause the loss of nutrients and cooking methods like boiling may cause nutrients to extracted into the water.

What is best to cook in each appliance?

Microwaves has always been a go-to appliance to quickly prepare delicious food with less effort. However, not everything will cook well in the microwave, here is a list of what works well.

Pasta: You can even cook pasta in the microwave, but it requires a bit of trial and error to get the right timing perfect for you. Cook until al dente, otherwise it will be too mushy.

Oatmeal: Just mix some oatmeal and water or milk in a microwave-safe bowl, give it a good stir and pop it into the microwave for a few seconds. Oatmeal in the microwave comes out soft and fluffy.

Baked potato: Take a baking potato and pierce it with a fork all around to let steam escape. Wrap it loosely in a paper towel, and heat for a few minutes. The baked potatoes are soft and moist.

Boiled egg: Put the egg in a microwave-safe bowl with water and it is boiled perfectly in the microwave within seconds.

Fish: Place your fish fillets on a microwavable plate with pieces of wet paper towel over the fillets and cover with another sheet of paper towel. The fish fillets come out soft and moist within a few minutes in the microwave. It is best to use uniform fish fillets like hake to get the whole fillet cooked consistently. For example, salmon fillets which are thicker in the middle and thinner on the ends would be cooked more on the ends and less in the middle.


Broccoli and cauliflower: Place your vegetables in a bowl and add some water. Cover with a wet paper towel and heat for a few minutes. The vegetables are soft and green.

Frozen meals: Frozen meals that have been fully cooked and does not require a crispy outer layer like lasagnes are great in the microwave as it is ready up in a few minutes.

In general, food with high moisture levels or food that needs to be cooked in liquid are ideal to be cooked in the microwave.

Best things to cook in an Air Fryer

Many people have turned to the air fryer as a healthier alternative to cooking because of its ability to cook food with little or no oil while giving it a crispy crunch. Let’s have a look at what cooks best in the air fryer.

Chicken (whole, wings, or drumsticks): no oil is needed, but the skin comes out crispy while the inside is succulent!

Air fried fish: a healthier alternative to frying, it’s juicy and tender inside with a grilled outer layer.

French fries: crispy crunchy fried fries made with very little oil!

Steaks: in just a few minutes you will have tender and juicy steaks with a grilled outer layer.

Vegetables: crispy and crunchy vegetables ready in a few minutes.

Frozen food: any frozen that can is dry (not liquid meals like soups) and needs that crispy crunchy texture is great in the air fryer.

Air fryers are generally good at giving the food a crispy and crunchy texture while keeping the insides moist and tender. For an in-depth review, refer to our article on “What foods are best for the air fryer?”.

Which is best for re-heating, air fryer or microwave?

It depends on the food you’re re-heating. Microwaves use microwaves to heat up food, and air fryers use hot air to do the same thing. Microwaves are good for re-heating things that need a lot of moisture and air fryers work better with dryer foods.

Also, it depends on what you want your food to look like. If you want it crispy and tender then use an air fryer; if you want your food moist and tender then use a microwave.

how to warm up food in an air fryer

Microwave to re-heat food: To re-heat food, you simply put it in for about one to two minutes on full power. Rather than guessing how long, use the cooking guide provided by your microwave maker.

Air fryer to re-heat food: There are some air fryers (usually in family sizedextra large or multifunctional air fryers) that have a pre-set function for pre-heating which makes it super easy for you to re-heat food.

So, how do you use the air fryer re-heat food if there is no pre-set? Firstly, refer to your manual to see if there is any guidance on this. The general recommended temperature for re-heating would be 347 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius). The length of time would depend on whether you want the food crispy or just heated up. The longer the time, the crispier it gets.

Another thing to consider is whether you are re-heating food that are in liquid form. The air fryer cannot heat up liquid food like soups or even milk because you need to place these in a cup or bowl for heating. The air fryer heats food that are laid in it’s basket without any containers.

Finally, the microwave re-heats food at a much faster rate than an air fryer so if you are in a hurry, it is still be the most convenient way.


So, what’s the verdict? You can indeed use an air fryer to cook things even popcorn and hot dogs just like you would in a microwave. However, they’re not exactly interchangeable devices.

The air fryer is way more versatile, while still being able to handle cooking a lot of your favorite snacks, meals or re-heating meals. The trade-off is that the air fryer takes more time to get the job done.

Consider both options before deciding which one you want to use. If you need something fast and moist, go for the microwave. But if you prefer your food to have a crispy outside and warm inside, air frying is probably right up your alley!

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